A Tale Of High Seas And Great Fishing In A Shallow Hull Bass Boat
Are Bass Boats Good In Rough Water? Well, I went out on a NITRO® last year and I can tell you a thing or two about my experiences with bass boats and rough water. Let’s take a deep dive together into that choppy water, shall we? No pun intended.
Let’s lay down some groundwork here. I love to fish. Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that although I don’t get out as much as I’d like, I just love fishing. I’ve got a few different reels, a few different rods, and I do several types of fishing. I like to go fly fishing and even tie my flies. And there are two types of fish that I enjoy fishing the most, Brook Trout and Bass.
Fishing For Bass Fish
I think Bass is just a great little sport fish. They’re feisty and temperamental, but you can get them if you’re out at only the right time and place, with the right bait, of course. And although I love to sit on the shore of a river with my fly rod, I also like to take the tackle box out and jump in a bass boat and head out on the water.
Sometimes we get a little ahead of ourselves, right? Well, I can tell you that if I’m out fishing, I don’t always watch the clock. And as my eyes adjust to the light, the darkness can sneak up on you pretty quick. And with it, clouds can roll in with storms before you realize it.
One such adventure happened to me and a buddy of mine when we were out fishing for some Bass on his NITRO® Bass Boat.
Enter Night Storm Rough Waters
Before I go into too much detail about the storm, I want to tell you a little about the boat I was on. Now, just to put things into perspective, I’ve always been fascinated by watercraft. I’m no stranger to them, having had an interest for as long as I recall. But most of my experience has been on a canoe, kayak, or white water raft, to be quite honest. I’ve had plenty of experience on small aluminum boats, pontoon boats, and even some runabouts, but not a lot of experience at the time of writing with bass boats.
The first thing I noticed on this boat was that it was like a spaceship. I thought, “Holy cow, this thing is almost ridiculous!”. I mean, it had a massive touchscreen with maps and controls for darn near everything, right there on the screen. You know, I was happily surprised. I must have been living under a rock because I had no idea boats this size were so advanced. It was a 2018 NITRO® Z21 Elite.
So, I’d better get back on track here. The fishing was good that day, really good. I remember catching the first Bass, and I turn around, and the Livewell is already full and ready to go. I never even knew this boat had one, but there it was conveniently located under a sturdy access lid. Smooth all-weather carpet covered this access lid just as it did the rest of the deck.
Great Bass Fishing
We were catching big Bass that day, seemingly one after another. By the time we realized what time it was as dusk had previously come and gone, the clouds had rolled in. We were out a bit too late. Out of nowhere, the wind picked up, and the water almost instantly became choppy.
I think that was the second time I felt a bit of fear out on a boat. Not to say that the ship wasn’t stable, it was fine, but we were a bit out of our league, well I was anyway. Steve was out on that boat every weekend, competing in bass fishing competitions. But I digress, let’s talk about the hull of a bass boat.
You see, Bass boats are for calm waters, typically speaking. High waves and rough seas are not the intended conditions for a Bass boat’s hull. So, you really have to know how to handle your boat to get it to safety in that kind of inclement weather. Thank goodness my friend Steve knew what he was doing.
Bass Boat Hull Design
One thing you need to consider about Bass boats is their hull design. They are intended for stability so you can sit or stand on the bow and cast. They are 110% a fisherman’s boat. And they perform to that end in near-perfect ways.
Bass boats do well in shallow waters. The hull is not deep and quite flat. Well, okay, it isn’t that flat, but the point is that it is not as deep as many other designs. The hull is designed so you can stand on the deck and cast with no issues. This boat is built for fishing. And it performs like a dream, it really does. That’s why so many professional anglers love these boats. They just work well.
And my storm night out on a Nitro® tells the tale. The fact that I’m here today instead of forever residing in Davy Jones locker is because of the incredible performance abilities of the boat (and, of course, my friend Steve who knew how to pilot the vessel precisely). However, I have to say I do NOT recommend using this boat (or any boat for that matter) to cross rough open waters.
Always judge your surroundings, pay attention to the weather forecast and don’t be foolish enough to get caught out on a large body of water in a storm. Not a great idea folks so put safety first, above all else. I’d love to share the horrific pictures of the seas we traversed, but one of the waves that hit the boat knocked my camera bag into the big drink. So, I’d like to thank the folks over at White River Marine Group ™ for helping me out with a few pictures. Your boats are fantastic!
Experiencing Rough Waters On A Bass Boat
Let’s get down to brass tacks here. When I was out on the lake in the Bass Boat, at night, during a storm, the swells were about five or maybe six feet high. That may not seem like the end of the world, but it was also pretty dark out. When you combine darkness and waves, and you’re in a bass boat, it’s scary.
The best thing to do is to keep your speed super low, and keep your bow down (depending on what boat you have, CHAMPION® runs with the bow a bit higher than others, for example) Ideally you want the wind at your back, but depending on where you need to get to, that isn’t always an option. The biggest problem that we had was not the huge waves as we were going slow, and Steve was a tournament fisherman, so of course, his boat was like an extension of him. The problem was that it was ridiculously difficult to know what direction we were going. I mean, I couldn’t see over the next swell, but it was also dark out.
That’s when I was so incredibly happy that this boat was like a spaceship. The gigantic screen has a wonderfully large display that we had GPS running on. Again, I can only show you the recent 2020 model, but here’s what the console is like (2018 wasn’t that much different in terms of appearance so you’ll get the idea).
Best Practice For Navigating Rough Waters On A Bass Boat
Okay, so there is nothing I can tell you that will be a catch-all solution. Experience is the only way to know the best course honestly. And it differs from boat to boat. Each different hull design has its sort of fingerprint of how it handles. Some boats are better in chop than others. When it comes to being out on rough water, avoid it if you can. If you can’t, then there are a few essential things.
Safety In 3 Steps For Bass Boating In Rough Water
1 – Strap everything Down
If you’ve ever spent any time on a boat, then you’ll know if you hit a wave wrong, it’s like jumping on concrete. The ship can impact hard. Remember that water has this surface tension thing going on. When you smackdown on the water with your boat, unless you’ve got a hull that cuts through the water, you’re likely to feel the jarring impact. Boats don’t have shocks as a car does; it’s a whole different animal. And when you bounce around a bit in choppy seas, your belongings fly everywhere, so strap them down good. Have you ever heard the saying “batten down the hatches”? Well, it’s to stop things flying around in rough seas.
2 – Run Slow
I’m talking just being underway. You aren’t in a race. If you’re already in rough waters, then all you can do is go slow and steady. Tortoise beats the hare whenever it comes to surviving nasty seas.
3- Stay Parallel To The Water
Always try to keep your boat from crashing into waves in a way that the wave goes over your deck (if at all possible). Try to ride the waves instead, again, if possible. If your bow is too high then the stern could get swamped. If the bow is too low you risk the bow being swamped. Try keeping your boat level with the surface you are on and keep the bow out of the waves. Try to ride the natural ebb and flow instead of fighting it. Keeping your bow down in rough water usually provides a smoother ride. But, if it’s really rough, then you’ll want to keep it up a bit. I’m talking the kind of day where you wish you’d just not gone out that day kind of rough.
There are, of course, a thousand other suggestions I could make, but it’s going to come down to experience and good common sense. Always wear a lifejacket or life vest as they are not typically long sleeved like a jacket, as you are aware. A PFD can prove a lifesaver as that is indeed their sole function.
To sum things up, just stay safe. Whether you’re going out on your Bass boat or another kind of boat, just make sure you check the weather and do everything you can to stay safe out there. Getting caught out on rough waters in your Bass boat can be a frightening experience, but with a little forethought, avoidance is possible.
Have a safe and fun time fishing out there!
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DISCLAIMER: NITRO® Boats and White River Marine Group™ as well as their affiliated brands are not a part of nor connected to Boating Guide Magazine, Farm 6 Media or Ark Mountain Corporation. This article is the personal opinion of the author and not that of NITRO® Boats or White River Marine Group™. They were nice enough to offer the pictures to me as my pictures went into the deep rough waters along with the rest of my camera gear. I’d like to thank the folks at White River Marine Group ™ they have some really great products and brands that I myself use and trust. I was not paid in any way by White River Marine Group ™ or NITRO® Boats for this article. I just like their boats. Sincerely, Jeremy Shantz, your humble author.