Review: Signature Boats 543SF Side Console

By: Kevin Smith, Photography by: Kevin Smith


The intriguing Haines Signature 543SF Side Console is a sporty new fishing boat from Queensland’s Haines Group — especially if you were a fan of the Signature 485SF.

A few years back, the Haines Group’s Signature range received several prestigious awards for its Signature 485SF fishing boats, and I certainly wasn’t surprised. These fishing boats remain one of my favourites of the Signature boats range because they were ideal boats suited to so many different types of boating and fishing — from freshwater, to bay/estuary and, even light-to-medium offshore fishing. I’ve personally sat 20nm offshore fishing from a Signature 458SF without the slightest worry in the world.

So the only "big" question has been: "When will the larger version come out?" The good news for fans of Haines boats is, it’s just arrived.

 


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Haines Signature 543SF

The latest addition to the Haines Signature range of fishing boats is the Signature 543SF side console. However, don’t dismiss it as merely an extension of the original Signature 485SF – there’s much more going on here. The Signature 543SF side console is a completely new hull and deck configuration inspired by the  current 5.4m hull that underpins the vaunted Signature 543 "R" and "F"  models.

For our boat review, the new Signature 543SF was put through its paces in a completely different environment: we took her prawning in the Pine River with Signature ambassador, boater, angler, prawn netter, and crab-catcher, Gordon Triplett. Good reports from the previous week, combined with favourable tides and weather added to the likelihood of success, although typically, when it comes to boat reviews and fishing, the results are generally embarrassing. But I figured it might still be nice to learn a few new tricks and of course, poach a few secret spots.

 

Layout

Casting deck on Signature 543SF

Expecting something similar to the original 485SF, I was quite gobsmacked when meeting the new Signature 543SF for the first time. Rocking up on a slick-looking dual axle trailer with mags, the Signature 543SF had a very different dress code to the norm – full coloured hull, and in a striking blue at that. Combined with a white deck and a mix of colour-coded interior vinyl, it was a stunner to look at.

Dash electronics Signature 543SF

Upon closer inspection, the typical Signature attention to detail and innovative design jumps out at you. The side console configuration means mega fishability, due to the interior layout and design and the first major feature to stand out is the casting deck up forward. It’s pretty sizable and runs from the bow to just short of midships and various areas of this deck can be added in as modular components. I really like this idea, as you can go easily adjust the size of the foredeck. For example, those into lure fishing may go for as big a platform as possible. Alternatively the casting decks can be left out altogether for a more open design that would also save a few bucks.

This model though, boasted the larger deck which also means an abundance of underfloor storage space, plus a massive full length killtank/plumbed split livewell, insulated cold box and spare battery, all with non-slip and drainage. This is complemented with LED lighting and a low profile bowrail.

From there, the deluxe casting deck steps down to floor level with an above-average height to gunwales and coamings, plus decent sized side console and a comfortable seating arrangement. On port, the gunwale tubed rod-rack system is a nice addition and works better than a dedicated rod-locker which may take up valuable space.

The starboard side offers a side console positioned slightly back from the casting deck to create a walkaround section, while extra width and height to the console provides wind protection and space for larger electronics. In this case, Signature wasn’t shy and loaded it up with twin Garmin GPS 751xs combos linked to a 1kw through-hull transducer (bow mount 751xs fitted with 600W CHIRP through-hull), the latest GMI 20-instrument gauge, autopilot, Fusion sounds, short blade Lenco trim tabs, a VHF and four-way switch panels. It’s a heck of a console and very comfortable to drive from low down in the seat or with the front bolster raised.

 

Handling and ride

Ride Haines Signature 543SF

Kitted up with a Suzuki 150hp four-stroke outboard motor, one could only expect some serious performance out of the Signature 543SF. The 150’s big bore and displacement does a sterling job at belting the 543SF out of the hole and onto the plane. With such power, bow rise is limited to virtually nothing and on the plane, the Signature Variable Deadrise Hull (SVDH) does a good job to maintain stability, a smooth ride and improved economy.

At mid-range, the optimal cruise speed is around 22.5knots, with revs sitting at 4000rpm and fuel consumption as low as 18.5lt/hr. Not bad going for a 150hp…

Rising from mid-range, the acceleration to top end is instantaneous and the 543SF tops out at 37.9kts. Not a record breaker, but fast enough to make your eyes water.

Swooping through some hard turns, the hull rides level and smooth without losing much on the speed side. Whether you’re a passenger or driver, it’s a comfortable boat to be in and like all of the company’s hulls, it feels safe on the water.

Unfortunately, as we were on the river, there wasn’t any chop to thrash it around in, but judging by the water flow off the chines, it should maintain a fairly dry and comfortable ride. The few wakes we did take on in the river were not noticeable at all and having previous experience in the Signature 543 hulls in rough conditions, I’m confident in saying the 543SF will do a good job out in the rough.

 

The Trade-a-Boat verdict

Prawning on Signature 543SF

The Haines Signature 543SF is a dedicated and professionally designed fishing boat, and that’s that. The side console version with casting deck is lure fishing perfection, whether it be on flatwater chasing barra, or out in the bays and offshore. And although our prawning mission wasn’t true "fishing", it still proved a fair test of stability and precision manoeuvrability.

Our first site was chosen, and a bloody good one at that, as the Garmins lit up with a light array of low holding fire streaks – indicating prawns. We set to work casting – or in my case, tangling – the throw nets and even with two of us up forward, there was never a moment where the boat listed or I lost my footing.

With stability like this, it’s an ideal platform for lure-throwing. Two can utilise the casting deck easily without getting in each other’s hair, and a third or even fourth can fish out the back. The only thing missing for me was an electric motor which obviously still can be fitted.

The 543SF is another Signature head-turner and they’ve done a magnificent job at creating a serious fishing weapon. For those who currently own the original Signature 485SF, you might well consider an upgrade.

Priced up at just over $70K, you might raise an eyebrow, but there are a number of factors to consider before doing so.

Firstly, the electronics package, 150hp outboard motor and major bling fitted has loaded up the price significantly. The starting price is appealing though and what I do like about these boats is how you can build or add to them over time. If budget’s an issue, you can always start with the bare hull and add features as they’re required. And you’ve got to love a customised fishing boat.

 

 

HIGHS

• Easily my new favourite model

• Precision mouldings and finishes throughout

• Suitability to both inshore and offshore

• I netted more prawns than the Captain

 

LOWS

• It’s not mine

 

Signature 543SF Side Console Sea Trials*

ENGINE RPM

SPEED KM/H

LT/H

LITRES PER KM

650

3.8

1.1

0.30

1000

6.2

1.75

0.30

1500

9.0

3.1

0.35

2000

11.3

5.95

0.55

2500

13.1

10.4

0.80

3000

16.6

14.1

0.65

3500

33.1

16.5

0.50

4000

41.9

18.5

0.45

4500

49.4

25.95

0.50

5000

56.6

33.3

0.60

5500

62.8

43

0.70

6000

68.3

56.7

0.85

6150

70.2

60.05

0.90

*Sea trial data supplied by the author.

 


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Signature 543SF Side Console specs

Signature 543SF price: $70,000

Price as tested

 

OPTIONS FITTED

Garmin 751XS x 3, Garmin Auto Pilot, two livewells, deck wash, driving lights, underwater lights, bow rails, cast deck extension,  rear cast deck, plus more – too much to mention.

 

PRICED FROM

$49,999  

 

GENERAL

TYPE Offshore/inshore sports fishing boat

MATERIAL FRP       

LENGTH 5.41m

BEAM 2.13m

WEIGHT 1750kg on trailer

DEADRISE Variable 21˚ to 33˚

 

CAPACITIES

PEOPLE 7

REC. HP 140    

MAX. HP 150

FUEL 100lt

 

ENGINE

MAKE/MODEL Suzuki DF150TL outboard

TYPE Four-stroke outboard motor

WEIGHT 220kg

DISPLACEMENT 2867cc

GEAR RATIO 2.50:1   

PROPELLER 19 x 15 x 3

 

MANUFACTURED BY

Haines Signature Boats

Phone 07 3271 4400

Email  info@thehainesgroup.com

Web signatureboats.com.au

 

See the full version of this review in Trade-A-Boat #452, May / June 2014. Why not subscribe today?

 

 


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