By: John Willis

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Pretty much everyone in the saltwater boating world should own a 5m cuddy like this Evolution, says John Willis. It hits the mark as a seaworthy, spacious and attractive package.




Victoria's Evolution Boats unashamedly makes darned good fishing machines. It's the company's core business, always has been and probably always will be. Evolution designs reflect many years in boatbuilding by management and staff who practise what they preach - fishing.

The Evolution 500 Cuddy is a boat that saltwater anglers should own at some stage in their lives. It has a practical layout, huge deck space, a comfortable helm, excellent standard features, terrific handling and a place for everything. So, when you're all done thinking that bigger is better and you come back to earth, the "Evo" 500 Cuddy is worthy of a second look. And probably a third. And for those in the tinnie brigade who haven't yet realised the added comfort of a fibreglass boat, you should have a look too.

The 500 is the smallest of the Evolution range and is a terrific boat. Its size and weight make it well and truly towable by an average family vehicle, and launching and retrieving is a breeze with the drive-on Dunbier trailer. I've ventured to a fair percentage of Australia's south and east coast with a 5m cuddy in tow and found it to be a great size for the travelling fisho. On a good day you can do some limited gamefishing; in fact, I've seen smaller boats than this at the continental shelf. It's an ideal size for smaller bar crossings while still light and agile enough to journey well up into the higher reaches of coastal estuaries. If the bug strikes, you could use the same package for family skiing, wakeboarding or tubing, and still look the part for a cruise around your favourite river or harbour.

This is an easy boat to own. Its speedy looks and sensible layout make it extremely attractive to the eye. Visually, the Evolution 500 carries very similar lines to its bigger brothers, the original 550 Platinum and the new 552. It has similar features to all the Evolutions, with big beamy deck areas, high gunwales, a very workable transom layout and plenty of enclosed storage. In fact, when I put on my one-eyed fisho glasses I'd have to say the little Evo has the most efficient workstation in its class.

The high, half-pod transom is surrounded by a pair of boarding platforms, giving good access for watersports and a possible mounting point for a berley pot and ladder. The high transom wall has twin hatches port and starboard - one for a baitbox/cool bin and the other a large plumbed livebait tank - complete with a clear inspection window.

I also like the thigh-high padded coaming and flush internal transom wall, with three easily opened hatches revealing the batteries, oil bottle, isolator switch, bilge, and still more enclosed storage. Good anglers know how much they need suitable toeholds right around the cockpit so the Evolution boys designed them in, too. To top off the workstation there's a solid fibreglass cuttingboard on removable stainless steel mounts, as well as strong cleats and rodholders.

Internal walls have large sidepockets with strong fibreglass barriers. These full-length pockets are long enough for fishing rods, boat hook and gaff storage. The floor of the work area is uncluttered and finished as standard with non-skid fibreglass. There's a large killtank toward the rear underfloor, and all of the internals are easy to clean due to the full fibreglass liner (especially after messy fishos like me scatter blood, guts and squid ink all over the place).




The helm and dashboard area presents simply, but in fact it's the simplicity that makes it excel. A big flat section caters for all of the paraphernalia we like to install on the dash. Something not immediately noticeable is the drain that runs completely around the inside of the windscreen, as well as a simple moulded lip to retain loose goodies on the dash. I appreciated the big refreshment holder and stainless Jesus bar on the passenger side and found the cupholders were just the place for a mobile phone or handheld GPS.

The driver's side dashboard is simple but functional with mouldings for a flush-mount compass, a good size GPS/sounder unit, as well as a full set of analogue, multifunction gauges, key start and sports steering wheel.

I was pleased to see the bright, clear and easy to use analogue gauges that are standard on all E-TEC electrics up to 90hp. The depthsounder/GPS in the standard Evolution package is the Lowrance HDS-5 and it gives more than enough screen size and information in a boat this size.

The driving position is quite comfortable with thickly-cushioned, shell-style pedestal seats with adjusters, flush-mounted engine controls and handy fibreglass footrests on the rear of the small bunk mouldings. While this is the smallest boat in the Evolution range, the boys haven't skimped on quality, exemplified in the solid safety glass windscreen in a brushed aluminium frame. You do tend to look over the top of the screen at low revs but I didn't notice any problems with too much wind in the face when up and moving.

The cuddy is just the place to store all your tackle, fishboxes, jackets, or maybe even a separate Esky or picnic basket. A pair of larger sidepockets give quick access to essentials like lifejackets, flares and torches, as well as further storage under the bunk cushions.

Overhead, Evolution keeps the quality coming with a strong stainless rocket launcher and bimini canopy configuration. That's the thing I like about this package - there haven't been any shortcuts to create the illusion of a lower purchase price. What you see is what you get in the package price, but what you don't see is the huge 100lt fuel tank under the floor.

Access to the bow is easy, even for big blokes, with plenty of headroom and a large hatch. The anchoring setup is superb, with an integral moulded bowsprit and deep anchor locker. The cabin is well defined by the stainless steel split bowrails and a pair of teardrop-shaped side-windows, giving a classy touch that enhances the already smooth lines and good looks.




Plant the throttle down on the Evinrude 90hp E-TEC and the fun begins. Our test boat was fitted well for average loads with a 19in stainless propeller that bit really well into turns and got the two of us "little fellahs" up and planing quickly and easily with a full tank of fuel. However, it didn't pull so well when we added the weight of a couple of extra ladies at the rear of the boat so in my opinion the original 17in propeller would be more suited to family boating.

The 21° hull performs really well and likes to sit down at the nose in a confident stride. We had fairly flat and calm conditions during the test so I could only assess the roughwater capability in wakes created by other boats. However, the hull handled all our high speed manoeuvres with a surefootedness well above most competing 5m offerings. More so, it was exceptionally stable at rest - a blessing for all boat operators, especially fishos.

Overall, I can wrap the entire package up by promising you I would happily own an Evolution 500 Cuddy. I like its simplicity, I like its style, I like its design and I like the easy boating, although personally, I'd pay a little extra and get the maximum 115hp E-TEC to round off a complete boating experience. Evolution's catchcry is "Built by fishermen, for fishermen" and I'm not arguing with that. The Evolution 500 Cuddy punches well above its weight.




With 90hp Evinrude E-TEC and 17in Viper SST propeller

11.8kts (22kmh) @ 2700rpm (on the plane)

16.7kts (31kmh) @ 3000rpm

20.5kts (38kmh) @ 3500rpm

24.8kts (46kmh) @ 4000rpm

29.1kts (54kmh) @ 4500rpm

30.7kts (57kmh) @ 4800rpm (WOT)





Specifications: Evolution 500 Cuddy




Price as tested: Approx. $43,750

Options fitted: Glass windscreen, stainless rocket launcher, bimini, HDS-5 fishfinder/GPS, rear steps

Priced from: $39,000




Type: Deep-vee monohull cuddy

Material: GRP

Length (LOA): 5.30m

Beam: 2.25m

Weight (standard BMT package): Approx. 1100kg

Approx. towing weight: 1250kg

Deadrise: 21°




Fuel: 100lt

Rec. max. HP: 115




Make/model: Evinrude E-TEC E90DPX

Type: In-line, three-cylinder, direct-injected

Rated HP: 90

Displacement: 1296cc

Weight: 152kg

Gearbox ratio: 2.25:1

Propeller: 17in stainless steel




Evolution Boats

4/254 Canterbury Road

Bayswater, Vic, 3153

Tel: (03) 9738 0085




Find Evolution boats for sale.


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