Why I switched to an aluminum boat

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Steve Bowman

We spend lots of time in our boats. They’re an essential part of a successful career. Because of that we don’t make radical changes from one year to another, not without considerable thought, anyway. 

However, sometimes considerable thought leads us to make a radical change. That, despite the fact that nearly every bass boat made is first class. New manufacturing techniques, advances in design engineering, safety improvements and input from top pros has made for a world of difference — a positive difference — when you compare older boats with newer ones.  

With all of that in mind I made a switch this year, one that puts me in the minority. I’m going to fish and compete out of an aluminum boat. 

A continuing theme that runs through my columns is that you have to be yourself and fish your way. I made a mess of 2017 because I didn’t do that. I’m not going to repeat that mistake again. 

The truth is that we all have strengths, and we all have weaknesses. Recognizing that is an important step towards success. My strength is shallow water. That’s where I’m at my best, and it’s where I should be when the chips are down. 

An aluminum boat suits my needs perfectly. A shallow draft and a tough body make a big difference to me. I want (need) to be fishing back in thin water that’s choked with structure and cover. There’s no way you can fish like that unless your boat floats in very little water and unless it can handle the occasional collision with a big rock or a hard scrape against a tree limb without serious damage.

Before I made the switch I checked out the pros and cons of aluminum by talking to several anglers who’s opinion I respect. I went to Xpress and asked to test one of their rigs. That test was an experience for the guy who went out with me. I think I terrified him. 

At one point he wanted to know what the heck was going on. I told him I wanted to know what the boat would do at the extreme and that the only way to do that was to get a little crazy. He seemed to accept that, but his knuckles still showed white as he gripped the handle and the gunnel on his side of the boat. I pretended to be concerned for him, but inside I was laughing and having a ball.

But, let me tell you, that ride was an experience for me, too. I ran that boat as hard, or harder, than I would run a boat in a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament. Hard turns and twists didn’t phase it, and it was as stable as any boat I’ve ever been in. But what really impressed me the most was its hole shot. The speed at which it came up and got on plane is amazing.

For 2018 I’m going to be fishing out of an Xpress X21 Team aluminum boat powered by a 250 hp, four stroke V MAX SHO Yamaha.

That’s not the most important thing I’ve tried to say in this column, though. Every angler needs to look around and make product and equipment decisions based on their needs. It’s not about what I do, or about what any other pro does. And it’s certainly not about impressing your buddies at the local club. It’s about what you need. In the end that’ll make the biggest improvement in your catch.