Bermuda 475 Mangrove Pro Review
BERMUDA 475 MANGROVE PRO
Flick on the TV on a Saturday afternoon and chances are you'll come across a fishing lifestyle program of some description. While most of them are aimed at covering a cross-section of the pastime enjoyed by millions of Australians - fishing from a boat - the content of these shows is increasingly devoted to the pursuit of lure-fishing estuaries and dams for a huge variety of species, but in particular, bass and bream. There are even whole programs devoted to covering the tournaments fished by super-keen anglers who live for catching a trophy on spider-web thin line, and winning the glory of a podium finish.
The dramatic ascendance of the soft-plastic lure fishing industry has spawned a new breed of boats built to perfectly suit the special requirements of successful bass and breaming. These "tournament" boats have elevated gunwale-height decks so you can stow all your gear underfloor, big tanks to keep the catch alive before weigh-in, very low freeboard, shallow-draft hulls to provide better access to the water and allow them to sneak into skinny water; huge engines to get to the hotspot first, and are usually weighed down with an electric motor, banks of deep-cycle batteries and more electronic fish-finding equipment than you could poke a spinstick at.
These competition-ready boats start at about 30 grand, and can approach the wrong side of $50,000 for the flash ones, once you've ticked all the options boxes - putting them into the "would if I could" category for many of us.
Bermuda's 475 Mangrove Pro is aimed at striking a balance between what these tournament estuary and dam fishing boats can do, and what your bank balance can afford - with the waterline length, beam and freeboard to allow you to venture further afield with more of your mates on board. As tested, with floors, two pedestal seats, centre console, four-stroke 50hp motor, trailer, basic electronics including bilge pump, sounder, and engine gauges, plus a heap of safety gear and registrations, the package comes in at well under $20,000. For that you get nearly five metres of fishing room and a platform from which you can fish four people for a day, no worries.
That's bloody good buying for a boat that works very well when used for what it's designed for: fishing enclosed waters with a sensible load on board. Okay, so parked beside a custom-designed competition rig it mightn't measure up, but then, after the day's fishing you can go buy a sixpack of Crown to go with your flattie fillets and not feel worried about meeting your loan repayments.
It does the job, looks great, and has the "dollar per metre" ratio working in its favour. So let's take a look at what you're getting for your money.
The 475 is the largest model in Bermuda's Mangrove range. It's made from pressed aluminium (2mm bottom, 1.6mm sides), has extruded gunwales, plenty of ribs, is stitch welded together and has a carpeted marine ply floor system. This puts the boat into the "light duty" category when compared to some of its competition, but the weight savings mean you can tow it with a small car without a drama, and as long as you don't flog the living crap out of it, it should last a very long time indeed. At a just below 5m (counting the boarding platforms) it's a long boat for its hull configuration, and as such you might find a few cosmetic warps in the pressed sheeting. Not that it should bother you, or the fish.
It has a steep stem with a decent amount of vee to cut through wind chop before flattening right out to the stern. It's a flat-bottomed boat, so, no, don't expect a silky ride through half-metre-high waves in Port Phillip Bay, which is where we took our model on its maiden voyage. But for average river conditions, I'm confident this rig would eat it up. We're long-term testing the boat before giving it away to a lucky reader, so time will tell!
The 475 Mangrove boat is very beamy. This provides incredible stability (the trade-off for not being able to go 50kmh through metre-high waves), which means you can fish four people without feeling like you're about to do a crocodile roll, and you can run freely all over the boat's broad, flat floors.
There's a short carpeted foredeck with a C-cleat for tying off an anchor line before dropping a few centimetres to the large forward casting platform. Lift out two big hatches to get the main storage area on the boat, a cavernous unlined compartment for lifejackets, a tub with your anchor and rope, and other stuff you pack which doesn't need to be kept dry. Because the compartment is open to the bilge, and the hatches aren't watertight, this place can get wet and is best for bulky items that need to be stowed so you can enjoy unfettered floorspace.
One of the boat's two very comfortable pedestal seats fits into a spigot on the casting deck, and it makes a great place to fish from. In fact, you feel like Lord Muck up there in the prime fishing position.
The casting deck isn't too big, and I like that. Sure, a big front deck allows you to fish more than one angler - the prime casting position when scoping the flats for flathead or probing a lease for bream - but for many situations you want your feet in the bottom of the boat and your thighs against the gunwales for bracing. The 475 Mangrove allows for this with its big cockpit around the centre console, which is really very functional and doesn't intrude much at all. (The other advantage is a centre-mounted driver and passengers set port and starboard vastly improved boat trim and attitude when underway).
Up the back you can fish another angler on the raised rear deck, under which you've got your tote tanks and batteries.
There are two boarding platforms either side of the outboard, which bolts directly onto the transom without a splash well, which means you need to be careful dropping off the plane with two people sitting on the rear deck, or your passengers might get a damp bum. During our outing on a choppy Port Phillip, with four adults on board, the setup didn't trouble us too much and there will be more than enough freeboard for river situations.
This boat feels a lot bigger than its waterline length suggests. At first I was doubtful about the boat's ability to take four of us out to chase squid on Port Phillip, which even in calm weather generates some very nasty wind and tidal waves.
But I was pleasantly surprised with how this boat coped with a situation to which it wasn't really suited. The wind was dropping from a 10kt breeze which had whipped up a decent swell, and we had well over 300kg on a boat which was designed for rivers. Yet it handled it safely, without shipping water, and as the bay calmed into a glorious, still autumn evening, we were able to catch a bucketful of squid while watching the power-walkers work off their post-5pm stress along St Kilda Boulevard in perfect comfort.
Even in an exposed bay, with a couple of inexperienced anglers board, the boat didn't shift a millimetre when a hooked squid spurted a jet of ink in a spectacular arc, and everyone lunged to the other side of the boat to get away. Which is when a safe situation can turn into a dangerous one.
I launched the boat by myself with no dramas, and retrieved it with the help of a crewmate with even less effort. Behind a 4WD, the heavy-duty Dunbier trailer carried the boat so you didn't even know it was on the back. It's a fairly low boat, and it tucked easily into the shed.
The boat handled beautifully off the helm at low speeds, and despite a sticky throttle, proved a cinch to drive. At speed, when thrown into a corner, the boat skidded sideways with a fair amount of sideslip, as you'd expect from a flat-bottomed boat.
With a bit of positive trim, the boat rode over the rolling wind swell without shipping any water at all and maintained a pleasant cruise at around 25kmh.
Scooting back towards the ramp on dusk, once the bay had glassed off, the boat sat beautifully on its haunches and ran out to about 50kmh -- with a heavy load on board. I'm expecting a brisk top-end speed into the mid sixties two-up.
The four-stroke EFI 50hp Mercury started first turn of the key despite the boat not being used for more than two months. After grumbling a bit off the choke lever, it settled to an almost inaudible purr once warmed. It had the power to lift the rig with a full load aboard and pushed the hull out of the hole without needing a fistful of throttle.
Again, it's early days with this boat, but based on its performance on our three-hour squidding mission, it proved quiet and reliable enough for me to strongly recommend spending the extra on a four-stroke over a two in the horsepower range. No smoke, no vibration, and a hell of a lot less fuel burned up. The fact the boat carries a couple of tote tanks in the stern won't trouble most users. For irregular use, it's no problem to top off the tanks at the servo on the way to the ramp to enjoy a full day on the water. Those on holidays who want to jump in and go fishing day-in, day-out might want to order their boat with the optional underfloor tank, which would last this particular setup a week for average usage.
We've only just taken delivery of our long-term test Bermuda rig, and after throwing it in at the deep end - overloading the boat for the conditions and heading out into a wind-blown bay to catch dinner for a hungry crew - yet it came out of its first test with flying colours. Next, we're planning a breaming trip up the Yarra, where the boat with revel in the flat water with three blokes, a box of soft plastic lures and a quiver of spin rods aboard.
The thing that most impressed me about the 475 Mangrove was how much boat you get, by comparison, for your money. It's a very big "little" boat, and while it can't match the finish and build of more expensive rigs - and is fairly agricultural when it comes to fiddly lift-out hatches instead of hinged ones - the fact remains that this boat can handle the vast majority of inshore sportsfishing applications you want to throw at it without a grumble (and without the smoke and noise from the outboard, too). Take it out squidding over some weed beds, chase flathead with a Clouser fly and intermediate line over your favourite sandflat, lob an unweighted yabbie at an oyster lease rack, feed a livie down for a jewfish at the mouth of a river, or flick a Jitterbug along a tree-choked dam margin at dusk for bass. The choice is yours.
This boat can handle it all, in comfort, with friends, and even with the carpeted floors, centre console and large sunken cockpit, you can hose it out at the end of the day so it's ready for next weekend. Not bad at all for less than the price of a swimming pool in the back yard.
Stay tuned for an update on how this boat goes on the river. And don't forget the clip out the coupon this issue for your chance to own this very boat. Or subscribe to quadruple your chances of winning. Or, smile to the bank manager and get your own!
Originally published in TrailerBoat #193
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