by Steve Lague

Small tinnies in the 4-5m range is the biggest segment in the Australian boating market and it is not hard to work out why. These boats are easy to use and tow, affordable, tough and, today, can be used on and offshore making them extremely versatile. It is also the most competitive market segment with numerous manufacturers, from giants like Telwater to small one-man operations all trying to get a slice of the pie.
One of those manufacturers is Morningstar, which are built in a high-tech production facility in Taiwan using plate aluminium supplied by Alcoa. During the manufacturing process the aluminium plates are heated to almost liquid state and pressed into shape. This process enables the bottom of the boat to be made out of one piece while also being moulded into a complex shape that includes reverse chines, strakes and variable deadrise. Robots then do all the welding, ensuring a neat, uniform and strong join.
In Australia, Morningstar boats are only available in one size, 4.98m, and four different configurations – centre console, side console, caddy cab and runabout which all sit on the same Hydro Hull. Searano Marine in WA invited us to test the latter.
Morningstar Bay Rover 18
Morningstar Bay Rover 17WHAT YOU GET
The Morningstar Bay Rover 498R is the most family-friendly model in the range with its low profile windscreen, which provides protection from wind and spray, and simple layout, featuring two skipper chairs up front and a foldable bench aft.
In the middle there is plenty of space for fishing or carrying all the gear you would need for a fun day on the water. The hull of the Bay Rover is nicely finished with the test boat a dark blue with an attractive red and black decal.
Stepping into the Morningstar the fit and finish of the boat was neat with all surfaces painted white and a black carpet on the floor. Across the transom, behind the bench seat there was a self-draining locker with a Perspex lid on the port side. In the middle of the transom there is an aluminium bait preparation area with a rod holder on either side. There is no transom door but the nice wide transom was easy to sit on and swing your legs across. At the back of the transom there are good-sized swim platforms on either side of the outboard engine, with a ladder on the port side.
The sides of the cockpit are double skinned, which gives it a nice finish, with storage pockets cut into either side. Each gunwale also has an additional rod holder built in.
The drivers and passenger seats are a comfortable bucket seat, with a bolster, sitting on a gas strut making it easy to find the right height for driving. They can also be turned 180deg to create a more sociable layout when at anchor. They also make a pretty comfortable fishing seat when swung around. The dash of the Bay Rover 498 is just big enough for engine instruments but the shelf between the dash and windscreen is nice and deep so you can fit a good-sized multi-function display. On the test boat the marine radio was built into the dash in front of the passenger seat.
Morningstar Bay Rover 2
Morningstar Bay Rover 15The wraparound windscreen can be opened in the middle, providing easy access to the bow and anchor well. Setting and retrieving the anchor is made easy by a built-in step that enables you to step up closer to the well.
There is good storage room under the dash but you would need to store life jackets and safety gear in containers to ensure they remain in good condition. There are plenty of grab rails around the windscreen and in the cockpit for those times when the weather may be a little rough.

The test boat was fitted with a Honda 60hp four-stroke, the recommended size for the boat. The boat has been designed to handle up to 90hp on the back but after achieving a top speed of 46km/h (25knots) I am not convinced you would need to invest any additional money on the bigger engine. In a boat like the Bay Rover when you are sitting so close to the water 25 knots feels plenty quick enough.Morningstar Bay Rover 7

Morningstar Bay Rover 5On a day when conditions were perfect the tinnie seemed most comfortable sitting on 28-32km/h (15-17 knots) with the engine ticking over at 4000-4500rpm. The outboard would also be at its most economical at these speeds.

As I just mentioned the day we tested the Morningstar Bay Rover 498 conditions were pretty near perfect — the type of  conditions you would regularly experience if using the boat on inshore waters. With the ocean flat and winds calm it was exactly the sort of day when you could venture a little further offshore fishing in this little 4.98m tinnie. While there was no wind or chop on the water it was still noticeable how quiet the Morningstar was for a boat of this size, even sitting on 20knots. At know stage during the test was there any sign of a rattle or vibration, even when driving across boat wake at full speed.
The boat, with two people on board, sat nice and flat and felt composed even when being pushed to its limits. When turning, the back slides out a bit, as is the case with most tinnies this size, but it remained flat and it never felt as though you were not fully in control, even when turning hard.
The driver’s seat is set up so you can drive standing or sitting but the only time you may need to stand is when manoeuvring in tight spots or landing. Generally, I prefer to stand behind the helm but was very comfortable sitting and could adjust my seat so I could see through the windscreen without the top bar being an issue.
Morningstar Bay Rover 14
Morningstar Bay Rover 1ON THE TRAILER
The test boat was sitting on a 4.7m single axle Dunbier centre line series trailer. It is designed so you can drive on and off or use the winch to retrieve the boat with equal ease. The self-centering slides at the rear of the trailer makes retrieving an easy operation, even for first-time boat owners. With a trailerable weight of less than 1000kg most family vehicles could easily tow the Morningstar Bay Rover 498R. It is also light enough so the boat and trailer could easily be pushed into place when you get home.

The finish on the Morningstar Bay Rover 498R is as good as I have seen in this style of boat. It will comfortably carry up to five passengers making it an ideal boat for families looking for something they can mostly use in inland waters but may occasionally want to take into open water. It is easy to tow and drive making it ideal for first time owners or those who simply want a versatile, easy to use boat.

Morningstar Bay Rover 13
Value for money
Easy to use
Good cockpit room

Need to be smart with storage

Price: (as tested) $35,950
Overall Length: 4.98m
Beam: 2.0m
Hull Weight: 410kg
Max Load: 750kg
Max Persons: 5
HP Range: 40-90
Recommended HP: 60
Fuel: 60-litres