My second Polycraft boat was the 3m Tuff Tender, which I have had for the past 12 years. While these were initially marketed towards being used as a tender, I had other ideas for mine. To me, it was as close as possible to being the ultimate go-anywhere car topper, and I fished in some pretty rough, crazy areas from Cape York, right through to Arnhemland. When I say as close as possible to being the ultimate car topper, there were a few things that I would have liked on my little Tuff Tender. Things like hatches and some underfloor storage, but I made do.
You could understand my excitement when I received an email from the guys at Polycraft, telling me that they had re-designed the Tuff Tender, and with feedback from the public, they were about to release a new 3metre model that was focused specifically on the angler, not the yachtie. I had to get my hands on one of these, and shortly after, I was standing in the Polycraft factory in Bundaberg. First impressions far exceeded what I had in mind, and it was very obvious that a lot of time and thought had gone into this new design. Not only did the new 300 Tuffy boast underfloor storage on both the port and starboard but also towards the bow, but there was more to it than just that. It wasn't until I had finished inspecting these welcomed new modifications that I started to notice a few other tweaks to the boat. The overall finish was a lot 'cleaner', and after speaking with Steve Cooper from Polycraft, he explained that they had completely revamped how the 300 Tuffy was built, including the mould, which now allowed the boat to come out of the oven looking very clean and sleek.
The hull itself has also undergone a few little changes and improvements on the bow, which will be a very welcomed change - this became apparent once we got the boat on the water. Speaking of which, at the time I was standing in the factory, Tropical Cyclone Oma was just off the coast of Bundaberg. To say there was a little bit of wind around was an understatement. It was certainly not a good day for any boat to be on the water, let alone a little 3 metre. Even though our test location was an impoundment, just down the road from the factory, the conditions were still not what I would call anywhere near ideal. Putting the boat in, and glancing out across the water, there were whitecaps clearly visible. This is where I really noticed how good the newly designed entry on the bow was. Rather than hitting the water and splashing up, and out, this new design seemed to contain the water and throw it back down and away from the boat, allowing less spray to come across the boat. Now, we spent the best part of 4 hours on the water that day, and we covered nearly all areas of this particular impoundment and only once, on the way back to the ramp did the spray come up, and Jason got wet. Keep in mind, I was in the 4.1 Challenger (as the camera boat), and I also got wet on that same leg.
Moving back to the newly added features. All three of the recessed storage areas boast a friction style latch so that the lids will stay locked down, once closed. Furthermore, even though this is a relatively small boat, each of the three storage areas boasts quite a bit of room, which allows you to store everything you need underfloor, keeping the remainder of the boat clutter free. As I mentioned before, we spent quite a bit of time on the water, and Jason Medcalf (who was driving the 300 Tuffy) was there to fish, so he had a full arsenal of fishing gear, plus drinks, and safety gear and the only things that weren't stored underfloor where his two fishing rods. As an owner of the previous model, this alone is a massive selling point to me.
Before moving onto the stability and performance, I think it also needs to be noted that, if you were to choose to use this boat as a car-topper (as I would) then there is no need to be concerned about the storage lids coming loose as it takes a good amount of pressure to close them down tight and the design alone on the friction lock deserves a big 'high five'.
Stability and performance on the new 300 Tuffy is kind of a no brainer. We had a 15hp Yamaha on the back, and this boat was up and on the plane in no time flat. My personal 3m Polycraft boat also has a 15hp outboard, and I have no trouble with performance, even with three adults on board. While still focusing on performance, let's not forget the bow mount electric motor - an absolute must-have item for anyone even half keen on their lure and fly fishing. We had the 54lb Minn Kota fitted to the bow of the 300 Tuffy, and this obviously moved the Tuffy through the water with complete ease. The added benefit of having an electric motor of this size on the small hull is that the motor is not working very hard at all, allowing less drain on the battery which means more time on the water. Something I am sure every angler would agree to.
This then leaves us with the stability, which is once again, a no brainer. This little boat sits solidly in the water and on the test day, Jason was able to very easily move about the entire boat, from bow to stern without any concern whatsoever. Again, I know from personal experience just how stable these boats are, as I have regularly fished with up to three anglers in my boat, and at no time have I ever been caught off-balance. In my mind, this is a considerable advantage that the 300 Tuffy would have over the vast majority of the 'smaller' boats currently on the market. Interestingly, I was recently speaking with the owner of a yacht, who was moored in Townsville. He explained that he had just purchased a 3m Tuff Tender on the sole basis that this boat was far more stable than his last tender, a tinnie, which had tipped as he was pulling up alongside his yacht, throwing him into the water. I am confident that this will not happen to him anymore.
This newly designed 300 Tuffy is, without doubt, a very welcomed release and I can see a huge potential for this boat in both the impoundment fishing but also in the estuary and inshore regions as well. Don't get fooled by its' small size as this little guy punches well above its' weight.
As an owner of a couple Polycraft boats, I can honestly say that these boats are as close to being the ultimate fishing platform as I have seen. They are basically a maintenance free boat. There is absolutely no issue with rust or corrosion, and they are built super tough. I've run my boats up onto rocks and other ugly stuff on a regular basis, and you really can't hurt them. My current Tuff Tender has been skull-dragged up the rocky, inaccessible banks of many Cape York and Arnhemland rivers and creeks with just a snatch strap and has never had to be 'repaired'. In fact, it has given me even more confidence to get into areas that you just can't get in to, with the added advantage of knowing that I can always get back out again. In my opinion, the original Tuff Tender was an awesome fishing rig. The new 300 Tuffy just got a whole lot better.
Would I change anything on this boat? Not really, but maybe next time on the water, I'd have a few cold beers on ice in that storage hatch rather than just water and soft drink.