Review: Surtees 5.5 Workmate Hardtop

We water test and rate the Surtees 5.5 Workmate Hardtop, a contender in the aluminium fishing boats category at the 2015 Australia’s Greatest Boats awards.

Surtees has a reputation for making aluminium fishing boats that have a simple, economic and straightforward design. The Surtees 5.5 Workmate Hardtop is no different.

Surtees 5.5 Workmate Hardtop



Best boats finalist badge aluminiumWhen we first tested the Surtees 5.5 Workmate Hardtop over in New Zealand at the beautiful Bay of Islands for the Kiwi Kings competition, we described the sturdy Surtees as having "simple complexity".

At a glance Surtees seems to have developed a straightforward, uncomplicated and hardened fishing boat for the angler who wants a capable, easily cleaned package without bells, whistles and frills. In reality much of the simple design and minimalist approach is actually the result of long experience from a very advanced plate alloy boatbuilder, with designs and final presentations that tick all of the fishing boxes.

Surtees 5.5 Workmate HT layout

Take a fishing boat like the Surtees 5.5 Workmate Hardtop for an extended blood-and-guts angling sojourn and you too will find out just how well these ripper boats are adapted for real-life sportsfishing.

The Surtees 5.5 Workmate Hardtop has function written all over it. It’s a moderate-sized fishing package that is easily towed by the family vehicle, with a soft riding deep-vee hull for comfort through the rough stuff, 200lt of flooding keel for added stability and the choice to actually capture the bilge water creating the ability to match the weight to the load.

It is a credit to Surtees boats that even though it was one of the smallest boats in our Australia’s Greatest Boats 2015 field, it matched points with two others as the leaders in the Handling and Ride section. Its 4mm plate undersides and 3mm topsides, six fully welded underfloor stringers and a fully welded checkerplate floor combine well with the ballast to give such a comfortable ride through the slop. All of our judges agreed, this is a nice boat to drive.

The Surtees also scored well for Innovation, reflecting the fact that our judges recognised and approved the simple complexity of this rugged offshore-capable fishing boat. It also gained high points for Fishing suitability, which speaks volumes.

Surtees 5.5 Workmate HT boat

On the plane the deep-vee hull excels when riding high at speed, the forward chines deflecting any spray.

The enclosed hardtop is a terrific addition to this very popular hull. It provides that extra feeling of confidence and comfort with terrific visibility through the single-section windscreen, as well as the two sealed side windows. Some hardtops can feel a little confining with limited ventilation, but not the Surtees 5.5 Workmate Hardtop.

It is very hard to get everything you need into short cuddies but Surtees has achieved it well. There’s a big forward hatch for easy access to the bowsprit, anchor well and ground tackle, a pair of short bunks with storage, loads of handles and a simple but efficient dash with drop-down seats that work really well. Again its basic but it works!

Under the floor is a 100lt fuel tank as well as a flooding killtank. We found that the workstation and transom layout perform really well when the action begins. The drop-down rear seat folds well out of the way with the battery and switch gear secured behind, and a proper bilge recess in the centre rear has an 800gal/h bilge pump as standard.

Surtees 5.5 on the water

The Surtees 5.5 Workmate Hardtop has a fully plumbed livebait tank in the step under the rear door and rodholders where you need them. The well-proportioned cutting board doubles as a strong leaning post for fighting fish when the fun begins. There are grabhandles and handholds where you need them, good freeboard, full-length sidepockets, seven-rod rocket launcher and the large, flat coamings with their non-skid surface are a treat.

From a fishing, diving and general boating perspective the whole working area performs really well. It is very easily cleaned and feels comfortable and secure when the action starts. There are twin boarding platforms with handles on the transom, a swing-down fin-friendly ladder to one side and a berley bucket on the other.

The new 100hp Honda BF100 outboard motor handled the load very well. With a top speed around 30kts the Surtees 5.5 Workmate Hardtop is not a speedster but that’s more than adequate for most fishos. The hull is rated to 115hp if a little more social watersports action is planned. The new Honda is a four-cylinder overhead cam fuel-injected outboard motor with terrific torque figures and a quiet, yet confident acoustic note. It features BLAST (Boosted Low Speed Torque), VTEC (Variable Valve Timing & Lift Electronic Control) and programmed fuel-injection for real efficiency.

Surtees 5.5 baitboard station

Judge Jack Murphy commented: "Bare bones and easy to use/ fishing with lots of cool little innovations." Meanwhile Kevin Smith noted another short but sweet, "cutting-edge ride!" Judge John Ford responded with: "Built to fish; compact and easy to tow; built for a rough life; good looking hardtop...a well-balanced blood-and-guts knockabout!"

Surtees boats have proved tough, reliable partners that make the job easy through the rough and tumble. Surtees Boats is so sure of the build and quality of its fishing boats that it provides a six-year warranty and is always a great contender in the competition to find Australia’s Greatest Boats – Aluminium Fishing Boats category.



Surtees 5.5 Workmate HT score

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Surtees 5.5 Workmate HT at ramp



Fibreglass fishing boat

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Aluminium fishing boat

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