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Barra boats sure have come have come a long way from being strapped to the top of a 4WD or thrown over a box trailer




Back in the very early 1980s, I lobbed in Darwin for a three-week introduction to barramundi fishing. It really was the wild west back in those days with access to some of the now famous locales such as Shady Camp and Four Mile Hole in Kakadu National Park being 4WD access only; especially so, immediately after the wet season.

Barra fishing was mostly done from very basic small boats, and not many were transported on boat trailers. Most were strapped to the roof rack on top of a 4WD, or tied on a box trailer.

The standard fishing platform back then was the Manta Craft 12ft punt with a 15hp two-stroke outboard, which spent its life, when not on the transom, lying in the back of the 4WD on an old car tyre to prevent it from rolling around and getting damaged crossing rough terrain.

At that time most anglers trolled lures for the targeted iconic species, but as time rolled on with the evolution of better lures and tackle, more anglers changed their style to standing and casting at drains and structures. The introduction of soft plastics helped this enormously and then along came fly fishing.

If you have ever tried, along with another fisherman, to stand in a 12ft punt and fish crocodile infested waters, you will quickly agree that there is a certain amount of excitement involved.




One of the deciding factors when anchoring in the fishing position was: "How long will it take to swim to the river bank if I fall in?" (This was always a distinct possibility). The problem was the reptiles you were trying to avoid being eaten by were often sunning themselves on the said bank waiting for you to do just that!

Stability, or more of it, was called for and larger boats started to appear on northern waterways. One in particular was the Savage Jabiru punt, which at about 4m, was a beamy, high-sided boat with flat decks rather than exposed ribs.

Then, thrown into the standard fitout were short casting decks with stowage underneath; something quite new to this part of the country.

The 15hp could no longer cut it and powerplants jumped to 35 and 40hp and retailers enjoyed boon times, because they were now selling trailers with most boat sales. And they sold plenty of them, because the roads were often nonexistent and the untamed country took a terrible toll on these flimsy trailers that in reality had been engineered for the better conditions down south.

The barramundi fishing and the new boats had a profound effect on me and within three years I was living in the Northern Territory and towing a custom-built, fully-surveyed alloy punt, modelled on the Savage Jabiru.

Well, that was a longwinded introduction to the current model Savage Jabiru, which really turned our heads when we looked at them down at Coomera recently.

Telwater have taken over this iconic brand and have refined the features that made it famous nearly a quarter of a century ago.



Inherent strength in the design has come about with the way the gunwales are rolled and pressed. They are wide and while curved around the outside edge, the inside edge is straight fore to aft with the underside of the inside edge rolled up underneath.

The forward casting deck is constructed from carpeted waterproof laminated timber and hosts three hatches, the front two give access the front of the bilge. The central rear hatch in this platform has a rotomoulded insert riveted into it, which is bunged and drains into the bilge. This is in effect a live-fish tank, but the guys in the Territory are going to go to town on this by removing it and insulating the void before riveting it back into place. As you cannot get a one metre barra into it, you may as well use it to keep the beer cold!

A seat post base is recessed into the casting platform for an optional extra seat or one from the main deck. The gunwales on either side of the casting deck have low handrails, which stop short of the bow of the hull.

There's no cleat to tie an anchor off; one is restricted to tying off to the rail on the forequarter. This is not a comfortable setup when anchored in chop as it puts the boat slightly side on to oncoming waves. A stand alone cleat, or bollard, on the bow would be ideal, or running the handrails forward to the bow point would also be a quick way around this minor issue.

The foredeck is flat sheet, which could do with some non-slip tape added to it. While it might be an option to recess an anchor well here, it would be shallow and require a hatch, so that the ground tackle can't fly out when riding over rough water, or towing over similar terrain.

As the tiller arm on the outboard motor swings well to port, the seat base for the cockpit passenger is well forward of that of the skipper and puts their portside grabrail out of reach behind them. This needs to be moved forward for practical reasons.

The short rear-casting platform runs abeam hard against the transom and the retainer for the skipper's chair post is fixed to its front bulkhead. This platform has two slide-out hatch tops, one each side, that access voids that will take two 22lt tote tanks. With the helm chair placed elsewhere, and the tiller arm folded up, this is a good raised area from which to cast lures.



The 40hp two-stroke Mercury provides plenty of punch to get the Jabiru out of the hole with two adults onboard. Semi-flat bottom punt style boats don't need much anyway as they have plenty of planing surface, so if budget is an issue you could come back to perhaps 25hp if carrying light loads; 30hp would be comfortable.

We thought the outboard could have been tuned a little better as it was running rough at slow planing speeds, but overall it made the boat perform well, being easy to steer in tight fast situations.

Later tests showed a WOT speed of just under 33kts at 5500rpm, and cruise of 18kts will have the Mercury running at 3500rpm.

With a few changes topside, this boat is destined for some great stable fishing right around this country.



Good hull strength

Stable when dead in the water

No paintwork to scratch if you are prone to being a little rough with gear



Needs a central anchor tie-off cleat or bollard on bow point

Non-slip material, such as tape, or checkerplate on the bow point topside would be ideal

Cockpit passenger handrail needs to be moved forward to within reach





Price as tested: $14,150

Options fitted: nil


Type: Semi-flat bottom V-nosed punt

Material: Aluminium; 2mm bottom sides,

1.6mm topsides

Length overall: 4.35m

Beam: 1.84m

Depth: 0.72m

Weight: 222kg (hull)


Rec. max. HP: 40

Rec. min. HP: 30

Rec. max. engine weight: 120kg

People: Four to 300kg

Max. payload plus engine: 480kg

Fuel: Tote tanks


Make/model: Mercury 40hp LW

Type: Carburetted
three-cylinder two-stroke

Rated HP: 40

Displacement: 697cc

Weight: 69kg

Gearbox ratio: 2.00:1

Propeller: 13in alloy

VELS Rating: 1 Star


Telwater, 53 Waterway Drive,

Coomera, Qld, 4209

Phone: (07) 5585 9898





Originally published in TrailerBoat # 254

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