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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