Serious Fishing Machine
Walkaround boats are nothing new and for anyone with a huge bent towards fishing, a walkaround is just about as good as it gets. Add a hardtop and you have an awesome fishing machine. Bayliner’s Trophys and Buccaneer’s Billfishers are two of the most popular models on the local market. Now, Te Puke based Challenger Boats have joined the walkaround ranks with the release of the Challenger 680.
Designed by Terry Reid, the Challenger 680 actually started life under the Marlin Marine banner, but after only one boat was built, the company wound up and Challenger Boats purchased the moulds. That first and only Marlin Marine walkaround boat was sold to Alan Thomsen of Peninsula Marine in Thames who spent the next three years clocking up over 400 hours gamefishing.
“We had that boat in seas that you wouldn’t honestly go boating in if you didn’t have to, but as we were chasing marlin from dawn to dusk, we took whatever the conditions were”.
“Three to four metre stuff with 40 knots of wind gusting across the top wasn’t pleasant, but the boat handled it fine”, said Thompson. As test day was again one of those mirror smooth Auckland days, the best I got was a few boat wakes.
He only recently sold that first hull and was so pleased with the boat’s handling and sea keeping that he was quick to order one of the first of the new Challenger 680s from the new builders.
There are a few differences, especially around the transom area, but essentially it still has the same layout, although from all accounts the handling in rough water is now even better.
The concept of a walkaround boat is simply a boat that has a cabin, full cockpit and space in deep side trenches to walk through to the bow. This serves a number of purposes. The most obvious being that the fishing can be done right around the boat. Hook a big trev or angry kingi and being able to move 360 deg around the decks can be a great advantage. When divers are gearing up in the cockpit there’s not much space left, so the bow area makes a great place to fish from while all the activity is down the stern. Also it makes your anchoring a lot easier when you can walk to the bow and with the help of a footpad and Anchormate windlass, do all the anchoring tasks with ease. It also feels a lot safer with a lot of boat around you and is perfect for dolphin watching. Our test boat had 200m of anchor tackle and space for a large anchor. If you get any water on the foredeck area it runs down the decks and over the side through large drains. A raised moulding stops water from sloshing further into the cockpit.
Despite the boat’s beam still having to be within the trailerable limit and the side decks wide enough so you don’t trip over your own feet, there is still a generous cabin space available. The Challenger 680 has a huge cabin that allows for two 2m plus berths, head and sitting headroom for 4-6 adults. The layout is a basic V berth formation with the portable or fully plumbed head in the centre under the forward berth, storage under both side squabs and full carpet lining throughout. There isn’t the space on the side for shelving, although extra storage compartments can be added to each of the rear bulkheads. The cabin floor is well below the cockpit floor level and it’s not self-draining, so make sure you keep it dry. Extra lighting and ventilation is provided via a small Taylor deck hatch and for those who like their privacy you can add a pair of teak doors to the rear bulkheads.
The seating layout of the cockpit is limited due to the fully moulded bases that form part of the overall deck mould. Twin swivelling bucket seats are all that is provided in the standard package and if you want more, then a 3/4 transom box seat or squabs on the side steps can be added. I found the driving position the wrong height for me when seated as I looked straight at the top rail of the screen, but standing was fine. The split-level dash has been designed to mount good-sized electronic packages while leaving enough room for the necessary gauges and switches.
Although a hardtop option is not yet available, the bimini proved well matched to the boat and with the front and side clears in place you will feel well protected. I liked the solid stainless mounting of the canopy and the fact that with the removal of a few bolts the whole unit folded down into the cockpit, to lower the height when garaging.
Big So Pac hatches open to reveal massive storage areas under the seats and there is further storage provided in the transom and either side of the forward seats. The underfloor locker has been designed to cope with dive bottles and SCUBA gear and also doubles as a huge slurry bin for those big fish. How you divide this 2.5m long space off is your choice and the only restriction is the 180-litre alloy fuel tank forward. If you don’t think that 180 litres is going to be enough then Challenger Boats will build-in a long-range version. The twin batteries, oil tank, battery switch and fuel/water separator are mounted inside their own dry lockers at the transom. As this boat has been primarily set up for fishing, the rods are all stowed in the rocket launcher above, with the side recess mouldings used to mount the gaffs and tag poles.
Deep toe rails and high coamings mean you can lean right into the side of the cockpit and get excellent support when playing a good sized fish. Any mess you get aboard will quickly be flushed out through large scuppers either side of the self-draining cockpit, which goes outboard and not just into a sump and bilge pump arrangement. Flat coamings are good for divers and you have the option of a natural grp or teak finish. As already mentioned it was around the transom area that the most changes were made from the original boat. The rear deck has been lowered, the underwater of the portofino stern was lifted and the twin fish tanks are a whole lot bigger. There’s a drop-in acrylic stern door, which is wide enough to drag a100kg marlin through and a telescopic ladder for the divers.
The underwater shape is a conventional monohedron, although differs somewhat from most other production boats as there are no strakes. It’s soft riding, very stable, and totally predictable. The Challenger 680 also has a conservative 18.5 deg deadrise at the transom and very wide downturned chines that carrywell forward. Power options are sterndrive or outboard with a recommended rating of 150hp – 225hp. For the test we had an Evinrude Ficht 175 Ram, which gave a top speed of 40.5 mph on a calm Auckland Harbour. Best cruise was around 4500 rpm @ 35.0 mph and for those who see this boat destined for hours of trolling lures, the Evinrude ran 4.0 mph @ 500 rpm, 6.5mph @ 1000 rpm and 8.0mph @ 1500 rpm. If you want a bit more speed at the top end, then 200hp will give the Challenger upwards of 47 mph.
The Challenger 680 is aimed at the serious fisherman and the small boat gamefisher who want to get out into the deep water. It’s a full bodied boat that while it doesn’t have all the fancy frills of many, is designed to have a big working area that is totally functional for the serious fisho and diver. It can also be well set up as an overnighter and there is plenty of scope to add on all the extras that will make staying out overnight more comfortable. A freshwater system, gas cooker or even a fridge can all be built-in.
The Challenger 680 joins a hard core fleet of walkaround boats and at $74000 as tested, complete with braked tandem trailer and the ‘more expensive’ Evinrude Ficht Ram, is excellent value.
- Model: Challenger 680
- Price As Tested: $74,000
- Price Boat: $42000
- Designer: Terry Reid
- Material: grp
- Type: Walkaround
- LOA: 7.20m
- LOH: 6.80m
- Beam: 2.45m
- Deadrise: 18.5 deg
- Hull Configuration: Medium Vee
- Trailerable Weight: 2250 kgs (loaded)
- Engine Capacity: 150-225 hp
- Power Options: Outboard
- Fuel Capacity : 180 litres
- 500 rpm 4.0 mph
- 1000 rpm 6.5 mph
- 1500 rpm 8.0 mph
- 2000 rpm 10.5 mph
- 2500 rpm 14.5 mph
- 3000 rpm 19.5 mph
- 3500 rpm 25.0 mph
- 4000 rpm 30.5 mph
- 4500 rpm 35.0 mph
- 5000 rpm 38.5 mph
- 5300 rpm 40.5 mph
Speeds were recorded on an Eagle GPS and rounded to the nearest 1/2mph
Notable Standard Equipment
4 deck rod holders. Rocket launcher, bimini top, hydraulic steering, Anchormate capstan, 200 litre fuel tank.
Notable Options On Test Boat
- Make: Evinrude
- HP: 175
- Model: Ficht Ram
- Cyl Type: V6
- Max RPM : 5500
- Propeller: 17” SST
- Retail Price: $24400
- Make: Prescott
- Model: Tandem
- Braked: Yes
- Suspension: Duratorque
- Rollers: Multi rollers
- Std Features: jockey wheel, dip lights.
- Retail Price: $6000