Chianti Reef Runner

Chianti Reef Runner Boat Test
New Zealand Fishing World - July 2011

New Zealand Fishing World Jul/Aug 2011



The Reflex Reef Runner caught the eye of Andrew Spear at the Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show, but would its performance be as good as its looks? It seems so.


AFTER SPENDING A lot of time on an aluminium boat you get used to certain things. You often ride a little lighter through swell and you hear and feel vibrations from the engine and any chop you hit while cruising along. So when you set foot on a big, solid fibreglass boat you really notice the differences.

I felt all these differences and more when I headed out on the Hauraki Gulf to test the new seven metre Reflex Reef Runner that I had taken a lot of notice of at the recent Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show I was taken out by Mark Presnall from Suzuki New Zealand as it was a beautiful Suzuki 200hp 4-stroke that was to provide our power for the day.

The plan was pretty simple, take this brand new vessel out past Waiheke and drop some soft baits as we had heard reports of some nice fish being caught in this area. We boarded the boat at Pier 21 in Westhaven and set off. Immediately I was impressed at just how quiet the engine was. We were cruising at five knots out of the marina and I swear I couldn't hear the engine from the helm. But it was very quietly doing its thing and we were soon out and passing through the Waitemata Harbour.

What a difference a heavier fibreglass hull makes when cutting through chop, and there was enough chop to allow us to feel what a fine job this vessel was doing. Reflex do make good-looking and very capable hulls and the new Reef Runner looks and performed admirably. This hull, as are most Reflex, was filled with a high-density foam that results in a very strong, stiff and quiet ride through all types of water.

Perhaps taking a different approach to some of their previous models, this Reef Runner has been designed as a fishing boat as well as one for leisure. Undeniably the defining feature on this model is the purposeful walk around and is a big plus in my books. This creates extra fishing room and is great for those wanting to cast out soft baits, stick baits or poppers. You no longer have to have one eye looking over your shoulder to see where your mate's treble hooks are hanging in the air waiting to be cast out. And to make things even easier and more accessible there are handy little ladders that lead up the walk around making every-thing even more comfortable and safer.

While we were steaming towards Waiheke at around 80km per hour I got a chance to look around the rest of the boat, especially in the cabin and found there was ample storage space throughout the boat. From the handy, lockable glove box in the helm to wide storage shelves in the cabin, there is plenty of room to store everything from lifejackets, cellphones, fishing rods and everything else you'd need for a big day or two out on the water. Inside the cabin the wide, comfortable squabs are easily long enough for reasonably tall people to lie fully stretched out and with the addition of a chemical toilet, this is a boat that the wife and kids would feel comfortable on. Out on the deck there is plenty of fishing room with interchangeable drink holders spread throughout. These can be changed to hold anything from a drink bottle, to champagne flutes - another draw card for the female fisho's or leisure cruisers amongst us.

In the stern there is a fold down lounge seat that is very comfortable and great for seating extra people on those long journeys. But because it can fold away it doesn't take up any room once the serious business of fishing gets underway. The walk-through transom, boarding platform and the long fold-down ladder also makes this a perfect vessel to dive from. I also got a chance to take a look at the great dash setup of this particular model. With the four manual Suzuki gauges set on a great-looking graphite frame, there was plenty to read and everything was accounted for in this respect.

However it was the electronics of this boat that really got me excited. Mounted below the gauges was the Garmin GPS Map 750s combo unit that, in my books, is the ultimate fish finding tool for trailer-boats. With its touchscreen 7-inch display and built in New Zealand charts, you can't really go past these. It also encompasses a very powerful one kilowatt-capable sonar that, with a duel transducer, can clearly and accurately read the seafloor up to 610m deep. That's power, and is perfect for those wanting to find deep reefs or outcrops that might hold hapuka, bass, bluenose or gemfish. You can also programme all your gauges to run through this device; including speed, fuel level, RPMs and so on. It really is a wonderful piece of machinery.

As with any modern fishing vessel there is of course an electric bilge pump, electric capstan winch, deck hose and a strong halogen light to flood the deck. There is also a very well-designed, and removable, moulded bait station that has a drainage sink - a feature that I absolutely love as any mess or spillage is able to be washed away efficiently. But how did it actually fish? Well, considering-there were three of us soft baiting it was great. Mark headed up the walk around to the bow and cast from there, leaving two of us the entire deck space, which was plenty and even with three of us over one side of the boat there was limited roll and we were comfortably fishing. There weren't many fish around though and after securing a few pannie snapper for the pot, we began our journey home as the rain had well and truly set in and we were getting soaked out on the deck.

I took the opportunity to grab the helm and see just how well this package performed. The DF200 Suzuki is right at the top power range for this boat and Mark told me it is probably best suited to a Suzuki DF150-DF175 or as low as the DF140 as they do in Australia. We weren't in Australia though, and I was loving the grunt that this big 200hp 4-stroke had to offer. It had a hearty throb and really got the 7m vessel up and moving very, very quickly. I liked it a lot. Despite the growing wind and chop, we made our way back to the harbour in pretty good time, a testament to the hull design that easily punched its way through even through the most sinister chop. This really is the result of a collision between a purpose-built fishing boat and a leisure craft.

The Reflex Reef Runner has the ability to impress a purist fisherman and the sporting boatie at the same time and is very reasonably priced. With all the bells and whistles, this 7m boat, that is actually 8m long when loaded onto a trailer, will cost you a little over $100,000 - and that is with a very powerful and modern Suzuki 200hp 4-stroke powering it. A big boat, a lot of power and without the price tag many would expect.