Stacer 525 Searunner & 575 Oceanfisher these boats represent two extremely popular alternatives for serious fishing.
Most readers will be aware that the owner of Quintrex boats has purchased Stacer boats. This change of ownership brings about many sweeping changes for Stacer. The biggest of these is the Stacer factory's move from its home base in Victoria to Queensland. But to put the merger into the right perspective, even though the two boat builders now come under the same umbrella - causing some inevitable cross pollination of technology - Stacer and Quintrex will retain entirely separate identities.
Among this cross-pollination is the new Stacer EVO hull, which features a steeper deadrise (deeper-vee) than the moderate-vee aluminium hulls Stacer has coupled with their bottom sheet pressings that double as strakes. Mild stretch forming of the EVO hull adds some variance in the deadrise, but it's not as radical as those that characterises the revolutionary Quintrex Millennium Hulls. But after this test the Modern Boating team rate the new Stacer effort as a considerable success. Without sacrificing any stability at rest the EVO hulled Stacer OceanFisher on test produces a noticeably better ride than a standard aluminium hull.
However, in this joint test only the 5.75m centre console OceanFisher has the EVO hull option. The second test boat, a 5.25m cuddy cabin SeaRunner, has the standard moderate-vee hull. These boats represent two extremely popular alternatives for serious fishing. The centre console is the quintessential sport fishing platform, big enough for offshore work for either reef fishing, lure tossing and trolling well into the small billfish league. On the other hand the cuddy is a neat family day boat more at home on big open estuaries and bays, but still able to sneak in an offshore trip every now and then.
Although it's not quite in the same league as a Quintrex Millennium Hull - and not expected to be - the OceanFisher's EVO hull clearly demonstrates the superior ride characteristics of the two test boats. Around the back of the Jumpinpin bar during this test a strong westerly wind is having its way with the incoming spring tide. But driven within its limits the OceanFisher handles the conditions extremely well.
In the same waters the 5.25m SeaRunner rides like any other standard-shape aluminium hull. It makes you wonder if Stacer, like Quintrex when it first introduced the Millennium hulls, will soon find that everyone wants the new hull and the older design will simply fade away. But apart from the expected limitations of its hull, the SeaRunner is an entirely likeable package. Its cuddy has somewhat boxy lines, but these are a fair trade off between sexy looks and the practicalities of gaining maximum shelter and storage space.
The test SeaRunner is fitted with the optional sports pack. This includes: a fold-away rear lounge with a backrest across the inside of the transom; a Bimini top and clears above the helm area; cushions on the bunks in the cuddy; and a full-width transom extension Stacer call a "Mod Pod". As a family day or fishing boat, the SeaRunner is a ripper. The bunks are too short for an adult to use for more than a bit of a lie down, but are ideal for the ankle biters. A handy commodity when the kids start whingeing "When are we going home Dad?". An infill cushion is an option that increases this bunk space. The rear lounge doesn't encroach on fishing space when folded away and is quickly removed if not required.
The SeaRunner also gets the delicate balancing act between the ratio of cuddy space to cockpit space in this type of boat right. With the Bimini and clears in place the passengers and crew are well protected from the elements, even in bad weather.
At the helm the ergonomics are right. My line of sight through the screen while seated in the comfortable premier bucket seats is good. Standing's not a problem either, because the Bimini has a zip-out panel that gives a clear view over the screen when required. The passenger in the navigator's seat is also looked after with a well-placed grab bar on the cabin roof for use when standing and a footrest to brace against when seated.
Getting out through the hatch in the cuddy cabin to get at the anchor is easy and secure. Access is so good it is virtually as easy to set the anchor in the cuddy cabin boat as it is in the centre console version. Carpet lining the roof inside the cuddy cabin keeps the usual noise from a metal hull under control, while side windows keep the cabin area well lit. All in all a complete, civilised and comfortable package, well capable of providing the kind of no-hassle family fun that attracts people to boating. The Stacer 525 can also back up for some serious fishing when required, something the Modern Boating team liked a lot.
But there was one thing we weren't too keen on in both boats. The storage pockets along each side of the cockpit are way too wide. They intrude into cockpit space too much and we keep hitting our shins on them. The team wonders why Stacer build these side pockets like this ? It's so much at odds with the otherwise well thought out layouts of both boats. But the word is Stacer dealers specifically requested the dimensions of these side pockets. This leaves us questioning the dealers' motives. Apart from this - you can order a Stacer without the big side pockets - the centre console OceanFisher is every bit as likeable as the cuddy.
Most of this team are centre console lovers and this well laid out boat warms the cockles of our collective hearts - except in cold and wet conditions that is. The OceanFisher offers good leg support all around the boat. But there is some compromise in the bow area, where the chines move your toes inside the line of your upper leg. Across the inside of the transom is the shelf supporting the battery and oil bottle. This also hinders leg support, but the arrangement isn't that much of a problem.
With the popularity of four-strokes still on the increase the Mod Pod extended transom - both test boats have this feature - is another plus. A Mod Pod easily supports the extra weight of four-stroke motors, while contributing to the hull's planing area. This gives both boats a level attitude even at low speed and allows for the addition of the battery/oil bottle shelf. You can also get your toes under this shelf for improved leg support.
The big drawcard for centre consoles is the ability to walk 360 degrees around the boat. In reality few allow an angler to fish from every part of the boat - but the OceanFisher does. In front of the console the deck rises 100mm and a big hatch accesses the large storage space underneath. This is semi-wet storage for items such as life jackets and spray jackets, which are not damaged by a little water. The console is big and wide with a folding upper section to aid garage storage. But there's still ample space to mount the usual complement of sounder and GPS.
On the test boat an optional clip-on cover keeps the inside of the console completely dry. The helm seat consists of a big icebox with a padded lid. As layouts go the Stacer 575 OceanFisher is an excellent example of how a centre console should be set up.
In the performance stakes, the Stacer 525 SeaRunner, fitted with a 90hp and 17" aluminium prop, planes at 8 knots pulling 2400rpm. She cruises at 17 knots doing 3200rpm and has a top speed of 32.5 knots at 5300rpm. The OceanFisher has an 115hp mounted on the transom and runs a Vengeance 16" stainless steel prop. This gives the boat a minimum planing speed 7 knots at 2000rpm, while she cruises at 16 knots pulling 3200rpm. Top speed is 34.2 knots at 5400rpm.
Prices for the SeaRunner start at $26,000, while the OceanRunner cost around $28,500.
Fitted with a 115hp Mercury two-stroke, the OceanFisher was more than amply powered. Some prospective owners, especially those who habitually travel light, might consider less power. My guess is that 575 would work nicely with a 90-plus horsepower four-stroke, although the factory recommendation is for 115hp.
Out on the water the two-stroke 115hp comes up against the rev limiter at more than 34 knots, which is faster than most of us who fish need to go. A bigger prop sounds like the order of the day, although it would probably go even quicker. The cuddy cab SeaRunner ran a 90hp two-stroke Mercury. The 525 also felt like a bigger prop would be worth trying.
Factory recommended power for the 525 SeaRunner is 90hp. With the extra weight and windage over the centre console on the test day it proved about right.
Story by Warren Steptoe