- In addition to being remarkably good to drive, it is spacious, affordable, safe and dry.
- … such is the calibre of the performance on offer that, even with the compromised helm, the 580 is a genuine pleasure to drive.
- The best news… involves her ability to negotiate a lumpy, messy, windswept sea state at sustained speeds in excess of 20 knots.
Alex Smith heads for South Devon to investigate a fast fisher that almost everyone can afford.
I know what you’re thinking. We’ve seen plenty of compact, super-affordable, outboard-powered fishing platforms before. We’ve seen plenty of Chinese-built craft too – often rather guileless pieces of equipment that cease to feel like bargains once they hit the water. However, before you disregard the unassuming little Piscator 580 and turn the page in search of something plusher and higher octane, take another look, because there’s something about its form that leads you to expect more of this boat than your average beamy, lightweight, open-cockpit fisher.
Even tied alongside on a drab day beneath a thick fog, the fine entry, the pronounced hull contours and the pugnacious bow flare promise significantly more than either the package price or the market sector would suggest. Of course, for some, those engagingly retro, 80s-style black and red stripes on the hard top will be a major turn-off, but actually, the raked profile of this boat is very attractive. You might even call it aggressive compared to some of the world’s more pedestrian HT models – and given that the hardtop section is a separate structure, attached to the bow of the otherwise identical Open model, you have to say it also feels very well integrated and stylistically pure.
And not only does the 580 appear to have the looks and the hull to be a contender, on first acquaintance it also exhibits sufficient quality to dispel any fears you might have about its Chinese origins. It’s no secret that China has made a reputation for itself as a builder of very cheap stuff for those who require affordability at all costs, but in this case, both the solidity of build and the cleanliness of finish feel very acceptable indeed. There are no sharp fibreglass edges, no ill-matched mouldings, no unlined storage spaces or jarring failures to execute simple seamanship necessities. In fact, a cursory walk-through leaves you curious as to precisely how the Piscator’s remarkable £22,000 package price has been achieved.
On the face of it, a beam of 2.4 metres on a 5.8m boat seems very generous, but it’s actually much as you would expect of a craft of this type and it results in some traits of great value to the recreational fisherman. In addition to a large cockpit with unencumbered freedom of movement, it’s noticeable that the 580 is very stable as you shift your body weight around on board. That’s very confidence inspiring on a compact platform like this, and the broad lateral walkways, the oversized foredeck guard rails, the Samson post and the auxiliary outboard bracket also do their bit to make it feel like a much more grown-up and steadfast companion than many in this area of the market.
It’s usefully versatile too. For those keen on a varied diet of marine leisure, there is plenty of space at the aft end for a ski pole, a boarding ladder, a pair of swim platforms and an uprated complement of rod holders – and if fishing isn’t at the top of your priority list, the live bait well can also be used as a handy under-deck storage compartment. However, the storage elsewhere is slightly compromised. There’s no space inside the lateral forward moulding of the cuddy, and the absence of an integrated tank (even as an option) means the portable fuel tanks are positioned inside the aft bench, alongside the battery, radically reducing the available space. Interestingly, however, the Piscator dealer, Dave Swift of SeaSwift Boats, is happy with this. He says he has experienced problems in the past with integrated fuel tanks and has no wish to complicate the issue on the 580. But I would suggest that the benefits on a small boat would outweigh any potential difficulties, not just by distancing the fuel from the open deck, but also by relocating some extra weight lower in the hull and freeing up some valuable extra space for storage.
Aside from that, the primary issues are all very modest and easily rectified. For instance, various ‘optional’ basics, like the anchor and compass, are not included as part of the standard package; the recessed alcoves by the helm and navigator are poorly finished and without any value; there’s no grab handle at the port side of the transom for those using the ladder; and while the bow access through the hinged screen is OK for reaching the Samson post from the forward part of the cuddy, it is also unnecessarily restricted by the limits of travel on the supporting rams. If you were to be picky, you could also discuss the merits of such broad walkways on such a compact boat, but given the price point, it’s very difficult to make clear criticisms of any of the major design choices in evidence here.
Big Surprises Underway
Get underway and the first big surprise involves your transition to the plane. It feels extraordinarily rapid – not so much through sheer grunt as through the flatness of the lift. It rises without any discernible change in attitude, and within a couple of seconds you’re already planing and pushing on toward an easy 20-knot cruise. The 580 is actually rated to carry up to 140hp, but the DF90 quickly proves itself perfectly adequate for most applications. We were unable to explore the top end on the test day because of messy seas and restricted visibility, but lightly loaded, the 580 is apparently capable of pushing beyond the 36-knot mark. And SeaSwift’s data also suggests that a cruising speed of 22 knots will return a very user-friendly fuel flow rate of around half a litre per nautical mile. Even on the standard package’s modest 60-litre fuel tank, that generates a range well in excess of 100 nautical miles.
In terms of handling, the news is even more positive. The heel of that beamy hull is quite moderate in the turn, which helps achieve much better visibility from the helm than you might expect of a hardtop platform. There’s also plenty of grip from both the hull and the prop, and impressive pace retention throughout the arc. Only when you really tighten her up with more acute turns and lots of throttle does she start to froth and complain a bit, but by the standards of the type it’s very good indeed.
The best news, however, involves her ability to negotiate a lumpy, messy, windswept sea state at sustained speeds in excess of 20 knots. You can of course do that in plenty of boats of this size, but rarely can it be achieved with this degree of comfort or this degree of fun. Even in a strong beam wind, everything except a few stray droplets is pounded low and wide by the big bow flare, and with plenty of forward buoyancy, even easing off the throttle on the downside of a following swell sees the nose lift proud of the green stuff and keep all those in the cockpit safe and dry. Combine that with some really useful (and very surprising) softness of ride and you have a genuinely capable and entertaining little sea boat.
As things stand, though, the helm is not what it could be. In the standing position, the absence of a leaning post, a bolster or a foot brace means that your primary points of support are the wheel and throttle themselves. Plainly, that’s far from ideal, and in practice it compels you to ease back in the rough by 20 or 30 % simply in order to stay put – and when you sit down, things are only marginally better. The console is too far from the seat, which means the only point to jam your foot against is a slippy, curved moulding offset to starboard. The best way to run at pace through an aggressive sea is therefore to jam yourself tight to starboard, plant your throttle arm on the gunwale-top tread plate and peer round the side of the hardtop at the oncoming seas. It sounds odd (and it is) but such is the calibre of the performance on offer that, even with the compromised helm, the 580 is a genuine pleasure to drive.
It is plain that the Piscator’s awkward helm is in serious need of some work. However, you shouldn’t let that deflect you from the glaring merits at the heart of the 580 experience because they are more relevant and compelling than any of the boat’s foibles. In addition to being remarkably good to drive, it is spacious, affordable, safe and dry. The fact that it also happens to be larger, prettier and cheaper than the much-loved and increasingly prolific Warrior 175 ought to see it win a very firm place on your fast fisher shortlist.
- Lovely handling
- Surprisingly soft, dry ride
- Generous cockpit
- Charming looks
- Great price
- Awful helm position
- Restricted view through hardtop
- No integrated fuel tank option
- LOA: 5.8m
- Beam: 2.4m
- Weight: 750kg
- People capacity: 8
- Fuel capacity: 60 litres
- Maximum power: 140hp
- Recommended power: 90hp
- Engine: Suzuki DF90
- Mechanical steering
- Stainless steel boarding ladder
- Live bait well
- Anchor locker and roller
- Nav lights
- Aft wash well
- Self-draining deck
- Rod holders and storage
- One fishing seat
- Teak deck
- Cushion sets
- Stern sofa
- Ski pole
- Full cover
- Co-pilot console
- Extra fishing seat
- Auxiliary outboard bracket
- Cabin roof rod rocket launcher
- Hydraulic steering
Boat-only intro price: £10,999
DF90 package price with trailer: £21,999