TESTED: CRESTLINER 1850 FISH HAWK WT

By: ANGELO SAN GIORGIO, Photography by: JOHN WILLIS


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A surprise package at last year’s Australia’s Greatest Boats, Crestliner continues to throw down the gauntlet. Will the 1850 Fish Hawk raise the bar?

TESTED: CRESTLINER 1850 FISH HAWK WT
Test_Crestliner, CRESTLINER 1850 FISH HAWK WT REVIEW

Last year’s Australia’s Greatest Boats (AGB) saw a small alloy upstart bust the competition wide open by a bringing an A-game that far exceeded its meagre proportions. The tenacious 1650 Fish Hawk, punched along by a Mercury four-stroke 60hp outboard, served as my introduction to Crestliner; an American alloy boat manufacturer with 65 years of boatbuilding experience up its sleeve.

The results have been on record for almost a year now and in the end we all shared a slice of humble pie. Some of us even treated ourselves to a double helping

So when an email hit my inbox telling me the 1650’s bigger brother had just come off the boat — yes, bad pun — I was keen to make its acquaintance.



BIG AND BADDER

Crestliner’s Fish Hawk 1850 WT (Walk Through), part of the company’s Deep-V collection, is, in essence, a walleye boat. Not a surprise, really, since walleye is the most popular regional-target fish species in Crestliner’s home town of Minnesota in the US and attracts a similar reverence to the largemouth bass.

This fish has spawned its own tournament scene, as well as a boat architecture that’s evolved to reflect the environment it inhabits and the techniques employed to catch it. Fishing for these critters often involves long runs across serious expanses of open water and occasionally through snag-strewn tiger country.

Baits, either live or artificial, are cast from the 1850’s front and rear decks, which are set lower than a typical bassboat, affording considerably more freeboard. Rear decks are often short, resulting in a larger central cockpit. This is essential because trolling, particularly with the aid of downriggers, is also a popular and productive technique.

It is this very architecture that I believe makes the 1850 such a relevant addition to the Aussie sportfishing scene. The extra freeboard offers a greater safety margin, while the optional drop-down rear bench means it doubles very nicely as a family runabout.



THE ROUGH STUFF

Melbourne’s Port Philip Bay is renowned for its short, sharp, rattly chop that manifests itself as angry child with a mallet, intent on pulverising your spine. Pressed aluminium boats are often brought undone in these conditions and plate alloy and fiberglass hulls with a shallow deadrise are far not immune.

Test day arrived and the wind was pumping. As we drove the 1850 Fish Hawk off the trailer at Beaumaris Motor yacht squadron (northern Port Philip), we headed out past the lee of the headland and into the teeth of a 20kt gust. It’s conditions like this that encouraged me to adopt a stand-up driving position at an early age.

Once behind the wheel, I nudged the throttle forward and braced myself. Within 10 minutes of our acquaintance, I was blasting across the top of some messy water, the guttural throb of that 3L Mercury providing a visceral soundtrack to the amusement park ride that is Port Philip Bay. As we sliced and diced the chop I reflected that very few low-profile aluminium boats could step up to the plate the same way — the Bar Crusher’s 535 XS is one of only a few in recent memory.

Hull and motor seemed crafted from the same stuff as they meshed well together. The boat turned sharply with minimal lean and responded instantly to any trim.



MYTH BUSTERS

So how does the Crestliner 1850 Fish Hawk accomplish this unusual balancing act between lightweight and genuine substance? After all, a 2.5mm hull and 2.29mm side sheet with no pressed clinkers is about half the thickness of that employed in similarly-sized pressed and plate boats. Add in a 12° deadrise and, at least on paper, the specifications seem a recipe for a bone-shattering ride. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

Crestliner has a raft of catch phrases to define why its hull does this, that or the other. The overarching catch cry is Built Right, which encompasses Four-X-Hull, Double-Welded Transom, Interlocking Tongue-And-Groove Construction, and more. To be fair, several manufacturers use aspects of these features, but none employs all of them and no other alloy boat in its class boasts this level of detail and sophistication.

Now, I could go into a longwinded explanation of how each aspect of the technology works, but that’s what catalogues are for, so I’ll just provide the cheat notes. Think of how an airplane is constructed; a thin, taught skin stretched over a rigid skeleton designed to absorb and withstand stress. The outside surface provides a slippery and airtight shell, but it’s what’s inside that counts. In Crestliner’s Deep-V series, the stringers and substantial sub-floor skeleton are welded directly to the hull, forming an integrated structure that resists stress and spreads any impact load.

Conduits are attached to safely route cables and wiring around the frame and voids are filled with high-density foam, providing flotation, noise reduction and insulation. A double-skinned transom incorporates a rigid core that absorbs vibration and minimises flex. Together, they form one of the most interesting and confronting hulls the team at TrailerBoat has set foot on. And it all makes a lie of the preconception that alloy can never ride as good as ’glass.

Okay, I will admit to being a tad bemused at Crestliner’s description of the Fish Hawk’s 12° deadrise as a Deep-V. Something like "Moderate-V" would probably have been a more appropriate reference in Australia, where 21° is considered the benchmark. But here’s the thing: if no one told you it was "only" 12°, you wouldn’t pick it. In fact, if you were blindfolded — not the best way to test boats — you would likely swear it wasn’t even made of aluminium, but probably clouds with bits of steamroller and Dr Who’s Tardis thrown in for good measure.



MOTOR-VATIONAL SPEAKING

An integral component of any trailer boat is the power plant that motivates it, and in this instance the 1850’s sexy Mercury 150hp four-stroke rocked my world. Quiet and refined at idle, with a delicious rasp building in crescendo as it revs its big 3L heart out, this was as much an emotional experience as it was dynamic transportation.

Revving out to more than 6000rpm, the gleaming black outboard proved a perfect match for the Crestliner, never overpowering it despite the hull’s relatively light dry weight (567kg). We topped out at just shy of 45kts (83kmh) on the Lowrance HDS5, and plane was achieved in around 2.6 seconds with minimal bow lift. Never stressed, it was obvious the boat always had loads in reserve.

Not to divert attention away from the hull, but the Mercury 150hp — deservedly — took the industry by storm upon its release in early 2012 and has sparked a quantum shift in four-stroke outboard development, something every boatie will benefit from regardless of brand allegiance.



FISHY BUSINESS

So we had established the 1850 Fish Hawk’s credentials as a cracker of a ride. But since the brochure touts it as "specialising in the thrill of the catch", my chaperone, Avante Marine staffer and Crestliner dealer Michael Galouzi, and I set about testing its fishing credentials.

Crestliner’s support of the walleye tournament scene is evident in the interior layout, which is a lure tosser’s dream. And for the casual inshore sportfisher or tournament hound, this boat more than delivers. Storage abounds and caters equally to the angler fishing the forward perch, as it does the rear deck.

The front fishing zone is a split-level affair with a carpeted deck on the bow peak housing a utility tray and compact aerated livewell. The second level forms a large casting deck that hides a pair of dry storage lockers, another (larger) livewell and 2.1m (7ft) rod locker, with nine built-in rod tubes for convenience. It is important to note that the central rod locker is rated at 7ft and longer rods will not fit — we tried, and have the splintered graphite to prove it.

A floor hatch in the rod locker conceals a battery well partitioned for two substantial deep-cycle batteries. This is all very nicely done: storing trolling motor batteries is often an afterthought on many locally-produced sportfishers, but thankfully that is changing.

Longer rods are accommodated in the port rod locker, the lid of which is sprayed with a tough, textured coating. As it turns out, this sound-deadening coating is sprayed on the underside of all the hatch lids and adds to the high level of finesse in the rig.

The rear deck also has loads of storage options, including a large central livewell, which we managed to populate with a flathead that Michael snared during some down time. The test rig had a brilliant flip down bench-cum-deck extension and I’ve said it before: every alloy boat builder should check this out and do their best to replicate it.



THE WRAP

Detail abounds on the Crestliner 1850 Fish Hawk WT. The hull is available in several configurations, from tiller-steered to side and twin consoles, but for most, this variant affords the most protection and versatility.

It’s not for everyone, though. If you have no pulse, for example, you probably won’t get it. Or if your quarry exists beyond the horizon, the 1850 Fish Hawk is probably not for you — but you’d be tempted.

However, if big bays, windswept lakes and shallow flats are your preferred hunting grounds, few boats will serve you better. It’s capable in conditions that would bring most boats of its size to their knees, and will likely encourage you to stay out and ride the rough stuff just for the sheer thrill of it.

Best of all, the 1850 Fish Hawk is no one-trick pony. With the addition of the clever drop-down bench / casting deck extension, this is a genuine all-rounder that fishing- and watersport-loving families will love.

Crestliner’s 1850 Fish Hawk challenges everything you thought you knew about alloy boats and turns it on its head. Take it from me, believe the hype.


ON THE PLANE...

  • Great handling and uncanny ride
  • Huge fun factor
  • Genuinely good fishing layout
  • Great cross-over sports package



DRAGGING THE CHAIN...

  • Too little freeboard to take to the 'shelf
  • Central rod locker eats longer rods
  • Some still won’t get it



CRESTLINER 1850 FISH HAWK WT SPECIFICATIONS

HOW MUCH?

Priced as tested: $59,990

Options fitted: Lowrance HDS 5; bow sprit; cross bollard

Priced from: $57,890 (including Dunbier tandem braked trailer)



GENERAL

Type: Monohull sportfisher

Material: Aluminium

Length: 5.63m

Beam: 2.43m

Weight: 567kg (hull only)

Deadrise: 12°



CAPACITIES

People: 6

Max HP: 150

Fuel: 114L



ENGINE

Make/model: Mercury 150

Type: 3L inline four-cylinder, eight-valve, SOHC, 150hp EFI four-stroke

Weight: 206kg

Displacement: 3000cc

Gear ratio: 1.92:1

Propeller: 18in Inertia



MANUFACTURED BY

Crestliner

Little Falls, Minnesota, USA

www.crestliner.com



SUPPLIED BY

Avante Marine

345 Dorset Road

Boronia

Victoria 3155

Tel: (03) 9760 2222

Web: www.avantemarine.com.au

 

Originally published in TrailerBoat 296, June/July 2013

 

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