“Keep that Show­room Shine. How to Pro­tect a Fiber­glass Boat’s Fin­ish”


SA Bass - - Contents - By Joe Ba­log

Bass boats are eas­ily the coolest, fastest­look­ing boats on the wa­ter, and they get their light­ning-fast look from a high-gloss fin­ish ap­plied over bright gel paints mixed with me­tal­lic or poly flakes – Joe Ba­log

B ass boats are eas­ily the coolest, fastest-look­ing boats on the wa­ter, and they get their light­ning-fast look from a high-gloss fin­ish ap­plied over bright gel paints mixed with me­tal­lic or poly flakes. The right for­mula and pro­ce­dure pro­duces the eye-catch­ing trade­mark sparkle we see on the show­room floor. Main­tain­ing this look on the wa­ter is easy, pro­vided we steer clear of a few ob­sta­cles.

Know the Coats

It’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand how bass boats are built and the prop­er­ties of the out­er­most layer in or­der to pro­tect it. A clear coat cov­ers ev­ery­thing on a me­tal­lic/poly flake boat. It’s responsible for pro­duc­ing such a wet, shiny look. Im­me­di­ately be­low the outer clear is the flake it­self, which rests on the boat’s gel coat.

For boats with no flake – of­ten the case with straight white, black or grey gel coat hulls – there is usu­ally no outer clear coat. The gel coat is the top­coat.

Block UV Rays

The great­est threat to a bass boat’s fin­ish is the sun. Over time UV rays can break down the outer coat­ing, leav­ing it pit­ted and yel­low. In ad­di­tion, gel coats can ox­i­dize – the oils within the gel it­self rise to the sur­face – rendering the fin­ish white and chalky.

The best way to beat the sun at its own game is to avoid it al­to­gether when the boat’s not in use. Com­plete con­ceal­ment in a garage is best, but even a car­port or boat cover helps. The worst-case sce­nario is stor­ing a boat on the dock, where re­flec­tive rays hit it from all sides.

Stop Threats from Mois­ture

Another over­looked threat is wa­ter; more specif­i­cally, mois­ture. Safe­guard against hav­ing it en­ter a boat’s fin­ish by main­tain­ing air­flow in the stor­age area, and never leave a wet boat cov­ered up for very long. In time, mois­ture could find its way be­tween the boat’s gel and clear coats, re­sult­ing in a hazy look.

Keep Fuel Away

Al­ways im­me­di­ately clean any fuel ac­ci­den­tally spilled onto a boat. If left unat­tended, gaso­line can pen­e­trate just about any­thing, and can ac­tu­ally dis­color fiber­glass.

Ba­sic Clean­ing

Once the proper pre­cau­tions have been taken against the big­gest threats, the best way to pro­tect a boat’s fin­ish is to keep it clean to avoid dam­age from less ob­vi­ous causes. Hard wa­ter stains – ac­tu­ally min­eral de­posits left af­ter evap­o­ra­tion – can be abra­sive enough to dam­age the fin­ish if they’re merely wiped off with a dry cloth. Over time, these “mi­cro-scratches” can add up to give a boat a “used” look. A 50/50 mix of white vine­gar and wa­ter or a com­mer­cially avail­able spray-on de­tailer will help. Pre­mium sprays will also pro­vide a slick coat­ing, which helps pre­vent bugs and stains from stick­ing and re­duces scum-line buildup. Bass Boat Saver de­tailer spray is a re­li­able, pop­u­lar choice, as are the prod­ucts by Boat Bling. Be sure to spray over­looked ar­eas around the boat’s tran­som, par­tic­u­larly ad­ja­cent to the jack plate, to ben­e­fit fully from the pro­tec­tion.


While a daily wipe-down is a good prac­tice, estab­lish­ing a well-waxed outer sur­face is key to main­tain­ing a pretty rig. The first step is to re­move any oils, swirl marks or ex­tra-stub­born de­posits through the use of a clean­ing wax or pol­ish. There are sev­eral prod­ucts on the mar­ket (they usu­ally ad­ver­tise the abil­ity to rub out fine scratches), but a top choice among many pros is Colli­nite’s Fleet­wax.

Cleaner waxes can be ap­plied with a buf­fer or by hand, but one word of cau­tion: Ex­ces­sive rub­bing can do dam­age. If you’re un­sure of how to do it right, con­sult a pro­fes­sional.

In the case of boats with ex­ces­sive wear, ox­i­da­tion or yel­low­ing, the best choice to pre­vent ir­re­versible dam­age might be to hire a pro­fes­sional with ex­pe­ri­ence in restor­ing fiber­glass fin­ishes. Boaters who take on ma­jor DIY projects should, at the very min­i­mum, do their re­search. There are step-by-step videos avail­able on YouTube, but be dili­gent about whom you trust for your info.

Once a rig is prop­erly cleaned and stripped us­ing pol­ish, a pro­tec­tive outer sur­face must be ap­plied. High-qual­ity car­nauba-based waxes do a good job of seal­ing things up and pro­tect­ing the boat’s fin­ish from UV ex­po­sure. Here, you get what you pay for (Ma­rine 31 Gel Coat Car­nauba, a high-end prod­uct, runs about $50 a bot­tle), but the pro­tec­tion is worth it.

A prac­ti­cal plan to keep a fin­ish in tip-top shape in­cludes an an­nual buff with cleaner pol­ish, fol­lowed by a top­coat wax ap­plied about three times a year. Another choice is a mod­ern “allin-one” process that in­cludes a very light pol­ish, com­bined with a high-gloss fin­ish­ing wax. While the fi­nal prod­uct won’t of­fer the last­ing pro­tec­tion of the con­ven­tional two-step ap­proach, con­ve­nience is a ben­e­fit. Meguiar’s Flag­ship Pre­mium Cleaner/Wax re­ceives high marks from ex­pe­ri­enced ma­rine techs.

Fi­nally, for the ul­ti­mate in pro­tec­tion, con­sider hir­ing a pro­fes­sional of­fer­ing a poly­mer-based top­coat (here, the sur­face must be metic­u­lously cleaned prior to ap­pli­ca­tion). While poly­mer ap­pli­ca­tion is costly – of­ten run­ning four fig­ures when in­cluded with a full de­tail job – it’s ad­ver­tised to main­tain a show­room shine all year, with lit­tle more than a reg­u­lar wipe-down from the boat owner.

Any step that can be taken to pro­tect the boat’s fin­ish is a step in the right di­rec­tion. Af­ter all, re­sale value and pride in own­er­ship both go up when your rig looks shiny and slick.


Boat wax, de­tail­ing spray and a lit­tle TLC can keep your rig look­ing sharp and pro­tect its re­sale value for many years.

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