BOAT TEST EVOLUTION AXIS 552
The Axis 552 from Victorian boatbuilder Evolution Boats is made for one thing: dead-serious fishing. And no, your wife probably won't approve.
Paul "Junga" Junginger from Melbourne's Evolution Boats is a great example of Aussie patriotism. Those who know him will attest to his conviction when it comes to supporting Australian-made products, and that's an ethos that has underpinned his own business success. Let's face it, these days Australian manufacturing is doing it tough, but that hasn't stopped Evolution from developing quality home-grown products including its latest sportfishing frigate, the Axis 552.
With a hull based on the one that took out last year's Australia's Greatest Boats mega-test, this 5.5m centre-console actually measures 6.2m from the tip of its bowsprit and to the end of its half-pod transom. It has a 2.49m beam with large and aggressive chines, which together deliver excellent stability and tracking, while the deck area is spacious indeed.
The layout will blow you away - if you're a fisho that is. "It certainly ain't a family-friendly cruiser, and we make no apologies for that!" says Junga. The name "Axis" reflects the "X" theme that runs through Evolution's "Extreme" range of boats. It also reflects its crossover of ocean, estuary and freshwater applications. This is a sensational package for chasing all manner of fish, from hard-charging offshore pelagics to crafty inshore and estuarine critters.
There isn't a fisho in the country who wouldn't want one of these boats, but will the family let the average bloke have one? At $69,800 as tested it's a pretty steep ask for such a fishing-focussed rig, but many families are spending over $100,000 on dedicated wake or skiboats these days, too. Will the fishos follow suit?
We had to test the Axis prior to it being fitted with its optional folding T-top, which provides shade, lighting, rod storage, aerial mounts and so on. Subsequently our test boat was a bit "bare bones" for this review, but Junga was adamant he wanted it tested in time for Australia's Greatest Boats 2012.
DESIGN AND LAYOUT
The Axis has a well sculpted bowsprit and enclosed anchor hatch that makes anchoring easy. It's designed for an optional cotton-reel-style winch. The sidedecks are wide and flat, ideal for mounting the various styles of rodholders, downriggers and outriggers. There's non-slip surfacing from the bow back and the sidedeck widens as it comes forward. I expect most fishos will want a remote electric outboard; there's a moulding on the starboard side for one, as well as a recess in the gunwale that will take a Lowrance HDS-7 sounder.
The huge forward deck is a terrific platform for casting lures with your toes securely tucked under the strong sidepocket bases. These sidepockets are strong enough to stand on, and they run full length on either side of the hull, gaining depth throughout the cockpit. Under the non-slip floor you'll find plenty of storage, including a long rod locker that will accept rods up to 8ft 2in, plus a 260lt kill / livebait tank and a compartment for the Minn Kota's twin batteries.
The centre-console has a great layout and the 6mm curved Perspex windscreen provides a fair amount of protection. As with all consoles, you'll want to be rugged up in cold, southern climates. The curved windscreen is surprisingly strong, but will be much better when the stainless grabrail is fitted. The console itself has plenty of room to mount 12in GPS / sounder combos, but I was satisfied with the HDS-10 fitted to our demo unit. The angle of the dash means the engine instrumentation and switch panels are all easy to read, but I'd be inclined to mount the radios on a vertical surface to reduce the potential for water ingress.
Line of sight is good for skippers of varying heights and the steering is slightly offset to starboard, which works well with the binnacle engine controls. There's a sports steering wheel for the standard hydraulic steering as well as the essential drinkholders on the port side. Under the console there's room for two fishboxes side by side - a very convenient surprise. Junga intended to install fibreglass doors here, but I have to say I like the convenience and simplicity of the canvas screen even better.
The high-mount bolster seat locks you into the helm securely and comfortably. Without the T-top and grabrails there's little for the passenger to hold on to, but that's being addressed. The swinging backrest and bolster is simple and strong.
The transom workstation is a ripper. There's a huge wetbox under the rear cockpit made possible by the installation of the mid-mounted 150lt fuel tank, which centres the weight. There's a plumbed livebait tank on either side of the transom, as well as enclosed storage for twin batteries, oil bottles, switchgear and general plumbing. On top, the popular PM Marine fibreglass baitboard makes a versatile preparation table, with twin stainless rodholders and storage under the cutting surface. You can get a secure toehold right across the transom, although to further aid security I'd personally like to see some recessed grabrails on the sides, plus padded coamings and boarding platforms.
The fishing area across the stern is totally clear and uncluttered. You can fish with short strokers with ease. At the risk of getting incredibly fussy, I would have liked to have seen the inclusion of pop-up cleats for this casting style of rig. Its layout is terrific for two or three dedicated anglers.
Visually, she looks a treat. There's a certain aggression to the heavily flared bow that is somewhat softened by the flowing lines of the dropping gunwale. Evolution uses some subtlety in its attractive decals by finishing off with the stars of the Southern Cross, just to remind you of the boat's Australian heritage.
HANDLING AND RIDE
While we didn't have a big swell or sharp chop to contend with on our test day, I am pleased to say that this is a great hull that rides well, tracks beautifully and corners with sure-footed integrity. It handles the exhilarating speeds of the high performance 150hp E-TEC with ease, making it appealing to those running long distances to their fishing locations.
The stability afforded by the big, wide hull and aggressive chines is exceptional; even for a big bloke up the bow. The hull lifts out of the hole quickly and evenly on take-off with very limited bow rise. The hull is extremely quiet on the water and the spray comes off the chines well aft, delivering a dry ride. I must ask myself the question though - should a big, offshore-capable hull like this, with such open decks, need to be selfdraining?
I found a small amount of lift at WOT with the engine trimmed out to 51 per cent (39kts / 72.2kmh @ 5300rpm), but this was easily fixed with a slight bit of trim to gain 37.2kts (68.9kmh) at 5150rpm. It should be noted there was no added weight onboard for this test and the bait tanks were empty. The firm steering sticks like glue through the 17in Viper stainless steel propeller. There's no doubt the 552 hull is far superior to the superseded 550 - it's a natural progression that's a credit to the Evolution team.
It will be interesting to review the success of this big centre-console in a few years' time. Haines Hunter was questioned when it produced its first 680SL, which was released as the country was coming out of recession. Yet it became one of the great success stories of the Australian boating industry. Could the Evolution Axis 552 follow suit? Time will tell as far as sales are concerned - but as a dedicated sportfishing outfit, Evolution has hit the nail right on the hammerhead.
Who can justify 70K for a dedicated sportfishing boat the kids will fall out of and where the wife doesn't have her own seat? Me, that's who!
On the plane...
No wasted space
Great casting platform
Stable at rest
Plenty of E-TEC punch
Heaps of storage and fishing features
Practical applications everywhere
Dragging the chain...
T-top and windscreen grabrails weren't fitted yet
No cockpit grabrails
I prefer pop-up cleats
No selfdraining deck
Junga still can't fish!
Price as tested: $69,800
Options fitted: GME AM / FM radio and CD player, 2 x plumbed livebait tanks with deckwash, L-&-R latch, twin batteries, Lowrance HDS-10, Minn Kota 80lb electric motor
Priced from: $52,500
Type: Deep-vee centre-console
Length (LOA): 6.2m
Weight (BMT): 820kg
Rec. HP: 150
Max. HP: 150
Make/model: Evinrude E-TEC 150hp
Type: Loop-charged, direct-injection 60° V6
Gearbox ratio: 1.85:1
Propeller: 17in Viper
MANUFACTURED & SUPPLIED BY
4/254 Canterbury Road
Bayswater, Vic, 3153
Tel: (03) 9738 0085
Story: John Willis Photos: John Willis & Alison Kuiter
Source: TrailerBoat #283
Want the latest stories delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for the free TradeBoats e-newsletter.