What if I told you there’s an 18-foot, aluminum bass boat out there that can blast you across the lake at nearly 45 mph, for less than $23,000? Well, such an animal exists, and it comes with a trailer, a gutsy Yamaha VMAX SHO 115 four-stroke outboard, and tons of fishing features to help you land the big ones. Say hello to the Ranger RT188.
Before I headed out onto Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay to put the RT188 through its paces, I took some time to crawl around on deck and check out this boat’s interior accommodations. While I’ve never really like the way most bass boat seating works—in that it sometimes feels as if you’re strapping yourself in for a space launch versus a comfortable seating position for driving—the Ranger RT188’s seats had enough of an upright attitude to be comfortable and provide good visibility. There’s room for three anglers, but if you’re only hauling two you can flip down the middle seat back as sort of an armrest. Underneath all three cockpit seats is ample stowage space.
Aft of the cockpit is a large casting deck, which has base for a pedestal-mount fishing chair. Underneath this deck are a battery stowage compartment, an optional livewell, and twin tackle organizer stowage to port and starboard. Up on the forward casting deck is even more stowage, highlighted by a centerline rod stowage locker that’s bordered on both sides with general gear stowage lockers. Farther forward is a flat area with deck controls for the Minn-Kota trolling motor, as well as a pedestal mount for a swiveling fishing chair. One thing you’ll notice as you move around the RT188 is that it doesn’t “feel” as if it’s aluminum. Ranger’s metalwork is so solid that I often forgot I was on a metal boat.
My test boat was fitted with Yamaha’s new and extremely capable VMAX SHO 115 four-stroke outboard, which I ran for the first time last fall at Yamaha’s test facility on the Tennessee River. It’s the little engine that could, producing great hole-shot performance and thrilling top-end speeds out of a compact and lightweight 1.8-liter package. It didn’t disappoint on the Ranger RT188, launching quickly out of the hole and then accelerating quickly up to a top speed of 44.4 mph at 6,300 rpm. You’ll want to cruise around the 25-mph range, where I found the VMAX SHO 115 to run most efficiently, sipping only 3.1 gallons per hour. With the 21-gallon fuel tank, that means you can theoretically cover 163 miles of water in a single tank of fuel. And that’s impressive for an 18-footer.
Handling was impressive, too, even with the steep, one-foot chop I had to contend with. Despite its relatively flat profile, the hull easily split waves and kept things dry inside, with very little pounding. The RT188 handles well, too, carving turns with a stable, solid feeling. I’m not a huge fan of gunwale-mounted engine controls, however, though it’s the norm for most boats like this with a limited amount of dash space. The dash gauges are easy to read, but also very basic. I’d choose some of Yamaha’s Command Link gauges versus the standard instrumentation, because they provide fuel efficiency and other engine performance data I like to keep tabs on.
All in all, Ranger’s got a difficult-to-beat package with its RT188. If you’re looking for a fast, fun, and affordable bass boat package, this one’s worth adding to your shopping list.
For more information, visit Ranger Boats.