By: Kevin Smith

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Kevin Smith finds that "less is better" after a choppy day on Moreton Bay aboard the Bonito 5m.

Bonito 5m

Most of the time we end up testing mid to top-end boats full of fancy features and accessories. Then something like the new Bonito 5m appears on the scene, which although  devoid of "bling" offers something unique in its own right.

This "plain Jane" fishing runabout ain't no beauty queen, but get it out on the water and you'll soon discover it makes up for it with a big personality. When it comes to tough units, the Bonito 5m takes no prisoners.




Bonito Boats is a small Brisbane-based boatbuilder. It specialises in producing exceptionally strong fibreglass dory hulls, and its boats really seem to have caught on with Moreton Bay's commercial crabbers - as good a sign as any that Bonito's products are built to handle a high degree of abuse.

The layout of the standard Bonito 5m hull is simple, with huge space that can either be left as is or customised with whatever you want - for a few extra bucks, of course. This particular boat was the base model Bonito 5m, suited to tiller-steer motors. It had some minor customisations to suit its owner, who enjoys crabbing and fishing in creeks and estuaries.

In the stern it had a full-length thwart seat, with storage space below and open access off the deck. As it is, you could add hatch lids on top and mounted swivel seats for a bit more comfort. Regardless, it works as is and it's still comfortable to drive.

A nice feature also worth mentioning is the small motor pod off the transom. This keeps the motor mount further back, adding significantly to the deck space and aiding the transom's buoyancy.

The deck is an open-plan affair through to the bow with fleck-finish non-slip, and in this case all the different colours involved add up to something of a retro feel. The proper selfdraining wet-deck system is a welcome addition - it not only eliminates the need for bilgepumps, but is also a nice safety feature.

Having the selfdraining wet-deck means you do lose a bit on gunwale height, but that wasn't really an issue - certainly the height is sufficient and comfortable to work up against. Up in the bow there's an open anchor hatch with bulkhead behind that comes down to the deck. Here the owner mounted a simple hatch into the back panel for dry stowage.

The owner had also added a custom removable carpet to the deck, and although not really necessary it does provides an extra element of comfort underfoot. Another small addition to this boat is the sounder box on the port side, mounted against the gunwale and transom bench - again customised to suit the owner's wishes.

As mentioned there's not much to the standard Bonito 5m's layout, but that's the way it's meant to be. The simple and open configuration works really well, and it's a great blank slate to which you may add whatever you need.

As a matter of interest, this company is already working on a fully moulded top deck, casting deck, rod lockers, console, livewell and more. This means you could buy the bare hull now and add to it over time, creating the ideal fishing platform as your budget allows.




As a bare boat with a 70hp Yamaha four-stroke, the Bonito is an absolute rocket on the water. Holeshot is good and it planes easily, but when it comes to top end (and with a bit extra trim to achieve maximum performance) I reached a whopping 38kts (70.4kmh) at wide open throttle (WOT) - bloody flying, in my opinion! At that speed the only part of the boat left in the water was the transom and motor leg, so I almost literally was flying. It'd be nice to have a grabrail to hold on to, though. No, this wasn't an ideal cruise speed, but I was amazed by the Bonito's sheer level of performance.

Tapping off the throttle to more civilised speeds saw me cruising comfortably and economically at between 20-30kts (37-56kmh), and again, that's gunning it on a simple tiller-steer boat. But what really impressed was the Bonito's roughwater handling. The wind and chop wasn't overly heavy on the day, but when I was cranking it at high speed over the chop and through wakes it was refreshing not to have my spine cracking through the back of my head.

The hull slices through the chop beautifully, allowing you to sit at higher speeds than usual. That's a big positive if you deal with rough, short chop on a regular basis, like on Moreton Bay of late. It's been blowing at 15kts on a good day in recent weeks, keeping my boating days to a minimum.

Stability? Well, generally the softer-riding hulls have deeper vees and can therefore be a bit lacking in this department. The Bonito 5m, however, isn't bad at all. Because of the good ride in the rough I'd be more than happy to lose out a bit on stability, but this was really only noticeable at rest.

Overall it's a great little performer on the water. As a matter of interest, the local professional crabbers down in Redland Bay have a fleet of these boats varying in size from 5-6m, and as a cherry on top they run tiller-steers up to 130hp. Obviously the Bonito has to be built tough to handle that sort of treatment.




The Bonito 5m is easy to sum up: it's a no-nonsense, easy-to-operate, high-performance cracker of a little boat. It may not have all the fancy bells and whistles of its blinged-up brethren, but a new sportfishing version is in the pipeline. When that arrives Bonito will have both ends of the spectrum covered.

There's a "work boat" sort of edge to the Bonito 5m that really appeals to me - it's an awesome all-rounder that's just as at home offshore as it is up a lazy creek.



On the plane...

Spacious layout
Dynamite on-water performance
Comfortable ride in short chop
Easy size for solo handling


Dragging the chain...

Very basic boat - it is what it is
More standard features would be good (e.g. grabrails)






Price as tested: Approx. $25,500 (some items attached by owner)
Options fitted: Yamaha 70hp four-stroke tiller-steer, Lowrance HDS-5 GPS / sounder combo, 60lt aluminium fuel tank 
Priced from: $8800 (tiller-steer hull only)



Type: Open fishing runabout
Material: GRP
Length: 5m
Beam: 2.04m
Weight (hull): Approx. 500kg
Deadrise: Variable



People: 5
Rec. HP: 70
Max. HP: 115
Fuel: 70lt (size optional)



Make/model: Yamaha F70AETX
Type: 16-valve, SOHC, four-cylinder, in-line four-stroke
Weight: 123kg
Displacement: 996cc
Gear ratio: 2.33:1
Propeller: Customised stainless steel 17in




Bonito Boats, 1 Steiglitz Road, Steiglitz, Qld, 4207, Tel: 0438 886 813 or 0407 568 805, Email:


Story and photos: Kevin Smith
First published in TrailerBoat #282


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