Finding The Best Bass Boat For The Money
If you’re a bass angler, you’ve no doubt noticed bass boats have gotten seriously pricey in recent years. So how does one go about finding the best bass boat for the money?
A fully-rigged tournament boat powered by a V6 or V8 outboard and loaded up with multiple large-screen “video game” sonar/GPS units, spot-lock 36-volt troller and twin power-anchors can cost as much as a small house—the age of six-figure bass fishing boats has arrived!
But there are ways to save a lot when you go shopping for your new ride. We talked to Dan O’Sullivan, who handles marketing for Buck’s Island in Southside, Alabama, for some tips. Buck’s Island is one of the oldest boat dealers in the southeast, and perhaps one of the largest privately-held as well.
“Buying a used bass boat is a good way to save money, for sure,” says O’Sullivan, “but the problem is now there just aren’t many used boats on the market—the demand is so high that they’re very hard to find, especially nice rigs that are ready to go fish—we have six to ten right now and we have buyers for those once the deals close. We usually have dozens.”
O’Sullivan also cautions that when you can find a used rig, it’s a buyer-beware situation, because there’s often a reason the owner wants to let it go. He may just be trading up to a better rig, but it’s also possible that he wants to get rid of his problems. Issues can be anything from minor, like a gimpy water pump, to major, like a cracked hull or a dying lower unit. This is where there’s an advantage in buying from a trusted dealer, rather than via an internet search, says O’Sullivan.
“Our service teams go through our used boats before we put them out on the lot, and if there’s a problem after the sale, we’ll do our best to make it right,” he says. “The motto has always been the same as our founder Buck Lumpkin always said—we treat our customers like we would like to be treated.”
Of course, there are new boat options as well, and they offer new rigs in a wide variety of price ranges.
“The advantages of buying new are that you can get exactly the boat you want, you don’t get someone else’s problems, and everything on that boat is under warranty so if there are any issues they get fixed,” says O’Sullivan. “We have 12 service bays, a full glass shop, detail bays and a team of factory-trained, certified technicians that can handle just about any issue that comes up.”
O’Sullivan says that if you’re not an avid tournament angler who just has to be to the hotspot at the head of the pack, an aluminum boat like those from G3 or Avid has a lot to offer. While most of the best aluminum bass boats are not as fast or as pretty as the sleek molded fiberglass models like the Skeeter, Falcon and Bass Cats offered by Buck’s Island, they cost a fraction as much. And for weekend bassing, they function every bit as well and in some cases better—aluminums are noted for their shallow draft, making it possible to scoot into shallow backwaters where some of the heavy, deep-vee tournament fiberglass bass boats can’t stay off the bottom.
Aluminum boats can be operated on smaller outboards that burn far less fuel, and they can be towed by smaller vehicles that are less expensive to buy and that get better mileage. And when it comes to price, you can own one for about half the price or less of the larger fiberglass rigs.
“You can get a fully dressed-out 17’ aluminum with trailer and electronics for somewhere in the low to mid $20,000 range, although that can go up to well over $30,000 if you get into the latest multiple big-screen sonars and other high-end extras, of course,” says O’Sullivan.
He notes that the small bass boats will also fit in most garages, an important factor for many buyers. Otherwise, your boat will be exposed to weather and potential theft of your gear, making it very risky to leave anything on board when not in use. Many suburban garages are not long enough to hold a 20-foot bass boat, even with a fold-away tongue on the trailer. If you opt for storing it in a lockable storage garage elsewhere, figure in about $150 a month or more for the rent. Buying a boat that fits into your garage has a lot of advantages.
Of course, if you’ve got the expendable income and a yearn for competition, a fiberglass bass boat with V6 or V8 power is definitely the way to go—and long-term payment programs now make even some of the pricier models do-able for many of us, though of course the interest does add up over the years.
“You can get into a new fiberglass 18-footer for high $30,000 to mid $40,000, depending on the rigging,” says O’Sullivan. “For a 19- to 20-footer with standard trailer, sonar and troller, high $40,000 to over $50,000, though multiple electronics can push them higher, and the 20 to 21-footers the sky is pretty much the limit—we’ve sold a few that went into the six-figure mark.”
He said that Buck’s Island also sells Crest and Bentley pontoons, and these also come in a wide range of prices, from as low as in the mid to high $30,000 range up to $100,000.
While most of us don’t have that kind of money in our piggy bank, the dealership works with multiple lenders who specialize in making boat loans to get most of their customers quickly financed.
“Buck’s Island has been at this long enough that our finance manager can match most buyers with the right lender to make it happen,” says O’Sullivan.
Buck’s Island under normal circumstances has some 300 boats to choose from on their 6-acre facility, which includes a 56,000-square-foot showroom and tackle shop.
“We expect things to get back to normal sometime next year if all goes well, but right now the orders we are taking won’t be ready for delivery until late fall or sometime in 2022,” said O’Sullivan. “We currently have several new bass boats on the lot, Skeeters, Falcons, Bass Cats, G3’s, and Avid models, but some are spoken for.”
While powerboats are scarce, the dealership does have several models of fishing kayaks in stock, with prices far below those of even the smaller aluminums. A basic ‘yak can be had for under $1,000, while fully-loaded models from Jackson or Hobie can go up over $4,500.
A useful feature of the Buck’s Island website, when looking for the best bass boat for the money, is that you can estimate monthly payments of any boat you’re interested in with their payment calculator, giving you an advance idea of how much boat you can afford, whatever your price range.