BOAT TEST: STABICRAFT 1750 FRONTIER

By: JEFF STRANG


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Jeff Strang finds that the Stabicraft 1750 Frontier is a rig just begging to be customised — and which punches considerably above its weight.

BOAT TEST: STABICRAFT 1750 FRONTIER
Stabicraft 1750 Frontier

Stabicraft Marine is having a barnstorming run at the moment. Readers of our September issue (TrailerBoat #273) will be aware that the company's superb 2150 cleaned up at our second annual Australia's Greatest Boats competition. Prior to that, this same boat was independently voted "Boat of the Decade" by our sister publication Trade-A-Boat New Zealand.

Many readers will also be aware the company has been building strong workhorse boats from its factory in Invercargill, on the bottom end of New Zealand's South Island, since its inception in 1987. However, the company hasn't necessarily been famous for building serious fishing boats. That's not to say that Stabis haven't gone fishing in the past - they most certainly have, and with great success. But the company didn't seem to put much emphasis on that sector. So what's changed?

I suspect it has a lot to do with Stabicraft's successful relationship with TV fishing guru Matt Watson. He has long recognised that the hull has superb sea-handling and inherent stability, and was prepared to put his money where his mouth was and own one. I think it's fair to say Matt knows a thing or two about what makes a good fishing platform, and, without wanting to put words in his mouth, this is what I think he'd say:

1) It has to get you and your gear to the bite and home again in one piece.
2) It has to be capable of handling the unexpected and not sink.
3) It has to be a stable platform.
4) It must have adequate working space.
5) It must have space to put all the "fruit".

Now, points one, two and three have long been characteristic of Stabicraft hulls, and point four is easy enough to work around (that is, once you have an expert on hand to explain exactly what that entails). However, point five is probably the most intriguing.

While many boatbuilders strive to build a fishing boat that is all things to all people, Stabicraft has learned that fishermen have as many different views on the topic as there are fish in the sea (and since it's estimated that there are around 20,000 species in the ocean, that's a hell of a lot of opinions - Ed). Instead, the company has focused on developing several configurations on the fishing platform theme, including a bluewater machine like the Supercab, an inshore dayboat like the Fisher range, and a specialist in the form of the 1750 Frontier.

But that's about as far as the company goes, leaving the rest as a "blank canvas" on which the new owner can fill in the details as they see fit. Many of the important basics are available as standard, or can be optioned in, but customised touches are left in the hands of the customers, given that experienced anglers are likely to have quite specific ideas.

 

 

PERSONAL TOUCH



I, for one, like Stabicraft's approach. I have been on a large number of self-proclaimed "perfect" fishing boats and I've found flaws in all of them. While the term "flaws" might be too harsh, many years of fishing have left me with set ideas on how some things should be done, in order to suit my particular opinions on the topic.

And that brings us to the Stabicraft 1750 Frontier presented here. This hull, coming straight off the factory floor, is most certainly a fishing boat, but in no way is it ready to go fishing. It does have a good-sized livebait tank and plenty of side storage for rods and other "essential" fishing equipment, but, as stated, the rest of the setup has been left to the happy new owner to customise as they see fit.

So how does it stack up as a platform against the five basic requirements mentioned above?

Will it get you to and from the bite in reasonable conditions?

With an overall length of only 5.25m and an open configuration, the 1750 Frontier should have been out of its comfort zone in the conditions we faced on the day of the test. At times, the wind against tide conditions produced potholes more than 1.5m deep. However, we were able to run reasonably comfortably at around 20kts (37kmh) straight into the sea. We did button off into the larger waves, to protect ourselves more than the boat, and we didn't get wet. Running with the sea slightly off the bow was even more comfortable, but it did throw some spray across the boat, as would be expected on any open vessel. Running beam-on and down the sea allowed us to trim the vessel for more speed and we had no trouble maintaining 25kts-plus (46kmh).

On the day of the test we only had a 25lt tote tank, but with adequate fuel onboard I am happy to say we can tick box one. Talk to your dealer about fuel-tank options.

Will it handle the unexpected?

Stabicraft boats are renowned for their safety. The quality of construction is industry-leading and product consistency is a hallmark of the brand. As a boat reviewer, I have a great deal of respect for these boats. They were once called "ugly ducklings" because of all the angles on the hulls, but the flip side is that you will not break a Stabicraft - with those angles comes strength.

On top of the robust construction are independently sealed pontoons, raised battery boxes, more than 1500lt of reserve buoyancy and a bilgepump as standard, plus the option of duckbill self-bailers, so we can safely say that the 1750 Frontier is prepared for the unexpected.

Is it stable?

This is another area in which Stabicraft boats are virtually unrivalled. The first hulls out of the shed at the company's birth were purpose-built for commercial paua (abalone) divers, who required stability above all else. The 1750 Frontier is no different, with excellent stability laterally as well as longitudinally.

Is there space to swing a rod?

Centre-console configurations are all about specialist fishing techniques. Good ones are ideal platforms for soft bait or casted lure fishing, mechanical jigging, and, at the extreme end of the spectrum, saltwater flyfishing. This hull is as good as it gets in that regard: there are no overhead obstructions, and it couldn't be easier to walk around and aim a precise cast as the deck is completely clear of tripping and entangling impediments.

Is there space for the "fruit"?

As I've said a few times, this hull is presented straight off the factory floor and needs a good deal of customisation to be ready for serious action.

I think most buyers would opt for one of the new, ultra-widescreen marine navigation machines, and there is plenty of room on the dash for such a quality unit.

While there are good-sized sidepockets for rod storage and a few rodholders, I would want to add more, along with an overhead rocket launcher to cope with my personal arsenal. There is plenty of gunwale space to go as crazy as you like, adding nice additional extras like downrigger attachments and outrigger bases.

Draw your own conclusions about where this leaves the Stabicraft 1750 Frontier in the fishing platform stakes, but it ticks plenty of boxes for me.

 

 

ON THE WATER



Later in the day and in much calmer conditions, the 90hp four-stroke Honda, which is at the maximum end of the recommended power range for this hull, delivered more than 35kts (64.8kmh) at WOT. With two passengers onboard, the engine has almost too much power and could easily throw you off your feet. It is worth mentioning that unlike many centre-console hulls that are often just standard boats with the cabin cut off, this boat has been designed solely as a centre-console fishing platform. The driving position has been moved forward to redistribute the weight and reduce porpoising (often an issue with modified centre-console hulls). Porpoising is one reason new owners should resist the urge to bolt larger engines than recommended to the transom of any centre-console hull, as you're actually quite likely to face a reduction in overall performance.

From a driver's point of view, I found the Frontier to be fairly exhilarating once I got used to the helm configuration. The acceleration and turning abilities are impressive, but you do need to hang on.

Having said that, "hanging on" raises a few issues if you're standing, as there's not much to brace yourself against. A necessary handle runs across the top of the helm station close to eye level, but this whole area needs a little tweaking in order to be perfect.

A 105lt Icey Tek fishbin doubles as a seat for two. I like the idea of this seat and it makes good functional use of the limited space, but it does need strapping down as I often tipped it backwards with my leg when bracing hard in the corners.

 

 

THE WRAP



I like this boat, and, with a few tweaks, would happily own it. As a platform, it's perfect for my more specialised taste in fishing styles. I know I could go fairly crazy fitting it out with all the toys my heart desires, and the bare hull is priced accordingly. Its on-water performance is likely to be close to class-leading, and you'll never break it. So, yes, the Stabicraft 1750 Frontier gets a confident tick from me.

 

 

On the plane...


Open invitation to tailor the boat as you see fit
Stability at speed and at rest is class-leading
Bullet-proof construction

 



Dragging the chain...


Console setup needs a few tweaks

 

 

SPECIFICATIONS

 

 

HOW MUCH?


Price as tested: $42,669
Options fitted: Livebait tank, painted deck, boarding ladder
Priced from: $35,990

 

 

GENERAL


Type: Pontoon-style fishing boat
Material: Aluminium
Length (LOA): 5.26m
Beam: 2.15m
Weight (dry hull): 425kg
Weight (towing weight): Approx. 825kg
Deadrise: 17.5°

 

 

CAPACITIES


People: 6
Rec. HP: 70
Max. HP: 90
Fuel: 25lt tote tank

 

 

ENGINE


Make/model: Honda BF90
Weight: 163kg
Displacement: 1495

 

 

MANUFACTURED BY


Stabicraft
345 Bluff Road
Invercargill, Southland
New Zealand
Web: www.stabicraft.com

 

 

SUPPLIED BY


M.Y. Marine
Cnr Nepean Hwy and Ponderosa Place
Dromana, Vic, 3936
Tel: (03) 5987 0900
Web: www.mymarine.com.au

First published in TrailerBoat #278

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