SA Bass

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


- 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.

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