Top performer

Warren Steptoe | VOLUME 21, ISSUE 1
Quintrex’s stretch-formed, flared bow, variable deadrise ‘Millennium’ hull continues to set new standards for ride and handling in aluminium boats.
Quintrex continues to refine its popular Top Ender fishing platform.

Quintrex’s classic ‘Top Ender’ has come a long way since its introduction at the suggestion of prominent NT fishing personality, Alex Julius 25 years ago. Back then a Top Ender was a 4.3-metre dinghy with casting decks bow and stern, a flat deck between, and pedestal seats mounted into spigots in the deck. By today’s standards, it was a fairly basic configuration, but at the time a Top Ender was quite a radical departure from the long-established norm.

Initially aimed specifically at Top End fishing (where a rapidly expanding fishery demanded a boat that is comfortable during long days on the water and for open water coastal hops to access better water), Australian fishos quickly realised this new boat was equally suited to many other situations elsewhere. So began the Quintrex Top Ender phenomenon.

Popularity soon bred expansion in the Top Ender range and it now comprises seven models, starting with the 4.2-metre 420 Top Ender CV on up to our test boat, the top-of-the-range 580 Top Ender of nearly six metres – 5.98 metres to be exact.

Circa 2006, and Quintrex Top Enders, like most specialised fishing boats, have become more sophisticated. This boat, for example, has two live bait tanks and while it still has spigot-mounted pedestal seats, it also has a centre console, hydraulic steering and an extended transom, with a full-height interior bulkhead.

The Top Enders’ aft casting deck went with the introduction of what Quintrex calls its Maxi 2 transom. The intent of this innovation was largely aimed at four-stroke outboards, although it serves several purposes aside from providing additional aft buoyancy to support the weight of four-stroke motors.

BIGGER BOTTOM

A hull with a Maxi 2 transom gains more ‘bottom’ area, which has a significant impact on fuel economy and how the hull reaches a planing attitude. In rough water, there’s also the importance of a full-height bulkhead; it being much safer in a following sea than the cut-away style necessary for tiller steering.

Other gains include a shelf across the inside to stow batteries, oil tanks, etc out of the way, and a top deck at the same height around the boat’s periphery. Again, that’s significant when fishing open, rough water – notwithstanding that it is well away from the original concept of standing aft to cast lures for barra.

The current 450 Top Ender still follows Alex Julius’ concept closely by retaining a cutaway transom with tiller steer. So, the initial configuration remains as applicable as ever, while evolved versions like our test boat stand along side it with great appeal for serious fishing all over Australia.

This latest 580 Top Ender replaces an earlier top-of-the-range 6-metre model based on a narrower beam hull somewhat reminiscent of a longboat (in its length-to-beam ratio). The older model had a beam of 2.2 metres, while the new 580 has a 2.4-metre beam. What’s in 20cm of beam? A great deal, actually.

That 200mm makes a remarkable difference to interior space, most noticeable when making your way past the console – it’s much easier in this boat than it was in the narrower beam hull. That said, it needs to be noted that this boat has quite a small, narrow console compared to Quintrex’s centre console ‘Legend’ built on the same hull. In fact, several times during the test I couldn’t help wondering why a buyer would purchase this boat instead of a Legend.

The answer literally centres around the console. A Top Ender console is sited further back in the boat and its passenger seats are actually located where the Legend’s console sits. There are other differences below decks, too, and all-in-all, they end up suiting different job descriptions.

OPEN ENDER

Quintrex’s Legend boats are meant for open water sport fishing, ie: trolling, lure casting and bait fishing – with open water journeys not a problem. Top Enders are meant for open water journeys, too, but their interior configuration when fishing is more suited to enclosed water fishing techniques – be it lure casting, trolling, or bait fishing. Much of this takes place in the bow area, where there’s ample room for two to fish while someone else runs the boat from aft at the console. Some may feel that the aft area in this boat is a little cramped; which it certainly is if you prefer to fish both ends. But if so, you should probably be looking at a Legend instead.

The Top Ender’s narrow console now features grab bars. A distinct improvement though it is, one wonders why there are three (small) separate bars instead of a single unit, which would take up the same amount of space and provide better support.

Although it is presumably intended for sheltered water, the bow casting deck could be substantially higher. The 200mm of height gained when standing up there is advantageous, however another 30cm (or more) would be even better and would provide more storage space beneath the deck.

Not that there’s any shortage of storage beneath the foredeck. There’s a centrally-located livewell and no less than three separate lockers, each of which has a roto-moulded liner.

The anchor well has a roto-moulded liner to quieten ground tackle in choppy water. I really liked the low-set bow rail and the way the bowsprit-mounted fairlead and anchor locker are accessible whilst standing securely inside the boat. There’s nothing worse than trying to get an anchor set while balancing yourself.

Our test boat had a second livewell incorporated into a transom-mounted work station. This is a new addition to the options list for Quintrex and one certain to be popular. It incorporates a cutting board with a pair of drink holders and two small wells for thawing frozen bait. Personally, I’d find it hard to own a Top Ender without one.

Another new option in our test boat was a 32-litre, 12-volt refrigerator. This basically filled the space between the console and casting deck, although, this being a test rig, part of that space was taken up with a temporary battery. Most would fit out the 580 with twin batteries aft on the Maxi 2 transom’s covering board.

COLD OPTION

Refrigeration in a small boat is a fairly new concept in this country and one which, I believe, will rapidly gain popularity. The Engel unit that Quintrex has only recently added to its options list has a maximum draw of 2.5 amps; well within the capacity of a twin-battery set-up.

The same Alex Julius who brain-stormed the original Top Ender concept has also been an advocate of 12V refrigeration in boats. And, yes, while fishing with AJ in the steamy heat of a wet season build-up, the endless supply of chilled drinks his fridge produces is certainly appreciated. Not to mention being able to keep the catch fresh without the hassle of dwindling ice supplies.

There was one thing about the 580 Top Ender that left me in two minds. Quintrex, has typically led the Australian boating industry in providing boats with positive buoyancy capable of floating the boat and its recommended load upright in the water in the unfortunate event of a swamping. Quintrex uses enclosing panels along each side to contain the necessary flotation and in this boat new panels incorporate storage pockets, racks for two rods a side, cockpit lighting and drink holders.

That’s all good, but considering that the average keen fisho now carries two or three rods each, it begs the question: Where are they going to store them? Put two or three keen fishos aboard this boat and some of their six to nine rods are going to end up laying on the deck, right where ‘Big Foot’ (that’s the fishing mate we all have with a great talent for stepping on expensive gear) will find them.

Having brought along a couple of rods – strictly as props of course – I was disappointed to find that the rod racks didn’t fit the butt (a standard butt cap found on many rods) of one of the rods and the reels were left sticking out.

Frankly, a lack of secure rod storage remains a perplexing issue in most fishing boats and in this age when we’re seeing increasing specialisation of fishing machinery, a closer look at rod storage would surely prove beneficial to those aiming their product at the keen fisho.

MORE FISHING

Although it’s safe to assume that most of the fishing on this boat is intended to be done from the bow, if the shade top could be folded down it would open up the aft end of the boat to more fishing.

Lastly, I would like to see another spigot to set the passenger seat in the centre of the boat when there are only two people aboard. It’d allow the boat to trim correctly instead of laying on one side due to off-centre weight distribution.

If I seem to be a bit critical, I will say that Quintrex seems to cop more than perhaps its fair share from me at times, simply because my expectations of the company’s products are so high.

On the plus side, I have to say there are some good – even great – things about this boat. Things like what Quintrex calls a ‘Wash Deck’; large drain bungs which allow the boat to be washed out without the usual mess from fishing ending up in the bilge.

I also need to mention how well the hull performs. It’s outstanding in open water conditions, where Quintrex’s variable deadrise hulls continue to set the standards by which aluminium boats are judged – and very few of them indeed approach, let alone get close to providing the same smooth ride.

In terms of performance, our test boat ran exceptionally well. As part of Quintrex’s ‘Instant Boating’ package, the 580 Top Ender comes with a 115hp Mariner, which, as we all know, is exactly the same motor as the 115hp Saltwater Series Mercury seen here. The hull is actually rated up to 150hp and a maximum transom weight of 240kg. This easily caters for any of the latest four-stroke motors up to 150hp.

Having said all that though, the 115hp Merc left little to be desired. It cruised at an effortless 20 knots between 3 and 3500rpm and wound out to an impressive 36.3-knot top speed. Traditional two-strokes have always been gutsy powerplants and, while a four-stroke may be desirable to some, these performance figures show that the Quintrex package with the Mariner two-stroke is well worth serious consideration.

SPECIFICATIONS

Quintrex 580 Top Ender

Construction: Aluminium with internal frame, 4mm bottom, 3mm topsides. Stretch-formed bows and bottom sheet to create bow flare and variable deadrise bottom.

Hull Length: 5.98m

Overall Length: 6.15m

Beam: 2.39m

Hull Weight: 660kg

Outboard Shaft Length: XL

Trailered Height: 2.12m

Power Ratings

Minimum Power: 115hp

Maximum Power: 150hp

Maximum Motor Weight: 240kg

PERFORMANCE

Quintrex 580 Top Ender/Mercury Saltwater Series 115hp

Propeller: Mercury Laser II, 20-inch pitch

Conditions: Brisk sea breezes across course

Load: Boat lightly loaded with two adults

Location: Southern Moreton Bay

RPM Speed in knots & Comments

750 2.0 Idling in gear trolling speed

2200 6.6 Minimum planning speed

3000 17.9 Cruise

3500 22.4 Cruise

4000 27.4 Cruise

5000 35.3

5200 36.3 WOT

Pricing: Quintrex’s Instant Boating package, including a 115hp Mariner, bimini top and envelope, rear ladder, twin-axle braked trailer, safety equipment and rego on boat and trailer is $37,532, exclusive of dealer delivery charges.

For more information and the location of your nearest dealer, visit Quintrex’s website: www.quintrex.com.au.


Tags
Boat Test
Runabout
Share
Subscribe
Previous
Next