By: JOHN WILLIS, Photography by: JOHN WILLIS

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Beastmaster -Snubby -Pro -500



Starlo world is a wonderful place. Australian fishing guru Steve Starling has been at the cutting edge of recreational fishing for more years than we both care to remember. Many of us have followed his travels and adventures here and abroad through many years of Rex Hunt’s Fishing Adventures, the pages of a multitude of fishing and boating media, Starlo & Bushy’s famous tackle range including the mighty Squidgies soft plastics, his more than 20 books, an active online media presence, and recently appearing as a presenter on the Offroad Adventure Show. All this, as well as launching his own new series aptly named A Fisherman’s Life with Starlo on the FishFlicks streaming network, keeps him pretty busy.

I was excited by the opportunity to visit Steve in his home environment at the beautiful little southern NSW coastal hamlet of Tuross Head to find out exactly why he was so excited about his latest boat, a Beastmaster Snubby five-metre with a tiller-steer Yamaha F70 four-stroke. Starlo has chosen God’s own country to live in. I marveled at the towering peaks and thick forest of the Great Dividing Range as it transforms into lush green rolling pastures flowing into the myriad of rivers, lakes and estuaries before spilling into sapphire waters rimmed by golden beaches and rugged headlands. Welcome to Tuross Head in the Eurobodalla – Starlo country.

Beastmaster -Snubby -Pro -500-2

Our civilised meeting point was the Tuross Boatshed & Cafe, Steve’s regular stopover before fishing his home waters. Steve said: "Bushy taught me that you will never fish well without first having a good cup of coffee!" (Kaj Busch, aka Bushy, is Steve’s former co-host and partner in Squidgies, amongst others).

We chattered about current fishing trends over breakfast with Steve’s Beastmaster Snubby 500 moored next to our table on the landing. Steve and I are both the same age, knocking on 60, and it seems of similar physical and mental conditioning. Whilst we still thoroughly enjoy an offshore sojourn, we are both starting to feel the ramifications of too many adventures in the rough and tumble.

Steve giggled that he’s well on the way to "becoming a crotchety old luderick fisherman with a Huon pine clinker putt putt and a centrepin reel". However, for the time being, his latest sportsfishing weapon fits him like a glove, and with a light-load top-end of 30kts at 6100rpm and easy cruising between a fuel efficient 22 to 25kts fully kitted with crew he asks, "Who needs to go faster?"


Beastmaster boats are custom built by Robbie Ferguson on Queensland’s Hervey Bay. There’s a smaller 440 model and the 5m 500 as chosen by Steve. Robbie has a boutique operation custom building fully personalised sportsfishing weapons for serious anglers that have seen the light. He may only build around four boats per year but customers can be assured that they will be kept well-informed of the progress with their input welcomed throughout the build process once it starts. However, good things come to those that wait so be aware that it may well take a couple of years with current demand. Robbie is a perfectionist who does it all himself.

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I guess we were all quite taken aback to see Steve return to a tiller-steer outboard but as he said, "I simply wanted to maximise my working space and this was the best way to do it." It certainly allows extremely good balance throughout the boat, even with us two heifers rummaging around. The solid fibreglass hull is obviously very strongly built. It has compartmentalised floatation and provides a safe and secure attitude on the water with exceptional stability.

At its stem, the Snubby features a fine, flared entry running back with a series of strakes and reverse chines to a moderate vee incorporating an intricate concave feature either side of the keel that gives enormous lift, tracking and maximised stability. The result is a soft dry ride (I’ll have to take Starlo’s word on that as we had mirror-calm conditions) and a solid, seaworthy platform with very shallow draft for flats fishing. There’s a saying on the NSW south coast that if you are fishing in over one metre of water then you’re casting too deep! Steve tells me that perhaps 80 per cent of his local fishing exploits are chasing bream, flathead, estuary perch and whiting on the flats and the Snubby fits the bill almost perfectly.

Steve was first convinced of the Snubby 500 when fishing the long open reaches of Hervey Bay with guide Mark Bargenquast. Fishing Hervey Bay often requires running long stretches in windswept chop to find the highly productive shallows where all manner of fighting beasties forage. In design terms it is very hard to get the right blend of ride and stability but the Snubby achieves it very well. At only 1.9m beam it seems and sounds a little narrow, but feels just right when you are actually in the boat. I guess to me it’s a little reminiscent of many island longboat designs. It is seaworthy enough for limited offshore adventures, but not the primary purpose. The fibreglass compound deadens the sound, softens the ride, is cool in summer and warm in winter.

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The basic layout sees a large casting platform forward with plenty of storage underneath. The rear has further platforms, with access to the batteries and beautifully assembled wiring and switch gear accessed from hatches in the front of the bulkhead. There’s a large non-skid deck area between the platforms with an optional self-draining system that feeds back to a unique sump/engine well arrangement. There’s a fully plumbed livewell under the rear as well, yet instead of draining overboard it also feeds to the sump. This system needs just a little more thought in my book, but it’s a simple fix.


Beige boats were very common throughout the 1970s with off-white decks to reduce glare, often with coloured hulls. Not only does Starlo’s beige colour scheme help the passengers’ vision but it reduces the underwater reflection which I guess may startle nervous estuary species feeding on the flats. I was particularly pleased with this after clumsily losing my favourite pair of sunglasses overboard.

The overall finish is very impressive and I was particularly taken by the hull-deck bonding system with its overlapping flange replacing a gunwale strip. You will have to be careful mooring or rafting up but it looks great. The hull and deck are infused together creating a very strong bond, further improving inherent brawn. Steve chose computer-cut SeaDek to all of the coaming and platform surfaces. The selected almost camouflage design looks terrific and works even better. There’s even a long ruler printed into the SeaDek for instantly measuring your fish for photographs as proof of  catch and release.

The tiller-steer configuration has provided plenty of room to move, and casting alternatives. Steve had a raised poling deck fitted to the rear which allows him exceptional vision and casting distance over the target area. He never poles, but instead chose the wonderfully silent manoeuvrability of the remote operated MotorGuide Xi5, 55lb-thrust 12V electric outboard. I was a little confused by the colour as he chose the black freshwater version over the white saltwater alternative. I never took Steve for a "dedicated follower of fashion" but he wanted the black unit to match the rest of the add-on accessories and added saltwater anodes for corrosion protection.

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There’s a handy seat unit on the tubular powder-coated alloy frame where the centre console would normally be positioned. It actually comes in handy for hanging tackle bags, cameras and other gear, plus its backrest serves as a grab bar that gives stability when steering from the standing position. It certainly provides added security when moving around in the boat as does a further removable U-shaped stability bar fitted to the rear of the forward casting.


This is Steve’s second Yamaha F70 four-stroke and I was pleased to find that he holds them in high opinion, as do I. I was first introduced to the model some eight years ago when I was fortunate to be on a maiden voyage of a 5m Javelin with the same engine. The Javelin has a very deep-vee with aggressive strakes and chines, and heavy commercial-grade fibreglass layup. To be honest, I was quite flabbergasted with the F70’s abilities on a seafaring sojourn starting at Cooktown, running seaward to Lizard Island, and then halfway up Cape York to Cape Melville, Princess Charlotte Bay and beyond. I could never fault an F70 then, or now. I am always blown away by its capabilities and it often seems to be outwardly batting above its weight. Yamaha says, "The launch of Yamaha’s F70 changed customers’ expectations of outboards in this category forever!"

The F70 features a unique four-cylinder, single overhead camshaft design with four valves per cylinder. It’s hard to believe the output is from a block of less than one litre total cubic capacity (996cc)! Yamaha claims "dramatically increased volumetric efficiency, effectively transferring more air and exhaust at a more efficient rate. This makes the F70 more fuel-efficient and promotes a stronger torque band" all combined in a lightweight and very fuel-efficient package.

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Of course, the F70 features the added advantages of electronic fuel injection creating one of the smoothest, yet gutsiest four-stroke engines on the market. The Prime Start mechanism automatically controls warm-up settings and the Variable Trolling Control allows the operator small 50rpm speed increments which is a great feature for the trolling brigade.

I was pleased to find the operating controls all easily at hand with the tilt and trim switch in thumb’s reach at the end of the tiller making for simple one-handed operation (unlike some competitors).


There comes a time in life when you simply know what you want. Starlo has owned many great sportsfishing boats throughout a long career, and fished on a good deal more. His lure fishing passion is quite obvious but both he and wife Jo also dedicate many hours to fly fishing. In fact, Jo is in the middle of her dedicated "Fly Gear Gap Year" where she will only cast feathers for an entire 12 months. The Snubby’s multitude of capabilities suit this highly experienced team down to the ground and the efficiencies of the Yamaha F70 add to just another great team in fishing utopia. 






4000 - 4200


5000 - 5200




6100 WOT


* Sitting on 20kts, or a whisker over, at 4000 to 4200rpm, is an extremely economical mode of operation, covering close to 3km per litre of fuel. Sea-trial data supplied by the author.


$35,000  sans motor


PJM trailer




TYPE Planing monohull

LENGTH 5m (16ft6in)

BEAM 1.98m (6ft6in)

DRAFT 0.26m (10in)

WEIGHT Approx 375kg hull (dry)



PHONE 0422 354 580


Check out the full review in issue #502 of Trade-a-Boat magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest boat news, reviews and travel inspiration.


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