These are the best bass boats ever. Maybe put one on your Christmas list.
Just about every aspect of the sport of bass fishing has changed over the last few decades. Some of these changes have been subtle, like the small variations in crank bait shape and materials. Others have been dramatic. But few have been as revolutionary to the sport as the development of the bass boat.
From early blunt-nosed tri-hulls to ultra-hydrodynamic water rockets, here are fifteen of the best bass boats of all time.
Fiberglass Category: From Tri-Hulls to Rocket Speed
It’s hard to create a list of the best bass boats of all time without including the first. The earliest of what could truly be called a bass boat is credited to Holmes Thurman who founded the Skeeter Boat Company of Liberty, Texas in 1948.
The first Skeeter boats were part flat-bottomed johnboat and part powerboat. The name came from the appearance of the distinct bow. Thurman thought it looked like a mosquito. Made from molded plywood, the first Skeeters rapidly became popular with Texas and Louisiana anglers.
2. Skeeter Hawk
Skeeter began building improved fiberglass models in the early 1950’s. The 1961 Skeeter Hawk was one of the first mass produced fiberglass bass boats available.
The basics of the modern bass boat are all here – A more hydrodynamic hull design, swivel fishing chairs, bow mounted electric motor, and rod holders. Compare the Hawk to its most recent descendant. Not quite a Wright Brothers to space shuttle difference but close.
3. Rebel Fastback – The first “Bass Master Classic” boat
The Rebel Fastback was a state-of-the-art bass boat at its time. Because of a fire at the Flippin, Arkansas Ranger Boats factory, the Fastback was selected as the official competitor’s boat at the very first Bass Masters Classic in 1971.
The Fastback was powered by an inboard engine, something not widely used in small watercraft at the time. Several other boat makers offered an inboard option through the 70s and early 80s but were never that popular.
4. 1972 Ranger Bass Master Classic
Ranger Boats of Flippin, Arkansas became synonymous with B.A.S.S when they became the “Official Bass Master Classic Boat” in 1972. Each competitor in the Classic tournament was given one to fish from and then it became theirs to keep.
Containing everything the professional and serious weekend warrior could ever want, Ranger continued to make Bass Master Classic models for sale to the general public until 2000.
I’m going to jump directly to the modern era here. Legend Boats of Midway, Arkansas builds what many consider the finest bass boats anywhere. Legends come in a handful of configurations that are then custom built to a buyer’s specifications.
Legend boats’ deeper V-hull design comes from their builder’s past work with Cobra and Hawk boats. Owners of Legend boats are notorious for keeping them for years, which makes finding one on the used market a real treasure.
6. Ranger Boats
Love them or hate them, since its inception in the late 1960s, Ranger is widely credited for setting the standard in features, fishability, and quality in modern bass boats. Rangers have been a favorite of tournament professionals and amatuers for decades and likely will remain so for years to come.
The Z500 series is one of the best selling lines of premier boats ever produced.
Hydra-Sports introduced the bass fishing world to the aramid fiber Kevlar in 1975. The material is stronger than fiberglass but much lighter in weight. Hyra-Sports was the only bass maker to use it at the time. Owners loved them for their extreme durability and strength. The weight difference compared to fiberglass allowed for smaller horsepower engines without sacrificing speed.
Hydra-Sports was known for producing winning racing boats prior to getting into the bass boat market. They were considered one of the fastest and best-built bass boats around at the time. The later 1990s models retained their signature racing-boat style.
Founded by former Hydra-Sports boat builder and Stratos founder, Earl Bentz, Triton Boats rapidly became an industry leader in quality, features, speed, and fishability after they were introduced in 1996. Triton’s are among the most sought-after boats by tournament pros and serious bass fisherman alike.
The 22 TRX is a monster of a boat in size, yet owners say it’s a great boat to drive, very fast, and highly maneuverable. You could hold a small family reunion on that deck.
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Former Champion boat builder Tony Storie left Champion to start the Cobra boat company, which unfortunately went out of business. He then partnered with XX to start the Hawk Boats. This company also did not last long but during their short time built some pretty impressive rigs.
The 2000 Hawk Super 21 is a gem. Cuts through heavy chop like it isn’t there and can attain top speeds close to 80 mph.
10. Bass Cat
Bass Cat was founded in 1971 in the town of Mountain Home, Arkansas. One of Bass Cat’s most popular models, the Pantera Pro 19, was introduced in 1984. Rated for 200 hp, the Pantera was fast, easy to drive, and quickly became a favorite of anglers looking for a boat that could shorten the time it took for long runs up the lake.
The second generation Pantera II was also extremely popular. Bass Cat later reintroduced the model in 2007 with an updated design. The 2014 is a sight to behold.
This is another boat company birthed in the bass boat mecca of north Arkansas. Started by former Champion boat builder, John Storie, Cobra’s featured a deep V-wedge hull similar to Champions and certain models of Rangers. This made them a good choice for both the speed demon and professional tournament angler looking for a fast, stable boat.
The Cobra Viper 216 was highly regarded for its excellent finish, quality, great ride and handling. Cobra’s were also considered one of the best in overall layout and storage capacity. The company has had a tenuous business record the past ten years. There was talk of it restarting in 2013 but that does not appear to have happened.
12. Allison XB-2002
Need to beat the competition to your secret hot spot? Then the Allison XB-2002 is the boat for you. With a top-end verified speed of 116 mph, you can be at your honey hole, limit out, and headed back to the ramp before other boats are halfway up the lake.
The company boasts its hull designs not only provide for top speeds at a reduced horsepower along with a safer, smoother ride than top competitor boats but also drastically better fuel economy.
Aluminum Category: From Rivets to Weld
I am going to finish off this list with a shout-out to all you aluminum boat owners out there. In terms of sheer numbers, aluminum boats rule the waves. There are dozens of boat builders that have been making great aluminum bass rigs for years. Some of the more notable, with nation-wide ownership, include Lund, Fisher Marine, Crestliner, and Sea Ark. There are also some extremely high-quality performance brands out there with strong local followings.
The following are some of the best selling, best performing aluminum bass boats available.
13. Bass Tracker
Johnny Morris and Bass Pro Shops introduced the first Bass Tracker boat in 1978. Offered as a complete, ready-to-fish package at a price point almost any bass angler could afford, the Bass Tracker is the best selling aluminum bass boat line of all time.
Trackers now come in a variety of configurations, from small panfish models to the full sized Tournament TX series. Originally constructed with riveted hulls and internal structural components, Tracker began producing all-welded models in the mid 1990s. Their 2015 Pro Team 190 TX comes standard with a 90 horse engine but is rated for 125.
Xpress was the first to produce a boat with an all-welded construction. In the late 1980s, they introduced what they call the hyper-lift hull, a design that incorporated details of more familiar high-speed fiberglass rigs.
Xpress makes a wide variety of styles and configurations for both fresh and salt water. Xpress previously offered a 22-foot monster in Hyper-Lift series that was rated for an incredible 300 horses. Maybe not the one of “best” bass boats ever, but an aluminum rig capable of that kind of power deserves mention.
G3 Boats was founded by a member of the Lowe family of boat makers from Lebanon Missouri. In the late 90s, G3 purchased the remaining inventory of welded performance Skeeter hulls and turned them into their own high performance series.
The HP 180, 190, and 200 models were wicked fast, easy handling, and like their fiberglass Skeeter counterparts, extremely roomy. The HP 200 could handle up to 225 horsepower. The models were discontinued in 2012.
So there you have it. Of course with any “best of” list, entries are subjective but these are some of the best bass fishing boats of all time.