Herren’s bulletproof boat

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Craig Lamb

Like all Bassmaster Elite Series pros, Matt Herren will put more hours on his bass boat in the next eight months than the average angler will in as many years. That is why making the boat “bullet proof” is an off-season ritual followed by Herren and his peers.

“Bullet proofing” a tournament bass rig is a slang term used by pros taking extra steps beyond what the boat manufacturer already has done at the factory. In Herren’s case, his Skeeter FX 20LE is already semi-bullet proof because the boat is designed for pro-level tournament competition. 

“To each his own but I’m very particular about the extra rigging needed in my boats,” admitted Herren.

Bullet proofing his boat means that Herren does much of his own rigging. Beefing up brackets and electrical components are some of the details handled by Herren.

“The boat arrives from the factory in Kilgore, Texas, ready to launch and go fishing,” he explained. “I also have a great dealer in my area that is very capable of the final rigging.”

“Yet I don’t expect them to spend the amount of time that I need to make it all just right,” he continued.

Herren, nine years on the Elite Series and 24 years overall as a pro, recognizes that his boat and accessories go through more than average use. Punishing environmental conditions, from hours of plowing through rough waves, to extremely hot and cold weather, can wear down the gear. 

Herren literally goes through his boat with a fine toothcomb. He even adds Loctite adhesive sealant to the factory-installed screws used to secure railing and other parts subjected to coming loose over time.

The bulletproofing is also obvious on the console. To keep the Humminbird SOLIX Series fishfinders in place he installs mounts made by Bass Boat Technologies.

“They are basically military grade and keep the units even more secure to the console,” explains Herren. “They virtually eliminate and shaking or vibration of the units.”

Most bass boats come factory rigged with at least one standard or optional wide-screen depthfinder. Herren uses four of the units, with two each mounted at the console and the bow. That puts additional drain on the batteries and electrical components. 

Herren custom builds two additional wiring harnesses to handle the job. Typically, electrical systems for most tournament bass boats are designed to effectively operate up to two wide-screen GPS/side scan units. Running two of those units up front and on the console is standard practice among Elite Pros. Doubling up add amp drain, so Herren adds a dedicated wiring harness for those units. 

Herren then adds Transducer Shield & Saver parts to protect transducers from the abuse of rough water. Atlas Hydraulic Jack Plates are another addition to the rig.

“Those provide a very obvious shallow water advantage and directly enhance boat performance,” he said.

What else provides Herren with a competitive advantage is how he maximizes tackle storage space. The demands of tournament fishing require specialized tackle. From finesse to power fishing the gear must all go along for the ride. 

“I build my own divider system so everything stays organized.”

After two days the job is final rigging job is complete. Even then, the work doesn’t end there for Herren. He keeps a toolbox in the boat to handle any problems that come up.

“When they do I’m ready to handle the repair job, because I did the rigging,” he said.

“I can’t say enough about the service crews that do amazing work for us on and off the water,” he added. “But when I’m out in the middle of the lake I like the reassurance of knowing the tools are on board to make the needed repairs.” 

The toolkit comes in handy for other jobs, too. Fellow Elite Pros with mechanical issues waves Herren down on occasion while on the water. 

“We jam pack our storage compartments with tackle but just keeping the basics of tools fitted specifically for common repair jobs makes just as much sense,” he added.

Being a handyman aboard your own boat has other benefits. You have the confidence of knowing how to do the repairs, while spending more time on the fishing, instead of the fixing.