by Steve Morgan •
New Zealand built boats have a reputation for being well-made and for offering packages that are designed for anglers. With this in mind I was looking forward to heading out on the water with David Garcia from Warragul Marine Centre to test out one of their new arrivals, the McLay 591 Sportsman Hardtop. The Snowy River at Marlo greeted us with a sensational morning, but we knew this weather window would be short lived, as an easterly change was expected mid-morning. Just enough time to put the boat through its paces.
My first look at the McLay 591 Hardtop came at the boat ramp at Marlo. It definitely catches your eye, with a painted top deck and a newly installed 140hp Suzuki 4-stroke on the back. Warragul Marine Centre is the sole McLay dealer in Victoria, and they are keen to show off the full potential of these boats to their customers. If the feedback at the ramp from the local anglers was anything to go by, they liked the look of the McLay and were keen to see us running around in it.
We headed to the mouth of the river to see how the 591 would deal with the already freshening easterly.
The McLay 591 Hardtop is unassumingly a boat designed for anglers, with options available to meet the user’s every need. The many options on the boat tested included an underfloor kill tank, two side pockets, a plumbed live bait tank, walk through transom with dive ladder, bait station with a draw, rocket launchers, Nyalic clear coat finish on all unpainted surfaces, dual battery system, Garmin 95sv sounder/GPS, Fusion radio, Garmin100i VHF radio, LED deck lights, hydraulic steering and a deck wash. There is also additional storage with space below the cushions in the front cabin and in the pedestals of the seats.
The huge dash had ample room for any electronics and gauges you may want or need, and is surrounded by a large windscreen. Vision through the windscreen was excellent and there is a wiper on the skipper’s side to ensure any spray and rain can be removed. I would include a sliding window or ventilation hatch on the roof to allow some airflow on those really hot days, as it didn’t take long for the cabin area to get quite stuffy and hot. On the upside, when the weather deteriorated later in the day, the warmth and protection the cabin provided was much appreciated.
To make anchoring a breeze the 591 was fitted with a Lone Star Marine GX1 600watt drum winch matched with a Mud Magnet Max anchor. There is a hatch that provides full access to the forward area and anchor well, but why manually anchor when there are affordable quality winches available like the Lone Star to do it for you?
It is hard not to be impressed by the build of the 591 Hardtop. It has a 5mm bottom, 3mm sides and a 4mm chequer plate floor. The visible welds are impeccable and the fit out (all done by McLay Boats in New Zealand by request) shows plenty of attention to detail.
What is impressive with all the McLay boats is what you can’t see. Underneath the welded floor, foam filled air cells stretch down each side, acting like concealed pontoons, and closed cell foam filled chambers run under the gunwales from the transom to the anchor well. Both of these features increase the safety in a massive way, should an incident occur. The strakes in all McLay boats are pressed in, not welded on, and the big wide chines coupled with the 17° variable V-hull configuration provide fabulous stability at rest with excellent handling at low and high speeds.
Although we didn’t go through the Snowy River bar during the test (we certainly could have in the 591), we did run around inside the mouth of the river. The McLay 591 handled the waves and chop like it was a calm day and I really enjoyed the tight turning circle in what is a narrow and shallow bar. There was no need for excessive trimming of the motor and you really would have to do something out of the ordinary to get yourself in trouble when driving it.
The fit out of the 591 Hardtop was set up with inshore and offshore fishing in mind. It would certainly be ideal for areas like Port Phillip Bay, Western Port or for fishing the many reefs along the South and East Gippsland coasts. The ease of anchoring, the excellent stability at rest, and the reliability of the Suzuki make these areas well within reach.
I loved the comfortable cabin area. Outside of the additional storage and seating, its also provides a haven or safe area for the kids to escape to if they are on the boat with you and the fishing is a little slow. A few treats and something to entertain them will keep you on the water for a little while longer.
We did have rods on board for the test and although heading through the bar wasn’t on the timeline, we did take advantage of the huge amount of tailor in the Snowy River system. There was plenty of room for David and I to flick lures around and enough space to set a good spread of baits, if that’s what you prefer.
Working space is always important in a fishing boat, and the 591 has plenty. The rocket launchers and other storage, keep the bulk of the items out of the way, leaving the entire area behind the seating obstacle free. The cushioned seating attached to the rear of the pedestals is a nice touch. It is always nice to take a load off when you are waiting for a bite. I give the McLay 591 Hardtop a big tick for fishability.
Suzuki 140hp 4-stroke
The McLay 591 Hardtop was fitted out with a Suzuki 140hp 4-stroke engine. This is close to the maximum horsepower for the boat (Warragul Marine Centre have had the max hp rating increased by McLay Boats to 150hp for them). The additional horsepower adds security if you’re venturing further afield. Fuel use is an important factor of buying a boat and motor package these days. Suzuki is a leader in its class with their Lean Burn Control System. This technology predicts fuel requirements according to conditions and allows for a more fuel-efficient mixture while operating.
Although this was the first time on the water, the 140hp Suzuki churned out some impressive figures. With its 130L fuel capacity, the McLay 591 HT would be able go approximately 350km on a tank of fuel running at 4000rpm. As much as fuel economy is a factor, acceleration and torque is also important, and the Suzuki’s 103KW of power had no trouble delivering this. Australians have a preference for larger horsepower motors on our boats, and the combination of the Suzuki 140hp 4-stroke and the McLay 591 HT was a perfect match for this request.
Dunbier tandem Glide-Roller drive on trailer
With a tow weight of approximately 1.5 tonne, the McLay is not the heaviest of boats, but it is always best to run a quality trailer under your pride and joy. The tested boat came on a Dunbier tandem Glide-Roller drive on trailer. This is a braked trailer and comes with a spare tyre.
David and I had no problem launching and retrieving the 591. An overly tight shackle created a few dramas for me when we launched (that’s my excuse anyway), but other than that lack of muscle, we were able to put the boat on and off the trailer with no fuss at all. The alloy wheels on the trailer were also a nice touch, which further enhanced the look of the package.
This was my first introduction to a McLay boat, and I have to say that I was impressed. The workmanship and features of the boat suggest to me that it would be at the top end of the price scale, so when David informed me that you can get an absolute base model boat on the same trailer with a 90hp Suzuki for $53,595 I was blown away. You are getting a lot of boat for that money.
You can personalise your 591 Hardtop with multiple options and accessories that are completed at the McLay factory, and you can add electronics and the like through Warragul Marine. I think the team at Warragul did a fantastic job with the options on the boat we tested; it was eye catching and practical at the same time. Coming in at $71,499 with the options in the attached factbox, you have a boat ready to get you out doing some serious fishing.
To contact Warragul Marine Centre for more information on the McLay 591 Hardtop and the rest of the range of McLay Boats you can ring them on (03) 5623 6250, or check out their website www.warragulmarine.com.au.
• Quoted performance figures have been supplied by the writer in good faith. Performance of individual boat/motor/trailer packages may differ due to variations in engine installations, propellers, hull configurations, options, hull loading and trailer specifications.
Test boat options
Bait board with drawer & rod holders
Deck wash pump
Live bait tank with Perspex window
6-rod rocket launcher on Hardtop
Bait board with 6-rod holders & drawer
Walk thru transom with dive ladder
Lined cabin, dash & half deck
Padded cushions in cabin
Underfloor kill tank
Painted top & side stripe
Nyalic clear coat finish on all unpainted aluminium surfaces
Dunbier tandem Glider-Roller drive on trailer with alloy wheels & spare
Suzuki 140HP Four Stroke with single multi-function digital gauge & alloy prop
Dual battery system
Garmin 95sv sounder/GPS
Lone Star Marine GX-1 high-speed anchor winch
Garmin 100i VHF radio
Fusion RA50 stereo
LED deck lights
Dual USB socket (charging phones etc.)
• Includes 2-person inshore safety pack & 12 months Victorian boat & trailer registration
RPM Litres/hour KPH
Idle (700) 1.2 5
1000 1.7 6.5
2000 5.0 11
3000 10 22
4000 16 43.5
5000 31 54
WOT (5800) 44 61
Hole shot 6.10 seconds