Bass Strait Ocean Pro 600 VS Cootacraft 20ft Coldfront VS Edencraft 6M Offshore

 

LET THE BATTLE BEGIN!
You won’t find any cup holders in these six-metre sledgehammers. The builders are too busy adding another layer of chop strand to their stringers or bolting 300HP motors to their transoms – or they might just be fitting an electronic set-up that costs more than a Quintrex BMT package. They go as hard as they look and punch well above their weight on internet forums. They battle for bragging rights among their Facebook fans, so The Captain decided they should be lined up for an internet-melting melee. Who would be qualified to compare such boats? We figured the best critics would be three hard-nosed owners; the guys who forked out hard-earned coin to build their 6m dream machines. The only catch: they can’t rate their own boat. We also threw in a couple of judges from The Captain, who sobered up long enough to head to Eden, jump in some cool boats, meet some 6m owners and share a rum around the camp fire.

 

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THE TEST PILOTS
Julian Coyne
Looks like an accountant, but fishes like a UFC fighter with every submission trick in the book. Jules owns a Bass Strait Ocean Pro 600 in full commercial survey. He is the considered voice on this shoot-out. When other judges are wave-jumping or posing for photos, Jules is analysing dash configurations and bait station set-ups.

 

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Boat: Bass Strait Ocean Pro 600
Occupation: Self-employed in telco industry, charter operator
Signature move: Sliding along the deck of the Cootacraft
Favourite feature on boat: The performance of the hull and the practicality of the wide dash (but the slide-out awning is always welcome from his charter customers)
Best fish boated: 134kg bluefin from Portland
When he’s not fishing: There’s no such thing!
If he didn’t have this boat: 24ft Bass Strait

 

Wayne Bernhard
On the Myers Briggs personality indicator, Wayne sits somewhere between a sculptor and drag racer. He builds cool things that go fast, including his customised 600HP Silverado truck with ‘chrome-delete’ finish, tough street trackers (motorbikes) and his Cootacraft Coldfront. During breaks in testing, Wayne can be found waist-deep in water changing props in his quest for the ultimate on-water performance.

 

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Boat: Cootacraft 20ft Coldfront
Occupation: Semi-retired painter seeking new opportunities
Signature move: One-man pit crew, changing props in the water
Favourite feature on boat: Uncompromised performance
Best fish boated: 120kg striped marlin
When he’s not fishing: Scallop and cray diving, and generally driving fast
Dream destination: To take his Coota to every state, starting with a run from Apollo Bay to King Island
If he didn’t have this boat: A 24-footer – or maybe a Yank boat

 

Joel Ryan
With blue eyes and boyish good looks, Joel could have been an underwear model, but in keeping with his high-performance penchant, he landed a job in the motorcycle industry. His ride is an Edencraft 6m Offshore, known as Shake‘n’ Bake, a testament to his love of pancake mix.

 

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Boat: Edencraft 6m Offshore
Occupation: Motorcycle accessory wholesaling
Signature move: Casting to kingies while ignoring Fisheries officers
Favourite feature on boat: Twin screws
Best fish boated: 85kg striped marlin on 10kg line
When he’s not fishing: Diving for crays
Dream destination: Exmouth, WA
If he didn’t have this boat: A Formula 233

 

THE CAPTAIN’S CREW
Jack Murphy
He used to think Edencraft and Cootacraft were brands of cheese, but eventually saw a ray of deep-vee light when he bought a Haines Hunter 525 Prowler. Jack has tested boats for leading magazines. Hell, he’d even test a stand-up paddleboard. He’s not fussy as long as you throw him the keys and pour him a Sailor Jerry at the end of the day.
Travis Godfredson
Trained all his life for this shoot-out – Trav owned a Bass Strait Ocean Pro and restored an original V19, so he knows the finer points of a deep-vee Formula-style hull. He also has a soft spot for molluscs and was last seen exiting Eden harbour (the scene of our 6m shoot-out) with a Land Rover stuffed full of fresh mussels.

 

BASS STRAIT OCEAN PRO 600

Every Bass Strait Ocean Pro is built by Ben Toseland on a large sheep farm in Gippsland, Victoria. He’s a straight-talking, flannelette wearing farm lad who likes shooting and shark fishing – and building tough-as-fug boats. His no-nonsense sensibilities are imprinted into the DNA of his boats. The ‘Straiters’ are no-frills, but everything works and works well. His customers include Fisheries, Police, Coast Guard, commercial operators, divers and a growing band of trailerboat game fishermen who value the offshore performance and payload room the hull offers. The boat currently flexing its fibres for the 6m shoot-out is owned by Julian Coyne, a dedicated game fisherman and charter operator out of Melbourne. He wanted a bare hull to build to his own specs – and found the perfect starting point with the Ocean Pro 600. The performance of the hull style is well known, with lines borrowed from the Haines Hunter V19, rounded at the keel with three strakes and 75mm reverse chines. Ben has made subtle changes below the waterline, including rounded chines to increase strength and improve the lay-up process. Up top, the changes are more noticeable, including flatter and wider gunwales, dive door (which Ben says takes a week to build), raised storage compartments at the rear, walk-around windscreen, roomier cabin, wider dash, higher transom and a big engine well that curvaceous V6 engines can tilt into. Ben likes to keep hull weight to 1050kg, reckoning anything more than that can affect the engine trim and hold the nose down. It’s a formula he’s been using successfully for 16 years.

The ride is still as legendary as its predecessor. The judges agreed that Jules’ Straiter was the driest ride. As Wayne said, “You can just bang it in at four grand and leave it there – you don’t have to worry about driving it”. The Straiter was the point-and-shoot specialist in this armada – and Jules was particularly proud, taking out the hole-shot challenge with his Suzuki 250HP. The Cootacraft quickly mowed the Straiter down and was last seen heading for shore for a prop change, never to be beaten again. The Straiter is fitted with the heaviest Jesus bar we’ve ever wrapped our knuckles around. If you prefer a higher grab rail, Ben insists on using the wind deflector on the wave breaker. He’s not wrong – it’s bloody strong, and tougher than the Edencraft’s carbon-fibre wind deflector. Storage pockets are open and extend the full length of the inside deck. There’s no need to worry about loose items flying around when you’re hammering to the fishing grounds, they’re sitting safe in a deep pocket. Aft, the Straiter has a large bait tank hatch and sizable inspection window, overshadowing the Edencraft set-up. But it’s the helm area where this boat hits her straps, with class-leading flat dash space. Jules puts it to good use, preparing all his rigs at sea. He’s pretty adept in that department. Last year, he boated half a dozen marlin, four barrels and countless snapper to 8kg.

 

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PROS
•Unbeatable dash space and cabin headroom
•Driest rider in fleet – with useful awning
•Storage king
•The point-and-shoot pro (until Wayne changed props on his Cootacraft)

 

CONS
• Hope you like white boats
• Can’t fit long rods in the cabin
• Rear kill tank never quite drains to wet box
• No hatch in forward cabin to deck area

 

CAPTAIN’S QUERY
•Comes out of the factory with the biggest dive door in class – however they need a few mods to keep the water out when travelling

 

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COOTACRAFT 20FT COLDFRONT
The Cootacraft is the Colt .44 in this cache of six-shooters. It’s sexy, slender and, in the wrong hands, someone’s gonna get hurt. Owner Wayne Bernhard has owned Edencraft boats, but wanted something “on the edge”. He found it with 24 degrees of Coldfront, powered by a 300HP Yamaha delivered by ‘fly-by-wire’ throttle control. Wayne is a one-man race crew, travelling with spare props to suit the conditions. He even changes them in the water during drink breaks! He also fitted a jacking plate to the transom for millimetre-perfect performance – enabling adjustment of the engine height without having to drill more holes. Wayne’s also handy on the tools. He helped design the wave-breaker and built the cabin door from ballistic-proof carbon composite. Then he fitted a pie oven. Should Somali pirates attack, he can lock himself in the cabin behind his bomb-proof door and live off a selection of hot meat pies and Lean Cuisine. Steering is keen and agile – but less forgiving than the other round-keeled contenders. You have to be ‘on it’, particularly when on a charge in a big sea. She’s not as balanced or predictable as the other boats when coming off a wave. There is no seat or grab rail to hang on to, just a fly-by-wire throttle control and steering wheel. Thankfully, the Coldfront has the highest freeboard around, so any judge that did lose their grip, ricocheted safely inside (how’s your foot, Jules?) The judges were mixed in their evaluation of ride and handling. Some returned with scratched knees and bruised egos while others had that look of a boy who’s just had his first roller-coaster ride. We all agreed: if you wanted to get to the blue water quickly, this would be the fastest and most fun way. When combined with a class-leading freeboard, the Cootacraft would be ideal for spearos or commercial operators. On the downside, there’s not much dash space to work with and limited open storage for things you want to grab quickly. But that’s the way Wayne likes it. In the wash-up, the Cootacraft Coldfront proved the enigma of the shootout – fearsome and fun all at once. She was the boat that sent men sprawling, yet showed a softer side with a permanently fitted oven. She didn’t rate as high on the stability scale, or fare as well as on ‘game-fishing factor’ – with shortest deck-space, small kill-tank door and narrow opening to the cabin – but if you’re like Wayne and pour adrenaline on your Weet-Bix in the morning, then turn your cap backwards, grab some pies and hold on tight for maybe your best ride yet. Just don’t get burnt!

 

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PROS
• The driver’s boat
• Dominant internal freeboard
• Bomb-proof cabin door, with pie warmer
• Yammie 300

 

CONS
• Temperamental in the air (the other boats levelled themselves out more smoothly)
• No grab rails – or seat to lock into
• Small kill-tank door and limited open storage in side pockets
• Fly-by-wire takes a little getting used to

 

CAPTAIN’S QUERY
• No seats, but we managed to find a permanently fitted pie warmer

 

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EDENCRAFT 6M OFFSHORE
The 6m model was launched in the late ’80s, when Edencraft acquired the V19 mould from Haines Hunter. Back then, commercial fishermen were Edencraft’s biggest customers, but today there’s a new generation of game fishermen and divers who like their boats with big performance and a wow-factor to match their owner’s hairdos. Joel Ryan is one of those customers.
Joel’s boat, Shake ‘n’ Bake, is the pin-up girl for the Edencraft brand. She turns heads with black sides, black carbon-fibre wave breaker, stainless-steel armoury and a pair of black 140HP Suzukis. Joel has her permanently hooked up to his black Ford Ranger (with black rims, naturally) waiting for the next hot bite to pop up on Facebook. We’re not quite sure what Joel actually does, but he’s always where the fish are. His quest to catch fish never wanes, even when Fisheries officers pull up alongside (which they did). As the officer patiently waited to give Joel a ticket, he stubbornly stood on the front deck, bombing one cast after another toward an inquisitive kingfish. He didn’t catch a fish, but he did land a $75 fine.
There’s no debating the blue-water credentials of the Edencraft Offshore, with the time-honoured 22-degree hull and flared bow. Since the original Edencraft popped out of the mould, the factory has made a number of changes. The most significant was to extend the keel line through to where the pod used to end, removing the step-up at the rear. It gives the boat a 6.20m overall length, as well as buoyancy in the bum where it’s needed for twin rigs and big four-strokes. Many of the smart modifications on the 6m Offshore have been developed by Edencraft builder/owner Alan Ball. He used to build Olympic-class rowing hulls, so he knows a thing or two about composites.

 

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On board the Offshore, it’s a game fisherman’s dream, with the widest gunwales at the rear, the longest deck and a high quality stainless-steel fit-out. The rocket launchers would make an army general proud, housing 11 rods. The cabin space is slightly longer than its Bass Strait cousin, but like the Straiter, it has no forward hatch. All the judges said she felt like a bigger boat. Not surprisingly, she took home the gong for best game-fishing factor. The judges also agreed the Edencraft was the coolest-looking rig on the water, but it was the twin set-up that really got the test pilots buzzing. If deep-vee hulls have a bad habit, it’s coming off waves with a troublesome attitude – but the Edencraft was balanced in the water and especially confident when leaving it. The difference between the twin-powered rig and the single power-planted Straiter is noticeable, despite sharing similar DNA below the waterline. The Captain presumes the Bass Strait craft would perform just as well with twins. If you’re thinking about either of these boats, be sure to test a well set-up twin-rig. Then sell your original Star Wars figurines to fund it, because this was the most expensive rig in the shoot-out, with a replacement value of $140,000.

 

PROS
• The king of cool
• Stable boat in the water – and most stable boat launching out of it
• Widest gunwales and longest internal deckspace – more than 20cm longer than the Cootacraft and marginally longer than the Bass Strait in the internal deck
• Twin-rig delivers balanced ride

 

CONS
• Most expensive set-up
• Lowest internal freeboard at rear
• Cabin door swings in the breeze when unlatched
• No hatch in forward cabin to deck area

 

CAPTAIN’S QUERY
• Heavily bevelled flat area on dash for mounting screens, but The Captain has yet to come across a round sounder!

 

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