Today’s aluminum rigs: Bucking the flatbottom trend

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

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As with any boat, your base price will get you base-model accoutrement. As in many things, you get what you pay for. Affordably priced electronics are usually 5- or 6-inch-diameter numbers built in, but some manufacturers (including Triton and Ranger) offer 7-inch touch-screen HDS systems from Lowrance.

On a no-frills rig, you’re also looking at a 46-pound-thrust trolling motor. An 80-pound Minn Kota Fortrex is available, and advisable, on Rangers and Tritons. Other upgrades that are worth your attention are trailer brakes, Boat Buckle tie-downs, tailor-made covers and camouflage finishes for those of us who use the boat during duck season.

Xpress Boats’ X21 in the Xclusive Series comes with up to a 10-inch jackplate, Humminbird 998c Side Imaging depthfinders, an 80-pound Minn Kota Maxxum trolling motor, a stainless prop and more. Basically, you’re getting full-on fiberglass accessories in a 21-foot aluminum. If you go with the Team option, you’ll get dual Minn Kota Talons, a second console, a three-bank battery charger and discounts with several bait companies.

In short, owning an aluminum boat no longer means you’re a second-class citizen on the lake.

Longevity

Another benefit of aluminum is how rugged the things are. You don’t often see a decades-old fiberglass rig without major issues, but there’s no shortage of ancient aluminum boats that are still in good shape. Even if you bang it along a shallow riverbed or dump it down a dirt ramp, you won’t have your teeth gritted the whole time in anticipation of a puncture or tear. However, today’s rigs do require a bit of TLC from time to time. Many have automotive-grade paint and decals that need cleaning and maintenance. Regular washing and waxing will keep them sparkling for years. Want real-world durability? Lund offers a lifetime warranty on its products.

From tame tiller-steer flat bottoms to all-out Bassmaster Classic-ready bullets, the world of aluminums has changed for the better to the advantage of anglers — and their bank accounts.

Jack it up!

A jackplate has many uses, and those most often cited are the ability to raise the motor up to creep into shallow water, stabilize steering at high speeds and offer a better top end.

We added a 6-inch setback T-H Marine Z-lock manual plate to a Triton X18 with a 115-horse Mercury Optimax ProXS which was a handful to drive wide open at 51 mph. With the addition of the plate, the boat picked up more than 3 mph, got its holeshot back (it was a dog after the original 21-pitch prop was swapped for a 22), eliminated the “porpoising” effect when cruising and handled with aplomb at all speeds.

How can a plate do all of this? When you set the motor back, it runs in “cleaner” water because it’s farther from the hull of the boat. This helps with handling because there’s less air in the water that is rushing over the prop. Second, we picked the motor up 1 inch from the factory height on the transom, which again helps all-around performance. A plate doesn’t necessarily make your boat faster; it simply allows you to get everything out of it that it’s capable of doing. Short of repowering with a bigger motor, there’s not a more cost-effective way to enhance your boat’s performance.

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