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The Northbank 490 is a South Aussie champion. This buoyant hull charges high and dry through the chop, and when you arrive at your fishing hole the spacious cockpit will fit a family of four with ease




As this year's national boat show circuit drew to a close, I sat back and pondered the plethora of boats we have in our marketplace.
Over the past two years I have noticed an increase in the number of imported boats gracing dealers' yards and boat show stands. While this augurs well for the boat buyer's freedom of choice, the boom might not survive the bubble burst if the Aussie dollar takes a turn for the worse and makes importing boats unviable. On the other hand, if the trend of importing boats continues, local manufacturers will continue to have to shoulder the onslaught of the imports, and to increase their prices to cover the lack of demand for their product.
It's a savage circle, but one little Aussie boatbuilder that has thrived under the pressure is South Australian manufacturer Northbank.
The brand has actually been around for quite a few years, mostly content to display its wares at the Adelaide Boat Show. I had heard of the manufacturer and seen the boats at Adelaide, and after receiving endless glowing reports from Mick Wills, a mate of mine that owns a Northbank and fishes the Port Hughes area on Yorke Peninsula, I finally took one for a run.




Test day on Moreton Bay was unusually calm, the type of conditions rarely seen in the home waters of this boat. The water looked smooth enough that we could've donned the skis and headed to New Zealand!
As it was, we headed out into the shipping channel and harassed the big wash behind the Stradbroke car ferry to put the Northbank 490 through its paces, and this solid rig didn't baulk at the task.
The Northbank was fitted with a 75hp Honda four-stroke engine, which gave it a nice, clean holeshot with two big adults aboard. The three-blade, 13.5 x 15in Solas propeller wound the Honda out to 6200rpm which is right on the rev limiter at 53kmh. Coming back to a 14in screw would settle the rev counter a little. Alternatively, a four-blade Solas would sacrifice a couple of km off the top end but give the boat some attitude at slow speeds and through big chop, help to maintain a planing attitude at a slower speed and rpm, and ensure more economical rough water travel. As set up, the rig dropped off the plane at 19kmh and 3200rpm.
What we did notice was that at proper trim, there was very little of the chine in the water. In fact, unless there was weight aft, the chines merely deflected spray rather than planed in their own right. This resulted in the hull being skittish at full throttle when the helm was shifted port to aft and return, rapidly. The hull could be felt chine-walking or rocking back and forth. This would appear to be due to a very buoyant hull with the maximum recommended rating on the Honda engine on the back. The good buoyancy in the hull and would support a bigger rating in a four-stroke engine, up to perhaps 100hp. This would keep the chines in the water and the hull is more than capable of handling the extra power and weight.
With 75hp, the only way to get the hull deeper in the water would be to carry more payload, which would give the owner plenty of scope to carry more people or gear, but would mean a trade-off in the very good fuel economy afforded by the high ride, especially with a four-stroke on the back. A pair of trim tabs would remedy the boat's tendency to chine-walk and could be tilted out of the equation when you were carrying extra weight.




The Springfield-brand helm seats were big and comfortable, while the cleverly shaped stainless-steel posts supporting the split dash for both the skipper and the passenger made the cabin seem large and airy. A walkthrough between these posts allows access through the opening screen and opening the cabin roof hatch to one side allows direct access to the bowsprit.
The cabin roof hatch had a small, fixed, stainless-steel, gas strut for support, but the distance between strut and the cabin roof was not sufficient to allow the anchor through, and it would not be possible to have the loose anchor rope draped over the hatch either. I would have the strut removed.
The sturdy drop-down bimini above the wraparound windscreen sported rodholders.
The quality of the helm steering was questionable. It was lumpy and stiff and if you wanted to run the holeshot or turn at speed with a ski tube behind you would have to have some beef in the biceps to manoeuvre the boat easily. Treat yourself and upgrade to hydraulic steering.
The inner cabin line profile sloped out at its highest point where the engine remote was located at the helm, which means the driver's right hand when operating the throttle will be squashed against the side screen. The throttle did not touch the screen but with not enough room for my fist, the throttle crept to the left and I found I was continually but inadvertently operating the trim button. A wedge or design change is required here to get the remote perpendicular.




The cockpit has a big beam with high gunwales for the young family. There are big sidepockets with ample room underneath for the feet to tuck into when trying to fill the large, underfloor killtank. When the legs weary there are aft corner collapsible seats that feet can fit under when in the lowered mode. Plenty of fishing features right there for the stand-up angler.
A beauty of a baitboard - removable, with hinged cutting board and sink and drain underneath - is situated over the rebate in the transom bulkhead that allows big cowl engines to tilt fully up. A hinged hatch can be utilised should you have a following sea and be worried about taking water into the cockpit.
This boat is aimed at the family of four and will fish them with ease. A single axle trailer keeps the weight down and at anchor the stability is good with the chines settled in nicely. On the run we experienced no pounding through the chop. Even though there was no breeze on the quarter I tried unsuccessfully to get spray onto the windscreen and sunnies but both remained dry for the entire test. You don't often find that.



Good-sized cockpit and killtank
Easy access to ground tackle
Well-built bimini
Buoyant hull would support more power



No trim tabs for stability at speed
Poor mechanical steering
Inconvenient engine remote mounting
Restrictive gas strut on cabin roof




Specifications: Northbank 490C




Price as tested: $39,500
Options fitted: Split bowrail, bimini, rocket launcher, carpet, spare wheel on trailer, bait board, rear seats and back rest, cushions in cabs, transom ladder and step, stainless-steel propeller
Priced from: $34,990



Type: Moderate-vee monohull
Material: Fibreglass
Length Overall: 5.25m
Beam: 2.25m
Deadrise: 19°
Weight: 580kg hull only



Rec/max hp: Four-stroke 75, two-stroke 90
Fuel: 60lt
Passengers (calm waters): 5



Make/model: Honda BF75
Type: Carburetted four-stroke.
Rated hp: 75
Displacement: 1590cc
Weight: 169kg
Gearbox ratio: 2.3:1
Propeller: 13.5 x 15in Solas stainless steel



Extreme Marine,
3491 Pacific Highway,
Springwood, 4127, Qld.
Phone: (07) 3808 2222



Originally published in TrailerBoat #198

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