by Shane Mensforth

When most of us think of Bayliner boats, we usually conjure up images of stylish, family-oriented craft with typical American lines. I’ve been a big fan for years, and probably more so in recent times as the company has taken major steps to keep up with current trends and consumer demand. Bayliner now offers four series with some 17 models, many of which fit the Aussie boating scene nicely.
Just recently I was invited to Goolwa, south of Adelaide, to go for a spin in Bayliner’s one and only centre console, the Element F18. I first noticed this rig at the Adelaide Boat Show in June, where it created plenty of interest. It was certainly a radical departure from what I’d come to expect from Bayliner, and something I was sure would interest our keen inshore sport fishing fraternity.
Organising a half reasonable boat testing day in SA during June and July has been like winning a lottery. We haven’t had a winter like this in years, so when it looked like we were in for two days of sunshine and moderate winds, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands and headed down to Goolwa. Pelican Marine is the local Bayliner distributor, and proprietor David Fisher had set up an Element F18 with a new 115 Mercury Pro XS for on-water evaluation.

WHAT YOU GET
Configured as a centre console, the Element F18 is ideal for the needs of the serious inshore sport fisher. It’s a fair lump of boat with an overall length of 5.57m, beam of 2.26m and weight of around 730kg (with normal engine installation). I really like the deck plan, which has been well thought out and tailored to suit lure casting, fly fishing and similar angling styles that require minimal clutter and maximum room.
Bayliner Element F18 13
Bayliner Element F18 18The Element’s console design is typical of the way Bayliner boats are put together. It’s quite a substantial console that incorporates a forward seat, six vertical rod holders, dry storage locker and multi-tier display panel. Gauges and other instruments are fitted to the middle tier, while there’s a heap of room for large screen electronics on the top and bottom levels. Toggle switches are fitted immediately adjacent to the steering wheel and a binnacle throttle/gear shift is located slightly lower on the starboard side. A tall and quite stylish Perspex screen protects the entire helm station. A sturdy stainless grab rail completes one of the neatest and most functional centre consoles I’ve seen.
Immediately aft of the console is a two-way bench seat, which is about as comfortable as you’ll find in a boat of this style. There is further dry storage beneath the helm seat for bulky items like PFD’s and wet weather gear. Storage for up to four more rods is provided in the form of recessed panels with bungee cord restrainers. The rod tips can be inserted to run up inside the hull liner while the reels and butt ends are held securely in dedicated racks.
Due mainly to the Element’s generous internal beam, there is plenty of room to move freely fore and aft past the console. The deck is flat, unobstructed and extremely easy to keep clean. Up forward there’s a substantial raised casting deck with three separate storage compartments. The casting deck is elevated 30cm and totally obstruction free, which most serious lure or fly-casters will really appreciate. You’ll also find a dedicated panel on the port side up forward (with electrical socket) to accommodate electric thruster motors.
Bayliner Element F18 14
Bayliner Element F18 12A second casting deck is located aft, which enables anglers to put plenty of space between each other and minimise the chance of human hook-ups. A good-sized, fully plumbed live bait tank is set in the centre of the aft deck, flanked by a pair of fold-down seats. Cockpit drains are installed at the base of the aft deck to facilitate rapid water flow into the bilge area if required.
I doubt I’ve ever set foot in a centre console boat that’s as well designed and laid out as the Element F18. Fibreglass work is of outstanding quality throughout, as is general workmanship.

POWER
Due to its substantial weight and hull design, the Element F18 needs plenty of horsepower to get it up and performing as intended. The test boat had been fitted with one of Mercury’s great new Pro XS EFI models, which are among the most advanced engines the company has ever produced. It weighs just 165kg, which is considerably lighter than most of the four stroke opposition, and is designed primarily for this style of boat.
The Pro XS 115 is an eight-valve, single overhead cam in-line four cylinder engine that revs out to 6300rpm and comes in both short (20”) and long shaft (25”) versions. It’s extremely quiet, virtually fume free and, if Mercury’s quoted test figures are correct, extremely economical. Driven sensibly, you could expect a generous operating range from the 114-litre fuel tank installed in the Bayliner Element.
Bayliner Element F18 10
Bayliner Element F18 7ON THE WATER
Initial inspection of the Element hull reveals this boat is designed primarily for inshore/enclosed waters work. It features a central section with moderate vee flanked by a pair of substantial outer pontoons. I’m not sure how it would handle a decent offshore chop, but I do know it would be the ants’ pants for lake, estuary, flats and river fishing. From what I can see, the main design criteria were undoubtedly stability and the ability to carry plenty of weight if required.
As far as stability is concerned, I haven’t set foot in anything of this size and weight that is better. We had a couple of burly guys walking up and down one side of the boat with minimal listing, and the same applies when weight is shifted to the fore and aft casting decks. This has to be great news for sportfishers who often move about the boat without much thought when a hot bite is on.
The Bayliner Element F18 gets up quite nicely with the 115 Merc on the back. You could pull a single skier without any problems, and there’s no doubt the rig would cope comfortably with four of five adults and their gear. Top speed at 6300rpm was around 35 knots (65km/h), which is plenty for a craft of this style.
It turns quite flat, complements of the hull shape, and is extremely responsive to motor trim. I really had to trim in hard to avoid propeller cavitation in tight corners, then jack the leg out gradually when running in a straight line. There’s a definite trim ‘zone’ where the hull runs sweetly, but trimming out too far induces a bit of porpoising – something you have to be mindful of while travelling at speed. Most craft of this style and hull shape I have tested do precisely the same thing, and it’s a trait you simply have to get used to.
Bayliner Element F18 1
Bayliner Element F18 5ON THE TRAILER
Due to the unique hull shape, the Bayliner Element comes on a purpose-designed single axle trailer. I found it dead easy to drive both on and off, and there’s no doubt this rig would be a snack on the highway behind an average family sedan, mid-sized SUV or smaller 4WD.

OVERVIEW
I really enjoyed my time on Goolwa’s Lake Alexandrina in the Bayliner Element F18. This boat is quite a departure from the norm, with its specialised hull shape that promotes terrific calm water handling and incomparable stability at rest. I can see it being extremely popular with those who seriously chase bream and flathead in some of the East Coast estuary systems, and it would be an ideal flats boat for stalking golden trevally, permit and the like in Queensland.
It’s also a terrific rig for a family day trip that might involve a bit of fishing, swimming or even skiing and tubing. The Element’s weight carrying capacity lends itself nicely to this sort of usage.
Test boat supplied by Pelican Marine, Goolwa, South Australia.

POSITIVES
Bayliner Element F18 11
Extreme stability and buoyancy
Great fishing platform
Plenty of storage space

NEGATIVES
Might not be so good travelling into a decent chop

NUMBERS THAT MATTER
Price: (from) $52,690
Construction: GRP
Length: 5.57m
Beam: 2.26m
Tow weight: 1129kg
Fuel capacity: 114 litres
Recommended HP: 90-115
Engine Fitted: 115 Mercury Pro XS EFI

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