I was lucky enough to receive the first 550 fisha. By the time it had finally arrived it had been a long wait, over 12 months. I had heard whispers that a new boat was on the drawing board, something that would be fast enough for a recreational paddler to catch runners on and to enjoy paddling yet stable enough to fish from. Our own Bazzoo was involved in the design process and kept me in the loop during the entire process. Anyway the day finally arrived and i went to pick her up from the freight depot. It was love at first sight, she was so sleek with magnificent lines and so easy to handle off the water despite her 5.5 metre length.
I loaded her on the roof and rang work to tell them i wasn't coming back for the day. My first concern was will she be stable enough so i grabbed a single rod, and a couple of plastics and due to the 15 knots of wind took her to a estuary a short drive from my place. Carrying her 50 odd metres to the water i again was amazed how easy she was to handle off the water. I put the rod in the rod chute and spent the next couple of hours paddling her. My first impression was how easy and little effort it required to main a fast cruising speed. After paddling her across the wind, into the wind and with the wind the whole time of which she tracked perfectly i decided to soil her and christen her with a flathead.
While it was a very ignoble christening i still had concerns about her stability as i wasn't sure that anything this fast could be stable. I turned her side on the the wind chop which was about 20 knots at this stage and i managed to easily keep her side on the the waves using the rudder. After catching a couple of flathead seated in the usual manner i tried side saddle and found this was still comfortable despite the deep seating position and also still stable. I could have come home that evening and written a glowing review about what an amazing boat this was.
I have had her a month since then and have had her out in a wide variety of conditions. I thought by this stage i would of found a few things about her i could bitch about but to be honest so far for what i have used it for this boat has been nothing short of perfect. I have moved on from being concerned about a few small scratches and now treat her like one of my plastic boats. I have racked up many hours in her in winds up to 30-35 knots in estuary environments and 20 -25 knots off shore. I am yet to try to beach launch her so i can't at this stage comment how she will go launching and returning through a decent surf break.
I have fished her offshore on the 20-25 knot days and found her stable enough although a bit lively when turned side on to the wind and the swell fighting a fish. I haven't tried this with heavy tackle and drag settings yet in these weather conditions but using light tackle was about to safely land fight and land fish, and then turn around and drop the rod back in the rear flush mounts without feeling like i was going to capsize her. With the stated possible exceptions of heavy drags on rough days and beach launching i believe this to be at this stage the ultimate paddle fishing kayak.
Enough of my opinions, here are some of the features. The 550 fisha features a rod chute. A 6'6" rod will easily fit in and the 7 footer i tried almost fitted in and would have if i docked 50 or so mm off the butt. The hatch has a twist toggle giving quick and easy access and is built on two levels with a deeper section directly under the hatch which drains any water in it out to your rudder peddles. The deeper section is made so that your reels when on your rods will not get wet as the water is never very deep in this section. The hatch lid is big enough so that a reasonable size fish will still fit in if you want to use it as a fish kill area. The 550 does come with a catch bag for bigger fish which can be attached to the rear catch/tankwell.
The rudders are fully and easily adjustable as is evident in the photo and the venturis keep the boat relatively free of water. The total weight is i think 20kg and as stated this yak is so easy to handle off the water, far easier than the Prowler, Adventure and the heavyweight BFS. Red Racing Ski who received the second one told me that the 550 is about 1 knot slower than the Fenn XT, amazing speed for a fishing kayak. This ski has caused the monavale boys to all sell their 495 Evos and i personally wouldn't recommend paddling one unless you want to own one as i am completely obsessed with mine and just stare at it and smile when it is on the car as i love it so much. Thanks again to our own Bazz who pushed Stealth for this model and had a huge input into its design
Some photos, i haven't taken many of it, i have spent all of my time playing on her rather than taking photos of her.
On the water
The rod chute
Adjustable rudder pedals
The catch/tankwell. I haven't taken a photo with the catch bag fitted at this stage sorry