THE LOWDOWN ON HOW BASS BOATS GET THEIR FLASHY VINYL COVERINGS
“WRAP IT UP” The lowdown on how bass boats get their flashy vinyl coverings. – Joe Balog
W rapped boats are a big part of tournament fishing these days. The increased visibility as a sign board for sponsors, coupled with wrap designers popping up in every major metropolitan area, has led to a huge surge in wrapped rigs on the water today. Considering wrapping your boat? We’ll help you make an educated decision.
How They’re Made
In essence, a bass boat graphics wrap is comprised of several large vinyl stickers that are made to fit a specific boat model. Here’s how the process works:
1. The process begins with the design of an appealing layout for your rig. Most wrap experts have artistic staff that can aid in this process, but they will require customers to provide vector or .eps files (files specific to certain software programs) containing sponsor logos.
2. Once logo files have been obtained and a design is finished, graphic and sign companies print the entire wrap on gigantic rolls of vinyl – most start out 150 feet long – and allow the inks to dry. During this period the vinyl “outgasses,” which is a type of curing process. Opinions on the overall best vinyl material vary. The most popular vinyl products are manufactured by 3M and Avery Dennison. 3M carries a higher price tag, and many wrap experts swear by its quality. However, not everyone agrees. If you’re considering a wrap, ask the installer about its materials, and seek referrals from other anglers. Eventually the wrap will be cut to template sizes for the installation on various parts of the boat.
3. Following the curing and drying process, a top coat of laminate is applied. Again, depending on the material being used, numerous types of “over-lam” are available, from metallic to high-gloss varieties, carbon-fiber (for a 3-D look), sparkles, brushed metals – the sky’s the limit. Many of these options also carry with them additional charges of up to 20 percent of the wrap cost.
4. When the wrap has been printed and laminated, then the installers (even some boat manufacturers) turn their attention to the boat. Most lift the boat on jacks for installation, and the entire rig is thoroughly cleaned using basic dish soap to remove any oils, followed by a solvent cleaner.
5. After the boat is prepped, the wrap is installed. Most wraps nowadays are applied dry and feature a “micro-bead” technology, which in essence are tiny fingers that stick to the boat until pressure (through a squeegee or other application tool) is placed over the vinyl to seal it down. This allows wrap designers to adjust the wrap to ensure proper fit.
Most high-end graphics companies warn against the use of a wet application for boat wraps because if fluid gets beneath the wrap it can lead to expansion and tears. Another no-no: the use of metal squeegees or blades for application. They can damage the gel coat.
6. Once the vinyl wrap is in place exactly, edges and seams must be carefully adhered. Most quality wrap companies use a 3M edging tape on the boat’s bottom, as this is an area of particular concern. Liquid enamel was used in the past, but tape is the accepted modern method.
Around the rub rail, wraps must be silicone-sealed, as well as around cleats, in the splashwell and anywhere there’s an edge. Doing so prevents water from entering under the wrap.
7. Finally, the entire wrap should be heated (often to temperatures exceeding 250 degrees) to remove any air bubbles and to compensate for weather changes.
What You Get
In general, bass boat wraps can be counted on to be pretty rugged, considering the craft they cover often exceed 70 mph on the water. Certified installers know their trade, and the last thing they want is to perform repairs. In addition, most boat wraps do not come with a warranty, as finding the exact reason for failures is tough, so having it done right is important. Most often, damage is caused by a careless captain. In the event of any major tears, usually the entire wrap must be replaced.
Bass boat wraps offer moderately good protection to a boat. They’re 4.5 mils thick (by comparison, gel coat is about 2), and easily safeguard against the bumps and bangs of tying up to a dock or glancing off other boats in a lock.
Care and Removal
Once your rig is wrapped, it’s important to take care of the vinyl coating. Thanks to superior inks, today’s wraps don’t really fade, but they can get scratched. Many waxing compounds can help remove minor scratches and will add life to a wrap. General cleaning should be done with dish soap, after which a protectant and sealer should be used.
A quality boat wrap should last about three years, and most graphics companies advise against pushing past that timeframe. If left on for longer periods, a boat wrap will likely crack from sun exposure, and has the potential to damage or stain the underlying gel coat.
Removing a wrap is fairly simple and requires nothing more than basic tools, strong fingers and a heat gun. Most owners easily remove their wraps themselves if need be, but wrap companies will also perform the task for a nominal fee.
Perhaps the biggest question about boat wraps is the cost. Again, it depends. Some bass boat wrap companies offer pricing as low as $1,000. However, buyers should go in asking questions to make sure none of the important steps are being skipped. For the most extreme wraps with the best laminates and quality custom work, buyers may need to fork over in excess of $4,000.
But, like just about everything else in bass fishing, nothing cool is cheap.
It takes a skilled hand and careful procedure to get the details of a wrap just right.