To cover all bases on a weekend fishing getaway to Marion Bay, SA, you need a big, fast trailerboat. With the mix of bay and bluewater fishing on offer, something of 6m and above will get you to most accessible grounds in half decent conditions – with weather being something of a lottery situation down this way for much of the year.
Northbank’s brilliant 650 Hard Top is close to the ultimate weapon for the job, offering the appropriate fuel range to access most of the area’s more productive offshore islands and reef systems. Built in Adelaide and now marketed heavily right around the country, the 650HT is developing quite a reputation, particularly with the bluewater sportfishing fraternity.
My initial experience with the Northbank 650 was aboard the ‘C’ (cabin) version, which was quite impressive. However, to my way of thinking at least, the addition of a hard top turns a very good boat into a great one; there’s simply nothing like the protection afforded by a well-built hard top when it’s sloppy outside – as it often is once you clear the headlands to the south-west of Marion Bay and enter Investigator Strait. This big water regularly lumps up with tide against wind and it’s comforting to have a big, capable boat around you and a roof over your head.
Hard top height is ample for even the tallest operators and, as is the case with most Northbank models, internal gunwale height is also above average. There’s plenty of room in the cabin, with full-length berths converting to double-bed size with the inclusion of a bunk in-fill. The helm layout is clean and simple, providing ample space for fitting large-screen electronics displays, radios, gauges and instruments.
All-round vision from the helm is excellent. Looking forward, there’s a three-panel, toughened-glass windscreen, and side windows with sliders are included for ventilation. It’s a solid, dependable set-up that can be relied upon if you’re unlucky enough to cop a big, curling green one right on the nose.
The standard features inventory is quite impressive in a rig that’s obviously designed to fish in big water. Hydraulic steering, 250lt fuel tank, heaps of under-floor storage and heavy-duty rodholders are included, and there are plenty of readily available optional extras if you can extend the budget a little further. A plumbed livebait tank, saltwater deck wash and overhead rod rack are three items that spring immediately to mind as useful additions to the package.
Northbank has designed the 650HT to work with motors of between 175 and 250hp, and there’s no doubt that opting for maximum grunt is the right way to go. We ran offshore with three onboard, as well as the usual mountain of fishing gear, a 200lt icebox and full fuel tank and, I can tell you, the Suzuki 250 was working to capacity for much of the day. The hull loves this much power and carried the weight nicely through a typical offshore chop and swell.
Our plan for the fishing day kicked off with some big King George whiting on a small reef system around 12km north-east of the Marion Bay ramp. It’s a big tide area and, as we were there right on the new moon, holding bottom with anything less than 120gm of lead was near impossible. We tried anchoring first, but with next to no wind and a screaming ebb tide to contend with, soon reverted to drifting.
Physics dictates that most hard tops tend to drift faster than lower-profile boats, but in the calm conditions we were able to maintain a steady, manageable drift and soon found some nice whiting for the icebox. Marion Bay, along with nearby Sturt and Foul Bays, regularly produce thumper KGs, and most of the fish to come aboard were in the 42-48cm bracket. There were no kilo-plus monsters, but the average size of our 18-fish catch made the effort well worthwhile.
As forecast, a 15-18 knot south-easterly sprang up late in the morning, just as we decided to head out beyond Althorpe Island and try our luck on a couple of reefs in 50-70m. This is lucky-dip territory, with red snapper, pink snapper, blue morwong, trevally and samson fish all a possibility.
The sea had built a bit as we made the transition to deeper water, but by trimming the big Suzuki correctly and settling the Northbank into a comfortable stride, we were soon in Investigator Strait, with Kangaroo Island providing an imposing backdrop to the south.
Despite fishing in a lot more wind than we had experienced earlier, drifting still proved to be the most productive way to go. There’s no doubt the weight of the 650HT assists in this regard, and we were able to keep both baits and jigs in the strike zone for long enough during each drift to fish effectively. Red snapper of varying size were the most willing of the ‘reefies’ to bite, but a couple of lovely blue morwong and half a dozen pink snapper to around 2kg rounded out a most enjoyable session.
We had a decent following sea up our tail for the entire trip back into Marion Bay, which enabled me to push the Northbank quite fast. With the Suzi’ trimmed well out and the boat balanced nicely, we powered home at around 25 knots (46km/h). Mind you, we did throw some water around from time to time, making that fabulous hard top a true godsend for all onboard.
I’m not surprised at all to see Northbank’s 650HT now holding its own with much of the bigger name competition from interstate. For Marion Bay – and there are countless locations like this right around the country – it’s definitely the right boat for the job.
Towing weight (full fuel): 2400kg
Maximum power: 250hp
Fuel capacity: 250lt
Price as tested: $119,000
More information: Northbank.com.au.