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Driving A Bass Boat In Rough Water

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The other day I was out and the water got rough in a real hurry. I was located about 15 miles from the ramp in the most wide open part of the lake. We had 5- 6 foot Swales. I know that is not big for a lot of waters, however for some reason it was very difficult to navigate. I tried driving all different ways and could not figure out the safest way. Had to go slow.

What is the best way to attack rough water?

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What type of boat do you have? Engine?

I have two basic rules:

1. GO SLOW

2. Trim you motor all the way down so your keel is cutting through the chop.

Five to six foot swells are big and something not to take lightly. I suggest you hug the lee shoreline as close as safely possible. Don't try to wave hop across the tops of the swells, that will get you and your boat hurt badly.

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I was in a 20' ranger with a 200 hp on that particular day. But I am normally in a 19' nitro with a 150

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waves that big are big in any part of the Country.. When waves are that big i go slow but ill trim up just enough so if i need to gun it the nose will pick up just a bit if i trim it all the way down when you stab the gas it wants to drive the nose down but slow and steady is your best bet

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One thing you learn quickly, there is no dry travel in rough water, so put on your rain suit and go, but go slowly and keep the bow high.

Moving directly into or with the wind will help but is not usually an option. It is much smoother

to travel with the wind than into it but that too is not always an option. A crossing wind is killer and usually the roughest since the waves and bow splash both get you. I have run a zig zag course to try to avoid the crossing wind/waves, with limited success.

As suggested above traveling the leeward side of the lake is good, if an option. I have done this on Lake Istapoga in Florida, which is a round lake, in order to run the boat with the wind to my back across the main body of the lake towards the launch site. This rarely is an option though. But any time you can run with the wind.

Usually when it is really rough you are in open water so it is relatively safe to run slow with the bow high. This will blind you to your course of travel so you will need to slow to an idle now and then to get your bearings and make a course correction but it will shield you from some of the weather. Unfortunately GPS don't update often enough to be very helpful when going this slow so slow down and look is the only answer that I know.

One suggestion I would make is before you make a trip across rough water is clear the decks of all rods/reels, tackle bags etc. You do not want to stop to secure a bouncing rod or piece of equipment. I even lock my rod lockers to prevent them from bouncing open. Once on Guntersville in rough water I had several rods strapped down on the bow but the locker lids were bouncing so high(even with hyd closures) I was afraid they would break the rods, so I had to stop. BTW, I have one of the better rough water bass boats, 20ft Champion.

Experience is the only real teacher but I hope this helps. Stay safe. Sometimes waiting out a storm is the best option...............Al

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One thing you learn quickly, there is no dry travel in rough water, so put on your rain suit and go, but go slowly and keep the bow high.

Moving directly into or with the wind will help but is not usually an option. It is much smoother

to travel with the wind than into it but that too is not always an option. A crossing wind is killer and usually the roughest since the waves and bow splash both get you. I have run a zig zag course to try to avoid the crossing wind/waves, with limited success.

As suggested above traveling the leeward side of the lake is good, if an option. I have done this on Lake Istapoga in Florida, which is a round lake, in order to run the boat with the wind to my back across the main body of the lake toward the launch site. This rarely is an option though. But any time you can run with the wind.

Usually when it is really rough you are in open water so it is relatively safe to run slow with the bow high. This will blind you to your course of travel so you will need to slow to an idle now and then to get your bearings and make a course correction but it will shield you from some of the weather. Unfortunately GPS don't update often enough to be very helpful when going this slow so slow down and look is the only answer that I know.

One suggestion I would make is before you make a trip across rough water is clear the decks of all rods/reels, tackle bags etc. You do not want to stop to secure a bouncing rod or piece of equipment. I even lock my rod lockers to prevent them from bouncing open. Once on Guntersville in rough water I had several rods strapped down on the bow but the locker lids were bouncing so high(even with hyd closures) I was afraid they would break the rods, so I had to stop. BTW, I have one of the better rough water bass boats, 20ft Champion.

Experience is the only real teacher but I hope this helps. Stay safe. Sometimes waiting out a storm is the best option...............Al

Thanks for the info Al, and X2 on the red text, but I may be learning something here :) In 2009 I got my first glass boat, a Ranger 185VS; before that I had a Tracker Tournament TX which didn't handle waves well at all. When I got the Ranger I asked the owner to teach me how to operate the boat; he told me to run the chop and waves with the bow down using the keel to cut the water like a knife. That made since to me at the time and I've been doing that ever since; but the down side is I get water over the bow and a unpleasant ride.

I'm interested in what your saying about putting the bow up in heavy water and would like to know more before I try it on the Potomac River. Maybe it will help me work the water rather than avoid it like I did at Gunterville during the 2012 Road Trip; we had 40+ MPH winds that kept me off the main lake for days.

Question: how high is high?

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I think all boats handle the conditions slightly different due to different hull designs so you need to experiment. In my case my 18' champion does best for me with the motor trimmed all the way down and just enough speed to stay on pad and work the throttle as needed. The waves come in threes too so you can kinda time out and know when the really bad ones are due.

Unfortunately, I do not believe there is a single catch all answer for this situation.

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I think all boats handle the conditions slightly different due to different hull designs so you need to experiment. In my case my 18' champion does best for me with the motor trimmed all the way down and just enough speed to stay on pad and work the throttle as needed. The waves come in threes too so you can kinda time out and know when the really bad ones are due.

Unfortunately, I do not believe there is a single catch all answer for this situation.

Time on the water.....

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2. Trim you motor all the way down so your keel is cutting through the chop.

This will get you swamped. Point the bow high, and go easy.

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I do think that the Potamac river can be one of the nastys place on the east coast when the wind pics up but man i love that place

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Take down your front seat.

Last year on Lake Gaston we had winds blow through the area making for rough water.

One of my bass club members in his 20' Ranger Comanche had his front seat lifted off and thrown back at him like a spear.

Lucky for him the front seat hit the passenger seat next to him. Had it hit the windshield it would have come through and nailed the boater.

Just a suggestion.

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Thanks for the info Al, and X2 on the red text, but I may be learning something here :) In 2009 I got my first glass boat, a Ranger 185VS; before that I had a Tracker Tournament TX which didn't handle waves well at all. When I got the Ranger I asked the owner to teach me how to operate the boat; he told me to run the chop and waves with the bow down using the keel to cut the water like a knife. That made since to me at the time and I've been doing that ever since; but the down side is I get water over the bow and a unpleasant ride.

I'm interested in what your saying about putting the bow up in heavy water and would like to know more before I try it on the Potomac River. Maybe it will help me work the water rather than avoid it like I did at Gunterville during the 2012 Road Trip; we had 40+ MPH winds that kept me off the main lake for days.

Question: how high is high?

Traveler;

If the wind is blowing 40 mph no one should be on Guntersville, or most other lake for that matter, unless in a protected area. The upper end near Scottsboro might be ok, on or near the river. But I would have been looking for a bar to wait out the wind.

When I am running a chop I keep the bow down also. That is usually all it takes to maintain a fairly smooth ride.

What I was addressing with the "bow up" was really rough water. Water you are crossing when you should have stayed home and the entire crossing you are cussing your bad judgement and wishing you were home or in that bar I mentioned.

Let me explain that Champions ride bow higher than most other bass boats. When sitting in the water at rest the bow to stern angle is steeper than most other bass boats. This is especially true of the 203 which is the model I have. But you can get your boat to this angle underway with the trim switch, just trim up a bit. When I am running in this really rough water I want the bow high enough that very little or no spray/splash is coming over the bow. I'm talking "running" as just a few mph, just making headway. Never paid much attention to the tach but probably not more than 2000 rpm. In effect using the hull to shield youself from the weather/waves as much as possible. Does that explain?

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Perfectly put, Al.

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Al has it right. In waves less than 3 feet, you can trim down and use the keel. Bigger waves will require you to trim up. Really big waves - 6' or higher - requires a diagonal approach, else your chances of spearing a wave go up dramatically. Coming off plane and "plowing" oncoming waves with the bow way up is a common practice when it's really rough.

One tip: when running with the wind and the waves are small enough you can still run on plane, goose the throttle a bit as you ride up the larger waves. This will help keep the bow up as you ride over the crest, reducing the chances of spearing a wave. The downside is that sometimes you come down with a hard slap.

One other tip: If you go airborne and your prop comes out of the water (you'll hear the engine rev up suddenly), get off the throttle asap. You do not want your engine revving as you land. More hubs are broken this way than any other. It may not happen that day, but over time, driving like that will weaken the hub. Then one day it will just "pop" under normal conditions - like when you take off to go down the lake.

If you're going airborne, you're going way too fast.

Finally, always slow down when you see whitecaps. You'll have more time to "read" the water and adjust to larger waves.

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OK, I'm with you Al. This is basically what I've been doing. If there's a "chop" (from mild winds or boat traffic) I run bow down (with just a some trim so I'm on plane and not plowing the water) But in heaver waves I move like I'm doing a hole shot in very slow motion and never really come on plane. I've learned that wave hopping is not good for me or my boat.

My biggest failing is taking wakes from other boats while running WOT, I some times wish I had air ride seats and a five point harness to keep me in place; that would have saved my back one day.

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Al nailed it.

If you don't have a "Hot Foot", get one. It is an absolute safety necessity in rough water. It allows you to keep both hands on the wheel and it is much easier to feather the throttle when you come over or out the top of a big one. In shallow bowl lakes like Kissimmee, it can go from a light chop to 3 foot rollers in a hurry. If the wind is blowing hard, the waves have a tendency to "double up" every 8 to 10 swells. That's the one you have watch. Off the throttle as you crest the wave, then hard on the throttle to get the nose back up before you spear the next one.

Just above planing speed is where I run under most rough conditions.

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I have been fishing Erie for nearly 20 years and have been out in water I probably shouldn't have been out in more times than I care to mention. Riding the bow high is a necessity. In those conditions I run my 19' Ranger with the trim all the way up. Many times I am looking at the sky over the bow, and am looking to see where I am going by looking over the side of the boat as I turn the boat to the left a touch. Those who do this know what I am talking about. This will provide the softest and driest ride too. I also run a 4 blade prop to grip the water better, and know guys who run 5 blades for the same reason. I rarely have the prop blow out.

When the swells get big enough you can get on plane while running across them. Just try to stay in the trough and be careful going up and over the tops. This will get difficult in those large swells when they start breaking on the tops.

I have had a couple times where the waves were so big, I didn't dare go up and over the top of them while going with them. I would try to hit that perfect speed where you kinda surf on top, but the instant you feel like you're going to go over the top and back down, slow up and let the wave catch up and get ahead of you again. That's when they get in the 6 to 8 foot range. I have never been out in anything bigger than that though.

I actually enjoy fishing in these conditions on Erie when I am just repeating drifts over and over, but getting from point A to point B is a bummer.

Oh yeah, a second bilge pump is also a must. :whistle:

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Has anyone ever seen these tactics covered in print before? With all the years I've been getting Bass Master & Bass times, and other off the shelf bass fishing mag's, I can't recall ever seeing a article on how to attack waves, or boat handling; true I may have missed something, but you just don't see much on boating safety in Bass Mag's; I see more on using E-10 fuel than waves.

BTW, Last Tuesday night I had an occasion of having a CT scan at the local ER; while I was at it I asked if they would check on the progress of my L-1 compression fracture I received in Oct 2010 when I took a wave wrong, they came back with a new diagnoses of "chronic L-1 fracture"; I asked what that meant and was told "sometimes the vertebrae don't refuse". Point is, I would rather see articles on boat handling & safety, and maintenance, than why a square-billed shallow crank bait is so great. But, as everyone knows, I'm strange ;)

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But, as everyone knows, I'm strange ;)

You surely got that right! :laugh5:

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Has anyone ever seen these tactics covered in print before? With all the years I've been getting Bass Master & Bass times, and other off the shelf bass fishing mag's, I can't recall ever seeing a article on how to attack waves, or boat handling; true I may have missed something, but you just don't see much on boating safety in Bass Mag's; I see more on using E-10 fuel than waves.

BTW, Last Tuesday night I had an occasion of having a CT scan at the local ER; while I was at it I asked if they would check on the progress of my L-1 compression fracture I received in Oct 2010 when I took a wave wrong, they came back with a new diagnoses of "chronic L-1 fracture"; I asked what that meant and was told "sometimes the vertebrae don't refuse". Point is, I would rather see articles on boat handling & safety, and maintenance, than why a square-billed shallow crank bait is so great. But, as everyone knows, I'm strange ;)

I do recall a time or two that BASS had articles in their mags about operating a boat in different conditions but it has been a few years.

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Oh yeah, a second bilge pump is also a must. :whistle:

And a third backup, with a alligator clips on long wires....

Great advice, No Good. :)

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Thanks for all the replies. I ended up spearing a few that day and got my tackle all wet. Ended up just going real slow and the river bent and waves were no where near as bad. We made it back but ended up breaking the headlights off the boat. Lesson learned though. Thank God it was not any worse.

Wish there were more information on this topic as well.

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Thanks for all the replies. I ended up spearing a few that day and got my tackle all wet. Ended up just going real slow and the river bent and waves were no where near as bad. We made it back but ended up breaking the headlights off the boat. Lesson learned though. Thank God it was not any worse.

Wish there were more information on this topic as well.

It would probably be difficult, and require two boats, but it would be nice if someone made a video on Bass Boat Basics, hint, hint, :photography-044:

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Traveler you need to let me take you out in my allison the next time im down on the Potomac it is a really good riding boat in bad water and waldorf aint but about a hour from my house hell come up in the spring and lets hit Raystown

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Traveler you need to let me take you out in my allison the next time I'm down on the Potomac it is a really good riding boat in bad water and Waldorf ain't but about a hour from my house hell come up in the spring and lets hit Raystown

I'm ready, I went out today and ran up to the W.W. bridge and found some Strippers on a Drop-Shot (bottom rig).

Why wait til spring?

BTW, you can make it from Bedford PA to Waldorf in an hour?

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