Setting up your boat for sportfishing

Setting up your boat for sportfishing

Few people get another shot at ‘fine-tuning’ a sportfishing trailer boat. Grant Dixon checks out Tony Orton’s second Extreme 885 Centre Cabin charter vessel (a re-badged 850), noting several refinements over the first version…

When Tony Orton and Bea Bagnall set up their ‘Offshore Adventures’ fishing lodge and charter business, their aim was to produce a top-notch service that was as simple to run as possible. Their booking sheet, littered with repeat business, is an indication they have got it right.

Tony says the focus with the boat was to give his clients all the advantages a big boat offers, yet the vessel itself needed to be as simple to operate as possible single-handed.

With over 17 years in the charter business, much of it skippering and managing big boat operations overseas, Tony has refined his Extreme 885 Centre Cab operation so it’s user friendly for both him, as a sole operator, and his anglers. Consequently, when given the chance to set up another Extreme 885, he especially concentrated on the boat’s fishability, ease of access to essential tackle and gear, and to enable a simple clean-up procedure.

There are two obvious changes – at either end of the boat. The transom has been extended by around 40cm either side of the motors so anglers can more easily keep their lines clear of the props and fight their fish, while at the sharp end the forward casting platform has a raised rail to provide stability when tossing surface lures about, with the SeaDek underfoot providing particularly effective grip. 

There are also two vertical rod holders up forward so anglers can leave tackle rigged and ready to go. “If we spot a kingfish boil-up, the anglers can get to their gear quickly and start casting.”

Underneath the platform is the Savwinch, which stores and deploys the ground tackle – not that it gets much use. The winch now has a stainless steel motor casing, which should reduce maintenance even further.

The cockpit sole has been raised to ensure the gunwales are at the optimum fighting height for anglers using spin reels, whilst complying with survey requirements. Being a centre cab, the boat is full walkaround, with just two easily-negotiated steps from bow to stern. Any cleats that might possibly collect line or toes are recessed.

Structurally, the only other change is an upgrade in the hull construction from 6mm to 8mm alloy, which has added a little weight and stiffness to its performance – a good thing, especially in rougher conditions. Tony says the difference in the hull’s performance is quite noticeable.

Only the hull has been painted; the topsides are coated in Nyalic, which Tony says gives excellent durability and makes the boat easy to clean.

The cockpit fishing area is designed around the practicalities of sportfishing. There are four tuna tubes across the transom, each with an adjacent rod holder.

“When using jack mackerel or similar for live or pitch baits, each one has its own tube so it’s ready to be instantly deployed without the risk of tangling other gear,” Tony says.

The large live-bait tank positioned in the cockpit’s centre means it can be accessed from all sides. On top is a bait preparation and rigging area, with lockers on either side enabling all the essentials to be close at hand.

“When in the middle of a hot bite and there is a need to re-rig, you don’t want to be scrambling through tackle boxes up forward, you want everything there within easy reach.”

The passenger seats have been enlarged to give more individual space when travelling. Under the port side is much of the safety equipment, while the starboard side is kept clear for client’s gear.

“In the past the angler’s kit has been thrown into the cuddy cabin, where it has impeded access to the toilet and generally been untidy.” 

Now the relatively spartan cabin space is used to store fenders and spare ropes. There are an additional 13 spaces in the cabin-top rocket launcher to complement the six at the rear of the bait-station and five adjacent to the tuna tubes.

The Extreme 885 Centre Cabin is essentially a day boat, but there are a couple of in-fills and upholstered squabs if Tony, Bea and young son Sami decide on doing an overnighter.

The only home comfort is an electric flush toilet, with utilities such as gas cooker and refrigeration left out in the name of simplicity. A roller door offers privacy for those using the bathroom.

The helm and navigator’s seating has been raised to allow maximum view over the lure spread when trolling, although this is also covered electronically. Tony has installed four Garmin Virb XE cameras at strategic points around the boat, hardwired to the electric system, as well as 
relaying back to the 16-inch Garmin GP Map 7416 XSV sounderplotter screen. All the action can be observed and recorded for later playback (“So that’s what we were doing wrong!”).

Tony says he has stuck with Garmin electronics for several reasons: clarity of the sounder picture, making it easy to interpret what is beneath; ease of use; and the performance in ‘auto’ mode.

“The simple integration between sounder, plotter, radar, autopilot and cameras makes the Garmin user friendly – I mostly use it in auto mode and it does everything I want.”

On the gamefishing front, Tony has installed two Shimano Beastmaster 9000 electric reels to run his teasers from inside the cabin.

“Between the autopilot and the electric reels, I will have enough control to be able to pitch the baits myself if necessary, allowing the client to just worry about getting the hook-up right.”

Tony plans to run a dredge on one side and a daisy-chain teaser on the other, with a bait or lure above or behind them, plus one other bait or lure as a shotgun. He says three baits/lures are ‘plenty’ to raise a fish, especially when teasers and dredges are deployed. Once again it is all about the KISS theory – Keep It Simple, Stupid!

The outriggers have double halyards once again, giving some options depending on whether lures or baits are being run. The ‘riggers are controlled from within the cabin via Rupps Tee-Top Bases, and the poles detach when not required.

In the fishing department, the boat is fully loaded with the latest Shimano tackle, covering everything from swordfish through to baitfish. Tony had a part to play with the refinement of the Energy Concept range of rods, designed specifically for New Zealand conditions.

At the ‘blunt end’, Tony has opted for two 250hp Honda fourstrokes. With much of his fishing done 50 kilometres offshore around the Mokohinau Islands and beyond, he needs to get out wide quickly.

While going up 100 horsepower, the fuel usage is less than when he ran two 200hp outboards, despite the fact this latest hull is slightly heavier. It hovers on or around two litres per nautical mile in total for two engines. The twin rig also gives him peace of mind should a mechanical or fuel issue occur with one of them.

“I had a dream run out of the 200s and don’t expect anything different from the 250s.”

The final aspect of the setup, while having no bearing on the fishing  – other than the all-important task of getting the rig to the water – is the Voyager Elite trailer. Tony says the boat tows well despite its size and weight, and comes on and off straight and true. The trailer has been Corrosion X treated for longevity, and a Carlisle electric braking system has been fitted. This operates via the brake-light system and can be controlled by the driver, including emergency braking.

Having had the chance to build on what was already a great sportfishing boat, Tony has made the most of his opportunity and the available technology to offer his clients a sportfishing experience worthy of a big boat from a relatively modest-sized one. The result is one of the best set-up trailerboat sportfishers I have ever set foot on.


   This article is reproduced with permission of   
New Zealand Fishing News

December 2016 - By Grant Dixon
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited

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