Buying Your First Bass Boat
By Steve Smith, ABA member, Berwyn IL
The outdoor and boating shows will soon be in our areas, and you've finally decided to buy your first boat. The thought of being able to fish whenever and wherever you want; to finally be able to pick the sweet spots, and having first crack at those monster bass has you on an emotional high. Then here are some things you might want to consider before venturing out and spending your hard earned cash.
One of the most important pieces of equipment you must have is an adequate tow vehicle. Bass boats and their trailers, when loaded with fuel and gear can easily weigh over 3500 lbs. You want to ensure that the vehicle you plan to tow your boat with has the rating to get the job the done, especially when pulling your boat up hills or mountains.
Hopefully by now you've spent more than a few tournaments and pre-fishing days as a non-boater, and you've be able to ride in various boats. You may even have a specific make and model in mind. However, if this is going to be the first boat you've ever owned, then you might want to consider a used boat.
There are some key questions you need to answer before you buy a boat. What size water will you be fishing? If it's going to be small rivers, and lakes, you could probably get by with a smaller boat with a smaller outboard motor. If you plan on fishing very large bodies of water, then you should consider a larger boat, probably a minimum of 19-feet, especially if you'll be running 20- to30-miles to find that honey hole.
An aluminum boat is much cheaper than fiberglass, and much more forgiving of the mishaps that occur, like banging into the dock, or running up into the shallows and hitting submerged stumps or rocks. However, they ride rougher, and are easily blown around with the slightest wind. In smaller lakes, a 16-17 foot aluminum bass boat would probably be a good choice.
A fiberglass boat is much more expensive than aluminum; they can cost from around $20,000 to over $40,000 for a top-of-line boat, but can handle bigger, rougher water and give you a much smoother ride, and they can go much faster. I'd suggest that you go with a 4-stroke outboard. They cost a little more but if you're planning on covering lots of water and keeping the boat for awhile, then it will payoff in the reduced fuel cost. They are also much quieter and cleaner than a 2-stroke engine.
New vs. Used
There are several advantages of buying a used bass boat, not only is it less expensive than a new boat, but you get more boat for your money; and used boats tend to hold their value much better. There are also disadvantages; you can end up with someone else's headaches. Outboard engines are known for being short lived and other things that don't show up on casual inspection. If you're planning to buy a used boat, than either buy from someone you know and trust, like the people in your local fishing club, or ask one of them to go with you to inspect and look at the boat, or find out from them how to inspect a boat. You can also find used boat inspection guidelines on the internet. Just remember that whether it's a new or used boat, they should be willing to negotiate the price, just like when buying a car.
Believe it or not, there are many subtle nuances to boat handling, and not just learning to launch and retrieve your boat, or backing down the ramp. When I was first learning to handle my boat I had a difficult time, especially with putting the boat back onto the trailer. I was lucky that the director of our local American Bass angler district, who used to guide down in Texas, was able to help me out. He went out with me and taught me in 4 hours what would have taken me long time, and probably lots of repairs to find out. He taught me to listen for the pitch change when trimming down, how to handle shallow water take-offs, and much more. I'm sure the many of your local district members would do the same for you, so don't be afraid to ask. Everyone had to learn somehow, and I haven't met a boat owner yet that wasn't willing to help someone learn.
Buying a boat is an exciting time, and whether you buy a new or used boat, I know you'll enjoy your time on the water. Good luck and good fishing.