by Neil Grose •
The quest for the perfect all round boat may never be achieved. Sounds brutal, but it is a fact of life.
There are plenty of boats that have tried to be all things to all anglers, but more often than not, the level of compromise is too great and they pass by on the great ebb tide of good ideas gone wrong.
Once every now and again a boat comes along that gets as close as any boat ever will, and the Bar Crusher 535 XS is as good as any I’ve been in.
The 535 XS has the full benefit of Bar Crusher’s high tech Waveslicer deep V hull and the extremely strong Rigideck sub floor system in an open deck boat. Many other boats with centre console (or side console) type have constructed their boats on fishing space and stability rather than rough water performance. With the Bar Crusher 535 XS it has both – simply awesome rough water performance combined with great stability and open deck fishability.
For the technically minded, here are a few facts, figures and clever innovations. The boat is built with Bar Crushers renowned Rigideck. The origins of this lay in the design and construction of an aeroplane’s wing. Rigideck uses full-length longitudinal frames, making everything boxed and triangulated. Cross frames are then used to tie the whole sub floor together.
This is a system that uses greater skill in welding, greater cost to achieve and when all is said and done, bloody hard to do. But it won’t break or crack. And for Bar Crusher, that is the most important thing.
The boat is 5.35m overall length, and is quite beamy at 2.15m wide. No doubt many will say it could be beamier, but a wider beam, especially at the stern, could compromise rough water performance, especially in a following sea. This boat is rated to 100hp, and the test boat was fitted with the superb 70hp Suzuki 4-stroke.
Under the floor there is 90L of fuel capacity, so with any of the three engine alternatives you are going to cover a lot of water between refills.
As to be expected in a boat like this, the interior is extremely workman-like. Everything is open to the elements in a centre console boat, so there is no need for fancy plush and flush carpet and so on. The top of the dash has plenty of room for light tackle bits and pieces, and under the console is enough room for the tackle boxes or a small cooler. If it was my boat, I’d substitute the seat at the console for a 70L cooler, and put all my lunch, drinks and things to keep dry in there with a cushion on top.
Bar Crusher don’t cut corners anywhere, and the trailer is a perfect example of this. The trailer is perfectly fitted to the boat – the boat will spend more time on the trailer than off it (unless you are really lucky), and it is critical to get this right. There is a full set of keel rollers for stability and the side rollers are perfectly spaced to assist a trouble-free launch and retrieve every time.
At the front of the trailer is the Bar Catch – a great innovation that makes launching and retrieving far easier than without it. You just won’t know just how good this thing is until you use it.
As far as fishing goes – this boat is all action. The front deck area is higher than the lower deck, due in part to the deep V structure but also to give a bit more storage. There is provision for a seat up here, but most keen fishos will leave that at home, or fit a hip-style lean seat if the going is expected to be a bit choppy.
For flyfishing you might want to drape some shade cloth over the anchor well to prevent the fly line snagging, but 99% of anglers will be very happy to tap out some great casts and bagging a few fish.
Down the back is the same, with the added comfort of high gunnels for those of us who like something above our knees.
The test boat was fitted with an electric bow mount engine, and the 54lb thrust Minn Kota easily moved the boat in and amongst the mangroves at Anderson Inlet. No fish caught while testing, but when you leave the lures at home you are always at a disadvantage I suppose.
The strong point for this boat is the stability at rest while sports fishing (which is the principal domain of a centre console boat). We snuck along the edges of the mangroves at Anderson Inlet looking for an estuary perch, and while it was no show on the fish side, it did exemplify just how nimble this boat is given its 5.35m length.
As to be expected, there is little sideways movement when fishing from the bow, and even abrupt sideways manoeuvres using the electric didn’t upset the apple cart at all. This is important when fishing with someone else controlling the electric engine, as sudden dips or wobbles can mean a big splash and a very wet angler in an unstable boat.
The sloppy water fishing performance is terrific as well. On the day of the test there was a fairly decent swell pushing into the inlet. Combined with an outgoing tide the waves were standing up pretty well. We stopped while photographing the 535 XS in the midst of all this (where there are often plenty of decent Australian salmon congregating) to see what the boat felt like in the ‘rock and roll’, and to see if we could belt a salmon or three. No salmon, but the boat performed very well in all aspects of sports fishing-type situations.
As I said before, those that look to fish from open sports fishing boats generally aren’t the ‘anchor up and drop bait’ kind of anglers, and drifting amongst some big waves saw this remarkable boat handle the conditions very well indeed.
One of the great features of the Bar Crusher brand is the Quickflow water ballast system. Many will be familiar with the concept of water gurgling into the water ballast chamber, via the opening in the transom, when the Bar Crusher pulls up, dropping the boat down onto its chines for extra stability. The 535 XS has this feature and while it lowers into the water, you wouldn’t call it a deep draft boat. The 535 can drift over fairly shallow water, which is fantastic when you are hitting the shallow flats for any number of light line sports fish.
I could probably just stop here and let the photos tell the story, but I won’t.
This boat has all the trademark features of the Bar Crusher rough water performance. That day in Anderson Inlet was (up to that point) one of the roughest days I’d spent on the water in a boat smaller than the Spirit of Tasmania ship!
These boats are super-agile in bar crossing situations. This boat was able to ride the crest of the swell without slamming down, zip across the face of a wave to find the ‘gap’ in the wave set and true to Bar Crusher’s claim, there is no suspicion of broaching when travelling with the sea.
Now while the 535 XS probably isn’t for the dedicated offshore punter, the capabilities of this boat means that opportunities for offshore trips aren’t limited to those days of calm winds and no swell.
The standout feature for me on test day was how comparatively dry this boat is in the rough stuff. Anyone who thinks any open boat is going to be completely dry in rough conditions is seriously kidding themselves. However, the 535 XS does an incredible job at minimising the hurt.
The way this boat softly lands after tackling a big wave is outstanding, as is the way the spray is deflected out. Of course traversing across a wave in a wind is going to throw some spray, but hey, it’s an open boat!
The test boat was fitted with a 70hp 4-stroke Suzuki, which was perfect for the task at hand. While this boat is rated to 100hp, I’m not sure why you’d need to go that big, unless you were doing a lot of diving and carrying plenty of heavy things.
At altitude I’d punt for the 90hp, especially if you were considering a lot of work in the Snowy Mountains or on the Central Plateau in Tasmania, for which this boat is very well-suited.
I’m not big on quoting speeds at XYZ rpm and all the associated figures. Suffice to say this boat has the agility to more than cope with rough water, and the flat water speed is fast enough to get you back to the ramp in time for dinner.
In conclusion, this is a workman-like boat designed to give anglers the best shot at good sports fishing in pretty much any condition. Any manufacturer can pop out a boat that goes well in flat water and light winds, but when the going gets serious, then the serious boat builders get going – and Bar Crusher is a very serious boat builder.
Bar Crusher with the 535 XS demonstrates their commitment to excellence in fishing vessels, and this boat comes highly recommended. Prospective buyers should book an on water test with their local dealer – there is one in every state and territory. Check out www.barcrusher.com.au for the contact details.
|Outboard shaft length:||25”|
|Dry tow weight:||1000kg|