BOAT REVIEW Stabicraft 1450 Frontier ProFish

June 2023 Trailer Boat Reviews
Words by Norman Holtzhausen. Photography by John Eichelsheim.
OUR RATING
4 STARS
Performance
Economy
Handling
Value
Build Quality
Specification
MODEL DETAILS
MODEL Stabicraft 1450 Frontier ProFish
DESIGNER Stabicraft Boats
BUILDER Stabicraft Boats
CONSTRUCTION 4mm hull, 3mm pontoons
PRICE AS TESTED $54,000
SPECIFICATIONS
LOA 4.42M
BEAM 1.89M
DRAFT 0.5M
ENGINE 1 x Yamaha F50 four-stroke
FUEL CAPACITY 24L
Weight on Trailer 720 kg
Max Horsepower 50hp
Passenger Capacity 2 people
DEADRISE 15 degrees
HIGHLIGHTS
  • The amount of useable space for a small boat
  • The Futura aluminium trailer – light, smart looking and easy to maintain
  • High-quality electronics & decent fuel economy
OBSERVATIONS
  • Perfect for solo angling, but also fishing with a mate or two
  • Light rig to tow and manhandle

When Boating NZ editor John Eichelsheim was looking for a replacement for his trusty 2008 Stabicraft 459 Frontier, there really was only one choice – another Stabi!


This is a common theme amongst owners of this iconic Kiwi brand – once they have experienced a Stabicraft, most owners will buy the same brand when they are ready to upgrade. This is also helped by their resale value – John says he sold his old model for about the same as he paid for it, meaning he effectively got close to 15 years of boating pleasure without it losing any value.
Stabicraft boats will need no introduction to anyone with New Zealand boating experience. They became famous when they launched in 1987 with their unsinkable pontoon system, which they called their Life Ring design. Sealed air chambers built into the hulls make every Stabicraft unsinkable even when completely swamped. Those same buoyancy chambers contribute to the stability of the hulls, both during the ride and at rest.

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Of course, Stabicraft has continued to evolve and improve on its designs, and the latest 1450 Frontier is the model that caught John’s eye. Despite being virtually the same waterline length as his old boat, the new 1450 has noticeably more interior volume and a better layout for fishing. His old boat was also a side console, but the 1450 has a console layout attached to the starboard gunwale that is up and off the floor. This means it does not take up any deck space, leaving that unobstructed with more room for gear. A fully upholstered seat keeps the skipper comfortable, while a padded Iceytek bin on the port side both provides seating for a passenger and cold storage for the catch.


In terms of motor, John says he could not go past the same model he had before, namely the Yamaha four-cylinder F50/F60 four-stroke. His old boat had the 60hp version; the new boat has the 50hp, maximum for this model. Of course, this is the latest iteration of this very popular motor with many enhancements, but it retains the same bullet-proof capabilities that Yamaha is famous for. A conventional mechanical throttle and cable steering keep things simple, with two digital smart gauges to monitor the motor’s vitals.
The big revelation for John was the electronics. These have evolved radically over the past 15 years, with brighter screens, incredible new capabilities and – like most consumer electronics – also a reduction in cost (or, providing more features for the same cost). John chose the latest Lowrance HDS LIVE, which features Lowrance’s SolarMAX daylight-readable high-definition nine-inch display. Importantly for an open boat where wet fingers are common, it has control buttons in addition to the touch screen.
Of course, the sonar features are top end, with Chirp, FishReveal, DownScan and Sidescan capabilities, and it has a built-in C-Max digital marine chart. Also, the HDS9 is a complete solution and has a trolling motor interface already built in, although John says the trolling motor itself will be a future gift to himself.


While John elected not to fit a VHF radio since the knobs eventually seized up on the radio in his old boat – open boats are hard on electronics – the safety grab-bag draped over the seat back contains a waterproof handheld VHF, along with flares, bottled water, a torch, first aid kit and other essentials.
I asked John about his choice of a relatively modest-sized boat and wondered if he had considered something a bit larger. However, he says he has a very tight parking space at his townhouse, and fitting a larger trailer in there would be impossible. Fortunately, the 1450 Frontier comes on a new design aluminium trailer from Futura, which has a shorter drawbar and slightly narrower footprint than his previous one. Also, being alloy it is lighter, which together with its compact size makes it much easier to get in and out of the parking space single-handedly.


Which brings us to the other major reason he loves this size – it is perfect for solo expeditions. He can easily head out, launch the boat and handle it on his own. The return is just as easy to accomplish single-handedly, and the alloy boat and trailer makes for a no-fuss, rinse-clean job afterwards. And yet the boat is large enough to also accommodate a couple of mates for a quick trip out to get a feed. The busy-ness of life means that it is often easier to slip out for a quick expedition of a couple of hours than it is to organise a whole-day trip with a crew.


It is not often I get to play around in smaller open boats, but when I do, I always rediscover how much fun they are. John and I launched the Frontier at the Bayswater boat ramp for a quick upper-harbour blast to throw a few lures about – the perfect use of this style of boat. There was a very unpleasant easterly wind blowing that afternoon, which eliminated the outer harbour. But a boat this size can be launched from just about any spot, even a firm beach if there is no suitable ramp. We remained out of the worst of the wind and headed under the bridge and around Kauri Point.
Of course, a small open boat like this is never going to be completely dry, and a suitable jacket is required when the wind is whipping up the water. Despite this, the high gunwale and the wing-style coamings of the 1450 Frontier kept the worst of the spray out of the boat, and a few spots on the console screen and our sunglasses were the only evidence of the harbour chop. We quickly rounded the point, comfortably cruising at close to 20 knots on three-quarter throttle. This felt comfortable and fast enough when you are sitting so close to the water, but clearly there was more grunt available from the Yamaha 50hp.


First item on the agenda was to get a few pictures, and once again the rugged little Stabi showed its versatility. Our chosen wharf was fully occupied by shore-based fishermen so, rather than disturb them we simply nosed up to a suitable rocky ledge a bit further along. John hopped out without any difficulty, and I backed off. The 1450’s hull is 4mm thick and the pontoons are 3mm aluminium with a protective belting, making it a step up from John’s old 459 in terms of toughness.


Without the owner on the boat, I now had an excuse to play with his ‘toy’, and it was a blast! She spun around easily, responded instantly to a squirt on the throttle and was soon skimming along the wavetops. John’s preference for the steering was slightly stiffer than I would have chosen but is definitely safer for solo trips – the steering wheel can be let go temporarily and she will continue to track perfectly on the same course. With looser steering the act of letting go of the wheel can result in the boat deviating to one side, sometimes quite suddenly.
I did the usual set of speed runs, turns and donuts for the photos, and was impressed at how well the hull tracks. At rest she was stable, with easy access all around the boat for fishing, and the high freeboard made it safe and easy to lean over the side. There is a large bow platform which is the perfect place to stand and cast a lure or a fly, and this was comfortable, with plenty of stability to ensure I was at no risk of going for a swim.


Soon it was time to pick up John again, and by this stage there was some space on the wharf so we used that. Getting the Frontier alongside the steps and then back out again was easily achieved without even touching the structure, showing how manoeuvrable the boat is. We headed out, looking for a suitable spot to flick some lures. And the upper harbour did not disappoint, with a flock of birds diving just a few hundred metres away.
Once in the ‘zone’ the amazing stability of the hull became apparent. We could both stand on the same side and flick out our softbaits and the boat could have happily dealt with both of us bringing a fish in at the same time. The boat’s open design meant that we could move all around without getting in each other’s way. Full length side pockets, open at the front and so useful for rod storage, plus storage under the bow platform and transom for fuel, ropes and lines, an anchor, a sea anchor (both in bags), spare fuel, and the usual paraphernalia of boating. And naturally there are rod holders all over, including four in a row in front of the bow platform to hold rods upright and well clear of the side during docking.


It was only seconds after flicking the first lure out that John pulled in a small kahawai, thereby establishing his and the boat’s fishing credentials. We were not really after a feed, so chose to release the fish without bringing it on board. A few more flicks of the lure produced some touches but no further fish, so we decided to head home.
John has added a couple of extras to the boat to suit his fishing activities. A plumbed livebait tank on the port boarding platform has a self-filling water pickup and an electric pump, while a side-mounted baitboard was another essential. A future upgrade will be a trolling motor – the bracket on the bow and battery mount under the bow platform are already fitted.

Back at the wharf I dropped John off to set up the trailer, and once he had backed it down the ramp, I brought the boat in. Despite the side wind this was easily achieved, and our mission was accomplished.
A great little boat that John is looking forward to using extensively for the next 15 years!

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