Dan Brauman has been a soldier with the Australian Defence Force for the past 20 years. When he’s not running sorties to Timor, he’s skippering his Sailfish S8 with his crew, aka the Cuzzy Bros. We infiltrated Dan’s posse at Port Fairy, three hours out of Melbourne on the Shipwreck Coast. Our mission: a 100kg bluefin barrel on 15kg line.

 

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Military-like precision is an overused catchphrase in The Captain. However, Dan Brauman has earned it. After all, he’s actually delivered lead to his foes via a Steyr assault rifle. His missions take weeks of planning and years of tactical training, using state-of-the-art killing equipment. He brings a similar resolve to his fishing trips and gear. Naturally, every gunslinger needs an armoured personnel carrier. His is a 2016 model, battle-ready Sailfish S8.

 

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Dan pilots the latest model from Sailfish: the Gen III Hydraflow aluminium hull. The design incorporates wider running strakes, extended waterline length and redesigned 6mm chines for greater lift and efficiency. We put it to the sword, taking on Bass Strait’s 4m seas. The cat showed its sure footprint powering up, down and across waves crumbling with white foam at their tops. Even when travelling down sea at an angle (regarded as the least favourite angle for a cat) the Sailfish, er, sails with confidence. All achieved with a big wheelhouse and eight metres of length — no mean feat.

 

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SLOW AND STEADY

Slow and steady is the way to treat a cat heading into a big sea. Dan gently eased her over the huge rollers. It did shudder moderately in the tunnel when heading straight into the sea, but certainly no more than any glass cat we’ve ridden. In fact, we barely noticed it was an aluminium hull, checking the foam filling and box section stringers.

 

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Cats have a reputation for miserly fuel consumption. The footprint on a cat is approximately half that of the equivalent-sized monohull, resulting in less wetted area and less friction. It means they can run smaller horsepower engines. Dan has fitted twin Honda BF135HP outboards. They proved every bit the penny-pinching power plants, burning just over 60L and covering 105km over the course of the day. These outboards have clocked up 500 hours in just under two years. Dan’s a fan, but we wouldn’t mind twin 150HP units for those moments when you need to max power down sea and onto the back of the next roller.

 

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WHY A CAT?

Now that he’s bought a cat, Dan would never go back to a mono. The stability in any seas is the obvious benefit. He does many hours with his wife (on the boat) and he wanted her to feel safe and comfortable, no matter how big the seas — or fish — were. He also loves the big cabin and deck space with the walk-through, allowing the crew to get aft past the motors to fight and bring fish in. Twin engines and draining decks tick the safety boxes.

 

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He adds the caveat: “You need to learn how to drive a cat.” The key, he says, is to “learn how to trim the motors so it travels flat — whether it’s a following sea, punching into a head sea, or side-on. Also, travel at a speed that gets the air in and under the tunnel for a cushioning effect.” Dan recommends taking the time to discover how the hull performs with no swell or wind, and build your confidence from there.

 

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WEIGHTY ISSUE

Cats have a loyal fan-base and it seems to be growing, based on the Facebook groups and rebirthing of Bruce Harris Shark Cats seen hitting the ramps. One objection to cats is their bulbous beam and weight. Sailfish have overcome this with aluminium construction featuring a 2.45m beam. Dan’s rig tips the scales at 3.4 tonne fully laden with 400L of fuel and 50L of fresh water.

 

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A lot of thought and R&D is put into the S8. Any gamefisherman will appreciate the fishing ergonomics. The finish is as good as any rig The Captain has ridden. It’s the kind of detail you’d expect from a low-volume builder, but these guys aren’t a niche operation. In fact, they have a construction crew of 20 operating out of Alstonville NSW, building around 30 boats per year. You won’t see a lot of the work that goes on behind the scenes, like the aluminium sheet that’s welded both sides then ground back on the exterior. All holes are drilled prior to two-pack paint — Dan was even invited to inspect his hull prior to the paint being sprayed on.

 

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Custom options include tuna tubes for switch baiting marlin (incorporated into the design by Sailfish) and a pie oven. He recruited the Sailfish R&D team to design some custom Tiagra rod holders that clip in. “You tell them what you want and they come back to you with some good options.”

 

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Sailfish build aluminium trailers to suit each hull. Dan reckons he’s done more than 20,000km in two years. The trailer presents like new, and he’s never had a problem. One advantage of cats is that they’re piss-easy to get on the trailer — just aim for the centre guides and the trailer does the rest. We proved this point in the Port Fairy current. Some jovial lads in a CruiseCraft tried in vain to get on the trailer, but gave up after half-a dozen fruitless efforts and let the Sailfish show the way.

 

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THE FALLEN 46

Military life is a tough game. Dan has lost comrades and seen his fair share of trauma. Last year he joined forces with Jason from Colorato lures to develop the Fallen 46 lure. The lure is named in honour of the 46 soldiers who have given their lives while on overseas operations since 1999. 50 per cent of the sales went to an organisation called Soldier On (www.soldieron.org.au). They look after our returned service personnel and their families when life isn’t going to plan. Dan says, “Every time I use this lure I think about the people who have been overseas and given their lives. I think about the people who have come back from overseas and are perhaps struggling a little more than what they should be.” There were only 46 of the Fallen 46 lures made. Jase says they’ve all sold out, but he’s thinking about doing another tribute lure to honour the fallen 46.

 

 

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KILLING GEAR

The electronics feature a Simrad NSS16 evo3 and S2009 mated to an S5100 sonar module. Dan says, “It’s excellent kit, so user-friendly. You can drive it straight out of the Sailfish factory and you can’t go wrong with it. Over at Bermagui this year, we marked marlin, sharks — and today we marked bluefin. They all have their own individual marks and once you learn how to read your gear it makes things so much easier. We’ve set the boat up with two 1kW through-hull transducers. We’ve got a high-wide and a low set up either side of the hull.”

 

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THE CREW

Every killing rig needs a crew. His crew is known as Cuzzy Bros. Fishing. It started as a Facebook page for people learning how to fish, and to share fishing stories. In Dan’s words, “We’re not trying to flog things off — we’re just out there fishing, spending lots of money on good gear and enjoying it.” More than 10,000 Facebook followers now froth on their adventures.

 

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Today, The Captain’s crew would be his bros. Dan delivered the orders. Destination: Port Fairy. Mission: subdue big 100kg+ bluefin tuna. Weapon: 15kg Tiagra. Ammo: Custom Colorato lure called The Fallen 46 (developed by Dan and Colorato in honour of the 46 Australian soldiers who have fallen on operations since 1999).

 

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Fortunately, the message didn’t self-destruct, but Jack’s pants nearly did. Just the thought of hand-to-fin combat with an insubordinate bluefin makes his Speedos bulge.

 

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Unfortunately, the weather didn’t allow us to get to the promising grounds where only days earlier, Captain maties Michael Carter Keys and Tony McLeod had scored a barrel in their Surtees. It was a great effort considering Mick had his Black Magic Equaliser on upside down and back to front (don’t worry Mick, we won’t tell anyone). Nevertheless, we made it a few miles out where the birds worked above some schoolies. Back at the ramp, the fresh bluefin was quickly cryovaced and traded for some Lakes Entrance swordfish.

 

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MILITARY MINDSET

We ask Dan what elements of military life he applies to his game fishing. He says, “It’s 99 per cent boredom and one per cent adrenaline, action and mayhem. So you want everything organised in a place where you can get to it. Every rod is numbered and left in its place. Like military operations, it’s a team effort. Everyone needs to know their role and how to use the gear.” Asked whether he shoots to kill or release, Dan just smiles. “Kill one, educate many,” he says. Game over.

 

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