By: Bernard Clancy

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Stratos 285 Pro XL



Stratos 285 Pro XL 

When I jumped aboard the Stratos 285 Pro XL bass boat, my first thought was "if only I'd had this boat a couple of weeks earlier".
A couple of weeks earlier, some mates and I taken a trip to the Mallacoota Lakes in Victoria's east. We used a three-metre Boston Whaler tender equipped with a bow-mount Minn Kota electric motor, and we scored very well throwing soft plastics at large flathead. But gee, it was hard work. There was no space to store gear and nowhere to sit on comfort. We were sitting on lifejackets, the keeper net was slung off the transom getting tangled in the prop, there was tucker and safety gear underfoot, and an open tackle box kept spilling its contents onto the deck.
Sure, the little BW did its job - the trip was fun, and doing it rough meant the beer tasted that much better when we got back to camp - but the Stratos would have been marvellous! The Stratos 285 Pro XL test boat is one of the fishing platforms for the Australian Fishing Championships pro series; it's designed to run around chasing bream and bass in a professional tournaments, so it is equipped for the job.
At 5.6m, the Stratos is no small machine and when you stoke up the super-charged four-stroke 150hp Mercury Verado on the transom, it fairly flies. Bass boats are purpose-built for calm inland waters, such as estuaries and lakes, with an emphasis on stability for fishing and speed to get to the best fishing spots first from a standing start.
We tested the Stratos on Patterson River and a fairly benign Port Phillip Bay. These weren't ideal locations (next test guys, we're taking it to the Gippsland Lakes or Mallacoota for some fair dinkum fishing!) but they sufficed to give us an indication of the boat's capabilities. I'm told the boat is capable of near 100kmh at WOT but chickened-out after some serious bouncing and chine walking at around 84 kmh on the bay. The top speed recorded by the boat is reportedly 98 kmh but on the enclosed National Water Sports Centre at Carrum. 
With plenty of trim-out it was a bit like driving a sports car, a very serious sports car of an older vintage and we bounced and skipped from wavelet to wavelet with not much boat touching water. Other boats' wakes were approached with white knuckles on Jesus bar but the boat handled them very well indeed.
So, in a straight line the Stratos was a rocket. But cut the power and another story emerged. Keep in mind that this boat is designed primarily to potter around on its electric motor seeking fish on river banks and in mangrove swamps so it must be purpose designed both above and below the water line. But as a pro boat it must also be capable of enough speed to get to the best spots first. Hence the very sleek hull almost like a high-speed ski boat and otherwise excess power (and weight) hanging off the back end in the Verado 150. The result, of course, is that the Stratos really works hard to get out of the hole. The nose points at the moon for some time before settling down to the horizon. The boat really struggled through figure eights, constantly bogging on turns no matter what trim was used. But really all that's irrelevant to the purpose.
The fact is, more and more fishos are getting into the "bass boat" style of fishing, including yours truly, brought about largely by the popularity of soft plastic lures.  It's tremendous fun. On the trip to Mallacoota I took along an old mate of mine who's happiest catching marlin but he was blown away by the fun that can be had catching the humble old flathead in shallow water on light gear and plastics. One even jumped for him!
The Stratos is  an American boat where the bass scene has been strong for years, so it has a lot of experience built into its design. It sits low in the water like a race ski boat, with deck platforms fore and aft which provide excellent vision into the water and castability. Everything in the test boat was  covered in a black carpet which was a little too warm on the tootsies for my liking, even on just a 21C. day but I noticed our identical camera boat had a much lighter colored carpet.
Mounted on the bow was a digital Motor Guide PTSV 82lb thrust electric motor which, I'm sure, would have worked very well indeed once you learned the idiosyncrasies of its foot-operated controls. Mounted close nearby was a Humminbird 987si side imaging fishing system-GPS so that you can find fish without leaving your fishing station. This  unit provides photo-like imaging of the bottom spanning 150 metres out from the sides of the boat . A pair of rocker switches are useful for main motor trim and anchor light.
The front section of the boat has two long and deep rod lockers with a very neat racking system for quick access to rods, again carpeted inside and another huge storage bin  centrally located. All are on gas struts and lockable. The step to get to the foredeck incorporates an ice cooler. Tensioned straps on the deck tie down fishing rods while on the move.
On the back platform there are two storage bins either side of a 109 litre live fish well which has dual lids and a removable central plastic baffle plate to keep anglers' fish separated in tournaments. A covered compartment right across the stern gives access to the bilge and three batteries, one for the boat and two for the electric motor, being a 24volt unit. Of course, this additional weight in the stern adds to the challenge of getting the boat on the plane quickly however a positive effect is that it gives good trim response at high speeds. Both platforms have provision for a removable fishing pedestal bumseat to add to comfort on a slow day.
Between the raised fishing platforms is the purpose-built cockpit with two racing style seats (these boats only every fish one or two people in competition, usually one "pro" or boater and one amateur, called a non boater). The driver sits with his legs in a tunnel under the dash pod. Knee room is minimal and a fire extinguisher is mounted on the left side of the tunnel within reasonable access. Unfortunately the digital instrument panel mounted in front is half-hidden by the rubberised alloy helm and particularly at speed, I found that quite annoying. Either side of the helm are gauges for fuel and volts as well as rocker switch panels. A Humminbird Matrix 87cx GPS fishing system mounted on the gunnel within clear vision was great. A small windscreen mounted on the dash module did its job very well. 
So there y'go. Not your average fishin' boat by any means and there are no ski hooks on the transom. But when you discover the joys of this style of fishing, whether it be for barra, bass or the humble bream, you'll have a real good look at a Stratos. 


Specifications: Stratos 285 Pro XL

Price as tested: $56,100 
Options: Humminbird 987si; Humminbird 87cx; digital Motorguide PTSv 82 bow mount motor
Priced from:    $46,900

Material    GRP
Length (overall)   5.6m
Beam     2.3m
Deadrise    N/A
Rec. max hp  150
Weight on trailer   682 kg

Fuel     136 lt

Make/model    Mercury
Type     Verado supercharged four-stroke
Rated hp    150
Displacement    1732 cc
Weight     231kg
Prop     23in Trophy plus

Mercury Marine through Cunninghams Marine
Margate, Qld.
Phone: (07) 3284 2342; (03) 9767 6427

Originally published in TrailerBoat #200


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