ONE OF THE MANY NEW BOAT RELEASES TO HIT THE MARKET RECENTLY IS THE REFLEX REEF RUNNER, A BOAT WITH A DOUBLE IDENTITY. FREDDY FOOTE CHECKS OUT WHY.
I say double identity because this boat comes in two identical forms, one on each side of the Tasman. However, while the hull and decks are the same they both offer different layouts and options, depending on the country of origin. In Australia, The Haines Group markets this particular boat as the Traveller TF200, a model it released at the end of 2010 and described it as ‘a fishing machine with a ‘proper’ walkaround.’ In New Zealand, Reflex Products in Christchurch, through a long standing manufacturing agreement with The Haines Group, manufactures various Haines Signature models as well as its own Reflex models.
So there is a certain amount of R&D sharing between the two companies. I’ve always thought that walkarounds are really such fantastic boats. They are extremely popular in the US where their types of fishing just begs for boats with plenty of room in the cockpit and up on the foredeck and the ability to move around the boat quickly – it’s a wonder that with the advent of soft bait fishing we don’t see more of these types of boats produced in Australasia – but perhaps this is the first of what we’re going to see more of in the future.
The walk around access on this boat is excellent, a small stainless step ladder allows you to step up from the cockpit, and the stainless supports of the rocket launcher and bimini structure gives you somewhere to hold when negotiating the walk around to the foredeck. The bulwark is reasonably deep, so navigating around the boat feels quite safe, without the feeling that you could fall overboard, drainage holes on both sides of the boat get rid of any water, and the textured finish to the GRP means it’s non skid.
Besides the walkaround feature on the Reef Runner, the other prominent feature is the larger than life cockpit. There is easily provision for six people to fish comfortably in the cockpit, though should you wish, you could fish from the foredeck, via the easily accessible walkaround feature. In the aft starboard corner sits a live-bait tank, which is plumbed into the transom bulkhead. A saltwater wash down pump is also located in the transom locker with the on/off switch on the side of the cockpit. Opposite in the port corner, a walkthrough to the transom comes with an inward opening door to provide access. The boarding platform comes in the shape of two pods, one on either side of the outboard; a boarding ladder is located to port and when not in use, folds down flush into the pod.
There are rod holders in all the usual places, as well Tallon Systems receivers, hosting cup holders, of course there are interchangeable and can be fitted virtually anywhere you please. Under floor storage comes in the form of a 160-litre locker between the two pedestal seats, further storage is available with large cockpit side shelves that run the entire length right to the bulkhead at the helm. A handy lockable storage locker is situated immediately in front of the passenger seat, below the windscreen. Entry to the roomy forward cabin is wide and the V-berth bunks are long enough for a reasonably tall adult (6’3”) to lie down comfortably should you need.
Again, there is plenty of storage, with space under the squabs and shelves along the cabin sides. A chemical toilet is located under the forward squab should you need – a privacy curtain would be a good option if you elect to have the toilet fitted. On the foredeck, the hatch is a plain acrylic version. It provides easy access to the foredeck and anchor well for anchoring duties, though a rope/chain capstan is an option. This particular boat was fitted with the standard seating option of two Softrider pedestals. Extra seating is available aft in the form of a fold down bench seat complete with backrest, the back rest doubling as a thigh cushion for fishermen when the seat is in the down position and you’re onto a big one.
The dash area was neat and tidy and had the factory Suzuki engine gauges above, with a Garmin 750S GPS sounder fitted below. Reflex offers the Garmin as a factory upgrade, and it integrates nicely with the Suzuki four-stroke, giving you a range of engine information on the digital display. This is an option though and will cost you an extra $756 for the instruments interface kit.
The Reef Runner is rated from 140hp through to 200hp as we see fitted on this particular boat. Personally, being such a big boat I’d think a 140hp outboard wouldn’t do the boat justice on the water. After all this is a big volume boat designed to carry a lot of people and gear. I felt the 200hp Suzuki four-stroke was the ideal engine match for the boat, gave more than enough grunt, and although we tested with only two of us onboard, load it up with gear and people and it’s going to do everything you ask, however it would also perform adequately with a lesser powered outboard too.
The 200hp Suzuki four-stroke fitted with a 3-blade 16”Dx20”P propeller pushed the Reef Runner along to a top speed of 46.5mph at 5950rpm, with the Suzuki consuming 71.1L/h. At a cruise speed of 30mph at 4000rpm, we were using 30.6L/h, which equates to 0.7L per kilometre. If trolling and game fishing is going to be your thing, then 6.5knots (7.5mph) at around 3.0L/h, combine that with the 180L fuel tank, you’re going to have plenty of hours on the water before you will need to refuel. Our boat test was the maiden voyage for this particular model, and though it performed well, Mark Presnall of Haines Suzuki New Zealand believed there was a little bit of extra performance to be found.
Post boat test, the engine was lifted one hole and a 3-blade 15”Dx21”P was fitted, which elevated the top speed to 52mph and responded a little better to trim, ran at 0.6L/km at 3800rpm and about 0.7L/km from 4000rpm-5200rpm. The two different propellers present two different results, and which propeller you choose would depend on the type of boating you wish to do. The bigger diameter is suitable for diving and heavy loads and the smaller diameter for more everyday recreational use. Handling wise, I felt the Reef Runner was relatively foolproof.
It’s the type of boat that is very forgiving and a boat that even a novice could drive well; even if you make a few mistakes, the boat would never feel like it’s going to do anything untoward. Like previous Reflex models we’ve tested over the years, such as the 615 Chianti, the Reef Runner does seem to run quite flat, requiring quite a lot of trim, though the bullish bow has plenty of reserve buoyancy to get the nose up out of the troughs. Running in the choppy conditions we experienced on test day, the ride was very soft and dry, and the steering was direct and positive. Running with a following sea, the hull length helped us get on top of the chop and get home at a reasonably pace. We did a circumnavigation of the harbour in varying conditions, having tested a lot of boats on these waters over the years, this would have to be one of the driest boats I’ve tested, no matter what kind of water and wind we presented it with, there was little chance of getting water onto the screen. Seated at the helm, driving was a pleasure.
The Softrider pedestal is fully adjustable, and a built-in footrest allows you to sit comfortably. There was more than enough room for me to stand and drive, but as it was winter, I decided that retaining feeling in my face was more important! The large curved windscreen provides ample protection from the wind, and you’re protected from the sun above by the optional Tee Top bimini and rocket launcher assembly. At rest, the boat has good stability and as far as fishing room goes there is certainly plenty of it!
The Reef Runner has been designed and built in a way that it is a true multi performer. Add some game poles, fold down the rear seat or remove it altogether and you’ve got a boat with all the parameters to make a pretty awesome game fisher. Divers will appreciate the flat coamings and portofino transom with an extra long fold down stainless ladder, plus the moulded forward wet locker in the cockpit sole, large enough for dive bottles, gear bags or the day’s catch.
Leave all the seating fitted, add the optional clip-in carpet, and you’ve got a big roomy boat for a day’s boating activities, with plenty of room for chilly bins, kids, tow toys and perhaps even the day’s dinner catch. Overall, The Haines Group and Reflex Products have produced another great boat, and I’ll be most interested at the possibility of a full hardtop version further down the track.