There's always a lot of planning and preparing for fishing trips, particularly if you're not in local waters. Distance, time, the condition of all your gear, fuel calculations, camping or unit accommodation, amenities available, the food and of course booze, plus the overall cost – the list just goes on and on. But regardless, the excitement and the anticipation of what you might catch and the thrill of adventure is quite childlike for serious boaters and fishermen.
Queensland's Makocraft boats are all about adventure trips with their clients and recently we jumped onto one of their trips to Wathumba Creek on the west side of Fraser Island. What makes it even better is that we had four new, client-owned Makocraft to comprehensively test. So, rather than the standard blank canvas, each boat was tricked up to suit the owners' preferences and loaded to the max with gear for a four-day trip.
The selection included two versions of the 630 Island Cab Hard Top and two of the 521 SUV Centre Console. To start, the big-boy 630s took first spot for review.
SET FOR ADVENTURE
Now, before getting into the 630 tests there’s a lot involved as mentioned, particularly with logistics on this kind of adventure trip, which we will cover in more detail a few issues down the line. To cut it short, the main priorities are ensuring you have checked the weather, have calculated the tides for Wathumba Creek, have enough fuel, food, drinks and first-aid gear, and have of course booked your camping stay with Queensland National Parks. Wathumba Creek has no amenities, so ensure you take everything to suit your comfort levels.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have the luxury of time to wait for perfect weather, so the date was set and regardless we were going. Light to moderate south-east winds are favourable for the inside of Fraser Island as the fish chew better and obviously it's far more protected – winds from the north do no favours on the fishing side or protection. Our luck, north westerlies up to 20 knots were predicted for a few of the days; however, the weatherman got it wrong and it blew a gentle 25 to 30 knots on the last day.
A 5am departure from Brisbane had the Makocraft clan in Hervey Bay around 10:30am, after a bit of last-minute stocking up of, ah, a few extra alcoholic beverages – which we all know go down well at the end of a fishing day. The posse of Makocraft set off from Urangan Slipway at Hervey Bay, heading for Wathumba Creek some 26 nautical miles (48 kilometres) up the inside of Fraser Island.
A quick tip: ensure your trailer is reverse parked up against a pavement and has a few locks. Word is there's a bit of midnight shopping happening these days. Next, ensure you have decent maps on your GPS as there are a few shallow reef areas on the first part of the crossing to Moon Point. From there it’s a nice run north along the NW beach edge and on the day, we had light variable winds that made it a mellow cruise for all boats.
Make sure you plan your tides to get in and out of Wathumba Creek if you’re camping there. We underestimated how low it gets and paid the price of an afternoon stuck on the mid-banks of the creek sipping early sundowners. We should have fished the good weather and come up the creek in the late arvo when the tide pushed – you live and learn. Next time, we will look at the neap tides rather than spring tides; that’s another debate. The springs generally fish better, or so they say.
The tides then snagged us again, only allowing for an 8am exit to go fishing and then having to cut it short to get back up the creek mid-arvo. Again, the neaps look far better with the exit and entry suited to early morning and evenings.
On the outside of Wathumba Creek, Platypus Bay's turquoise and sheltered waters attract an abundance of bait, birds and pelagic fish species. Long-tail tuna, spotted and school mackerel, trevally and spaniards can be caught on bait or lures – but the real highlight is chasing the juvenile black marlin that frequent the bay for a few weeks between late October and November. That’s if the planets align.
For us the alignments were a touch out due to the weather, however, a few marlin strikes were had; one of the centre consoles landed a small black and they took top spot showing everyone up with a few small tuna and mackerel.
MAKOCRAFT 630 ISLAND CAB HT
Onto the testing; this was the perfect trip, environment and weather to thoroughly wring the neck out of any boat. The two big-gun Makocraft 630s on offer included Tim Stessl’s demo ‘tricked up’ Black OPS edition, and a privately owned standard 630 with quite a few optional extras, specced up to suit the owner.
Back at the ramp, at a first glance I found the aesthetic styling and beefy look to the 630s appealing. At 6.3 metres in length and having a full 2.5-metre beam, high sides, a shmick looking centre cab with hard-top and Mercury 150 horsepower four-stroke, they most certainly portray a boat destined for serious fishing and big offshore runs.
ROOM TO MOVE
A closer look at what’s on offer within, the layout includes a sturdy transom ladder and boarding platform leading through a transom door to a nice spacious cockpit-cum-open-fishing-dance-floor. It's uncluttered and well suited to the entire family or mates fishing comfortably without tangles and wanting to kill each other. The gunwales – with wide coamings and side-pocket storage – are high and merge into the transom area at the same height, offering better safety for kids, and are nicer to lean into when fishing offshore, particularly on the rougher days.
Instead of the standard carpeted deck, these 630s were optioned with checkerplate self-draining decks, as well as saltwater deck-wash, a large heavy-duty bait-board with built in bait tank, and a huge floodable kill-tank built into the deck.
Up front you have the centre-cab which most certainly appeals to me as it allows for full walk-around access to the bow and creates better fishability. There’s always compromise with this type of design and particularly with the reduction of cab/cabin space, however, Makocraft have done a good job of maintaining a decent cab and walk-around area combined. For those chasing a full cabin layout, check out the Makocraft 630 Cruiser Cab on their website.
An innovative and appealing feature to the centre cab is the hinged hard-top section that folds back, reducing the overall height for easier storage. It's most handy, although there is a bit of movement in rough conditions. The optional clears above screen and rear bimini add further protection and I like the front bulkhead above the screen that allows radio and stereo mounting.
The dash layout is also spacious with a dedicated panel for a large sounder, and being almost vertical there’s minimal light reflection off the screen. The panel below has heaps of space for gauges and any other electronics to be spread out and the lower lipped base is a handy spot for phones and drink holders.
Seating includes the optional rear hinged bench, as well as helm seat boxes with storage incorporated. The deluxe folding seats provide comfort at the helm, and the cab section is open plan with six-foot centred bunk length and storage below. Now it doesn’t boast a full cabin's footprint, however, it's still spacious enough to have a nap or overnighter if need be. Again, it’s the compromise of having the full walkaround.
Up in the bow you then have full walkaround access with a small step up from the cockpit. It's wide enough to comfortably walk through and having the lower cab top you can comfortably bottom fish or cast lures off the front. A large open anchor hatch, high bow-rails, grab-rails and the extra welded rod holders complement the bow layout.
On a zero to 10 scale, these poor Makocraft got the raw end of the weather deal with a consistent 3/10, ending with sub-0/10. The brisk north wester graced us for the weekend, cutting us a day short when it cranked to a violent 25-30 knots with 1.5-metre plus bay swell travelling in all directions. It turned nasty and extended what would normally be a comfortable hour trip back to Urangan to a 2.5 hour nerve-wracking and quite uncomfortable bashing. The boats were pushed to their limits and if things were going to break, it would be on this trip.
Over the weekend the poor conditions restricted us to fishing the inside of Platypus Bay to Rooney’s Point. In the calmer water up against the beaches while trolling for marlin and spinning for tuna, the stability of the 630 Island Cab impressed me and combined with the open layout, they are really comfortable boats to fish off at rest and low troll speeds. The Mercury four-stroke runs nice and quiet at slow speeds and gently sipped 3-5 litres per hour.
Travelling between spots in variable conditions the hole-shot was nippy at an average speed between 20-25 knots; the 630 allows you to sit back and relax at the helm. Economy was again good, sitting around 20-25 litres per hour and once again, the Merc is soft on the ears throughout the mid rev-ranges.
In the calm water against the beaches the Merc's acceleration to WOT is quick and responsive. I find these motors smooth and quiet, even in the high rev-ranges. The three litre has good grunt and tops out at 5,500rpm, with a speed of 36 knots and fuel burn of 55 litres per hour – not bad at all for a beefy boat. If you really wanted to, a bit of fine tuning with props could get you a few more revs and higher top end – but I would probably leave it as is.
TO THE LIMITS
In the rough heading back to Urangan the 630 beast quartered the chop and 25-knot-plus NW like a soldier going to battle. The big flared bow does a good job at pushing water, while maintaining a comfortable ride. Yes, it was a wet ride for all boats and in fact no brand of boat would have maintained a dry ride in these conditions. The utter slop no doubt dictated the speed, with an average 14-17 knots produced on and off the throttles. The odd crash, bang and rattle was evident when you mis-timed the angry ocean and once again, any boat would have taken strain in these conditions.
This was the test of tests for all the boats and I'm sure we all had something rattle lose that weekend. To sum it up, the 630 Island Cabs are not high-speed racing machines in rough conditions; however, they boast exceptional stability and safety and are comfortable and easy boats to handle when the going gets tough.
With the current economic downturn, the prices of the Makocraft 630 Island Cab are at their best right now. You can slide into one of the standard packages with a Mercury 135 horsepower four-stroke, Dunbier Loader Pro dual axle trailer, registration, and a truck load of standard inclusions for around $63,000 – and that’s a lot of boat for the price.
We had two variations of the 630 Island Cab HT on the trip – the Black OPS and the standard 630 with heaps of optional extras fitted (I would probably call this one the ‘White Ops’). Have a look at the inclusions and pricing to see the exact differences.
Overall, the Gold Coast produced plate boat is designed primarily to suit in- and off-shore fishing, also being a decent family boat with suited options fitted. The Makocraft boast a sturdy build with a four millimetre bottom and sides and are good value for money in the standard and Black Ops versions alike. Watch this space for the tests on the Makocraft centre consoles and how they handled the wild conditions.
FACTS & FIGURES
Makocraft 630 Island Cab Hard Top
$63,000, including: Mercury 135hp four-stroke with 4” Vessel View gauge, Dunbier Loader Pro dual axle trailer, smooth water safety gear, 12 months registration, plus numerous standard inclusions.
PRICE AS TESTED
Upgraded white 630 $76,000
Black Ops $79,000
Mercury 150hp four-stroke with 4in Vessel View, dual batteries and switch, bait board and bait tank, underfloor floodable kill tank, rear lounge and transom door, clears from screen to hard top, rear bimini peak, cabin bunk infill cushions, metallic paint upgrade, VHF radio, salt water deck wash, welded checkerplate floor with self-draining deck and Garmin GPS/Sonar. The Black Ops had the upgraded Garmin 9-inch sounder, blue cockpit lights and six welded alloy heavy-duty rod holders.
Type Multi-purpose/offshore centre cab
Material Plate aluminium
Weight 940kg (hull only)
Deadrise 19-38° variable
Berths Open half cab bunk
Rec. HP 135-150hp
Max. HP 175hp
Make/model Mercury 150XL EFI
Gear ratio 1.92:1
Propeller 14.7x16P Enertia
9/7 Activity Crescent
Molendinar QLD 4214
P 0429 680 504