- Slick handling
- Soft riding
- Latest Raymarine Axiom Pro
- Game rigged
- Balex Auto Loader
- Stable at rest
- Beamy, uncluttered cockpit
- Demonstrator for marine electronics tuition
- Built to survey and operated accordingly
Bait Balls – a new Extreme 645 Game King equipped as a demonstrator for Josh Western’s marine electronics training business Railed Sportfishing – is not only an electronic marvel but also a magical fishing companion.
Railed Sportfishing specialises in teaching people how to get the best from their marine electronics. The company’s also become increasingly involved in fitting marine electronics.
Josh is a dedicated, super-keen game fisher and Bait Balls is a painted and wrapped sport-fishing machine, packed with equipment and extra features, including a comprehensive Raymarine electronics package in keeping with its demonstrator role.
Now based in East Auckland, Josh hails from Raglan and has been a keen angler all his life, fishing from both coasts, with years of experience in various sized boats. His dream boat had to be easily transportable, since he intends to trail it to wherever the fish are biting.
Josh’s last boat was a 7.5m Senator, which he liked very much, but it was a big boat to tow and beach-launching was a mission. His new Extreme 645 Game King is a smaller, lighter boat: towing and launching from beaches or unformed ramps should be easier, especially with the Balex Auto Loader system fitted after our review.
Bait Balls rides on a solid, dual-axle Hoskings multi-roller trailer with override brakes and, says Josh, the rig tracks nicely behind his Isuzu D-Max double-cab utility, one of two belonging to the company.
The Extreme’s first official engagement involved a road trip to Whitianga to fish the Extreme Boats Tournament, followed by a long haul down to Waihau Bay and back to Auckland again. Boat and trailer performed faultlessly.
With serious recreational fishing on the agenda, Bait Balls has pretty much everything a dedicated angler could want. The cockpit area is extremely fisher-friendly, not least because of its wide-open spaces. This is a beamy boat and the cockpit really benefits from the extra space.
Extreme Boat’s new low-profile bait station is easier to work around when playing a large fish over the transom. It’s well-designed too, with rod holders, knife-slots and drains that direct blood over the side and not into the cockpit. There’s a saltwater washdown, easy-clean chequer-plate aluminium cockpit sole and useful storage in double side-shelves and an underfloor cockpit locker.
As is usual with Extreme’s boats, the vessel’s dual battery and associated switches are nicely tucked away inside transom lockers: easy to access, but up off the floor and completely protected from spray. The boat is built to survey and sports a 3,600gph bilge pump in addition to the 2,600gph pump on a float switch, fume sensors and upgraded wiring loom.
This Game King certainly doesn’t lack rod storage, with four welded aluminium through-coaming rod holders per side for trolling and 10 positions in the two-tier rocket launcher.
A keen game fisher, Josh fitted Ocean Blue outrigger bases to the sides of the hardtop, complemented by stiff Reel Rods game poles. There’s a good-sized live bait tank under the port-side transom walk-through and a pair of tuna tubes built into the transom bulkhead on the starboard side. Dead bait storage is taken care of by a large removeable ice-box or two.
For divers, and to board the boat while it’s on the trailer, there’s a simple but sturdy aluminium T-type dive ladder on the port side.
The Game King is a hardtop. Josh considered changing to a centre-console early in the build process after experiencing the ride and handling of a smaller Extreme in centre-console configuration.
“I really liked all the deck space and it handled beautifully, but in the end, I decided to stick with the hardtop and I’m now sure it was the right decision,” he says.
As well as better weather protection, and comfy sleeping accommodation for two, the Game King has a lock-up cabin, which is a bonus on a road trip when storing a boat-full of gear overnight. There’s plenty of storage in the cabin, an infill squab to make a double berth and provision to fit a toilet. The forward hatch is large, making access to the foredeck and drum winch anchor easy.
Seating comprises a pair of very comfortable High-Tech Plastics suspension seats, mounted on cantilevered aluminium brackets. They are generously upholstered and offer good lateral support as well as a fold-up bolster for support and space if standing up to drive. Both seats address solidly made footrests and passengers have plenty of handholds to grab when the boat’s underway.
The dash area works well. In pride of place is the 12-inch Raymarine Axiom Pro MFD, part of the vessel’s Raymarine electronics suite – see sidebar. It’s soon to be replaced with an Axioum Pro 16-inch unit.
Josh’s marine electronics training business is brand neutral – he’s fitted electronics from Simrad and Garmin to previous boats and he trains people to use whatever brand electronics they might own – but says he’s impressed with the latest Raymarine product.
“Since its acquisition by FLIR, the capabilities of Raymarine electronics has really improved.”
Fusion has come to the party too, fitting Bait Balls with its latest Bluetooth stereo head unit and a range of speakers, including a 10-inch sub-woofer: “to pull the game fish!” The vessel is also extremely well lit: see Hella sidebar.
The 150hp Honda four-stroke had only 15 minutes on its clock when we took Bait Balls for a spin. Consequently, we didn’t push things too hard. The weather was less than ideal, but we found flatter water in the lee of Rangitoto. Even so, it was hard to escape 20-knots-plus of easterly wind.
Fortunately, the Extreme Game King is a very competent vessel and it handled the sloppy conditions with ease even though the trim tabs were not operating. We took it relatively easy in the tidal races where the sea was particularly steep, although the boat was unfazed by the awkward wave pattern; in flatter water, it couldn’t wait to stretch its legs.
In the rush to get the boat ready, Josh hadn’t finished all the electrical work, so we couldn’t read speeds off the GPS, but Bait Balls felt like she had good legs. Josh has subsequently seen 34 knots on the Raymarine Axiom Pro MFD and the boat cruises very comfortably at 26 knots.
Honda Marine settled on an 18-inch pitch four-bladed propeller for this rig, which seemed to work very well. Acceleration is good with no detectable slippage, nor any cavitation or ventilation in turns. With an oversize 190-litre underfloor fuel tank (an Extreme Boats option), Bait Balls has the range for multi-day expeditions, even those involving long days of trolling.
The 645 Game King rides nicely too. The hull’s beam-to-length ratio works well, as does the underwater profile with a 20o deadrise at the transom. There’s a pronounced spray rail but no strakes. We took a bit of spray over the hardtop in the conditions, but nothing excessive, and with its generous beam and flooding keel chamber, stability at rest is good, which is important in a fishing boat.
Immediately after our review, Josh gave his new boat a real-life shakedown, fishing the Extreme Boats Contest and then spending several days chasing hapuku and kingfish at Waihau Bay where he fished well offshore in sloppy seas and 20-knots of wind. He is very happy with the way Bait Balls performs.
“I felt just as comfortable as in bigger boats. She’s my dream boat and I can’t wait to spend more time with her,” he says.
Let there be light
Bait Balls is a Hella Marine demonstrator, and it is very well lit.
The lighting comprises:
Sea Hawk-LED Bar Lights – forward-facing spotlights positioned on the hardtop act like driving lights and illuminate forward of the boat. This vessel has a custom double-stack and owners can choose between a combination of spot and spread beam options.
Sea Hawk-XLR floodlights – positioned on each forward corner of the hardtop, these lights produce a broad light pattern which is perfect when coming up to wharves or cray pots.
Dual Colour Sea Hawk LED Floodlights – these illuminate the cockpit with bright white light. The secondary colour option adds extra functionality. Red lights are ideal for night time navigating and looking into the dark, while blue light is helpful when tying fishing line or braid.
Bait Balls also has blue LED strip-lights fitted under the gunnels on 45o brackets, so the light is but spread across the cockpit floor.
Raymarine Axiom Pro
Bait Balls has the very latest Raymarine Axiom Pro multi-function display (MFD). It’s a 12-inch unit flush-mounted in the dash.
Axiom is an expandable system that supports the full range of Raymarine accessories: Quantum Radar, CHIRP sonar, FLIR thermal cameras, auto integration, instruments, cameras and Evolution autopilot. Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity are standard, for seamless integration with smartphones and tablets.
Axiom Pro runs Raymarine’s latest LightHouse 3.2 operating system which, says Josh, is fast and easy to configure. He also likes the hybrid interface which combines buttons down one side with the touch-screen of a standard Axiom display.
On Bait Balls the unit boasts powerful four-channel sonar and Navionics charting. Raymarine Wide Spectrum CHIRP sonar transmits on 60 different frequencies for life-like sonar imagery and precise, accurate fish targeting.
An upgraded TM265 1000-watt (50/240kHz) deep water transducer has been fitted, in addition to the standard all-in-one RealVision 3D transducer which combines CHIRP Downvision, CHIRP SideVision, high frequency CHIRP and RealVision 3D capabilities.
Quantum Radar has now been installed and the autopilot will be fitted before we go to press. Other accessories can be added later if desired.
A solid week of fishing put the Axiom Pro through its paces and Josh is impressed: “Its fish-finding capabilities are awesome, with so many useful tools at your fingertips.”
He also loves the MFD’s ability to display multiple screens at once.