The bass boat has evolved greatly over time. Here are some of the best bass fishing boats, from the early days to more modern times.
Just about every aspect of the sport of bass fishing has changed over the last few decades.
But few have been as revolutionary to the sport as the development of the bass boat.
We wanted to come up with a list of the best boats, but that's easier said than done. Without pigeonholing ourselves, we left things loose and open. Some specific models are mentioned, other entries represent entire brands, but they're all on this list for good reason. Maybe they helped usher in a new era, maybe they're on the verge of becoming huge, or maybe they're just super popular among the bass fishing crowds.
From early blunt-nosed tri-hulls to ultra-hydrodynamic water rockets, here are fifteen of the best bass boats we've seen come out of the market.
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. Once they graduated to fiberglass, the seeds were planted, culminating in the 2020 Skeeter FXR21 APEX.
2. Skeeter Hawk
#TBT Throwback Thursday. 1973 Skeeter Hawk Pro H-290. This model came fully loaded with: DRM-450 Trolling motor with...
Skeeter began building improved fiberglass models in the early 1950s. 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.
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 Bassmaster 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. Ranger bass boats 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. Hydra-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.
9. 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 newest models are a sight to behold.
Nitro Boats and their founders helped pioneer the original Pad V bass boats in the 1960s when the brand started, and in 1989 they became part of the Bass Pro Shops family.
Pro anglers like Kevin VanDam, Rick Clunn, Edwin Evers, and Ott DeFoe run Nitros, and there's little mystery as to why.
11. Allison XB Models
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. Really, all the XB models are fast as heck.
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
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.
Johnny Morris and Bass Pro Shops introduced the first 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-ready Mod V 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 saltwater. They previously offered a 22-foot monster in Hyper-Lift series that was rated for an incredible 300 horses. Now they're highlighting the Xclusive Series, the "Next Level" of aluminum bass boats.
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. They're a Yamaha brand, best paired with a Yamaha outboard motor.
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.
Now they are pushing their Sportsman line, the "all-aluminum, all-welded fishing machines that will exceed the expectations of anglers everywhere."
Hybrid Category: Best of Both
Any list of the "best bass boats" that doesn't include the Vexus brand. From their early days, they had the input of one of bass fishing's greatest legends, Forrest L. Wood. As they like to explain it, "Our team helped him design and build the first aerated livewell, the first all-fiberglass transom, first fiberglass trailer fenders, first disc brakes on trailers, first integrated engine setback, and so many more groundbreaking designs."
Their glass-infused aluminum hybrid construction is unlike any other, and they're well on their way to making bass boat history.