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Bar Crusher’s reputation for producing quality rigs with an offshore pedigree is proven.
The word “cute” is hardly a one that springs to mind in any conversation involving a Bar Crusher. It is, however, the very word my wife used when she first spied the compact 5m (or thereabouts) hull on our computer screen.
“That’s a baby Bar Crusher,” my four-year-old son volunteered. And he kept going form there: “It’s the same colour as Thomas (The Tank Engine)”; “Why doesn’t it have a roof?”; “Can we take it fishing?”
He’s sharp, my boy, and with those statements he perfectly summed up the Bar Crusher 535CR.
When Team Bar Crusher rolled up to the Patterson River boat ramp on Melbourne’s north-eastern shores with its big new 730HT in tow, I couldn’t help being drawn to the edgy little runabout that had brought along as a camera platform. Resplendent in baby blue, it looked just like a Bar Crusher, but one that had gone through the rinse cycle one too many times.
I wandered around it for a while, wisely stroking my chinas I absorbed the detail. I tried to pigeonhole it; squash it inside a little box that carried a label defining its intent.
I pressed Bar Crusher’s Peter Cleland: “CR, what is it?” “Cuddy Runabout” was his seemingly ambiguous response. A pencil scribbled a new label on that little box in my mind.
The 535CR resides in Bar Crusher’s Wavecrusher family, which includes the 535XS centre console we tested late last year (and featured in TrailerBoat #291, February 2013). That rig sported a relatively conventional hull — for a Bar Crusher, that is. You know, one without a big gaping hole below the waterline.
While previous Wavecrusher hulls looked the goods and handled themselves with typical Bar Crusher-ness, they were obviously more tender at rest than their water-ballasted brethren. This is not really surprising given the narrow 2.15m beam, and is really hardly worth mentioning in light of their other obvious attributes. However, it seems the R&D people just couldn’t help themselves and took to it with a can opener, creating the characteristic Bar Crusher triangular opening that allows a long keel chamber to flood with water at rest.
Driving the larger boat while watching the 535CR off our port bow, I made mental notes about its handling and purposeful stance on the water. Conditions were oily calm; rather unlike every other Bar Crusher test, which invariably seem to coincide with Arctic blasts, grey skies and white caps galore. But the absence of rough water afforded the opportunity to test aspects of the hull often glossed over when jumping tall waves in a single bound.
After several hours at the helm of Bar Crusher’s big new debutant, I was keen to get behind the wheel of the 535CR to see if going under the knife had really improved its assets. Leaping out of the 730HT and stepping into the 535CR, there was no denying it’s a much smaller boat, yet it felt remarkably stable underfoot for a rig with a relatively compact waterline footprint.
At first glance, Bar Crusher’s spartan treatment of the helm might seem a bit severe to some. Devoid of curves and unnecessary bling, the dash is naked save for a gloss trim panel and the solitary Garmin GMI 10 that monitors the 90hp Suzuki’s vital statistics.
Wedging myself behind the simple helm, I removed my phone from my pocket and placed it on the carpeted dash shelf that spans the width of the low yet welcome toughened-glass windscreen. Any boat that makes this simple concession and provides a storage venue for pocket junk scores extra points with me. The dash shelf also served as a home for the Raymarine A67 combo and could easily accommodate a substantially larger head unit.
The chunky wheel with hydraulic steering falls naturally to hand, as does the lever and switch gear. Once again, the standard inclusion of a Ctek battery-charging system and 12V socket is a considerate move from the factory.
The boat is crafted with 3mm alloy topsides and 4mm bottom sheets, which are held in place by an intricate matrix-like flooring system, or “Rigideck” in Bar Crusher speak. Checkerplate is then welded in-situ, providing a fully sealed flat floor save for the addition of a shallow but functional flooding killtank located in the rear of the cockpit sole.
This fun-sized ’Crusher rides neutrally and responds readily to trim, topping out at around 39kts (72kmh). In most of the running images you’ll notice Bar Crusher’s Waveslicer hull turn water down as it deflects from the pronounced spray rails, aiding a rather dry cruise for a boat of this size. The ride was quiet and reassuring and felt as sturdy as any of the larger rigs we’ve tested in the past.
Unlike the other boats featured in this issue, the protection afforded by the compact cabin structure provides welcome respite from the elements. Sure, the forward fishing zone is eliminated, but it’s not really a major loss. Seated on comfortable pedestals, you don’t have to adopt the posture of an arthritic praying mantis to get comfy. Passengers will applaud your sanity, particularly if like mine they’ve been subjected to open boats for the past decade. They might even put you back on their Christmas list.
It would have been criminal for us not to have taken advantage of the idyllic conditions in order to indulge in the very thing this boat is supposed to excel at — fishing. And despite my predilection for centre and side console rigs, this layout really functions from almost every fishing angle. Not quite a cuddy cabin, but more than a runabout, the low (chest height) windscreen doesn’t impede on the 535CR’s sportfishing functionality.
While twitching soft plastics in the faces of a school of suspended snapper that revealed themselves on the Raymarine’s screen, I noticed a swirl on the surface just forward of the bow. Instinct took over as I quickly wound in and fired a cast straight over the ’screen in the direction of the dimple, only to raise the ire of the resident seal also out for a fish.
I didn’t give it a second thought and in that moment I was sold.
While taking nothing away from dedicated bream and bass platforms, they are compromised in ways that are hard to overcome if alternate fishing styles are on the agenda: low freeboard, minimal protection and storage that, while dry, requires you to go on bended knee to gain access.
For the duration of our snapper session, the Plano Liquid Bait Locker, that held countless artificial baits captive in their secret juices, sat atop the removable baitboard and was easily accessed and never underfoot. A generous baitwell to port and a modified anchor that now accommodates an optional drum winch work a treat.
Then there’s the addition of several hundred litres of ballast that causes the hull to sink slightly, burying the chines and settling the boat in the water. The benefits are most evident when you wander around the hull at rest, with lateral movement gentle and never excessive. The ballast water is jettisoned in seconds as the boat leaps to the plane, lightening the load in a blink of an eye.
When it comes to versatility, this rig kicks sand in the face of most low-slung bream and bass boats. That said, it’s not for everyone and certainly doesn’t seek to reinvent the concept of a bream or bass tournament rig.
The 535CR’s niche lies is in its ability to wear a number of different hats, which means it should find a ready audience among fishos after more bang for their boating buck.
Personally, I’d like to see an optional rear bench to further aid its versatility, but the practical clip-in side seats do a more than adequate job of providing additional pews.
So, is it a real Bar Crusher? Yep, and then some.

· Snack-sized Bar Crusher
· Low cabin and ’screen enhance its versatility.
· Sparkling performance
· Light and manageable
· Compact to store
· Enhanced stability
· People won’t believe it’s really a Bar Crusher
· Optional Tube Mat flooring would be welcome
· Could use rear bench seat
Indicative Price: $45,000-$50,000 (depending on options)
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