By: Rick Huckstepp, Photography by: Rick Huckstepp

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Rick Huckstepp says the aluminium Stessco Mirage 540 SC bass boat is more than a match for its sweet riding American fibreglass counterparts and what’s more, its quality Australian-made


The high-speed, flat-deck bream and bass boat that is designed around tournament fishing has evolved over the last decade.

Earlier on, the field was dominated by alloy boats the likes of Quintrex Hornets and other punt-style boats along with input from Haines Hunter with their Pro Strike model, but with the increase of value of the Aussie dollar against the greenback, those stiletto high-speed bullets from the States have crept into and commandeered that segment of the market. The common denominator with these imports is fibreglass shallow-draught vessels with very little deadrise, brute power and plenty of bling.
Stessco in Queensland have had a crack at this market recently with their Mirage 540 and if you like surprises, you need to go for a ride in one of these boats.
We took one onto Moreton Bay for a fish and while we weren't overly desirous of catching a bream and bass just don't live there, snapper looked good for the dinner menu that night.
The weather at 0530 hours looked good with about a seven to 10kmh breeze from the west so a reasonably smooth trip across the bay looked to be the order of the morning.
We jumped aboard Craig Simmons's work Mirage for the journey. Craig is a serious contender in the ABT series and has been for the past seven years. He is one of the few professional (dedicated fulltime) anglers on the circuit and has graced the dais on a number of occasions after taking out honours. With another 540 Mirage accompanying, we were able to utilise their wake to see how smooth these boats are in the chop and were mighty impressed to say the least!




While the Mirage has a deep sharp forefoot at the bow end of the keel, the deadrise toward the aft end is gradual and as such, with three anglers sitting abeam at the back of the cockpit well, we experienced one of the driest and softest rides we have had in this style of boat.
What was also surprising was how quietly this hull performed when attacking the chop from a number of directions. Cutting across waves resulted in just a hiss as the water passed under the hull, at speeds to 90kmh. If one closed their eyes and did not know to the contrary, one would have sworn they were in a heavy fibreglass hull!
Dead in the water the Mirage is one of the most stable fishing platforms you could imagine. With three anglers moving about there was very little rock and roll to contend with and it sat virtually level in the water during five hours of moving around deck.
The Mirage has a bow mounted, 80lb thrust Minn Kota and a recess in the deck where the foot control sits, flush with the deck. The operator need not overbalance as both feet are on the same plane rather than one cocked up in the air.
The two gel batteries are set up in 24V mode and sit in a hatch in the bottom of the cockpit deck. This keeps the centre of gravity low adding to the stability.
The live fishwell is 140lt in volume and features a removable separation wall so competition anglers may keep their catch apart. It is plumbed with a reticulation system that keeps fish in prime condition while the entire unit is towed by road to the competition weigh-in site. It also has an external pickup for use during fishing.




With the livewell full and the total payload with anglers nudging 500kg, we cruised around Moreton Bay at 5000rpm and 84kmh.
The forward and aft casting decks sit about 75mm below the gunwales and are flush with no protruding objects. The hatches latch down so they cannot blow open at high speed and are carpeted to allow expensive rods and other tackle to be stowed with minimal damage.
Two long lockers, one for rods, are available on the foredeck along with three others down the centreline. The aft deck conceals the livewell and it is forward of a full-beam hatch that opens to access the engine crank battery and the oil bottle for the Evinrude E-TEC 175hp outboard.
Down in the cockpit a compact console is flush mounted with Humminbird's 797C GPS depthsounder and the same brand 383 model with inbuilt GPS antenna allows Craig to mark fish as he sees them while on the foredeck working the waters over with the Minn Kota. The transducer for it is attached to the Minn Kota motor.
Seating is not removable and consists of two positions. While it is basic, it is being upgraded and there is room between the seats to install another. A Hot Foot cable accelerator is installed under the console while the gear shift is mounted on the inside of the coaming. Power trim and tilt is operable from this remote or a paddle switch on the helm.
On the port side of the cockpit, a rod lean is built onto the inner liner. It features slots for the rod butts to be inserted into and a retractable strap to hold the tips down to the soft carpet base. These retractable straps are installed on the foredeck also, for more fishing rods and the landing net.




Acceleration on this boat is quick. It doesn't take long to get out of the hole and full speed is only seconds away. At the helm in cruising trim you can expect to experience firm steering. It is not overly stiff, rather direct. It is required to be this way as the last issue one needs is flighty steering control when ripping over the surface at 95kmh!
When it comes to traversing chop, it is more comfortable to do so at speed - so trim down the bow and put the Hot Foot down.
In a nutshell, this is a top product from an Aussie company and one that more than holds its own against imported glass boats - definitely worth a look (and a fish!).




One of the softest riding tournament boats around
Ready to go and therefore nothing to spend
Stability-plus for safe, stand-up angling




The only issue was the comfort of the seating but that has been changed




Specifications: Stessco Mirage 540 SC




Price as tested:                        $46,000
Options fitted:                         Minn Kota electric trolling motor, electronics, Hot Foot accelerator, and upgrade from 90hp E-TEC to 175hp
Priced from:                            $36,000




Material:                               Aluminium (4mm bottom, 3mm topsides)
Length overall:                         5.4m
Beam:                              2.3m
Deadrise:                               14º
Weight:                                 1200kg (without trailer)




People day:                             4 to 300kg
Fuel:                                   80lt
Rec. max. HP:                           175
Rec. max. engine weight:              250kg




Make/model:                  Evinrude E-TEC 175
Type:                                   Direct fuel injected two-stroke V6
Weight:                                 194kg
Rated HP:                               175
Displacement:                           2589cc
Gearbox ratio:                          1.85:1
Propeller:                              22in Solas Lexor
VELS rating:                            3-Star




River City Marine,
133 Sandgate Rd,
Albion, QLD, 4010
Phone: (07) 3262 7666



Originally published in TrailerBoat #232

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