By Mike Thrussell
BEAM: 7ft 9ins
DRAFT: Approx 1ft 3ins
FREEBOARD: Approx 34ins
WEIGHT: Approx 1250 Kilos
Country of manufacture: UK
The final draft, freeboard and weight calculations will be made when the full specification for the Fast Bass 22 is finalised, but are pretty accurate.
More details on full specification can be found at http://www.explorerboatsltd.co.uk/docs/explorer_elite.htm
Iíd first got word of the Fast Bass 22 during the test day of the now highly popular Explorer Elite back in 2002. Brian Atherton of Explorer mentioned to me in conversation then that on the horizon for them was the development of a bigger boat suitable for longer range fishing trips with a crew of four aboard.
Some of the ideas that came from Brian in that conversation got me really intrigued and he promised me there and then that when the boat became reality I would be the first aboard. Itís taken a couple of years, but true to his word that phone call came, so it was up to New Brighton on The Wirral to take an eager first peak at the Fast Bass 22.
Sheís basically a modified deep V hull with a length of 22ft and a beam of 7ft 9ins. Sat on the trailer the boat looks big, but jump inside and itís massive with a no clutter open deck, high gunnels and transom and with easy access in to the cabin.
Looking around youíd have no problems fishing four big lads each with a big plastic seat box full of tackle and youíd still have ample room for the fish boxes too.
Her looks are stunning! Sideways on the boat is sleek with neat aesthetics all running forward to the bow. What really sets the boat off are the long one-piece tinted side windows that run virtually the full length of the cabin, but angle inwards towards the bow following the natural contours of the boat. So many boats look alike nowadays, but this one sits out from the crowd with her own personal identity.
Launching some 22-foot boats can be hard work, but I was watching closely as the explorer lads took the 22 down the slipway and surprisingly on to sand, then in to the water. Using the Hallmark Twin Wheel Super Roller Coaster 7 trailer she slipped in to the water with a gentle shove, and whatís more comes back on just as easy.
I asked what vehicle the lads have been towing her around with, and they use standard 4 x 4ís, typically Isuzuís, Range Roverís and Nissanís and donít even know sheís there. Iíd have no concerns towing this boat long range around the UK or over to Ireland with my Discovery.
I jumped in a rubber duck which I was to use as a camera platform, plus I was keen to observe the boat in action from the outside before getting aboard her myself.
We motored out just a few hundred yards towards the main channel with the wind turbines on the skyline towards Bootle out in front of us. It was calmish day with overcast cloud and The Mersey carrying just a slight chop.
Brian was at the helm of the 22 and I watched carefully as he pushed the throttle forward. This first Fast Bass is fitted with a Mercury 150hp Optimax Saltwater outboard. What was visually obvious was the sheer impact of acceleration from a standing start. There is no pause as the hull lifts in the water trying to find the planing point as the engine power increases. This boat responds to the engine instantly and just leaps forward straight out of the blocks. Running at a fair speed, I visually guessed around 40mph, she runs just slightly nose up but with minimal hull in the water.
I was also clocking how much spray she created and itís minimal, most of the spray line being underneath gunnel height with little lifting forward of the rear edge of the cabin.
Brian was starting to work the boat pretty hard banking the boat over at speed and the impression I got was that the stern sticks to the water like glue. But she responds to the wheel easily and holds her balance as the helmsman corrects the angle and brings the boat back on line to run forward.
There were two other lads aboard the 22 and they were not being thrown all over the place either during these exaggerated manoeuvres. Both were either side of the cabin at the gunnel looking forwards which also proved again that little if any spray was making its way back on deck at head height.
Jumping from the rubber duck to the 22, it was my turn to sit at the helm. Having already seen the boat in close quarter action, Iíd got a good idea what to expect. Being totally new to the boat I eased the throttles forward just feeling my way in to the boat. Itís very responsive, light, balanced and with a docility that belies its speed and manoeuvrability.
Brian tapped me on the shoulder and said, ďGo on, shove the throttle all the way forward!Ē Well, I couldnít refuse! You donít feel the hull lift as you add power when youíre already moving, at least youíre not conscious of it. The boat just leaps forwards and you can really feel the acceleration. Itís quite a shock to briefly switch your eyes to any nearby buoys or the skyline to gauge just how fast you are shifting over the water.
Backing off the throttle the hull stops quickly under full control and in a straight line. She makes little wash behind her so you donít get that following wave slam as your wash catches up with you either.
Getting more confident with her I started to turn her at speed trying to feel for any stern slip, then bringing her out of the turn quickly and driving her across the wash of the rubber duck which was tracking us. The hull smoothly cuts through waves, and when you jump waves the return to water is smooth and even. Hull chatter is minimal too under way and at speed. All you get is the inevitable wind noise around the open cabin as the hull cuts a pocket in the air.
I was also impressed with the new Seastar steerage system fitted which feels really smooth and is ultra light to the touch making the big 150ís weight feel like a lightweight 40hp motor during steering manoeuvres.
There was no wind to speak off during the test, so I couldnít gauge how she would sit on the wind for drifting, but I guess sheíd come just slightly bow off the wind and sit almost straight. With four of us now on board the boat was extremely stable and youíre not conscious of people wandering around on deck when drifting or on the move. This is a boat all four of you could go to one side on and lift a big fish in without fear of the boat tipping anywhere near a dangerous angle.
Sat in the helm seat your all round vision is honestly the best Iíve ever come across. Iíve said it so many times before in these reviews, but I live near several major estuaries and Iím constantly coming across floating trees and other debris in my home waters. This has made me careful when driving at full speed and full vision is imperative to my well being at sea. This is the first cabin boat of 22-feet or less that Iíve been fully comfortable in driving seated. Normally I stand to gain as much visual arc as possible. In the Fast Bass 22 you have full water coverage sat in the comfort of your helm seat, and much of that is due to those superb angled side windows.
Admittedly I wasnít punching in to a good head sea, but little water got back on to the side screens or the forward facing Houdini hatch to obscure my vision during the test manoeuvres. I also checked the deck as I walked back out and it was bone dry. This is a very dry boat!
I put Brian back at the helm and got him to reverse her in to the sea. I watched to see what if any bulb of water tried to claw its way back in to the deep and spacious splash well. No water accessed the splash well at all!
Brian reckons that heís had the boat clocked at over 50mph with the 150 Merc and having been at the wheel myself Iíve no doubt sheís capable of that and maybe a tad more once sheís fully sorted. The 150 Merc is currently fitted with a 17-inch pitch prop, but the lads intend to experiment a little to find the perfect setting. Fuel consumption at cruising speed is between 2.5 and 3 gallons an hour.
Apparently a 90hp motor still works the boat well, though myself Iíd go with the 150 every time.
The key thing with all the lads at Explorer is that they boat fish. Brian in particular has a long background in small boat fishing and still gets out every chance he gets. This understanding of anglers needs is instantly evident in the overall build of a boat. There is no clutter, just open space.
The transom is good and high, no way youíll slip and fall over this, or the gunnels. I also like the heavier diameter stainless steel safety rails fitted to the transom and the gunnel tops. This attention to detail really suits the boat whereas standard diameter safety rails would have looked out of place. I gave these a bloominí good pull and you feel no movement at all, itís all rock solid.
Under the transom is a large drainage well with room to fit a big remote fuel tank either side, though Brian is looking at adding internal fuel tank options. The deck is built up from a fibreglass stringer system using ĺ-inch marine ply to create a deck with the solidity of concrete.
This first sample boat has an open cabin leading in to a drop down mid cabin deck, with a full length bench seat on the port side, this to be fitted with a spacious locker for storage on future boats. Like wise the seat across the bow, again this will have a storage faculty, as will the shorter seating area on the starboard side running back to the steering console.
The lads are thinking of widening the steering console a little and possibly creating a moulded locker seat for the helm to add more storage, create a small galley area, or maybe house a toilet.
The steering console has the instruments on the right side giving easy vision from the helm seat with the throttle on the starboard side. Thereís a flat area on top of the console for housing sounders and GPS units. Looking at the throttle itís at an angle leaning in towards the wheel. Initially I didnít like the look of that, but once in the seat it proves very comfy with the hand sitting easily on it for close quarter moves and mooring up.
You have a forward facing middle of the cabin Houdini Hatch opening port side for access to the bow for anchoring and retrieval. Iím an average 5í 10Ē in height and found it comfy for hauling anchor without the need to stretch.
Another possible feature to be added is a sliding lockable door to close off the cabin.
The side windows are oversize Lexan bolted in with stainless steel bolts. The lads have thought about using an alloy frame, but myself I like the proven system of over sizing and bolting it in. Itís tough and simple!
Up on the bow the demo boat is fitted with a stainless steel Sampson post and stainless bow roller with T cleats either side. The anchor hold is accessed by two doors opening to either side and is massive.
The cabin sports a stainless steel gantry with enough width to take aerials, GPS receiver etc, but there is an ocean of space up here and if you preferred you have ample room to fit a much bigger gantry. This area could also be utilised to store a life raft if you want to use the boat consistently well offshore.
There are also T cleats at each stern quarter and positioned on the gunnels for mooring up. There is also a safety rail fitted to the back of the rear cabin edge for those on deck to hold when travelling.
For a first off the mould finish itís damn good, and with the attention to detail Explorer put in to their boats, it will only get better.
THINGS I MIGHT CHANGE
This is a first off boat and is obviously not the finished article regards fixtures and fittings, but frankly for angling you donít need much more than the boat already has and the Explorer lads might already have it in mind to add the things I felt I might change if I was buying a Fast Bass.
The steaming light is just fixed flat to the gantry and Iíd personally put it on a stainless steel stem to raise the height. Anglers with a boat of this capability will be fishing well offshore and often coming home in the dark, so the more you can illuminate yourself the better.
Instead of fixing my sounder and GPS on the flat top of the steering console, I think on a boat of this calibre Iíd prefer a proper moulded section on the inner cabin roof to fix the units too and with a recessed area to hold your charts etc. It keeps things away from potential damage and your electrical units drier.
There are no rod holders fitted yet, but these will obviously be part and parcel of the production boats.
Itís an absolute cracker! Itís in the right price range to appeal to both individual owners or two, three or four lads buying the package together. Itís easy to tow, plus importantly very easy to launch and retrieve if you prefer to work as a pair.
Its performance is incredible. Acceleration is instant and with minimal hull clatter once you hit cruising revs and even at full speed. Itís stable and balanced, with high gunnels and transom for maximum safety.
This is a boat capable of working the inshore marks for bass, rays and tope, but with its awesome speed and sea capability experienced crews are going to be working the 22 way over the horizon and sheíll be ultimately popular with wreck and shark anglers.
It also strikes me that this boat will find a niche with the new age charter skipper come angling guide taking smaller groups of 2 to 4 anglers out. I can also see this boat requiring a commercial version as a lot of potters will be drawn to the deck space, stability, speed and economy of the 22.
The reputation Explorer Boats have built up within the trade with their Explorer Elite is based on quality control and customer care and I can only see the Fast Bass 22 becoming a top seller in the 20 to 24ft class.
Disclaimer: Everything written in these reports are based on personal experience and the individual's opinion only. I have tried my best to present the facts correctly, but I/we take no responsibility for any mistakes or omissions.