By: John Willis

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If there’s anything seriously wrong with the Webster’s Twinfisher, John Willis can’t find it



The year 2010 has already fulfilled a few dreams for me. One of those has been to test a Webster's 490 Twinfisher on Victoria's treacherous ocean bar at Andersons Inlet. I'd previously admired photos of boats literally flying through this difficult ocean access, at the same time pondering the capabilities of the iconic little Webster.

Webster's has been producing boats in Orange (NSW) for over 20 years and has always been the quiet achiever, but the company's trial and error approach has eliminated some of the quirks of twin-hull, single-engine construction. To answer the critics, no, the 490 Runabout doesn't cavitate or suck in spray, and it turns beautifully. In fact, its manoeuvrability would give most aluminium monohulls a run for their money.

I've owned a twin-hull boat so I was expecting the Webster to lean outward in a turn, a characteristic that's similar to riding a quad bike for those who haven't tried it. But it doesn't lean. In fact, the twin-hulls remain flat and true, even in the tightest high speed turns, with even a hint of inward lean. I don't know how they achieve that, but they do.

And who would have considered waterskiing or towing donuts behind a twin-hull? With the Webster you can. This exceptional little fishing boat is actually a terrific multi-use family package. The all up towing weight is just over 1100kg, which means easy towing with the normal family car, and since the engine requirement is from 60 to 90hp you get fuel efficiency as well.



Don't underestimate the seagoing capabilities of the Webster either. Not only does the hull feel safe and surefooted in the rough, the design all but eliminates the bone jarring bang and crash characteristic of many pressed-aluminium boats of similar hull thickness. We ran through quite choppy conditions at a pleasing 16kts at 3500rpm, something I guarantee you wouldn't be doing with many competing monohulls. I can see quite extensive coastal voyages with an underfloor fuel capacity of 100lt from the twin-50lt tanks.

Our test boat was fitted with an 80hp Yamaha F80B, four-stroke EFI engine which gave excellent performance and seemed to match the package very well, even if we'd been carrying a family with all their paraphernalia, or three big fishos. The package is ideally suited as a dive boat too, because it'll get large payloads up and out of the water, quickly and easily hydroplaning on the air cushion.

Out on the Inverloch bar we found a solid one and a half metre swell combined with 10kts of crosswind that intensified quickly while we were seaward. The swell stood up steeply, with the fast runout-tide making conditions a little tricky in the 400 odd metres of sandbars and breaking water. The Webster 4.9 took it all in its stride and confronted every challenge with an attitude that said "bring it on!"



Tim from Inverloch Marine, the boat's sole Victorian dealer, showed me what the twin-hulls are really capable of when he launched the boat off the back of peaking waves and surfed down the face of others. This package has tremendous seakeeping abilities and huge inherent safety with the twin, fully sealed, pressure-tested sponsons. It doesn't seem to show the "digging in" of a sponson that can be quite off-putting in many cats, and it's best driven by shouldering a slight angle over swell to eliminate the face of the wave hitting the flattened tunnel surface.

All cats love to get up and run and this one immediately shot up on the plane as power was applied. Many of them can also bang down hard onto the big flat surface between the sponsons, but the boat has terrific buoyancy as well as a high tunnel that seems to eliminate this trait. The tunnel, strake, and the rear wedge design all but eliminate spray from the bow and stern too - compared to some cats where you need a raincoat.

I'm happy to say that the Webster's 4.9 would be one the best riding production aluminium boats in the under five metre class, so it was appropriate that we actually passed a smaller 4.3 on the bar as the wind picked up to 15kts.

I admit that I expected the great ride, but at the same time I feared that lack of manoeuvrability would be its downfall. It wasn't. At rest, and at low speeds, the Webster's is exceptionably stable and surprisingly manoeuvrable. I'm a whiting and bream fisherman and so I also expected hull noise with the water slap under the flat sections under the hull, but this wasn't apparent either, and the package is quiet at rest.



Another big winner for the Webster's is the huge deck-space created by the square nature of a cat. Because the twin-hull is so stable, you won't fall out when everyone rushes to one side to gaff or net a fish.

The combings are at a practical height of approximately 600mm, or just above knee height for me. This could easily be raised further with a couple of work-rails as an option, but I reckon that'd be unnecessary for most. The full length sidepockets give nice deep toeholds, important for personal stability in a sea, and there's plenty of room for extra fishing rodholders or SCUBA tank-racks. The package would also handle the added weight of a compressor.

The transom is well designed and features a large livebait tank and a very handy side-door. There's very little distance from the inner transom combings to the end of the engine, making the boat very fishable. The battery is secured in its own centrally-located and easily-accessed compartment, and the deck drains to a small sump with a bilgepump. From the rear there's a nice sized enginewell, and there are boarding-platforms on both sides. The port side allows good access through the door, and I'd mount a detachable berley-pot to starboard.

There's certainly no shortage of storage space either. A large killtank/storage box is centrally located in the big carpeted deck. It has a swing-up, upholstered and padded lid, which is terrific for all sorts of applications like sitting close to your rods so you can quickly respond to finicky fish bites. The only downfall is that there are no restrictor chains so you have to hold the lid open, something that would eventually break the hinges. The trim quality of the upholstered lid could also be modernised to current standards.

There's more storage in the seat support boxes, and again in the large cavity formed under the wide bow. The seats are neatly presented, shell-style pedestals with swivels and handy storagepockets for mobile phones and so on.

The Webster's helm position is comfortable, and the compact dashboard is simple but effective. Our test boat was fitted with a small Lowrance X52 depthsounder that would be fine for a base package, but a keen fisho or diver would opt for a larger, more expensive unit. Space would be a consideration for some of today's large screen displays. A combination sounder/GPS/plotter unit would be my option.

The dashboard also features twin-Yamaha multi-function gauges, a waterproof switch panel, Hi-Drive hydraulic steering and a combination spoked steering wheel that I liked but my wife didn't (I thought it was strong and practical; she said it wasn't pretty).

The passenger dash is where you find the 27MHz marine radio, the lockable glovebox, and a welcome grabrail. There's a cutout in the centre of the dash for the lean-through opening windscreen. While access for anchoring is easy, I'd take Tim's suggestion and fit a suitable sprit for the anchor of choice. While I'd prefer a SARCA, a pronged anchor would suit divers and those anchoring in heavy reef areas. The anchorwell is also set up to fit an optional Stress Free Marine winch. Should you ever have to climb out on the bow for mooring, the short bowrail that encloses the checkerplate foredeck makes that manoeuvre easier.

Webster's finishes off this compact little boat with a Perspex windscreen with a strong, brushed aluminium frame, as well as a bimini canopy with side-clears and aluminium rocket launcher combination. This can be upgraded to stainless if required, again an option that I would strongly consider for added security in a difficult sea. It also gives peace of mind when carrying larger game reels. After all, I can see many a marlin, tuna or shark captured in a Webster's 490 Twinfisher in limited offshore sportfishing.



The big new feature available on these boats is a choice of either clinker or smooth side-walls. The manufacturer claims the same strength with both, and the price is the same. I'd have thought clinker-sides would be slightly stronger and wouldn't show inevitable scars as much as the smooth sides. However, the latter looks great, especially with the dark tones and decals of the test boat.

This boat came with an Easytow single-axle trailer that has been well refined for driving on and off. As I said before, we had a big runout-tide across the end of the boat ramp but trailering was made easy with the skids and sidebars.

There's an old saying: "There is no such thing as perfect!" Well, I reckon the Webster's Twinfisher 490 Runabout goes pretty close to its claim of being the perfect fishing boat, for me anyway. Furthermore, it has a wide appeal as a flexible family package or dedicated dive-boat because it is well priced and enormously economical. Performance, safety, seaworthiness and stability are outstanding. And it gets a big thumbs up from me.




Soft Ride

Easy to tow

Extremely stable

Large deck

Basic but workable fitout


Timber support and lack of retention on seatbox lid



Specifications: Webster's Twinfisher 490 Runabout



Price as tested: $45,450 with
Yamaha 80hp four-stroke

Priced from: $39,000 with
Yamaha 60hp four-stroke


Type: Twin-hull

Material: Aluminium (3.5mm bottom; 2.5mm topsides)

Length (overall): 4.9m

Beam: 2m

Estimated dry weight: 460kg

Deadrise: N/A



Fuel: Approx. 100lt

Rec. HP: 60-90



Model: 80hp Yamaha F80BETX

Type: Four-stroke, 16 Valve DOHC direct-action in-line, four-cylinder EFI

Displacement: 1596cc

Weight: 170kg

Gearbox ratio: 2.31:1

Propeller: 16in S/S



Inverloch Marine,

2 The Esplanade

Inverloch, Vic, 3996

Phone: (03) 5674 1502 or 1300 920 104




Webster's Twinfisher Enterprises

11 Corporation Place

Orange, NSW, 2800

Phone: (02) 63631965




Originally published in TrailerBoat 256.

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