Queensland aluminium boat builder, Stessco is having a crack at the low-profile, shallowdraft, bass and bream boat market. And if its Mirage 540 SC is a sample of what to expect in the future, a lot of tournament anglers will like the company’s efforts – not that you have to be competition-minded to appreciate what this boat has to offer.
Craig Simmons has been a serious contender in the ABT fishing circuit for the past seven years and it was his Mirage we used as our test boat for the day. He’s one of the few dedicated full-time anglers on the circuit and has fronted the dais on a number of occasions for outright honours.
So let’s get down to his work platform. The Mirage has a deep, sharp forefoot at the keel line, while the deadrise toward the aft end is gradual. Anglers sit across the back of the cockpit on pedestal seats that are permanently fixed, from where they will experience one of the driest and softest rides available in this style of boat. Normally, alloy boats are noisy when compared to fibreglass equivalents, with a lot of water slap coming through the hull unless they’re clogged up with buoyancy foam in their hull compartments. However, in this case the multiple bulkheads that form the various compartments below the casting platforms baffle much of the through-hull noise.
Cutting across waves at speeds to 90km/h, the ambient noise was reduced to a mere ‘hiss’, with the big 175hp Evinrude ETEC bolted on the back contributing little more to the soundtrack.
Stationary in the water and with three large anglers moving about, there was very little instability to contend with and it sat virtually level in the water for extended periods of fishing.
The Mirage was fitted with a bow-mount 80lb Minn Kota, its foot control being recessed into the deck so the operator need not overbalance, as both feet are on the same level. The two gel cell batteries are set up in 24v mode and sit in a hatch in the bottom of the cockpit deck, keeping the centre of gravity low and further aiding stability.
The 140lt live fish well features a removable partition so competition anglers may keep their catch apart. It’s plumbed with reticulation so fish remain in prime condition while the entire unit is towed by road to the competition weigh-in site. It also has an external pick-up for use while planing, alleviating the need to use the electric pump all of the time. With the live well full and the total payload with anglers nudging half a tonne, 5000rpm had the Mirage cruising tirelessly and comfortably for hours on end at 85km/h.
The forward and aft casting decks sit about 75mm below the gunwales and are finished flush, with no protruding objects to trip on or catch fly lines. The hatches latch down so they won’t blow open at high speed and they’re carpeted to allow expensive rods and other tackle to be stowed with minimal damage. Two long rod compartments are available on the foredeck, along with three others down the centre line.
The aft deck conceals the live well – it’s forward of full-beam hatch that opens to access the engine crank battery, plus the oil bottle for the engine. The aft corners are stylishly designed around the transom, with clutter-free boarding platforms either side of the motor. A Solas Vance jacking plate is installed to swing the engine higher to max out the revs when the Hot Foot throttle is flat to the floor.
Down in the cockpit, a compact console is flushmounted with Humminbird’s depth sounder and GPS electronics, while the Hot Foot cable accelerator is installed under the console, with the gear shift mounted on the inside of the coaming. Power trim and tilt is operable from here or via a paddle switch on the helm, which alleviates the need to take your hands off the wheel when travelling at warp speed.
On the port side of the cockpit, a rod lean is built onto the inner liner. This features slots for the rod butts and a retractable strap to hold the tips down to the soft carpet base.
Acceleration on this boat is super quick. It doesn’t take long to get out of the hole and maximum speed is achieved within just a few blinks of the eye.
When trimmed in for cruising, you experience firm steering; not overly stiff, but rather direct – it’s set this way on purpose to make for safer highspeed travel. When it came to dealing with choppy conditions, the Mirage did so best at high speed, with the bow trimmed down. Then I was really able to open it up – and feel safe in the process.
This is a surprisingly fast and agile boat and if the bream and bass thing is up your alley, you need to take a serious look at the Mirage 540 SC.
For more information, call River City Marine, tel (07) 3262 7666, or email: rivercityoss@ bigpond.com.au.
SPECIFICATIONS: STESSCO MIRAGE 540
Length overall: 5.4m
Deadrise: 14 degrees
Engine: Evinrude ETEC 175
Fuel capacity: 80lt
Max horsepower: 175hp
Options: Minn Kota, electronics, Hot Foot accelerator pedal, engine upgrade (from 90hp to 175hp)
Price from: $38,000
Price as tested: $48,000