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The Crestliner range of American-made alloy boats is getting plenty of attention at boat shows around the country, so we sent John Ford out on the Fish Hawk 1650 to find out what the buzz is about. He didn’t catch any fish (or hawks) but he did return with a diagnosable love bug.



Let me start by saying the idea of another fishing trip on a Crestliner was not all mine. After disgracing ourselves with the lads from Avante Marine during the Crestliner 1700 Super Hawk test, I was reluctant to put my piscatorial skills on display yet again. As it happened, my fears were unfortunately justified. Either there are no fish in the Nepean River or our fishing skills are wanting. My guess is there are plenty of fish…

At least the run up the Nepean Gorge in western Sydney offered some spectacular photographic opportunities as we skipped across the mirror-smooth surface in the early morning light. Despite the weather threatening rain we were blessed with only a slight drizzle lasting a few minutes, and even that produced a rainbow as the sun broke through.

The Fish Hawk, as its name implies, is a dedicated estuary fishing boat with broad appeal. Distributed by Berowra Waters Wholesale through its network of local dealers, these boats are American-made tinnies with the finish to rival 'glass boats.

Standard features include an aerated 90lt livewell and lockable floor-mounted storage for seven rods. With a top speed of 36kts (66.6kmh) it will take you a little longer than the big boats to get to the action in bream comps, but you'll travel in style and have a smaller fuel bill at the end of the day.



While the maximum carrying capacity is six people, in test trim there was seating for four on two pedestal seats, as well as a rear lounge. Seating is remarkably versatile because the lounge folds out to create a second casting platform, and the pedestal seats lift out for use in various locations around the boat. The pedestals are quite basic as they're designed to move but even so they're more comfortable than first impressions would have you believe.

Layout is similar to a bowrider, with a central helm station and a walkthrough screen. This makes it a very usable boat - the design gives maximum comfort and protection from the wind when on the move, yet provides clear deck space when fishing.

The helm has a wide and high three-piece windscreen with a central opening section for access forward. Driving is most comfortable from a seated position with excellent vision through the tempered glass screen. As mentioned, this is unusually high and wraps around behind the driver for an unobstructed view. Underway, the screen deflects the breeze high overhead so there is neither wind noise nor buffeting. There is also standing room behind the wheel to drive when docking or to keep an eye out for fish.



A big, flat moulded plastic dash provides space on top for loose objects, and a lip around the edge stops things falling off. Instrumentation is minimal with round Faria analogue gauges for revs, speed and fuel. Personally, I would include a trim gauge as an option. There is a 12V socket and a switch panel for lights, bilge and the livewell pump. On the dash there's a Lowrance X-50 DS sounder and plenty of room to mount bigger screens.

To port, the passenger has the same basic pedestal seat, which easily swivels 360°. There is a grabrail, a cavernous glovebox and a low shelf, which holds the fire extinguisher.

Access to the bow casting platform is via a step up through the walkway. At the bow there is provision for an electric motor and a simple, flat boarding step. I'm told that future Australian models will be fitted with an anchorwell and bowsprit to better suit local conditions. Under the floor are two large storage bins with hinged lifting lids.

The rear casting platform has a two-section livewell to port and an in-floor bin for the battery. Along the starboard side there is storage for rods, which extends through recesses to the bow allowing for lengths of up to 8ft. To starboard, the side is upholstered in marine carpet to cover the controls back to the motor. This feature is typical of the thought that has gone into keeping this boat neat and practical. The whole boat has carpeted or moulded surfaces to cover its metal construction and the gunwales are rounded and show an exceptionally high quality of painted finish. Where welds are visible on the exterior they are ground to a smooth surface. However, the tongue and groove joint construction means they remain structurally strong. Even the floor coverings meet the side edges with a close tolerance - everything is neat.



We didn't catch any fish (again), but it wasn't for lack of trying. What I did get was a deep respect for the Crestliner as a fishing platform. The hull is very stable when walking around and casting and the higher decks assist in getting the lures that little bit further. Add the sensible layout and great storage options and everything remains clutter-free and easily accessible.

The test boat came with a 90hp Mercury, which isn't surprising given that Crestliner is owned by the giant Brunswick Corporation that also owns Mercury. At the upper limit of the boat's power range the engine pushed the hull very quickly to maximum speed. There was an initial lift of the bow as the throttle was planted but it settled down within a second or so to a top speed of 36.7kts (68kmh). The sweet cruise speed was around 4000rpm doing 25.3kts (47kmh). This is where the motor sounded at its best and the hull lifted out of the water so that the sound of spray hitting the mid-hull deflector disappeared. Cruising along on the ripple-free surface of the river was a buzz at anything between 3500-5500rpm. The motor was willing and the hull was easily driven.

Steering was positive and I could throw the boat around at speed with the tail sliding out a bit when really pushed. On the river the only waves we could find were our own and heading back over them at speed gave a good indication that the boat was stiff and handled the chop with no banging or fuss. The hull was very quiet due to its smooth lines and the sound-deadening foam below decks. At speed it turned with a very flat attitude, and allowed the driver to set the tail out in sharp turns.

Having said that, I found the steering a little heavy and there was some prop torque. Since the test I'm told Avante has adjusted the trim tab of the motor to make the steering a lot lighter.



Berowra Waters Wholesale imports the Crestliner brand and distributes to a network of dealers throughout the country. I certainly believe there is a place in the local market for an aluminium boat with premium presentation.

Australian boaters love their knock-about, no-fuss tinnies for ease of cleaning and because they can drag the thing around on rocks guilt free (among many other reasons). However, those who want a boat with the general practicality of alloy along with the softer look of fibreglass will find a place in their shed and their heart for a Crestliner.

Where the Fish Hawk shines is in value for money. At $34,890, as tested, this is good buying for a sophisticated and well-sorted fishing boat.



Wind: 1-2kts

Sea: Flat river conditions


On the plane...

High quality finish

Stability and fishing ability

The BIG windscreen offers good protection

Versatile layout


Dragging the chain...

No anchorwell




6kts (11kmh) @ 2600rpm (plane)

14kts (26kmh) @ 3000rpm

19kts (35kmh) @ 3500rpm

23kts (43kmh) @ 4000rpm

25kts (47kmh) @ 4500rpm

29kts (54kmh) @ 5000rpm

33kts (61kmh) @ 5500rpm

37kts (68kmh) @ 5860rpm (WOT)


Specifications: CRESTLINER FISH HAWK 1650



Price as tested: $34,890

Options fitted: Nil

Priced from: $31,490 (with 60hp four-stroke)



Type: Monohull fishing boat

Material: Aluminium

Length: 5.1m

Beam: 2.18m

Weight: 481kg

Deadrise: 12°



People: 6

Rec. HP: 70

Max. HP: 90

Fuel: 76lt



Make/model: Mercury OptiMax 90

Type: OptiMax, three-cylinder, in-line

Weight: 170kg

Displacement: 1526cc

Gear ratio: 2.33:1

Prop: 18in

First published in TrailerBoat # 274


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