Bumble Bee- The 18’ and 19’ Bumble Bee is unreal as is all their models which are no longer made. These hulls handle better than any of the above hulls. They turn on a dime and handle rough water very well. They drive like a supercharged Mazda Miata on a road course. My first ride in a Bumble Bee was on Smith Mountain Lake in 2003 and I was shocked by the way the boat handled high speed turns in the creeks. They were also built with padded decks to soften your stance. The padded deck was an option on these boats and many guys opted for it. They were most often rigged with Mercury and Yamaha 150hp or 175hp carb motors and you will find them on Craigslist in TN and KY mostly. You do not see many up north. These hulls will run slightly faster than the others and the 18’ with a 150 will reach 65mph if set up correctly. With a 175 Mercury the 180 Pro V will hit 70mph. The 19’ with a 200 Mercury will run 70-74 mph. The early to mid 90’s models will be in your price range of $6-10k. Finding a nice one in excellent condition is not that easy. They were not manufactured in high numbers like the Rangers and Bass Cats. Check TN and KY boat listings.
Champion 17', 18' and 19' - The 90’s Champions like the above pictured and minty 1993 Champion 190DC owned by my friend Kevin and powered by a 200hp Mercury XRi, were some of the best rough water boats ever made to this day. These hulls were built to knock down the 2 to 3’ rollers and they run smooth and steady. They were commonly rigged with Mercury 150 and 200 carb motors. They offer great storage, and are commonly found in areas of the country which deal with larger lakes and rivers known for rough water. A 18’ Champion rigged with a 150 Mercury is a great starter boat which feels more like a 19-20’ hull due to the ability of the boat to handle waves/chop at speeds over 50mph. This boat will run 60 to 62 mph and will run 50mph over 2’ chop. Running chop is much easier in all of these boats when you are running upwind. Running downwind overtop of rollers is always terrible. A 19’ Champion with a 200hp Mercury will run 65-70mph depending on setup, prop, and jackplate, but they often chine walk (wiggle back and forth on the pad) and you will need to learn how to drive through it and correct it. The “pad” is the small area of the hull just in front of the prop that is touching water when running high speed.
Skeeter ZX180 & 190- The 1990’s model 180 or 190 is a great boat commonly paired with a Yamaha outboard. These 18’ or 19’ hulls are good in rough water and are very comparable in speed to the Rangers and the Champion. They are heavier hulls and are built well. Finding a Skeeter without a Yamaha is like finding peanut butter without jelly. The Yamaha outboards are phenomenal motors, but remember that they are more expensive to fix and maintain. I have owned a Skeeter boat powered by a Yamaha outboard and I was very happy with the rig and I had no issues. These boats in model years prior to 1999 will be less than $10k and are not tough to find. You will generally see more Skeeter boats as you head north on the larger bodies of water in NY, MI, VT, ME, and OH.
Dual or Single Console?- This is a highly debated question but it boils down to personal preference. In years past I have not bought or even considered buying a boat with a dual console. The console takes away much needed floor space for a net, tackle bag, passenger rods, kid space, and landing space, especially netting or swinging fish. On the other hand, without one, your passenger is exposed to brutal wind and water spray at high speed and in rough water including those days with below freezing wind chills. At these speeds in the winter, you must wear a full face motorcycle helmet or your neck will freeze and you’ll have trouble breathing. Bumble bees, birds, and even rain drops can hurt and injur at high speed and even leave dents in your face or blind you permanently. Always wear eye protection. I have been in several boats which have had collissions with birds at high speeds in excess of 70mph and it's not a laughing matter at that speed. I have now opted to purchase a dual console. One of my main fishing partners is my 4 year old son and the extra protection from the console will make him more comfortable in cold weather. I will also now install a sterio system inside the console. In my situation the pros of keeping him safe and comfortable behind a windshield outweigh the cons.
Purchasing- Do not ask your bank for a $8,000 boat loan. If you do decide to go the loan route, ask them for a personal loan. A boat loans interest rate will be sky high and by the time you pay it off you could have bought another with the interest. Keep in mind most boat dealerships have used boats for sale, however many banks will not provide loans on boats older than 10 years. You will also pay much more for a used bass boat at a dealer vs. a private seller. If you go to look at and inspect a boat for sale, bring a wad of cash with you or make sure your bank is nearby and you will be able to withdraw money or have a certified check written to the seller. A seller may not wait for you to return the next day. If the boat is in great shape and a good deal you are not the only one who has their eye on it.
Resale Value- Keep in mind that one day you will sell your boat and you will need to get every dollar possible back. Certain brands tend to hold their value better than others with Ranger being at the top of the list. Out of 4 Ranger Boats I have purchased used over the years, I have sold 2 for profit after years of use, and 2 of them I broke even on after years of use. This is very hard to do unless you are a mechanic, or electrician. I was able to find great deals and take care of them during my ownership period. Prior to re-selling it is a very wise decision to install new carpet and go the extra mile to fix what does not work properly. You may end up breaking even on the money you put into it to sell it, but you will sell it which is the end goal in the first place. Few people want to spend their hard earned money to then save up more money to fix things. Champion also has great resale value and their hulls are in demand, especially the older 1990’s models which were the most popular rough water hulls in the history of the bass boat industry with the Ranger 3 and 4 series right on their tail. Speed means nothing unless your lake or river is immune to boat traffic and wind. To keep yourself up to speed on the value of your boat or one you are thinking of purchasing I suggest you use NADA and select your options carefully and accurately as they make a big difference. Note that Lowrance HDS7’s for example, are not an option to add to a boats appraisal value and these types of items must be added in after the final appraisal is made.
Insurance- Progressive and Boat US seem to be popular but use whoever you want. Just make sure you have adequate coverage so if you hit something and destroy your lower unit or crack your transom you're covered. Payment installments are an option if you choose not to pay annually. Make sure you have appropriate coverage including liability, theft protection, road side assistance, damage during use, and TOW coverage which is a MUST. Do not tell your insurance company what you paid for the boat. This is none of their business, and some companies will ask this, and refuse to insure the boat for more than what you paid. This makes no logical sense. If you got the boat from a friend or family member at a great deal, they will punish you by not insuring the boat beyond what you paid. This is flat out ridiculous. If they demand to know, tell them you paid what the high end of the NADA value is plus the add-ons such as sonar and powerpoles. You could also tell them to go play in traffic and do business with another company. I have had an excellent experience with Progressive and highly recommend them. For the boats listed in this article you can expect to pay $300-$650 annually with 4 payment installments over the first 4 months as an option. If you sell the boat prior to the end of your annaul coverage, you will be issued a refund check as long as you notify them of the sale immediately. You must take pictures and inventory everything in the boat including all electronics. If you have receipts, you need to gather them up and lable what each is for. Make a large binder containing all your records and receipts. This also increases your resale value as the prospective buyer will be impressed with your record keeping and will be less likely to doubt your maintenance history. Those who keep records almost always take better care of their toys.
Driving Ability- You cannot just hop into these boats and go. Even an 18’ boat with a 150 requires a serious learning curve when it comes to driving. You can kill yourself easily in these boats if you make one wrong move. One wave, log, or sandbar can end your life or put you in a wheelchair for your remainder. If you get caught in a boat wake and you do not know how to ride the lanes, you can spear a wave and bury the nose of the boat 4-5’ down and rip everything off your deck and get tossed around your fiberglass interior like a rag doll. If you are running upwind into 15-20mph headwinds at 60+ mph and hit a larger boat wake, your boat will become airborne and literally take off like an air plane until the motors weight causes you to land pad down and subsequently throws the hull sideways launching you and your passenger against the consoles, floor, and top cap before ejecting you out of the boat unconscious. YouTube “Bass Boat Crash” when your done reading. If your in a boat with someone careless driving like a moron, or who does not know how to properly drive in the conditions you're facing, speak up and tell them to take you in, or take over the boat and show them what performance driving is all about. I have had to do this several times over the years.
These boats are basically race boats with fishing stuff in them, and if you don’t respect them they will kill you. It’s just like buying your first motorcycle. There are only two types of boat and motorcycle drivers, those who have wrecked, and those who will wreck. Wrecking in a boat includes hitting submerged or floating objects, stuffing a wave, or launching off a wave becoming totally airborne prior to being ejected. Always wear a life vest and kill cord. The kill cord will automatically shut your motor down if you are ejected. If you do not wear it, your boat will keep running and you will have no chance of climbing back aboard if you are conscious enough to do so. In cold water, you’ll die of hypothermia before you can swim to shore. Without your life vest and while wearing heavy clothes for the cold temperatures; you will sink like a rock.
Safety first, fish second. If you have any questions about purchasing a used boat feel free to ask me or the guys on the Bass Boat Central forums, The Bass College Forums, or my forums on BayBass.com. For more information on Ranger Boats specs and models see this chart. http://www.bassboatcentral.com/rangerspecs.htm
*During the writing of this article which was spread over several weeks, I both sold and bought a boat, both Rangers. Writing this article made perfect sense to me as I was thinking and pondering over the same subjects I wanted to discuss with my readers. I searched Craigslist and Boat Trader for over 3 hours a day for 3 weeks straight after selling my 2000 model R Series Ranger to a first time boat buyer. I had practically memorized every bass boat for sale east of the Mississippi yet I only made three phone calls and inspected just 1 boat, which I bought. This is the cleanest 1994 Ranger 392V that has ever existed. The 19’ 3.5” boat looks as though it was placed in a time capsule. I found the boat on Craigslist 7/17/15 at 1pm, just four hours after it was listed. I made the phone call and arranged the visit to Thornburg VA that evening in traffic. I made it home at 12 midnight with the boat in tow and an excited yet fast asleep 4 year old. The boat is all original and looks as though it came off the showroom floor. The gel coat shines the way it did when it left the factory. It sits on an immaculate Ranger dual axle trailer with surge breaks and is loaded with (2) Lowrance HDS7’s, a nice 24V trolling motor, and 3 new batteries. Everything on the boat works including every light, every pump, every latch, and every gauge. The boats wiring is clean and easy to track. The fuel injected 2.5 litre 200hp Mercury XRi is spotless inside and out, has good compression and idles smooth. The original carpet is amazing with no rips or stains. The leather bench seat is the factory original with no stains, rips, or leather cracks. The boat has been garaged its entire life and never abused. I even have the original Ranger factory production paperwork with the signatures of each factory department head/inspector who made this boat, and the original Ranger dealer paperwork in NC. Every owners manual from the HDS7's and trolling motor, to the outboard is in my possession. I found a gem and I jumped on it. My patience paid off as the three weeks without a boat were not easy on me. These older boats in excellent to mint condition are not common, but they ARE out there and they CAN be purchased for under $10k like this one which made it through the cut off by just a few hundred dollars. A new 2015 19’ Ranger with a 200 Mercury sells for around $55k and this 1994 392V will do everything that a 2015 Z119 will do. This beauty still has another 20 years in her, and I hope to treat her with the same respect and care as her last two owners. See pictures on the next page >> click here