Helpful and unbiased advice from current boat owners.
On the surface, most bass boats look about the same – a large front casting deck, two pedestal seats, seating for 2 or 3 in the cockpit and a huge motor on the back. But, there are many subtleties that separate good boats from great ones. The following boat buyer’s guide identifies the top priorities and recommendations from our panel of 122 bass boaters to help you select your next rig.
1). Quality of Construction is paramount
Not surprisingly, Quality of Construction was rated most important. In fact, 86% rated this as “One of the Highest Priorities”. The next closest was Ride/Handling (68%) followed by Layout (65%). But what makes for a quality boat? According to our panel of boaters, you should look for one that uses little or preferably no wood in the construction. And, hand laid fiberglass is preferred to the “chopper gun” method. Decks should not flex much and hatches should be sturdy and fit properly and have smooth edges. Finally, seats should be comfortable and the upholstery should be thick and well stitched to hold up over time.
- “Workmanship and quality of materials and components.” (Scott C., Paris, TX)
- “Aluminum vs wood for decks. Hatch lids are rigid and latch securely. Seats are comfortable. Things are tight and workings are accessible.” (anonymous)
- “Quality materials, carpet that don’t fade or rot & repels mildew. Hand laid fiberglass. No wood in frame or structure.” (Joseph L., Magnolia, TX)
- “Knowing that top quality materials and the latest construction methods were used and a solid transom is a must, seen too many cracked transoms on new boats!” (Robert J., Diamond Bar, CA)
- “Hand-laid hull, top quality materials.” (James B., Mosinee, WI)
- “Wood rots so no wood. Metal in places others use plastic. Heavy duty seat fabric. Seats are the first thing to go on most bass boats.” (Sport S., Maple Grove, MN)
- “Overall design, metal not plastic, seat stitching and material, carpet padding.” (Russell S., Atlanta, GA)
- “Check carpet finish out in storage compartments and other areas. Some boat manufacturers are pretty sloppy in this finish out area which brings to question the quality of the overall manufacturing process. Also check under console for access to wiring.” (George C., Allen, TX)
- “Deck lids need to be solid, no flex. Good quality of the components used.” (Mike M., Tampa, FL)
2). Delivers a smooth ride
Given that today’s bass boats often run in excess of 70 mph, it is no wonder that ride/handling is also very important. This is both a comfort and safety issue. When it comes to the ride, look for a boat that can handle rough water and delivers a smooth and dry ride. This is especially important because tournament anglers don’t always get to “pick and choose” when to fish and so the boat must be able to handle a variety of conditions. You’ll also want one that accelerates quickly for safety reasons (visibility) and to help you climb out of tight, shallow spaces and get to the next spot quickly.
- “I look for overall performance of the boat. Is the hull designed for a good ‘holeshot’ from a dead start? Is it a dry ride in rough water? How does this boat handle at different speed ranges? Is there any chine walk at full throttle? Does this boat porpoise at different RPM ranges? How does the boat turn and what kind of backwash is there when making an emergency stop from coming off plane? I am also interested in the response of the steering mechanisms.” (Scott B., Kilgore, TX)
- “Hole shot -tight turns without taking on water. Able to handle rough water without beating the driver & passengers up. Setting up high enough to get your feet and legs under you helps for a smoother ride- your back does not take any punishment during rough water rides.” (Harry S., Scott, AR)
- “Something that will handle rough water & provide a dry ride.” (Bob W., Shakopee, MN)
- “Fast on plane and smooth in choppy waters.” (Art H., Atlanta, GA)
- “A boat that comes to plane fast, does not porpoise, runs smoothly in rough water, and is easy to steer.” (Vic K., Cross Plains, TX)
- “Gets on plane quickly and handles rough water.” (Jeff S., Longview, TX)
- “Able to handle rough water and feel confident you will be safe in any type of situation.” (anonymous)
The challenge, however, is if you are thinking of buying a new boat, being able to take a test drive might be difficult if your dealer is not located near water. In these situations, you will either need to either go out in a friend’s boat or find a dealer/manufacturer who is willing to let you demo one. But, given the high importance of this item, it is probably worth the trouble.
3). Large front deck and ample storage
Another very important consideration is the layout and bass boaters are very clear what to look for in this regard – a large front deck and plenty of storage for multiple rods and gear.
- “Big deck and great storage for tackle.” (Mark M., North Canton, OH)
- “Wide front deck, good rod lockers and storage areas.” (Louis O., Sparta, WI)
- “Large front deck, plenty of storage compartments.” (Mike T., Dunnellon, FL)
- “I want the boat as fishable as it can be. Rod storage cooler storage and as many compartments as possible.” (Pete J., Cincinnati, OH)
- “Ease of fishing from decks, non-cluttered, places for all equipment out of the way when fishing.” (Bob W., Loveland, Ohio)
- “Rod storage, livewell access, tackle storage.” (Art H., Atlanta, GA)
- “Plenty of storage and very large rod box.” (Russell E., Batesville, MS)
- “Lots of storage for gear, a longer rod locker.” (Gary T., Rhinelander, WI)
- “Ease of layout and fishability.” (Andy S., Henderson, NC)
Be sure the rod locker can minimally accept 7 ½’ rods or whatever is the maximum size you use. Ideally, it should have tubes or some other organization system to keep your equipment from getting crushed or entangled. Locks are nice too but there are systems that can be added after the fact to deter thieves so the absence of locks is not a deal breaker.
4). Lengthy and comprehensive warranty to protect your investment
A new bass boat will typically run in excess of $60K. Given that sizeable investment, you’ll want to make sure you are backed by a quality warranty. According to bass boat owners in our study, look for a lifetime hull warranty and roughly a 5 year warranty on everything else. It is also important that the warranty be comprehensive – especially since, unlike car manufacturers, much of the content in a boat is not built by the boat manufacturer directly. For example, Ranger doesn’t build their own engines (unlike GM, Ford, Honda, etc.). You want a company that will stand behind you and take ownership of a problem – even if it is something that they did not directly produce.
- “Lifetime hull, 5 years everything else.” (James R., Houston, TX)
- “At least 10 years to the original owner on hull, 3 years on accessories and 5 years on motor.” (Dave I, Claremore, OK)
- “Lifetime hull and transom warranty.” (Jay A., Sand Springs, OK)
- “Warranty is importance due to you may not use your boat as often as you would buying a automobile so you would like to have a longer warranty just in case something does go wrong. There’s always something.” (Leslie L., Cleveland, TX)
- “3-5 year on boat, motor and trailer with any accessories installed by factory.” (Michael M., Greenfield, MN)
- “A minimum of 5 years.” (Bob W., Loveland, OH)
- “Great boats have lifetime warranty on hull and at least 3 year on everything else.” (Gary K., Pasadena, TX)
- “Length of the warranty and comprehensive and clear coverage. Longer the better so that if something breaks that’s out of your control you don’t have to pay that and pay for the boat. Clear and states what is covered just so that you’re not surprised when the one thing breaks that you’re not expecting to ever break.” (Steven D., Winter Park, FL)
- “Lifetime hull warranty, good customer service.” (Scott M., Madison, MS)
5). A quick and reliable engine
All boaters want an engine that is dependable and many suggest getting the maximum horsepower your boat will allow. But bass boaters also recommend getting an engine that delivers good acceleration and top speed to get to the next hole quickly. The Mercury Pro XS and Yamaha SHO are specifically recommended by some.
- “All-around performance. Hole shot to top end.” (Dave I., Claremore, OK)
- “Fast hole shots, the faster uses less gas.” (Bobby M., Birmingham, AL)
- “Top end speed. Dependability.” (Mike B., Buford, GA)
- “Max HP for hull, and Mercury or Yamaha!” (Anthony T., Powderly, TX)
- “Mercury motor for dependable.” (John I., Emporia, KS)
- “Mercury Pro XS high horsepower. Hydraulic or electric adjustable jack plate.” (Joseph L., Magnolia, TX)
- “Mercury Pro XS.” (Troy C., Sylacauga, AL)
- “I have had very good luck with Yamaha motors. Not always the case with other brands. I also want the boat and motor to be paired right. Maximum horsepower for the hull.” (Sport S., Maple Grove, MN)
- “A Yamaha motor for the highest horsepower allowed by the particular model of boat.” (Vic K., Cross Plains, TX)
- “4 stroke Yamaha SHO – quiet dependable not bad on gas – excellent hole shot top end speed and good mid-range power.” (Harry S., Scott, AR)
6). Quality livewell, electronics and other key features
If you intend to use your boat for tournaments, be sure to check that your boat has a quality livewell aeration system in order to keep your catch healthy all the way back to the weigh-in. The electronics (fish finders) can be a bit pricey but will improve your productivity on the water. Look for a fairly large screen for visibility. And, if you fish larger lakes or ones with a lot of hazards, you will want an integrated charting system to help mark honey holes or help with navigation. The trolling motor should have ample power for the size of boat you are considering to hold you in position in a stiff wind or help to cover a large area relatively quickly. Some suggest having a recessed area for the foot pedal. This is a good idea since it will reduce the stress on your back. Likewise, a couple individuals recommended getting a padded deck to help alleviate the discomfort from standing on your feet all day.
- “Padded front deck, tilt steering, flush cleats, livewell pumpouts, remote gas/oil fill, on board battery charger, aluminum trailer.” (Michael M., Greenfield, MN)
- “Rod tie downs, dry storage, ability to use any battery to start the main engine, quality trolling motor, easy to launch and load, power poles,” (Mike S., Cedar Creek, TX)
- “Recessed foot pedal for the trolling motor. Two separate live wells with a way to help add oxygen to the water, not just recirculate.” (Ted H., Little Rock, AR)
- “Trolling motor, and fish finder. Even if your gas motor fails, having a strong and reliable trolling motor can get you back or at least far enough to get someone’s attention. When boating and fishing, a quality and or simple depth finder is necessary. Trolling motor, and fish finder. Even if your gas motor fails, having a strong and reliable trolling motor can get you back or at least far enough to get someone’s attention. When boating and fishing, a quality and or simple depth finder is necessary. If you don’t know that you’re in 1 ft or 100 ft you’re just guessing.” (Steven D., Winter park, FL)
- “Storage for tournament lure requirements. Rod locker/lockers able to hold over 8 foot rods. Blade power poles. Top of the line Lowrance or Humminbird electronics. High horsepower motors.” (Joseph L., Magnolia, TX)
- “I look for features that make a full day on the water somewhat more comfortable. I like a padded deck (padding under the carpet) up front where I fish. I also like an electronic lock/alarm on the storage compartments. I like having large, comfortable seats (this helps absorb some of the shock on my lower back when running hard in rough water). I like a Hot Foot for control and safety, and a trim switch located on the steering column. I like having large functional live wells equipped with an Oxygenator to help keep my fish alive and well all day.” (Scott B., Kilgore, Texas)
These are some of the basic requirements to look for if shopping for a bass boat according to our sample of current bass boat owners. But, everyone has different needs and desires. Please let us know what you look for in the comments section below.