Water skiing behind a boat.

Can A Bass Boat Pull A Skier?

If you’re any kind of sane, and you have a fast boat, like a bass boat, then, of course, you’ve asked the question, can a bass boat pull a skier? I mean, who in their right mind wouldn’t ask what kind of things they could do with a fast watercraft? Especially one that’s as sleek as bass boats are.

A bass boat can pull a skier if equipped with a water skiing tow bar. Usually, bass boats do not come with one, nor are they recommended for pulling a skier. However, this is not to say they are incapable. On the contrary, bass boats are known for their speed and thus able to pull a skier behind them with little to no issue. But our attention should be paid to a few different things. In this article, I’ll take you on a water skiing and bass boat adventure as we discover all the ins and outs of using a bass boat to pull a water skier.

Water Skiing Essentials

Before we dive in, no pun intended, it’s best if we understand the basic needs that are required to go water skiing in the first place. There is some essential equipment needed to modify a bass boat, as well, to go water skiing in the first place. But first, what about the physics behind water skiing? What’s needed to get up above the water is good to know if we’re going to determine if a bass boat can do it in the first place, right?

It Always Boils Down To Physics

The Physics of Waterskiing Infographic is shown.
The Physics of Waterskiing. An Infographic by Farm 6 Media for Boating Guide. Thanks Farm 6!

As you can see from the above infographic, water skiing has a combination of several forces, all working both together and against each other. It boils down to four fundamental forces:

  • Drag
  • Gravity
  • Lift
  • Forward Momentum

As described in the infographic, these forces act to sink the skier, stop the skier, lift the skier, and pull the skier forward. Only when the two forces of lift and forward momentum overcome the effects of trying to stop and sink the skier, will the skier ride above the water. It may seem like this might require a ton of force and speed, but it doesn’t take that much.

Water’s surface tension and density compared to the air above help us to get our buoyancy up and to get the skier above the water. You only need to go a few miles per hour to get above the water. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the speeds a water skier will need to go in the table below.

Water Skier Experience LevelWater Skiing Speed
Beginner Ability10 – 14 mph / 16 – 22 kmph
Intermediate Ability14 – 22 mph / 22 – 32 kmph
Expert Ability20 – 26 mph / 32 – 42 kmph

Safety Is Number One

If you’re going to make the effort of going water skiing, whether behind a bass boat or not, you’ll want to ensure your safety and the safety of others are a top priority. There are several things you should do for safety when going water skiing and also to help maximize enjoyment. Here are my top five safety tips for going water skiing using a bass boat. 

  1. Use personal protective equipment.
  2. Never go water skiing with less than three people.
  3. Never go faster than you can safely handle.
  4. Always check equipment before use.
  5. Always check weather forecasts.

Personal Protective Equipment

Concerning the P.P.E., I think this is a no-brainer. However, I’ve seen people out on the water with no life jacket. Typically it’s young adults who don’t feel they need them, but I’ve even spoken to veteran boaters who can’t be bothered to wear their life jacket because of so many years on the water without an incident. I guess some people think they can’t drown.

Remember, it’s not your swimming abilities that matter; it’s your ability not to drown when knocked unconscious. That’s the real danger of boating. If you were to have an accident where you got knocked out, and in the water, without a proper life preserver (one that puts you with your head above water when you’re unconscious), you will drown and die. Not cool in my book. So I wear a life jacket like one of the ones I’ve recommended in my life jacket and vest article. Take a read and familiarize yourself with these.

You may also want to wear some kind of wetsuit or skin to help avoid water rash. What is a water rash? Well, I’m sure you’ve heard of road rash. That’s when you fall on pavement or asphalt and get scrapped up. Well, when you’re water skiing and going quick, if you fall the right way, you can get bruised or a nasty and painful rash from hitting the water at speed. Go too fast and fall, and it can knock the wind out of you or even knock you unconscious or break a bone. Yeah, water can do that. I wrote another article about the different kinds of wetsuits and things used for water sports. It might be an idea to familiarize yourself with those as well.

Always make sure you check all your equipment before you head out on the water too. From your life jacket to your pull rope, you’ll want to make sure all is in good working order before you depart on your adventures. It is just good practice.

Water Skiing Life Vests

Three Person Water Skiing Rule

Water skiing with three people is a golden safety rule some people ignore. Here’s why you need three people. First, someone has to drive the boat. Second, someone will be behind the boat on skis. Last, you need a spotter. Someone who can watch the water skier and advise the boat captain to stop in case of emergency. The spotter also helps to weigh down the boat to give the boat a better wake. A decent wake allows the water skier to have some fun jumping, instead of just doing slalom on the surface.

Watch Your Speed

I think the rule about speed is not to be an idiot. Having a responsible person driving the boat, someone who knows the basis speed that goes along with the level of ability of the water skier is essential. The driver must be aware at all times and waiting for instruction from the spotter in case the water skier goes down in the water or has another issue the captain should be aware of while piloting the vessel.

What’s The Weather?

Last, I know it’s obvious, but check the weather forecast. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve seen some excited people about to go out to water ski when there’s a storm rolling in. Just because everyone made plans to go out on the weekend or whenever it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t alter your plans to a day indoors if inclement weather rolls in. A bass boat doesn’t do great in rough water (you can read that article I wrote if you want to know more). And it won’t stand a chance in rough water trying to pull a skier. Not to mention that the skier would be foolish to try to ski in rough water as well. Be smart; check your weather forecast first.

You Need The Right Equipment

If you intend to go out waterskiing on a bass boat, you’ll need to equip the boat with a tow bar. Most bass boats are outboard equipped, so we need a special rope tow bar that will work with this sort of motor setup. You will have to consult your boat owners manual as well for proper installation as each boat is different. Remember, the tow bar will have some fairly hefty forces on it, so it will need to be extremely secure. Here are a few towing bars from Amazon that I found and read the reviews on, which weren’t too bad. These are good examples of what would need to have installed on the boat.

Tow Bars

Tow bars are the budget go-to for smaller, less conventional boats that require a retrofit solution to accommodate watersports like waterskiing and wakeboarding. Here are some of the best rated available at the time of writing from our friends over at Amazon.

Attwood 903-008-T-S Swivl-Eze Polished Stainless Steel Fixed Height 29-Inch Ski Pylon (from Amazon)
Tow Bar Tripod from Amazon is shown in this file photo.
A tripod style tow bar assembly.

It is the sort of assembly you’re going to need if you have a bass boat and want to convert to be able to use the boat to water ski. This tripod-style ski pole is a typical example of a do-it-yourself piece of equipment to install. There are a few considerations, and I’ll address those in another article. The point is, there are a few different options available to you when it comes to altering a bass boat, or another ship, to accommodating water sports like waterskiing and wakeboarding.  

The pole style of the tow bar is not the only type used. On outboard equipped boats, an example of a tow bar that wraps around the motor can be seen in the following case, again from our friends at Amazon.

TurboSwing™ Ski Tow Bar
A TurboSwing Water Ski Tow Bar is shown in this file photo.
TurboSwing Water Ski Tow Bar

My favorite accessory, if you’re running outboard, is the TurboSwing™ Ski Tow Bar. You could install this onto most bass boats and be able to pull a skier without fear of getting in the way of your boat’s steering.

The other thing I like about this type of bar for a bass boat is that it’s keeping the center of force between the skier and the boat low to the water. Oftentimes the rope is pulled on a tower, especially in the case of wakeboarders. This is so the boarder can use the height to help pull them up and off the water. Not to say this is cheating, but it is undoubtedly a helpful technique to get a lift. So, if you’re not interested in getting massive air and just want to do some fun slalom and small jumps, then this sort of tow bar is for you. And at a reasonable price, the TurboSwing™ is an excellent buy.

Towers

A typical tower towing assembly as found on Amazon is shown in this file photo.
A typical tower towing assembly as found on Amazon.

This tower shown above is a typical example of what you’ll find on Amazon. Not suitable for most bass boats, these usually go on other vessels.

Bass Boat Essentials

A NITRO Z18 bass boat whizzes along a waterway in this file photo provided by NITRO Boats.
A NITRO™ Z18, photo courtesy of NITRO™ Boats, 2020 model shown.

Bass boats are awesome watercraft. If you like fishing as I do, then a beautiful bass boat is definitely on your wish list. And if you know anything about bass boats, you know they can usually perform. So, towing a water skier should be a piece of cake, right? Not so fast there speedy, I know you want to get out on the water, but let’s take a moment to consider a few things.

First, bass boats are not intended to pull skiers. With that in mind, the ship would have to be retrofitted with a ski tow bar, as mentioned. However, if we are going to assume that this aspect will be, or has been taken care of, then there are two more significant considerations for the bass boat pulling a skier. Let’s take a look.

Hull Type Affects Skier Enjoyment

Depending on what style of waterskier you are, or want to be, then the hull shape of the boat that’s towing you is going to play a massive role in how your water skiing experience goes. The weight has something to do with it as well. Why; you ask? Because of the wake which the boat creates as it blasts along the water.  

Bass boats have what I like to call a shallow hull. That is, the ship skips over the surface of the water and does not sink into it. The boat is meant to be stable when standing, fishing off the bow deck. The hull was designed for the best possible performance while maintaining sturdiness when at a standstill and fisherman are on the floor. It means that it was never intended for the hull to create a wake that is suitable for a water skier or wakeboarder to ‘get air’ off.  

With the hull design in mind, let’s also talk about weight for a moment. Bass boats are usually relatively small and lightweight. As I mentioned, the hull is designed to skip over the surface of the water when at speed. This means that the boat was designed to be sturdy yet lightweight. The lightweight feature means that the wake created will not be suitable for any kind of aerial tricks, jumping, or that sort of thing. Therefore, a bass boat may be able to pull a water skier, but it won’t offer the wake required to get the air of any sort of decent kind.

Engine Type And Strength

The last primary consideration about which we must pay attention is that of the strength of the engine, as well as the type of engine that powers the bass boat. Most, if not all, bass boats are equipped with an outboard motor. There are always exceptions to the rule, but this is the industry standard for this type of boat.  Find out more about boat propulsion types in my article about said topic.

With waterskiing, luckily, you don’t need to go very fast. The issue for the motor is that again a bass boat is typically not intended for water skiing use. With that in mind, as long as the engine can handle the sustained drain of towing, as well as the added work it will need to do with having a minimum of two people inside the boat, it may be strenuous but possible. The basic idea is a minimum of seventy-five horsepower should suffice, but that is a bare minimum, and it depends on the size of the boat and so forth.  

Conclusion

You can go water skiing, using a bass boat, as long as the bass boat meets the following requirements:

  1. The motor is strong enough to provide the thrust needed.
  2. The boat has a tow bar.

Make sure you wear a life jacket and always follow all safety precautions, but don’t forget to have fun and do some bass fishing while you’re at it.

Would you ever go water skiing behind a bass boat? Let me know in the comments below.

Take a look at the Boating Guide Magazine’s

RECOMMENDED Boating Gear

You’ll find everything from Fish Trackers and GPS to anchors and tow ropes. We have either owned and tested or have a close friend who owns and has tested the products and services we recommend. There is no crap recommended on Boating Guide Magazine, we stand by that.

A boat drops anchor in a cove.

Boat Anchors

Most people enjoy being on boats. The smell of the water, the feel of the wind in your hair, and being around people you enjoy.…
Read More

More From Boating Guide About Boating, Boating Activities, And More!

Scroll to Top