Bass Boat Questions

Question: I hope that I don't sound like too much like a wimp but I recently fished a MBAA tournament and came into 3rd! But this was my first time on a 18' Ranger bass fishing boat with a 200 horse Yamaha and the driver took the boat to 65mph on the Potomac with winds. Bottom line is that this "fast" stuff made me hang on and I was scared that we might crash and that I might die. How often do accidents happen? Aren't these bass boats really safe at high speeds? Please give me a dose of "reality" on this. I would probably be much braver if I were driving (I don't like being a passenger in a car either).

Answer: Big, fast bass boats CAN be dangerous. But in the 3 years I've had mine, fishing on Lake Fork (which must be the busiest lake in the nation), I have never seen a boat flipped over or broken in half from waves. That's not to say it could never happen. I think your bigger worry is from drinking boaters, stumps and boat operating idiots. No bass boat is "safe" at any speed, or any fishing boat for that matter. It is a matter of the experience and skill of the operator. There is no IQ test before they sell and allow someone to launch such water rockets. An experienced skilled operator with knowledge of the waterway can be "safe" at much higher speed that the dollar rich sense poor boater at idle.

I crank my bass boat up over 65 mph every once in a while, but only in very familar water with little to no traffic about, a fairly smooth surface, and predictable low to moderate winds. I don't think it is particularly dangerous if common sense prevails. Before I go out, I check my boat over good to ensure it is all operating properly. I also wear a snug-fitting lifevest, wear sunglasses with a head strap and I use the kill switch. If I have a passenger on board, I have them wear one of my life vests and I have them hold on to the grab bar when I'm moving fast. I also store anything that might fly about.

Most bass boats are designed to go fast and are very stable. One of the selling points of my boat is a test ride where the dealer will run the boat up to 60 mph and then stop it in the length of the boat. This is done by cranking the wheel hard to one side and pulling the kill switch. (By the way, I passed on the test ride and took the dealer's word for it.) Cars are safe when going fast; however, an idiot behind the wheel can overcome all the built-in safety features. The same is true for bass boats. It is possible to create a very unsafe bass boat by trimming the motor too far up or under. It is also possible to get in a dangerous situation if there is too much traffic about and you are going too fast. Especially when kids with jet-skis are about. Many of them don't know we have rules governing the changing relationships between two vehicles on the water.

As far as the second seat goes, it can be a little scary if you've never been behind the wheel before. However, you have the right idea - hang-on.

I always tell my first time riders what to expect and tell them hang on. It generally takes a few trips and a rough ride or two for them to trust the boat and me. And very rarely will one of them ever see the boat go faster than 45 mph, the conditions have to be just right before I will open her up. In summary, bass boats when used properly are safe at high speed. On the other hand, sitting in the second seat with a weak heart is probably unsafe at any speed.