Today’s aluminum rigs: Bucking the flatbottom trend

Originally published in the April 2014 issue of B.A.S.S. Times

Photo courtesy of Triton Boats
Today's aluminum boats are capable of carrying 8-foot rods, 20-plus gallons of gas and more tackle than you'll ever need. Big-screen electronics are standard fare nowadays, too.

Most bass anglers are hard-working Americans who want and need their dollar to go as far as possible. We don’t have bundles of cash to spend on an Elite Series-level rig, though it’s nice to dream. So, we need a workhorse that does almost everything a 21-foot fiberglass boat can do without having to sell the farm. Enter the 21st-century aluminum boat.

Aluminum offerings today include 21-foot rockets in addition to the tried-and-true 16-foot flatbottom. Many anglers might prefer something in the middle, but skewing toward the high-end rig.

Multiple options in the 17- to 19-foot range will meet the needs of everyone who lacks deep pockets. G3 and Xpress Boats have long offered aluminum rigs that savvy anglers have enjoyed for their fishability and modest price. Just last year, Ranger and Triton debuted 17- and 18-foot boats to further expand the market: the Triton X17 and X18 and the Ranger RT178 and RT188. Though they come from the same plant in Flippin, Ark., the Triton and Ranger have different bloodlines.

The most popular go-to for anglers set on a tin rig has been Tracker, not only the No. 1 aluminum boat, but the No. 1 selling boat on the planet, and for good reason.

The boats feature an all-welded hull, whether you choose the 16-foot Pro 160 or the high-end Pro Team 190 TX, an 18-foot, 7-inch rig with an 89-inch beam, roughly 4 inches shy of full-size fiberglass boats.

Performance

Some of today’s popular aluminum rigs fall short of fiberglass counterparts in one department: speed. However, speed is the costliest (and arguably least necessary) aspect of a bass boat. You need a big hull and a big, gas-thirsty motor to top 70 mph. Ask yourself this: Do you need to go that fast? If you can check your ego at the door and settle for mid-50-mph performance, a sensibly priced aluminum is the rig for you.

But, if you’re still set on owning a full-size speedster, there are aluminum options for you there, too. Xpress Boats has been churning out 20-foot high-performance (70-plus-mph) aluminum rigs that handle like a fiberglass. They’re often just as heavy but are more durable for the simple reason that they’re aluminum. The Xpress X21 with a 250-horsepower Yamaha VMax SHO will hit 76.5 mph with two people and a full tank of gas. Though they have the performance, fishability and handling of a full-size fiberglass boat, they’re still more affordable. Xpress also offers more sensibly priced rigs in the 17- to 19-foot range that sip fuel from a 90- to 150-horse motor.

Like the Triton and Ranger aluminums, Xpress and G3 rigs are fully welded; there are no rivets anywhere, which are the weak points in any aluminum design.

The new Ranger and Triton have good performance in a package that retails for about $20,000. Add a 6-inch setback T-H Marine Z-Lock jackplate to a 115-horse Mercury OptiMax ProXS on Triton’s X18 and you’ll see 53-plus mph.

While the handling won’t rival that of a deep-V fiberglass boat, adding a prop with a nicely cupped blade will offer better grip around turns. The hull weight is just heavier than 1,100 pounds, which means you can dump these rigs into a farm pond and get them out again with a four-wheel-drive truck with as little as a few pebbles underfoot. A jackplate will also let you pick the outboard up to crawl over shallow sandbars and obstructions to get to hard-to-reach honey holes — places you’d likely not want to venture in a fiberglass boat.

Though the company is more well known for its deep-V multispecies boats, Lowe has a capable bass offering in its Stinger line. The ST195 is a 19-footer that can handle a 115-horse outboard as well as rough water thanks to its hull design. Dual 23-gallon livewells offer lots of space for limits of bass or stacks of perch.

Lund’s 1650 Rebel XL with a 50-horse Mercury will set you back less than $16,000. On the other end of the spectrum, the company’s 2075 Pro-V might be the burliest aluminum boat ever made. It’s a deep-V that can handle a 300-horse supercharged Mercury Verado, as well as nasty Great Lakes weather. Plus, there’s hardly an inch on the thing that isn’t some sort of storage. A 97-inch beam is wider than most fiberglass bass boats. Want to fill it up? It’s going to take 62 gallons of gas. But, with the big Merc, you’re looking at speed in the low 60s.

For a Tracker Pro Team 190 with a stainless prop and a 90-horse Mercury, you can expect 45 mph while sipping gas from a 21-gallon tank.

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