SA Bass - - Contents - By Joe Ba­log

“Rig­ging for Speed” Equip­ment tips and ad­just­ments for max­i­miz­ing top-end speed – Joe Ba­log

Bass boat junkies have al­ways been ob­sessed with speed. Fast boats were a nov­elty in the early days of bass fish­ing, but be­came a ne­ces­sity as the ad­vent of tour­na­ment bass fish­ing brought speed to the fore­front. A fast boat meant shorter travel times be­tween spots, which al­lowed more casts, and, in some cases, beat­ing the com­pe­ti­tion to the best spot in the first place.

While larger boats and higher horse­power lim­its have led to fewer an­glers push­ing the en­ve­lope in terms of top-end speed, savvy tour­na­ment pros – par­tic­u­larly those ac­cus­tomed to mak­ing long runs on mas­sive bod­ies of water – still find value in get­ting all they can out of their bass boats. Here’s the in­side track on go­ing fast.

Proper Mo­tor Height

The key to go­ing fast on the water be­gins with hav­ing the out­board height set cor­rectly. Once a la­bo­ri­ous process, chang­ing out­board height on most bass boats is now as easy as turn­ing a dial to raise or lower a hy­draulic jack plate, which is now stan­dard on most rigs.

If you don’t have a hy­draulic plate, in­vest in one if pos­si­ble. Proper en­gine height can still be ob­tained with a man­ual plate, but it greatly in­creases the time and ef­fort re­quired to achieve the best set­ting.

Re­gard­ing en­gine height, many bass boat own­ers be­lieve the key to speed is to ad­just trim, but they’re off the mark.

“To go fast, you want the nose of the boat as low as pos­si­ble,” says Alan Stin­son.

Stin­son is cred­ited with de­sign­ing and build­ing many of the first modern bass boats in the 1970s for Skeeter. With more than 40 years of ex­pe­ri­ence, he is re­spon­si­ble for many cut­ting-edge hull de­signs, and for help­ing evolve bass boats into what they are to­day. Any dis­cus­sion of the evo­lu­tion of speed in bass boats cir­cles back to him.

Stin­son says that keep­ing the nose low cre­ates less wind drag and ac­tu­ally places less of the boat in the water. In con­trast, trim­ming up lifts the nose, push­ing more of the rear of the boat down and cre­at­ing more hy­dro­dy­namic (water) drag.

“That causes a wake,” Stin­son adds, “and a wake is a tell­tale sign of drag.”

Be­fore set­ting en­gine height, con­sider two vari­ables: First, be sure your boat has the rec­om­mended prop for its out­board. Each prop has an RPM range in which it per­forms best, and if your out­board isn’t ca­pa­ble of turn­ing the prop within that range, con­sult your out­board man­u­fac­turer’s list (read­ily avail­able through your dealer) of prop rec­om­men­da­tions for the mo­tor. Sec­ond, be sure to run tests in real-world con­di­tions. If it’s tour­na­ment top-end you’re try­ing to im­prove, load the boat for a tour­na­ment.

“A tour­na­ment fish­er­man car­ries about 1,500 pounds of gear in the boat [in­clud­ing fuel, an­glers, batteries, etc.], so we per­form tests with that load,” says Mark Han­son, Mer­cury Marine’s lead hy­dro­dy­namic tech­ni­cian.

Han­son says boats re­act neg­a­tively to heavy loads, so weight must be con­tin­u­ously con­sid­ered. In fact, Han­son of­ten re­fu­els sev­eral times through­out the test­ing cy­cle to en­sure the heavy weight of full fuel tanks is taken into con­sid­er­a­tion. A dif­fer­ent prop is of­ten re­quired to lift a boat that’s full of gear, and pitch size must be ad­justed.

With the cor­rect prop and weight­ing de­ter­mined, run speed tri­als at dif­fer­ent mo­tor heights. Han­son be­gins by per­form­ing an anti-ven­ti­la­tion plate (AVP; com­monly re­ferred to as the cav­i­ta­tion plate) mea­sure­ment. This de­ter­mines the height of the AVP above the cen­ter­line of the hull. Boat own­ers can do it them­selves by run­ning a straight edge from the cen­ter bot­tom of the hull to the mo­tor. With the mo­tor trimmed down, the AVP should start about 6 inches above that line. Ad­just the jack plate to achieve that mark.

From that start­ing point, run tests on the water to de­ter­mine the best trim an­gle and whether or not the mo­tor should be raised or low­ered with the jack plate. The ob­jec­tive is to get most of the boat out of the water with­out the ex­ces­sive use of trim while main­tain­ing a smooth, sta­ble ride. Through ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, you should be able to dial in what works best for your rig.

Tackle Load

As men­tioned, weight is a ma­jor fac­tor in achiev­ing speed. “Load­ing the front of the boat is en­emy No. 1,” says Stin­son.

Stin­son, who was known to weigh each pro team mem­ber boat when it came into the fac­tory, re­calls once mov­ing 273 pounds of tung­sten weights and plas­tics out of the front of a well-known pro’s boat.

“Put all the heavy gear in the back,” he in­sists.

This al­lows the front of the boat to ride above the water line, with less drag far­ther back. The dif­fer­ence in top-end speed due to proper weight­ing could be as much as 7 mph, says Stin­son.

To get a bet­ter idea of what a modern tour­na­ment an­gler’s tackle load weighs, I weighed a few tackle boxes from my front com­part­ment. Re­mark­ably, a small box of tung­sten weights, along with a bin­der-style box of soft plas­tics (one of three I of­ten carry), weighed close to 13 pounds. This likely rep­re­sents less than 10 per­cent of the tackle found in the front of many tour­na­ment pros’ bass boats. All of it can rob valu­able miles per hour.

Drive It

How you get on pad makes a dif­fer­ence in speed, too.

“Trim it up on pad, then, when wide open, bump it down for a quick 1-2 count,” adds Han­son.

This pushes the nose down slightly, raises the rear of the boat up out of the water and re­duces drag. Han­son claims two or three such ad­just­ments can of­ten gain an ad­di­tional 3 to 4 mph.

Search for Speed Thieves

Any­thing on the bot­tom of the boat can rob top-end speed, so Stin­son rec­om­mends in-hull trans­duc­ers when pos­si­ble, or hav­ing ex­ter­nal trans­duc­ers – like those used in side-scan­ning tech­nol­ogy – mounted up and away from the boat’s run­ning pad.

There should also never be any­thing in­ter­fer­ing with the ro­ta­tional side of the pro­pel­ler (the right side for most bass boats). Any­thing mounted to the boat’s bot­tom to the right of the prop in­tro­duces air into that seam of water. The air then “sticks to the blades of the prop, and it won’t bite,” says Stin­son. Cav­i­ta­tion is the re­sult.

Know When to Quit

Speed fans might think there’s more to be done to in­crease speed. But for the most part, Stin­son says, there’s not, short of ac­tu­ally mod­i­fy­ing the hull. But what about wind drag?

“Boat speed is 90 per­cent hy­dro­dy­nam­ics and 10 per­cent aero­dy­nam­ics,” he claims.

Stin­son says the big­gest aero­dy­namic in­flu­ence is hull drag. Re­mov­ing pedestal seats, wind­shields and the like does lit­tle, if any­thing, to help gain top-end speed.

“At that point, you just need a dif­fer­ent boat,” Stin­son jokes.

A hy­draulic jack plate is a valu­able tool for max­i­miz­ing speed.

Side-scan trans­ducer place­ment must be care­fully con­sid­ered for best re­turns and min­i­mal drag.

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