by Dom Wiseman

What do you buy if you are a serious tournament angler and have a seemingly endless choice of both large and small boats to choose from? In the case of Ross Cannizaro, you choose a BassCat. He’s tried all manner of craft from a Skeeter to an Edgewater and recently he has settled on the BassCat Sabre FTD. He says the smaller platform (as opposed to his last over 20 foot bass boat) is much easier to handle, sacrifices very little fishing space and is wildly more fuel efficient.


BassCat have an interesting history. Their first boats were built in 1971 in Ron and Jan’s two car garage. From there they evolved into a larger premises before settling on their current location in Midway Arkansas. This was not before Ron had a successful career in the plastics industry and both Ron and Jan ran a small drive in restaurant. Varied indeed. It was this versatility and ingenuity that spawned many of the innovations on the boats from recessed trolling pedals to elevated electronics.

While originating in the U.S, Australia has cottoned on to these a small but growing tournament market that certainly seems to like what BassCat are doing.

This is a smaller boat than Ross used to run, yet no less usable. It sits at 5.5 metres in length with a massive beam of 2.36 metres. That’s quite wide for such a small platform¬† but it’s the overall length that allows it to fit in most garages. On the trailer overall it’s going to be around that 6m length with a swing away trailer tongue.

Onboard the beam manifests itself with a massive front casting deck. The carpet on the top deck is comfortable and plush too. Perfect for long days on the water. The space up front can easily accommodate two up for tournament fishing and as you’d expect underneath is a veritable feast of storage options. A rod locker runs up the port side of the boat with dedicated space for nine rods and more if you lay them on the floor space. Rods are protected by a tube system allowing owners to slide their rods in easily and safely. The maximum rod length the locker can accommodate is 7foot.


In the centre of the boat are two strut assisted lockers which are deep and lined allowing space for the myriad of tackle tournament anglers seem to take with them everywhere they go. On the opposite side of the front deck is another strut assisted locker which could accommodate more rods, but is more often used for storage of other items such as gear, life jackets and other incidentals.

Right at the bow is a the recessed trolling controller and a sounder. In this case a Simrad. The space is enormous and aided by the recessed nature of the foot controller. The only thing I noticed up here was that Ross has crafted a makeshift tool holder for his pliers and scissors so as to keep them ready and close to hand at all times. There is also a small recess near the trolling motor which is apparently a reel recess to minimise damage in rough conditions when you have your rods strapped to the deck. Finally the step leading up to the front deck hides a cooler.

The helm position is hidden behind a small console for the driver only. It allows placement of a sounder and all the switches and gauges required for the engine. The protection here isn’t great but it is ample in most conditions. Rather than having a row of seats the driver and passenger seats are separated by a carpeted step that doubles as a glove box. If you’re worried about storage in this 18 footer, you needn’t be. The passenger side has more rod storage for five rods.


The back deck again is large and able to accommodate two anglers. The live well is located here and can be divided. Either side yet more storage is available in the form of two bins. I’d challenge anyone except a tournament angler to fill these cavities. Ross has added two power poles at the stern. These allow him to anchor the boat in place on a flat or adjacent to structure should he not wish to spot lock with the electric on the bow.




Power is supplied by a sweet Evinrude G2 150 hp engine. These power plants have incredible torque and ¬†therefore acceleration but are incredibly frugal at the same time. Ross reckoned that between the old G1 engine, admittedly bigger than this 150, and the new g2 his fuel costs are down by around 30%. Sure some of that is the reduction in horsepower but it’s a compelling argument for a smaller boat.

The torque provided by this powerplant is quite incredible with instant acceleration which sees the boat leap onto the plane in seconds. The incorporated power steering makes wheel work relaxing and also enables and mess free installation.




BassCat’s handle exceptionally well. While the conditions on our test day were flat at best, Ross has had the craft in all manner of conditions and said there was only one time over the last few tournaments that he felt uncomfortable. It was wild and windy with a decent chop that sounded like a bigger half cabin would have been tested.


On our test she skipped across chop well. I did notice that she turns quite flat that at speed can result in some bouncing through the turn if you hit oncoming waves but all in all it was relatively comfortable. Like all bass boats, at the speeds this boat is capable of, getting air is more a certainty than a possibility

The stability of the boat is also impressive and it must be given that it is primarily designed as a fishing boat.





BassCat are certainly making their mark on the tournament scene here in Australia being heavily involved in the ABT events held all over Australia. While they make a range of models, this probably represents the sweet spot for the brand with that big boat feel in a small boat package.

Superb finish

Lacks versatility

Price: (approx) $80,000 (as tested)

Construction: Fiberglass
Length Overall: 5.50m
Beam: 2.36m
Dry Weight: 781kg
Engine: Evinrude 150hp G2

Max hp: 175hp
Fuel Capacity: 124 litres