How to drive a bass boat safely
You might be wondering if there is any difference between driving a bass boat versus any other type of boat. From one fishing spot to another, there is not going to be much difference, but when you get to the specifics of using a bass boat effectively for fishing, then yes, there are some tips.
We are going to take a look at different aspects of using a bass boat. The first will be general boating safety tips, some which are general and others more specific to bass boats. We will then look at the basics of running your bass boat’s motor at higher RPMs and how to do so the correct way. Finally, we will take a look at maneuvering your bass boat when fishing. Specifically with the use of your electric trolling motor.
How To Drive A Bass Boat
Before we talk about some tips, let’s talk about 3 essential tips before you even start the engine.
Floatation Devices: For whatever reasons, some people still feel the need to disregard their life jackets. We don’t know how many times we have watched bass boats speed by with their riders not taking the thirty seconds it takes to strap on a life jacket.
Have coast guard approved life jackets in your boat and a have enough for every rider you might have in the boat with you and in the correct size. Any time you crank that outboard motor up, have a life jacket on your chest.
Strap your gear down: As a fellow bass angler, I know how much equipment can end up laying on the boat when the fishing gets hectic. I also know how eager one can be to get to the next honey hole. Before you race across the lake, be sure to have all of your gear strapped down and put up.
On a fishing trip, we can have anywhere from two to ten poles around the boat and today’s rod and reel combos are not very cheap. You don’t want to lose them, and you certainly don’t want you or your fishing buddy to get smacked in the face by one. This also includes any baits you have lying around which can also be a hazard when you’re getting up to 50 to 60mph. You also want to take down your seats when about to get on plane as they can greatly obstruct your vision of what’s ahead.
Know wear your kill switch: Hopefully, the kill switch never comes in handy. With safe and defensive driving, it shouldn’t come to the kill switch saving your life, but it should be a precaution you take every time you start the motor.
Bass Boat Driving Tips
Getting on plane. Getting your boat on plane is one of the more important skills to have when handling your bass boat. Getting on plane quickly gives you a smoother ride, it is less wearing on your motor, and it conserves fuel.
Getting on plane efficiently means having a good understanding of motor trim. You can trim the outboard motor which means you can adjust the angle of the prop. Trimming down or in lowers the bow while trimming up or out raises the bow.
To get on plane, start with the prop trimmed down. This pushes the bow of the boat into the water. When you increase the throttle, your boat will begin to get on top of the water. Now you can begin to trim the motor up, which raises the bow and cuts down on water resistance which allows you to pick up speed.
One way to tell that you have trimmed up enough to look for a reduction in spray coming from the sides of the boat. When this spray is reduced, you know that the boat is riding on the back pad as it was designed to do.
There is a line you can cross where too much up trim can have bad consequences. If the prop is too close to the surface, the engine can begin taking in air which will cause the motor to overheat. Often, your boat will have a gauge that tells you what your water pressure is and you can also keep an eye on the tail stream where the motor is pumping out water.
Stopping on plane. Stopping a boat on plane smoothly has several benefits; it’s not jarring to you or passengers, and it helps keep your wake from coming up over the stern. There is not a lot to the maneuver. Be aware of the surrounding water and then gently and smoothly reduce the throttle down to low speeds.
You can turn the boat 45 degrees from your heading at the end of the throttle reduction to allow the wake to move past the boat and not come over the transom though if you reduced throttle correctly, you are not going to have to worry about it anyway.
If you are stopping on a dime for emergency situations, you need to turn 45 to 90 degrees once throttled down to avoid the large wake getting in your boat. Once you have the throttle reduced and are off plane, be sure move into idle to avoid the motor cavitation or kick up.
How to drive a bass boat in rough water. There is no catch-all answer for the best way to handle rough water. Different boats have different hull designs which will affect how you should trim the motor. You also have to take into account how rough the water is. If you are dealing with waves 3+ feet in height, we would recommend staying a bit closer to the shoreline or moving to areas of the lake where structures can are blocking some of the wind.
If you have to cut across, we like to trim the motor up to raise the bow. What you don’t want to do is spear the front of an oncoming wave with the bow of your boat as this can cause serious damage. This does reduce visibility, so you have to take it pretty slow. This is the best option when you are dealing with really dangerous conditions other than just keeping the boat out of the water.
You also want to run into the wind rather than running with it to your back. This is because it will push the bow of the boat down and increase your chances of spearing waves. Another tip is to make sure your prop is fully submerged. Trimming the motor up to far can cause the engine to take in air and overheat.
When dealing with choppy water and waves under 3 feet, we still like to trim up and move into the wind when possible. There will be some instances where you can still get on plane and ride the top of the waves, but again, your ability to do this is going to come from time on the water and a feel for the water and boat. During these conditions, we recommend working the troughs of waves to get to your fishing spot or take out.
Also, be sure your bilge works and is set on automatic when dealing with really rough water where there is no chance of keeping water out of the boat.
Positioning for Fishing
Once the outboard motor is shut down and its time to go after fish, you’re next step regarding working the boat is a good understanding of your trolling motor. For bass boats, the go-to trolling motor is a foot operated, bow mounted trolling motor.
These motors are stealthy and let you work around banks and structures with precision. They also allow you to maneuver the boat while keeping both hands free for fishing.
When trying to keep your boat positioned in open water where you don’t have a good reference point as you would fishing on the bank, you can use a buoy or even an old 2-liter bottle with a weight, if the water is shallow enough, to give you a point of reference. If you have the funds, there are trolling motors out there now that are GPS compatible, and the trolling motor will stay in a set location automatically.
High-performance bass boats are incredibly fun to handle and when used properly can drastically change your ability to cover large areas of water searching for aggressive fish.
With that, there are nuances that come along with using these craft safely and effectively, and we hope that this article has outlined some key tips to mastering the craft.
To conclude take a look at the following collection of videos of accidents when people don’t follow the rules when out on the water.
Please share with us your thoughts on how to drive a bass boat safely in the comments below.