By: JOHN FORD, Photography by: JOHN FORD

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With Stessl reintroducing a boat that was popular a decade ago, we sent John Ford to see if the flux capacitor was still working and make sure the rig has successfully jumped back to the future.


An Aussie boat builder operating out of Molendinar on the Gold Coast, Stessl has a history going back three decades. The company’s models range from a pressed 3m car-topper to a plate-constructed 6.1m offshore beast, with all manner of configurations in between.

According to owner Rod Sloane, Stessl’s strengths are innovative design and continually evolving boats, as well as always listening to feedback from dealers and customers.

In the case of our test boat, the ET Rebel 390, one of the company’s strengths was actually in admitting that things can sometimes go astray and accepting changes need to be made to get back on the right track.

Back in the early ’00s, Stessl made a few modifications to one of its most popular models, adding beam to the 385 Edgetracker in order to make a wide-bodied version that offered more space. Unfortunately, the resulting vessel looked so out of proportion, and ultimately quite ugly, that it didn’t find acceptance among the boat-buying public and failed to sell.

Nine years down the track, Joe Day of Merimbula Outboard Service on the NSW South Coast convinced Rod and the Stessl team to go back to the future and reintroduce the boat.

Enter the 390 ET Rebel, a simple and inexpensive tinnie that has been reborn with a few tweaks to better represent contemporary expectations. Joe had the first of the new boats in stock and, with a motor fitted only that morning, we were the first to try it out on the water.


While this is a relatively simple-looking tinnie with a price tag that indicates an entry-level boat, there’s a quite a bit going on that lifts it out of the ordinary.

Okay, it is admittedly formed from 2mm pressed metal but, unlike some more basic boats, the wide coamings are fully welded for strength and usability, as are the foam-filled seat thwarts. Underneath, the boat retains the innovative Edgetracker shape with some improvements for smoother flow through the water.

The boat has a well-balanced aesthetic appeal and its grey paint offers a pleasing understated point of difference to the seemingly ubiquitous black that seems to be in vogue at present.

The Rebel continues Stessl’s Edgetracker vee-nosed punt style that takes advantage of a sharp entry at the bow to cut through chop and a very shallow deadrise at the transom for superior stability at rest. This design makes the boat suitable for river and estuary fishing, as well as occasional jaunts across the bay when sea conditions are kind.

Up front, the Rebel has a raised casting platform with an under-floor storage hatch and anchor bin tucked into the bow. The ply platform is covered in marine carpet and the carpet over the inside of the hatch is a very nice touch that helps to keep things neat. I would probably add some rubber sheeting in the anchor well to protect the hull and keep noise levels down.

A step in the bow and sturdy grab rails that run along either side of the boat at the bow and stern offer a little extra security for those on board, but also some mooring points when docking. Since the raised deck is immediately ahead of the front thwart, seating is restricted to a sideways or rear-facing position, but I found this was no restriction to comfort, even if the painted aluminium surface can be a little unforgiving. There is ample room for two on either of the seats, but it might not hurt to throw in some water-proof cushions for longer voyages.

Given the small dimensions of the Rebel, storage is limited to the front hatch and a port-side shelf. Joe from Merimbula Outboard Service has left the addition of rod holders at his customers’ discretion, but the gunwales are wide enough for them to be positioned as desired.

Down the back, the driver gets the same simple seating as the passengers, but happily facing the front. There are racks for an optional battery and a removable plastic fuel tank behind the driver’s seat, and a portside boarding step is a useful inclusion — we found this out when climbing aboard from the beach. And if bait fishing is your choice, there is an option for a burley bucket to starboard.


Our test boat was fitted with Mercury’s 25hp Sea Pro, which is a simple pull-start two-stroke that breathes though a single carbie. Although it’s fairly basic unit it was easy to start and it performed well all day. This engine is a practical knock-about model from Mercury’s commercial range and it has many heavy-duty components designed for hard use, but it has plenty of grunt and it proved surprisingly quiet at all but WOT.

Although the boat is rated up to 30hp, I thought the engine was a perfect match with two on board. It had us quickly on the plane at 5.3kts (9.8kmh) without undue bow lift. There was no tachometer on the boat so I can’t give full performance figures, but my (educated) guess is that we had a cruise of 14.5kts (26.8kmh) at around 3500rpm, and 22.6kts (41.8kmh) at a 5500rpm WOT.

Until recently I owned a little tiller-operated tinnie, but I can’t claim to be a real fan of this "armstrong" steering system and I find it’s often hard to feel comfortable in this style of boat. But not so with this little Stessl. It took minimum effort to turn the boat at speed and the steering position is among the most comfortable I’ve experienced, with the seating at just the right height and distance from the transom, allowing the tiller to fall naturally to hand.

The motor felt very well balanced and moving the tiller from lock to lock took little effort. Handling was precise and sporty and the boat turned into sharp bends at speed in an almost flat stance.

We tested the hull’s stability at rest by casting some lures into the sticks along the edge of the river and it proved remarkably steady with two on board. Trolling along at low speed, we could safely stand and flick lures in a near-perfect imitation of true fishermen.


The Rebel is as relevant today as its predecessor was a decade ago and it would be a wise choice for those looking for an easily managed and simple little fishing boat. It’s ideal for two, but there is also room for a couple of kids or an extra fishing buddy, and at not much more than $10,000 (as tested) the boat is good value, especially given its good handling and turn of speed.

And within the confines of its 3.9m, the Rebel can be modified to your fishing style and an electric start or bigger motor can be optioned, all while keeping the overall price within reason.


  • Nimble handling
  • Needs only a small tow vehicle
  • Good steering position
  • Good value
  • Stable at rest


  • An electric motor bracket would be a welcome addition





Price as tested: $10,600

Options fitted: Mercury 25hp Sea Pro

Priced from: $9900 (with 15hp Mercury)




Type: Monohull fishing

Material: Aluminium

Length: 3.9m

Beam: 1.6m

Weight: 150kg




People: 4

Rec. HP: 15-30

Max. HP: 30

Fuel: 25L




Make/model: Mercury 25hp Sea Pro

Type: Two-cylinder, single-carburettor two-stroke

Weight: 48kg

Displacement: 429cc

Gear ratio: 1.92:1

Propeller: 9.9x11in




Stessl Boats

2/16 Industrial Avenue

Molendinar, Queensland 4214

Tel: (07) 5597 7824

Web: www.stessl.com.au



Merimbula Outboard Services

Lot 22 Sapphire Coast Drive

Tura, NSW 2548

Tel: (02) 6495 9634

Web: www.merimbulaoutboard.com.au


Originally published in TrailerBoat #296, June/July 2013.

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