REVIEW: STESSCO CATCHER 425

By: JOHN FORD, Photography by: JOHN FORD


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If you like your boating simple, it’s hard to beat the great Aussie tinnie. John Ford reports on the Stessco Catcher 425 from the comfort of his own backyard.

REVIEW: STESSCO CATCHER 425
Stessco Catcher 425.

When I’m out on a boat test and people discover I live on the far south coast of NSW, they usually express some surprise that I’ve travelled so far — usually to Sydney or Melbourne. But I find the six-hour trip is a small price to pay for living out of the mad rush and traffic of the city. I’d rather do such a commute every few weeks than face the daily grind of sitting in traffic for a couple of hours on the way to work. By my reckoning, the average month sees me travel far less, and in much more enjoyable circumstances, than many city workers.

Even so, it was a pleasant experience to be faced with a paltry 10-minute drive to meet with Joe Day at Merimbula Outboard Services to test the new Stessco Catcher 425. Like me, Joe has eschewed city life in order to operate his multi-brand business, servicing a wide range of customers from up and down the coast.

For the review, Joe and I set our sights on Tathra’s Bega River. This place is arguably one of the prettiest waterways on the coast, and is also home to some monster flathead and feisty bream. However, given my recent fishing luck, we decided the day’s effort would be better spent using the boat as a family runabout, so we left the rods behind and brought along my four-year-old grandson Llewie to get a more youthful opinion.



TIN TIN

It’s no secret that lots of Aussies own boats (and that many of them read this magazine), but my guess is a large number own a small tinnie for a relaxing day of fishing or to cruise our many and varied waterways. This applies not only to coastal bays and tributaries, but also inland rivers and dams, where it is often impractical to operate or even launch a bigger boat.

The ubiquitous tinnie is practical, easy to launch and stow, and can be towed behind a relatively compact car. Plus, their smaller motors are economical to run, making a day on the water affordable even in these austere times. And if the listings in Tradeboats.com.au are anything to go by, tinnies also have pretty good resale value.

Stessco builds a range of boats from its factory in Narangba, on the northern outskirts of Brisbane, and has been in the hands of its current owner for 20 years. The Catcher, so-named in a delicious pun on its undoubted fishing bias, features a traditional vee-bottomed hull that delivers a softer ride than a flat-bottomed vessel, while its moderate deadrise still allows good stability at rest. Ribs spaced 300mm apart along the inside of the hull give extra strength to the 2mm press-stretched sides and 3mm bottom, and a 10mm gunwale is stitch-welded to add rigidity.

I am tempted to describe the Catcher as an entry-level dinghy, but it’s really the kind of boat that will suit many buyers’ needs for a lifetime, so that description really only serves to undervalue the boat’s personality. Plus, it looks sensational with rich navy-blue exteriors and well-balanced lines.


ANGLING FOR SUCCESS

Stessco has not strayed particularly far from a traditional tinnie layout with the Catcher, but it definitely has a few features that make it more fishing-oriented and user-friendly.

Low grab rails run around the bow, with the port side shortened to accommodate a bracket for an electric motor. There is a stainless steel anchor roller and a dedicated anchor locker hidden in the raised casting platform, while the side deck at the bow is widened to create a boarding step and the checkerplate finish should provide better grip on the white-painted surface. Another hatch for general storage, or to secure a battery for an electric-start motor, can be found towards the back of the casting deck.

Resting on aluminium bearers, the sturdy ply floor is a safe, flat surface covered in grey marine-grade carpet, with the void under the floor filled with foam floatation. A tackle locker strong enough to be used as another casting platform, and big enough to fit out with enough rods to keep most people happy (not including our esteemed editor, Ange — aka Mr 46 rods), is located along the port side.

Lockers for storage and fuel can be found at the stern and either side of the engine well. These can also double as casting platforms and there are two more grab rails along the side decks.

Pedestal seats are provided for the skipper and a crew member, with the crew seat able to be moved forward to better balance the boat with two on board, or onto the front casting deck for a relaxed session of fishing. A handy boarding step and a transducer bracket for you choice of sounder are attached to the transom.

SIMPLY BEAUTIFUL

The Catcher’s motivation comes in the form of a 30hp Mercury tiller-steered two-stroke. The simple twin-cylinder is a carbie-fed engine running on petrol premix which, while perhaps somewhat old school by today’s standards, is a proven and reliable donk with reasonable economy. It also helps keep initial costs within reason.

More expensive injected engines are available, but potential buyers would be wise to do their sums on their expected use of the boat. For example, you would recoup the initial purchase price over time if you intend to be on the water every week then. However, if the boat is likely to only occasional use, as is the case with most people, you may never see a return on the purchase price of a more expensive engine.

After our photography was taken care of it was my turn to have a steer of the Catcher, and I found the rig to be boating simplicity at its best. A small twist of the throttle saw us comfortably on our way, and with the crew settled in at the front there was barely any lift from the bow as we got onto the plane in around four seconds at 5.4kts (10kmh).

The boat had a well-balanced feel and a nice bow-up stance once it gets on the plane, even if I found the tiller was a little far back for my liking. Mid-range was around 15.1kts (28kmh) and after some coaxing we topped out at 20kts (37kmh). Overall, I was left with the feeling the boat could easily handle a more powerful motor if the budget allowed.

There was some vibration through the hull in the mid-range — though not enough to be too annoying — which could be down to the fact the engine was straight out of the box. We didn’t encounter much chop on this test, but the boat felt solid and tracked straight and true across our own wake.

Handling was good, and at speed the boat turned willingly through sweeping turns and sharp figure-eights without washing out or cavitation. The boat is quite stable at rest and perfectly capable of handling three anglers walking around and casting at the same time.



THE TRAILERBOAT VERDICT

Without reinventing the wheel, Stessco has delivered an honest and stylish tinnie that anglers and families should be able to enjoy for years. There is ample room to add options to tailor the Catcher to individual requirements, but as standard it’s a well-priced package for entry-level boaties or old salts who like things simple.

Oh, and what did young Llewie think? Well, he reckons it’s fun going fast across the water and he liked the wind blowing in his hair. Don’t we all?



ON THE PLANE...

· Well-styled boat

· Good stability at rest

· Easy to handle by a single person



DRAGGING THE CHAIN...

· Would benefit from a bigger engine



STESSCO CATCHER 425 SPECIFICATIONS

HOW MUCH?

Price as tested: $13,900

Options fitted: None

Priced from: $13,900



GENERAL

Type: Fishing dinghy

Material: Aluminium: 3mm bottom; 2mm sides

Length: 4.5m

Beam: 2.02m

Weight: 244kg

Deadrise: 17°



CAPACITIES

People: 4

Rec. HP: 30-40

Max. HP: 40

Fuel: 25L



ENGINE

Make/model: Mercury 30hp

Type: Carburetted twin-cylinder two-stroke

Weight: 56kg

Displacement: 52cc

Gear ratio: 1.92:1

Propeller: 11in


MANUFACTURED BY

Stessco Boats

PO Box 385

Kallangur

Queensland 4503

Tel: (07) 3888 5111

Web: www.stessco.com.au


SUPPLIED BY

Merimbula Outboard Services

382 Sapphire Coast Drive

Merimbula

NSW 2548

Tel: (02) 6495 9634

Web: www.merimbulaoutboard.com.au

 

Originally published in TrailerBoat #298, August/September 2013.

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