By: Rick Huckstepp, Photography by: Rick Huckstepp

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Rick Huckstepp gets an exclusive tour of the previously secret manufacturing processes that TABS employs at its boatbuilding facility on the Gold Coast, plus takes a 4.85 Sportfisher for run



We tested TABS 485 Sportfisher on a becalmed day out off the Seaway on the Gold Coast, but not before sticking our nose in at their Ernest factory to look at the hull configuration that up until now, the unique design of which has been kept a trade secret.
It has always been there but not readily noticeable to the observer.
We are talking here of a 'rocker' keel line which is, in effect, a convex curve of the keel that is stressed into the hull in its initial stages of manufacture. This apparently unique feature allows for more than the normal amount of trim up on the engine to improve steering, attitude of the vessel and reduce the amount of drag in the water which in turn assists in improved fuel economy.
This writer was a little sceptical to say the least, having seen some production line alloy boats quite a few years back with an inadvertently manufactured keel line that was similar in shape that caused the hulls to porpoise on the plane.
Admittedly, the amount of curvature on those hull keels back then wasn't fully investigated. The amount on the jig we looked at, that measured each hull in the TABS factory was about 25mm past straight when put on a flat concrete floor.
Well the proof was in the pudding so to speak when we put the boat on the water. It was armed with an Evinrude 115hp ETEC and fitted with Teleflex manual cable steering.
This power combination with cable steering usually produces a certain amount of excessive torque at the helm at differing stages of trim, depending on the fit-up of the boat and engine/boat combinations.
With the leg trimmed all the way in, the hull was noticeably bow down but still steerable with relative ease. Trimming the leg up, the hull performed well and one could apply what is usually an excessive amount of trim up without detriment to performance such as aeration at the propeller. This allowed the hull to seemingly float across the top while very light at the helm and surprisingly, no porpoising.
With a lack of aeration, the boat turned well with plenty of trim up making it easy on the arms all round.
At full throttle with two adults on board the hull sits high in the water with the chines above the surface allowing it to rock slightly (chine walk). It would benefit from having extra weight aboard  to keep it down at speed, but while dead in the water those chines were well submerged giving the hull the stability it needs for occupants moving about such as when fishing.
We did feel holeshot was a little slow but this is a personal like or dislike. You can prop any boat for faster holeshot, but the trade-off is usually a sacrifice of the top-end speed.


This boat has very wide gunwales from about one-quarter of its length from the transom, forward, that will allow plenty of add-on accessories to be installed aftermarket.
The aft quarter gunwales are heavily rebated making for a wide rear cockpit area and easier vertical access to the wide sidepockets which will allow small tackleboxes to be lifted in and out.
At the bow, a fixed anchor rope roller is installed and an electric motor mount is part of the hull with a pop-up cleat for tying off anchor rope close by.
The forward casting deck has a base mount for a bum seat centrally located and the anchor locker is at the front under a flush-mounted hinged hatch. Another hatch here stows the freshwater pump and hose which feeds off an underdeck bladder of 60lt and also the power battery for the 55lb Minn Kota electric motor. Opposite, another hatch allows more stowage under the casting deck, and in the aft end of this raised platform a large plumbed live fish/killtank is installed.
The console is fixed against the starboard gunwale and it has a rebate sloping to the deck on that side facing into the cockpit. This allows one to move around it without fear of stubbing little toes when in close quarters.
An aftermarket rodholder on the front of the console was showing signs of sun damage and the console base had a large sturdy alloy framework protecting the tinted Perspex windscreen.
Installed in a plastic module fitted on top of that base was a Garmin chartplotter flush-mounted among the ETEC instrumentation while a Garmin depthsounder was fitted on a RAM bracket on the side of the console.
If looking to install extra items on or around a console or dashboard, RAM brackets are the go. They come in all sizes and for all sorts of instruments from lap tops to specific cradles for various mobile telephones and other handheld devices.


The opening at the back of the console is large and high enough to comfortably sit with one's legs underneath when in the helm seat.
The deck has three post mounts for positioning the two seats to trim the boat out correctly when required.
The aft casting platform is split in two by the engine well and in the portside of the platform a plumbed plastic livebait well is installed while opposite, the oil reservoir bottle for the ETEC and cranking battery are secreted.
Over on the stern a large boarding platform is installed each side of the outboard motor which sits on the transom proper rather than on any sort of pod.
While holeshot might not have been stunning, the torque of this outfit and top end speed was excellent. It represents good value in plate boating for the dollars as tested.


Good trim capabilities making for easy steering with manual system (saves approximately $900 extra for hydraulic option)
Water pump easy to access when hatch is opened
Minn Kota battery under part of the fixed platform and is not readily accessible for maintenance. While it is centrally located for balance, a hatch for it would be more user-friendly



Specifications: TABS 4.85 Sportfisher


Price as tested:    $38,000
Options fitted:    Freshwater bladder, Garmin electronics, and Minn Kota electric motor
Priced from:    $35,000

Material:    Alloy built on high-tensile matrix stringer system
Type:     Side centre console
Length overall:   5.15m
Beam:    2.3m
Deadrise:    16°
Weight:    550kg (hull)

Rec. min.HP:   80
Rec. max. HP:   115
Fuel:     120lt
Water:    60lt
People:    5

Make/model:  Evinrude ETEC 115
Type:    Direct injection two-stroke outboard
Rated HP:   115
Displacement:  1726cc
Weight:   170kg
Propeller:   17in   

2 Activity Crescent,
Ernest, Qld, 4214
Post: P.O.Box 672,
Ashmore, Qld,4214
Phone: (07) 5594 6333
Fax: (07) 5594 7188

Originally published in Trailerboat #235

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