Why so long to post—boat buying on hold—temporarily

I stopped looking for a boat for a while because of the uncertainty of the economy. But I hadn't given up either.

I finally got back on track. There sure a lot of great boats to choose from.

Stay tuned

Update: I have the Phoenix for nearly 6 years. Other than one problem with the Yamaha trim, it has been one nice boat.

Used vs New? more bass boat buying tips

In response to a recent comment quoted here, Jason asked about buying a used bass boat.

"With your experience selling and repairing boats, what do you look for when buying a used boat to make sure you get the most for your money?

Well Jason, this is a hard question to answer. I won't say "it depends" because that sounds like a cop out.

But here is what I would do. Now I know this may upset some dealers, but I would buy a boat through word of mouth from trusted friends. I know, I know, this is not always possible.

And some dealers will have some good deals. Especially if it is one of their pro staff boats. Those boats are usually well cared for because the pro staffer has certain obligations to keep his boat looking good as part of his contract.

I would avoid buying a boat belonging to someone who fishes lots of tournaments. A few tournaments are fine. It's the guy's boat who fishes every weekend that scares me because he puts lots of hours on that boat.

I know of two boats right now that are nearly brand new and are well maintained. One is a BassCat and the other is a Blazer that are great buys. The price is right and the boats have little hours on them. In fact, I even thought of buying one of them and reselling it at a $5000 profit because it is priced so well.

I sold my boat last year about this time to a member in my bass club. He heard about it from another clubber. Even though the boat was 10 years old, it had very few hours and runs great. Sure some cosmetic stuff was showing its wear but over all it was a good buy.

Because the guy was in my club, I sold it less than what I thought I could get for it. I figured if anything went wrong right after he bought it, I would feel bad. So I discounted it by $1000 to $1500 so even if something happened he still had a good boat at a fair price. As it was, he got a great deal.

And, read the fishing forums and look for sale items. Someone on the forum probably knows the current owner and can vouch whether the boat is well-maintained.

I have a friend who sells his Ranger every year. He does fish a lot so the boat will have some hours on it, but he is very fastidious about his stuff. I think he has guys standing in line to buy his pro staff boats when he's ready for a new one.

Join a bass club if you don't know many people and you will be amazed at how many good deals you will hear about where you live. You will know the history of the boat from the clubbers and you will see the boat in club tournaments.

As I think of more ideas, I'll post them. And I invite comments to this and other posts.

Until next time,

Bass Boat model year change, best time to buy is now

If you are looking for a good deal on a new boat, the fall/early winter is a good time to buy. I stopped in at Ranger dealer the other day and he was out of stock. He told me I could order a new 09 at 08 prices, with even a 10% discount if I ordered now. He will probably be going to the dealer meeting soon so he could also order a 09 for me then, if I wanted delivery next winter or spring.

Here is a secret: If a dealer has some stock boats, he will be willing to come down.

When I sold boats, we would order at the July dealer meetings and get free "flooring" until about May. After that, we had to start paying interest on the inventory, which adds up in hurry. The goal was to make as much profit during the free flooring time and then discount the few remaining boats in May so we would not have to pay interest on all that money.

This time of year, I also knew that the dealer meeting was coming up so if I didn't have what someone wanted, I could take the order with a small deposit and order the boat at the dealer meeting. The more boats I ordered at the meeting, the better discount I could get.

If you need a boat soon, and the boat you want is not in stock, order it for delivery. The factories are slowing down now, so they are going to offer the dealer incentives to keep ordering. The dealer is probably not going to order enough now to get a truck load so shipping charges could add a lot to the cost, so make the dealer an offer: Offer to go pick the boat up at the factory.

It may not be worth it to you to take some time off work and spend hundreds of dollars on gas, but it is better than waiting for the factory to get a truck load going in your dealer's direction, especially if your dealer is only getting one or two boats.

If I knew which boat I wanted to buy, I would be ordering now.

until next time, bass editor

BassCat bass boat

So far my search has been slowed by my work schedule. However, I did test a BassCat not too long ago and I was favorably impressed. We were in some mildly rough water at Lake Fork, so it was a good test. (And I even caught some bass, but nothing to brag about.)

When we hit the 2 1/2- to 3-foot waves, the boat felt solid. There wasn't any rattling of windshields, compartment lids, etc., like I experienced in other boats. And the boat was fast! It felt faster than the Nitro I rode in the same weekend. I like the way it planed quickly and acceleration was good. I could feel the boat come on the pad quickly and I loved the wind blowing through my hair.

But we did get some jarring as the hull sliced through some of the quartering waves we hit. I expected a little better from the BassCat. Its ride is not any worse than some other boats I've tested, but not as good as, get ready for this, the Nitro. Having said that, the BassCat felt stronger, hull wise. But that is very subjective, isn't it.

Both the Nitro and the BassCat had 250HP Mercs. I'm partial to Mercs.

We fished for an hour or so late in the evening. The platform is real easy to fish from. Three of us fished very comfortably. I love the big front deck. I thought I would like the center console concept of the Nitro Z9, but I'm going to stay with a dual console design.

We strapped down some 7 1/2-foot Loomis rods on the deck and they were inside the deck space without having to lay them over a console or gunwale. There was plenty of walking space on the deck and the rods were not in the way. That is something very important to me.

The boat is finished well —not as nice as the Legend, especially the rear compartment. But it still looks good. There is plenty of room for batteries and so forth but I wish these boats had just a little more fuel capacity.

Fuel capacity isn't that big of deal for most people, but in some tournaments, you have to make really long runs. I like to get away from the crowds and am willing to run long distances if it will give me an advantage. Of course, with fuel prices. I may not be able to do that much these days, unless I'm confident I can cash a tournament check by running far.

The BassCat wasn't even on my radar screen when I began this quest. It is now.

Until next time....

Nitro Z9 vs Bass Cat Cougar

This was a busy weekend. I spent the weekend at the Toyota Texas Bass Classic tournament at Lake Fork. It is a great lake that receives tons of fishing pressure, yet it still kicks out big bass.

There were several bass boats on display at the exhibitor displays: Nitro, Ranger, Legend and Bass Cat. Friday nite I went for a ride in the Bass Cat. I really liked the boat a lot. The next day I rode in the Nitro Z9 as I had planned. I rode in the center console Z9.

It was different driving the center console. It will take some getting used to. The boat drove better than I expected. I spent a lot of time with some of the Nitro guys. Some were local pro staffers, some were factory people and I spoke with one of the Nitro pros who was fishing the tournament. The boat was more expensive than I thought it would be. I could see myself in the boat, but it was a $53,000 boat. If I spend that much, I might opt for a Ranger or a Bass Cat or?

There is only a few thousand dollars difference.

Every person I spoke with told me their boat is the best riding boat out there! The water was rougher when I drove the Bass cat than when I drove the Nitro so it is hard to compare. We cut through some wakes in the Nitro and it handled well. In a sharp turn I did get some spray from the Nitro, even in the center of the boat.

The Nitro has 4 seats across from gunnel to gunnel but only 2 are behind the console. I was hoping I could maybe strap down rods in the center of the front deck so both sides would be free, but the deck is too short for that. I found several draw backs: if you strap down your rods on the sides, there is a chance they could get stepped on when you walk up to the front deck. Also, the backs of the 2 outside passenger seats stick up rather high so when you step down from the back deck you have to lift your foot high, which might be tricky in rough water. Also, the area where your foot comes down is rather narrow, so you have to be quite agile to hit the mark and not fall onto the floor or into the console.

Furthermore, the opening from the console to the side is narrow so when you come off the front deck it is easy to hit your knee on the console and there is nothing to hold onto. It would be easy to fall. You could even fall overboard if you were somewhat clumsy.

The Nitro didn't feel perky. It planed quickly but it didn't seem to snap to attention like the Bass Cat. The Cat came up on the pad quickly and really is fast.


Nitro Bass Boats

I have been running behind in my quest to buy a new boat. No excuses, but things are starting to shape up now. I have some appointments set up to demo some boats starting with a Nitro Z9. I am still working on setting up other demos but I have to squeeze in some real work too.

In my homework, I've pretty much settled on a 20 or 21 footer. Not all boats are created equal as we all know. Some 21s are way too big and some 20s are too small. Ride is so important but even more important to me is fishability.

I hadn't considered a Nitro until I looked at one at the San Antonio boat show. They sure seem far more improved from a few years ago. I am even considering the center console bass boat, which I will be riding in this next week at Lake Fork.

Remember the center console Skeeter? I thought it looked ... well, not exactly my favorite look. However, as I thought about it, and I said last time, I hate stepping on rods while fishing. I like to get right up against the gunwale so my rods are always under foot.

What would happen if the rods were down the center of the front deck and the sides were kept clear? That has some merit. I like the idea of the anglers each getting out from the consoles going in opposite directions. In most boats, one guy has to wait a second for the other guy to move to get out of or in the seats. Not an issue in a center console boat!

Hey, it might lead to one or two extra casts at every stop. Casts = Fish.

After I ride the Nitro this week I'll make a full report. Today is Saturday and I leave for Lake Fork on Tuesday, ride in the Nitro Wednesday. Then on Thursday I have to set an exhibit space at the Toyota Texas Bass Classic tournament. I'll be working the show Friday through Sunday and come home Monday.

Then I leave on Wed. for Corpus Christi Texas to set up an exhibit space at an on the water boat show. That will be fun!


What is a Bass Boat's True Size?

I struggle with what size boat to buy.

In many of the smaller lakes (reservoirs) near me a 18 or 19 foot bass boat is a good size. But I just sold a 18'9" Stratos 285 Pro bass boat and it was way too small.

I'm convinced I need a 20 or 21 footer, but not all are the same. There is no consistency in how manufacturers size and design their boats. Many boats have a recessed splash well and the edges of the boat extend out from there. In effect, you run on a shorter hull as the motor is mounted inside the total length of the boat, not added on. (My Stratos was like that.) However, some boats do have the transom running evenly all the way across so you get more running surface, hence more true length.

It is not too big of deal I guess, but I feel cheated. Take the Skeeter for example. The fiberglass extends out from the back of the boat to make the measurement seem longer. According to the Skeeter rep (salesman) I spoke with at the boat show, the extensions help the boat plane faster (almost like trim tabs in a way).

But to get the deck space I'm looking for, I may have to go with a 21 footer rather than a 20. My biggest pet peeve on the front deck is how my rods are always under foot when I'm trying to fish. Most of my rods are 7 footers so I need deck space. I don't want to be breaking $200 to $300 dollar rods every time I go out.

And even in a 20 foot boat, the rear deck is so small on many models that the back seater has no room to lay out his gear. Of course, most pros aren't concerned if the non-pro partner has space or not. In many cases I invite my day's partners to fish on the front deck with me. (Another good reason for a big front deck.)

I'm not fishing many tournaments at this time so you would think that deck space isn't that important to me. In reality, I need even more space. When I'm not tournament fishing, I almost always have photographers and all their expensive gear on board.

You know those big hard-sided cases they like to stow camera bodies and lenses in don't fit in any compartments and in some boats barely fit under the passenger-side console.

So the hard cases are always banging around on the floor or behind the passenger seat, which leads to scratched gel coat or torn seats.

Even worse is when I take my family out. My two sons are tall and they need leg room; but my son-in-law is even taller at 6'8" and he has to fold up like an accordion to sit in just about any boat.

So I rode in a 21' Skeeter ZX model recently. It rode well, but we were only in a 1-foot chop most of the day, so I didn't get a chance to see how it rides in big water. It does plane fast, however. With three of us in the boat, including camera gear, it was difficult to get in and out of the seats without playing musical chairs around the camera cases.

I like the idea of having rod tie downs on the front deck (and some anglers install their own on the back deck, but the bungie-cord style on the Skeeter seem to me like they won't last very long. I prefer the Velcro-style straps.

Other than that, the Skeeter is still on my short list. If I buy Skeeter, I would opt for the i-class series. I am setting up a demo ride soon in a i-class and I'll let you know what I think.

In a later discussion, I would like to talk about engines. I prefer Mercury over Yamaha, always have. That is going to be difficult with Skeeter. In one of my previous boats, which was then owned by OMC (Johnson/Evinrude), I had to pay several thousand dollars extra for the dealer to re-power with Mercury. Even then, the dealer left some of the OMC gauges in the dash, so the boat was a mixture of Merc and OMC gauges. Although not noticeable to many people, it sure bothered me.

There is just so much to watch for in buying gear.

Buying the Perfect Bass Boat

I need (make that, want) a new bass boat. So why am I telling you this? I thought it would be fun for y'all (yes, I live in Texas, although I'm not a native) to follow along as I explore and test drive new boats. (By the way, a common saying down in these parts is "I wasn't born here, but I got here as fast as I could.) I hate that saying. For the record, I came to Texas to take a new job ... and to have year-round bass fishing. Although I am bothered by the above saying, I love living in Texas. When my old fishing buddies' boats are covered in two-feet of snow, (like mine used to be from about November to late March) I can be on the lake bass'n. Especially, if I fish the local power-plant lakes in Dec. through early Feb. But I digress, which I do from time to time.

This will probably be the last boat I buy in my lifetime so I want to get it right and at the current prices, I want to make sure I don't get a boat I'm not thrilled with every time I'm on the water. I have been to several boat and fishing shows since January and I'm going to an "on the water" boat show in April. Not every boat I want to look at will be at the show so I will need to visit some dealerships and take test rides in various other boats. Follow along as I investigate all the bass boat options available over the next little while.

I'm in no hurry to buy, and I will be thorough. I invite you to add comments as we do this. Maybe together we can find the perfect combination.

In January, if I had bought a boat it would have been either Ranger or Legend. I have never cared for Skeeter much, but I looked at them very carefully at the last boat show I was at. I have to add skeeter to my option list now. I like the idea of the really strong support structure Skeeters have. In the '08 brochure is a picture of a Skeeter mounted on a rack by the engine mounting bolts through the transom. The whole weight of the boat is held by those bolts. (Of course, no engine is mounted and as any basser knows, those transoms can take a pounding in rough water.) Still, impressive marketing in my book.

I tried to find the same photo on the Skeeter Web site, but the closest I came was the PDF download from the Freshwater Catalog Cover and Intro. Check out the link on this page: http://www.skeeterboats.com/my_extras/literature_downloads/.

I really worry about a transom or stringers rotting away on my $50,000 to $60,000 bass boat. Yes, lots of money, I know, but if I want the ultimate bassn platform, that, or more, is what it takes to get there.

Now, I can hear naysayers already. "You don't need to buy such an expensive boat." I disagree. You get what you pay for. I want the best I can get within a reasonable price range. $100,000 or example would be too much ... but it won't be long before we see $100,000 bass boats.

I want a boat that can take some tough scrapes over stumps, logs, or rocks and still make it back the the marina. I don't want to be towed in (how embarrassing and in some cases expensive). Plus, even if a Good Samaritan tows you in, you take a lot of fishing time away from him. That is unfair to him.

I speak from experience. Many years ago, I was driving a brand new Stratos 201 with a Kevlar hull. I loved that boat for its speed and fishability. Late in Feb. (about 1988), I was running WOT on a mirror-smooth Lake Powell Reservoir in Utah, up the San Juan River arm,
while practicing for a bass tournament. I was more than 65 miles from the boat landing when I accidentally hit the bank and the boat slid up the beach and on top of a pick-up-sized boulder. When we were finally able to get the boat back to the shop, we found no hull damage other than a few scratches in the gel coat. (I'll tell the story in full detail in a later post. It is funny and scary.)

A strong-built boat is important to me. I don't plan on running up on any more beaches, but I've witnessed enough accidental hitting of submerged logs or floating trees that a strong hull is very important.

In my next post, I tell you alittle about my background. Hint: I sold bass boats for about 10 years and have been fishing bass and walleye tournaments off and on for nearly 25 years. I do know a thing or two about this subject. Until next time.


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