BOAT TEST: FORMULA 15

By: John Ford, Photography by: John Ford


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What do you do when you want a boat small enough to fish the estuaries and still head out on the open seas? John Ford discovers fishing legend Kaj “Bushy” Bush’s impressive solution

BOAT TEST: FORMULA 15
FORMULA 15

It's a worry, all this talk about the Global Financial Crisis, but there's worse. What about the real crisis of trying to find a boat that will let you fish the precarious shallow upper reaches of our estuaries and still have enough stability and safety to put to sea.

Fishing guru Kaj "Bushy" Bush faced that very problem when it came time to move on from his competition bass boat into something more versatile.
Bushy said he wanted a recession-busting, big-small, comfortable, cheap boat with a power plant which would run quietly with minimum fuel and maintenance costs.
"I also wanted a boat small enough to launch by myself, but big enough to accommodate two or three anglers," said Bushy.
He reckons he found it in the Formula 15CC - a boat produced in Victoria with a design pedigree going back to the '80s.

 

 

OLD BECOMES NEW


The hull is from the iconic line of boats designed by John Haines with a sea-taming reputation of safety and stability. Formula have taken the hull design and added features to bring it up to more contemporary expectations. The hull has a much more solid lay-up than the original and is foam-filled.
At 15ft (4.45m), its diminutive size hides a boat that has plenty of punch as a practical fishing platform. So, to put that to the test TrailerBoat spent two days in very different environments - offshore in the ocean off Merimbula on the NSW South Coast and on the tranquil waters of Victoria's Mallacoota chasing the elusive black bream.
Built from fibreglass, the hull features a centre console housing the controls and wheel behind a clear screen. The console is a model for thrifty use of space and houses the Furuno FCV620 sounder and Furuno GP32 GPS on the flat dash on top and the E-TEC instruments and compass in a sloping panel for easy viewing. Built-in recesses for the fire extinguisher and the EPIRB round out a very neat system. Behind the centre console is a moulded-fibreglass seat with a padded cushion for two, which hinges to reveal a large storage area beneath.
Forward of the console is another padded seat, which also serves as a raised casting platform. This seat hinges open for a large area suitable for storage, but in this case, houses the AGM (Absorbed Glass Matt) batteries for the Minn Kota electric motor.
At the bow are a large anchorwell and a split stainless steel siderail running along each side of the boat offering added safety at sea.
The transom area has two built-in wet-storage boxes plumbed to drain overboard.

 

 

BUSHY'S MODIFICATIONS


Modifications to Bushy's boat have turned it into an even more fishable outfit. They include additional rodholders, a remote-control Minn Kota with a custom bracket and modifications to the siderail to allow the electric motor to be lowered over the bow and a custom-made pair of outriggers with simple mounting brackets.
Our first exploration of how well this boat meets its double life was a trip to sea, chasing flathead and trolling for pelagics.
Driving the boat is most comfortable from a standing position - the throttle is a bit low at first, but feels better with time at the helm.
Boasting a beamy 2.06m and sporting a 20-degree deadrise and prominent reverse chines, the hull has the feel of a much larger boat - it's soft riding and extremely stable.
The 90hp Evinrude E-TEC rockets it out of the hole and propels it quickly up to nearly 32.4kts (60kmh). With this power, combined with the low weight, care is needed to keep it in the water over any decent swell at speed.
We got on the plane at around 8.6kts (16kmh) and by 3500rpm it was hitting an easy 19kts (35kmh). Up to 3800rpm is the sweet cruise at 20.5kts (38kmh), but the motor spins to 5200rpm at wide open throttle.
The steering is effortless with the hydraulic assist and the boat turns easily as you would expect from such a well-credentialed hull.
With speed trials and photography out of the way, we settled in for some bottom bouncing for flathead. Bushy was trialling a new flathead rig and it wasn't long before he had a triple hook-up of some medium-sized lizards.

 

 

LET'S GO FISHING


With both of us fishing the same side of the boat, it proved remarkably stable. There was plenty of room for two and it could easily accommodate a third. The whole 4.45m of the hull is fishable and there are no obstructions while moving about. The seats are very usable while fishing and the gunwale is also a comfortable perch when waiting for the flathead to co-operate.
Some bird activity farther out to sea persuaded Bushy that we had enough flathead and we set off at full speed to check out the action. At a suitable distance we set the lures.
It was clear the hull is happy to settle into a slow troll and to keep it up for hours burning little fuel. It's an economical and happy combination of stability and frugality. With room for a crew of three the hull is well suited to its prospective gamefishing roll, even though on this occasion we were unable to locate them despite an ocean alive with humpback whales and seals.
The following day we met at dawn for the drive to Mallacoota.
You know its cold when your breath appears in front of you as a foggy sigh. With zero degrees on the gauge of the Prado I guessed it would be cold on the water and we were not disappointed. At least I had jeans and shoes - Bushy in his traditional shorts and bare feet looked decidedly uncomfortable as we headed down the Genoa River from Gypsy Point at 30kts (55.5kmh). My best guess was a windchill factor of -10°C. The windshield provided welcome protection and as we squashed in behind it the fog opened up along the river in a truly magnificent display of early morning light. Cruising along at 3500rpm conversation was easy as the E-TEC purred away behind us.
Having satisfied ourselves with the hull's flat-water speed we headed back up the Genoa River at a more sedate pace in search of the aggregation of black bream that was anticipated in the headwaters of the estuary.
Black bream at this time of year head upriver for spawning and are known to be very skittish, especially early in the day. Nevertheless, Bushy was able to persuade a few onto his line, but only with a display of gentle casting and incredible patience. The technique involves casting an unweighted flick-bait on 2kg line in the direction of a swimming fish and land it where he can see it, then, retrieve it slowly towards you, so it looks like an injured prey.
"You have to think like a bream," explained Bushy. "He knows that he can't catch a healthy minnow, but if he thinks it's injured he might have a go. So, you have to tease it along and once he gets within about a foot of it you just have to wait. If you see him hunch his shoulders you know you have got him. Wait, see him suck it in and strike."
Watching this is like watching a game of cat and mouse and Bushy is very good at it. He seems to be thinking the fish onto his line.
As the day warmed the bream became more receptive to exploring the bait and we eventually found some big schools. The depth of water was no more than three feet and as the sun got higher the fish became much more obvious. Bushy's ability to see fish is remarkable, but he claims it is a learned skill. When he explained the need to look for signs of movement, flashes of colour and swirls on top of the water, it did become easier to find some of the fish he was pointing to.

 

 

FORMULA SHINES


In this application as a bream fishing tournament boat the Formula once again shines. You can get it into 300mm of water with the Minn Kota pulling along effortlessly. The advantage of the autopilot remote control for the Minn Kota is clear in these situations - even with a run-out tide it is possible to place the boat just where you want it.
At rest, the hull is stable even when both of us were perched atop the seats for a better view of the action. The front seat makes a perfect elevated casting platform and the rear of the boat has another area where a second person can fish in comfort. Access around the boat is limitless and easy for fighting those fish that want to give you the runaround.
With 10 fish landed from the schooling mob we headed along the Wallagarah River to find some deep holes. Here we tried solid vibe lures and with some expert instruction even I managed a decent-sized fish. The secret is to cast and let the lure drop to the bottom. Then, a slow retrieve a couple of feet at a time letting the line settle on the water to ensure it has sunk properly. Slowly lifting the rod as instructed from around 60° high to vertical resulted in a fish on the second lift. Bream fishing is easy if you are surrounded by experts and do exactly what they tell you.
The Formula ertainly proved it is a true dual-purpose outfit. It's a great fishing platform and with the E-TEC on the back, makes for an economical but swift combination.
The new owners at Formula have changes planned for the boat, which will make it even more versatile. These include full-fibreglass construction, rating the boat to 115hp, fitting a 110lt fibreglass fuel tank, an in-floor killtank and changes to the console to allow room for built-in sounder and GPS.

 

 

WHAT WE LIKED


Stable
Easy to handle
Economical

 

 

NOT SO MUCH


Could use some weather protection

 

 

 


Specifications: Formula 15CC

 

 

HOW MUCH?


Priced from:  $32,880 w/ 60hp
E-TEC, full safety gear, rego, and Easytow trailer

 

 

GENERAL


Material:  GRP
Length overall:  4.6m
Beam:  2.06m
Deadrise:  20°
Weight:  450kg

 

 

CAPACITIES


Fuel:  90lt
Rec. max. HP:  90
Cockpit area:  4.5m²
Rec. max. engine weight:  170kg

 

 

ENGINE


Make/model:  Evinrude E-TEC
Type:  In-line three-cylinder
two-stroke outboard with
direct injection
Capacity:  1296cc
Rated HP:  90
Weight:  152kg

 

 

SUPPLIED BY


Phillip Island Marine,
14 Beach Road,
Rhyll, Vic, 3923
Phone: (03) 5956 9328
Email: info@phillipislandmarine.com.au
Web: www.phillipsilandmarine.com.au

Find Formula boats for sale.

 


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