Bass Boats Guide: A Basic Handbook

For weekend anglers and die-hard bass fishermen alike, having the best bass fishing boat makes all the difference in your enjoyment of the sport. Buying a boat is a big investment that takes time and research to make sure you find the best boat for your needs. But let’s face it, when you’re in the market for a bass boat, you’re not buying a boat for entertaining – you’re buying it specifically for fishing. That means you’ll want to know the fishing-specific features and technical specifications – such as the vessel’s weight (for towing), draft (for shallow water access) and onboard capacities and capabilities.

Understanding the advantages of certain bass boat models and what makes a specific boat better for bass fishing than another type of boat – from small things like the best paint color choices (there are a lot of superstitions here) to the largest livewells – is a key part of the buying process for any serious bass angler. Many bass fisherman and women are loyal to a specific bass boat brand or model so if you’re new to the sport it is wise to research the manufacturers and decide which company is building the models best suited for your application. When you’re walking through a boat show and getting excited by all the latest, high-tech models of new bass boats available, it can be hard to remain rational about the features, styling, and prices involved with your purchase. By taking your time and using this guide to prepare, you’ll have a good head on your shoulders in terms of purchasing and owning your next bass boat, including what you should look for in your future purchase.

Two anglers fishing onboard a bass fishing boat
Above: Two anglers fishing onboard a bass fishing boat. Photo by Nitro Boats via Premier Boating Centers in Jasper, TX.

What Are Bass Boats?

First, let’s start with the basics. Bass boats are designed specifically for bass fishing, with sleek, low profiles that offer less water disturbance for better fishing. These boats are typically able to carry two to three passengers or anglers, but some larger models may hold four or five people. Bass boats range in length from 16 to 26 feet, with a variety of options in between.

For all the advantages of these boats, some people are turned away by the lack of passenger capacity, the lack of crossover options for other fishing excursions, and the rather high cost associated with them, when compared to other types of boats. However, for the true bass enthusiast, these boats are worth every penny.

Types of Bass Boats

The various types of bass boats for sale include those designed for cruising, as well as high-performance models for the serious angler. There are large and small models available, along with the option of aluminum or fiberglass hulls. Anglers can also choose bass boats based on their engine or motor type, which will usually be an outboard or trolling motor. There are boat models available in this category for things like:

  • Recreational fishing
  • Competitive or professional angling
  • Performance on the water
  • Custom bass fishing excursions
  • Multi-purpose fishing excursions

Keep in mind that traditional bass boats are not all-purpose boats. They can occasionally be used to fish for other types of creatures that live in the same water as bass. These include freshwater fish in similar areas where you’d look for bass, but they don’t get very versatile beyond that in terms of where you can fish and what you can catch.

Of course, people are buying these boats specifically to use for bass fishing, so it makes sense that they’re customized for that purpose. There are dozens of other styles of boats out there for other fishing needs. For the lone angler, mini bass models are available with a single passenger seat and room enough for just you and your fish.

Advantages of Bass Boats

Aside from the obvious fact that these boats are made specifically for bass fishing, there are many other advantages to owning one. Here are some of the biggest perks to consider when choosing bass boat designs.

  • Bass fishing boats come in all sizes, offering everything from one-man boats to models that hold up to five passengers. Whether you’re going out on the local lake and need something smaller or looking for a fishing boat that works with a trailer, these deliver every single time.
  • These fishing boats are lightweight and can be operated with an outboard motor or a simple trolling motor, making them an ideal choice in shallow rivers and other waters.
  • Bass boats have all of the essentials built-in: swivel chairs, coolers, and livewells come standard, making them ideal for a day of fishing on the water. Plus, when you’ve got everything on board, you’ll have less equipment to bring along. It’s a ready-to-go fishing solution; all you need are your poles, your fishing gear, and some cold drinks to cool you off in the hot sun.
  • The flat bottom and shallow draft of a bass boat make it easy to handle and ideal for long days on the water. There is less disturbance to the fish and these boats offer a smoother ride because they glide across the water rather than cutting through it like some powerboats and other boats with deep V-shaped hulls.
  • Modern motors allow these boats to reach performance speeds up to 116 mph at the top end. While most people won’t drive this fast regularly, the fact that you spend less time getting to your destination and more time enjoying it once you’re there is why people love these boats.
  • Bass boats have large casting decks and sizeable livewells, giving you more fishing enjoyment than you’d get on a standard powerboat or small fishing vessel.

Bass Boat Brands and Manufacturers

There are dozens of manufacturers (OEM’s) that make bass boats today. From those who provide the best bass boats for beginners, to those who make serious tournament-style bass fishing boats. Below are some of the most popular and longstanding brands on the market.

2021 Skeeter FXR 21
Above: A 2021 Skeeter FXR 21 bass boat. Photo via Central Georgia Marina Inc. in Macon, GA.

Skeeter Bass Boats

Skeeter was founded in 1948 in Texas, with its first boats offering a combination of a flat-bottomed jet boat and a powerboat, with a distinct pointed bow that the founder thought looked similar to a mosquito, which is where he got the name for the company. These boats are made of molded plywood and popular in Louisiana and Texas, where inclement weather isn’t an issue for wooden boats. Newer models of Skeeter bass boats for sale are available in fiberglass and aluminum, as well, and available for use across the country.

lund 2075 bass boat
Lund make some premium bass boats, like the 2075 Pro-V XS. Photo via Cope Marine.

Lund Bass Boats

Lund is known for making small fishing boats, offering sizes from 11 feet up to 30 feet. Lund boats are made of aluminum, fiberglass, and other materials, depending on their intended use. The company manufactures specific Lund bass boats as well as crappie boats (crappie is a type of fish, not an adjective to describe the quality of the boat!), fish and ski boats, as well as a variety of other styles of vessels. Lund is based in Minnesota and is a part of the Brunswick Corporation, which also owns Crestliner boats.

ranger bass boat
Ranger is famous for building dedicated bass boats like this Z521L. Photo by Ranger Boats.

Ranger Bass Boats

Ranger was founded in the 1960s and is based in Arkansas and was named the official boat of the Bassmaster Classic in 1972. Since then, the company has been popular among bass anglers of all kinds, offering a range of models of bass boats for sale for every need. There are professional performance models available along with budget-friendly weekend fishing models, as well as everything in between. Bassmaster Classic models were available until 2000, so there are many used models on the market for sale for those who want an iconic boat that is a part of bass boating history.

bass tracker
Trackers like this Bass Tracker Classic XL have introduced countless anglers to the world of bass fishing. Photo by Tracker Boats.

Tracker Bass Boats

Tracker boats are more affordable than a lot of fishing boats on the market today. Although their simple design and smaller engines don’t offer as high performance as some of the other models available, these boats are perfect for the individual angler or someone who just enjoys some light cruising or trolling on the weekends. Tracker bass boats are known for being among the most affordable in the bass fishing category.

triton bass boat
Triton serves the top end of the bass boat market with fishing machines like this 20 TRX Patriot. Photo via Thayers Marine

Triton Bass Boats

Boat builder Earl Bentz first started as a builder for Hydra-Sports and then went on to found Stratos, before eventually creating Triton boats. Triton is an industry leader for speed, quality, and “fishability,” and has taken over the market in many places since debuting in the mid-1990s. Triton bass boats are highly sought-after by tournament fishers and serious anglers due to their premium performance features and unique maneuverability with additional passenger space that most bass boats don’t have.

bass cat boat
Bass Cat boats are all about performance – extreme performance. Photo by Bass Cat Boats.

Bass Cat Bass Boats

Bass Cat is another company started in Arkansas. This company was established in 1971, with one of its most popular models released in 1984. The Pantera Pro 19 was quickly a favorite among anglers for its speed and ease of maneuverability. Since then, the company has been tweaking this model and creating others Bass Cat Bass Boats that offer bass fishing solutions for everyone from the average weekend angler to the professional tournament fisherman.

lowe bass boat
The Lowe Stinger series of bass boats is known for a strong combination of affordability and fishability. Photo by Lowe Boats.

Lowe Boats

Lowe Boats is a leader in aluminum and small fishing boats, pontoon boats, and hunting boats. Unlike some boat manufacturers, Lowe was established in 1971 to provide high-quality, high-value aluminum vessels designed to fit family boating needs more than anything else. Today, their inventory includes a full selection of Lowe bass boats for sale and other fishing boats, along with utility boats, deck boats, and pontoon styles.

xpress x19
The Xpress X19 has a top-end pushing 65 mph. Photo by Xpress Boats.

Xpress Bass Boats

Xpress was the first bass boat manufacturer to produce a model with an entirely welded construction design. They also released a hyper-lift hull, which offers design details commonly seen in fiberglass high-speed powerboats, offering more performance for those anglers who don’t want to spend all day getting to their favorite spot. In addition to building Xpress bass boats, the company is also known for creating a 22-foot monster known for producing as much as 300 horsepower on the open water.

starcraft bass boat
StarCraft builds versatile fishing boats, many of which are adept at bass fishing. Photo via St. Croix Power Sports.

StarCraft Bass Boats

StarCraft fishing boats and bass boats are a division of StarCraft Marine, which is a family-owned company that manufactures boats, RVs, and campers. In their early days, the company also produced a variety of farm equipment, but they have since honed their focus to recreational vehicles and watercraft. Starcraft is known for building fun, versatile boats that are well within reach for most boaters. Starcraft boats are some of the best boats in the industry and have been in business since 1903, with models available for the professional angler and the leisure boater alike, including a few purpose-built bass boat models.

Bass Boats: Propulsion Options

While there are many different ways to propel a boat, bass boats typically use one of two methods: the outboard or trolling motor. An outboard motor is fairly standard in the boating world. This is the engine that is installed on the back of the boat and dropped into the water, which then uses a propeller to move the boat through the water. These come in various sizes and horsepower ratings to fit the size of the boat and the desired performance of the owner.

Trolling motors are small motors designed for use in shallow waters when you are trying to move about slowly or aren’t covering a lot of ground. These motors don’t disturb the water as much, offering a quieter option for fishing than some other motor options. After all, you can’t attract fish if your engine is disrupting the water 500 feet around the boat.

There are newer styles of bass boats that offer jet drive propulsion, which is commonly found in personal watercraft. This type of internal engine may also offer less disturbance to the water. Jet drive models are usually on the high end of the price range and more geared toward performance fishing.

Bass Boat Accessories and Add-Ons

To make the most of any fishing excursion, many people choose to upgrade their boats with technology and equipment that makes everything easier. Models are available today that include or can be upgraded to use a high-tech GPS system for navigation. There are also electric and hydraulic anchors available for bass boats, allowing them to drift in the shallow water so as not to disturb fish with an engine.

electric motor
Bass boats can be outfitted with some very advanced equipment, like electric trolling motors which can use GPS to keep a boat “anchored” in place automatically. Photo by Lenny Rudow.

Electric-steer motors and remote systems are available, as are fish finders and electronic mapping systems. Depth finders, sonar, and side imaging are also tools that are available to help locate bass hideouts and find the best fishing spots.

Bass Boat Popularity

Bass boats are consistently among the highest searched boat types on Boat Trader year in and year out. These boats are popular across the country for their excellent fishability, economic price and durability. They are easy to handle and maneuver. From 2020 to 2021 Boat Trader has seen the highest interest in bass boats since 2007, with record numbers of online searches from across the nation.

How Much Does A Bass Boat Weight?

Bass boats can weigh anywhere from 800 pounds to over 2,500 pounds. Generally bass boats are under 3,500 pounds, making them fairly easy to trailer and maneuver. Bass boats are almost universally trailerable boats that can be towed by a wide range of cars, light duty pickup trucks and vehicles. When you’re looking at buying a bass boat you should check your towing capacity of your vehicle and consider the weight capacity of the trailer as well. Luckily many new bass boats come paired with a trailer which is an attractive selling point for many buyers. A small bass boat you could probably tow with a Class 1 car (up to 2,000 pounds GTW capacity) but with most bass boats you’d be safer off with a Class 2 trailer class that would give you up to 3,500 pounds of towing capacity. Remember when considering towing capacity it’s better to be safe than sorry, as they say. The more capacity the better. Another consideration when looking at the weight of a bass boat is the capacity of your boat lift, if you have one.

How Much Does A Bass Boat Cost?

The average price of a new bass boat from a boat dealer in the U.S. is approximately $29,000. However there are many entry level bass boats available for significantly lower prices, as well as more equipped, expensive bass boats on the upper end of that price spectrum that appeal to serious hardcore anglers with many advanced fishing features and more powerful engine options. The average price for a used bass boat is between $3,000 and $10,000. Generally there is a fairly big price range in the bass boats market. Some sellers are willing to sell older bass boats they want out of their driveway quickly for as low as a few thousand dollars.

What Is The Best Color For A Bass Boat?

Generally the best paint colors for a fishing boat are said to be darker colors and camouflage style paint schemes. However, you may notice a lot of the newer bass boats have bright, shiny colors. Some anglers claim there is an advantage to certain colors on the water over others, in terms of attracting different fish species. This is largely up to preference and fishing styles. One thing we would note is that darker colors below the waterline may be less disruptive to most fish species and blend in better with the habitat. Above the waterline, it’s more about style than function.

bass cat red boat
No colors or patterns are off limits when it comes to bass boats. Photo via Clemons Boats.

Why Do Bass Boats Sparkle?

Bass boats often have metallic, “sparkly” glitter paint. Why? There are a number of reasons but some anglers believe that the reflection of the glitter will attract fish. Whether or not that’s based on science is up for debate, but we’ve certainly heard many anecdotes that suggest experienced anglers may have some fairly convincing reasons why this could be the case.

Can Bass Boats Be Used In Saltwater?

Certain bass boats are designed for use only in freshwater. Other models are designed for both saltwater and freshwater. Models that can be used in either saltwater or freshwater are generally advertised as such, and usually will be labeled accordingly. Certain components onboard a bass boat can be damaged and corroded badly by saltwater, so it is important when you are shopping for a used bass boat to inspect the vessel carefully, especially if it has been used in saltwater. Engines are a big area of concern here, as some outboard engines that come rigged on bass boats are designed only for fresh water use. Check out our reviews page to see bass boats that are designed for saltwater use, and bass boats designed specifically for freshwater. One thing is for sure, bass boats are never designed to be taken out into the open ocean.

Wrapping Up

If you’re a big fan of bass fishing, owning a specific bass boat might be exactly what you need. There are a variety of styles and models to choose from, but you want to make sure that you’re looking specifically at bass fishing boats because there are dozens of types of fishing boats on the market today. For versatility, performance, and better bass fishing excursions, these relatively affordable boats offer something for everyone.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2019 and was last updated in February 2022.

Written by: Ryan McVinney

C. Ryan McVinney is a film director, producer, writer, actor, boat captain, outdoor enthusiast and conservationist. He's currently the host and director of Boat Trader's award-winning Stomping Grounds TV show that explores boating culture across America. McVinney also directs and produces the documentary series Cult Classics and the extreme superyacht show LEGENDS for YachtWorld, as well the popular Factory Fridays video series for boats.com. He is a regular contributor to leading marine industry publications.

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