You’ve wondered about aluminum.
For decades, we’ve been programmed to assume that big, shiny fiberglass boats are top-tier. The best thing a bass fishing junkie can own. When I die, bury me in my Phoenix.
I admit, as a young man, I wanted nothing more than to own one of these 20-foot chariots. I’d rather have had a Gambler than a girlfriend. And I did own dozens of glass boats over a 30-year span.
Today, however, with competitive fishing behind me and no reason to go other than enjoyment, I fish out of a much simpler craft. Noticeably, a few pros also joined the tin-boat army, seemingly sacrificing nothing in their careers.
Recently, guys like John Cox and Keith Poche continue to grab the headlines by accessing sneaky backwaters and walking away with thousands in prizes, placing a bit of doubt in the minds of those shopping high-performance glass boats and staring down six-figure price tags.
You’ve considered an aluminum boat more and more recently, but the only advice you can find is from salesmen and “influencers”, right? Well, you came to the right spot.
Let me start by making it clear that I have no agenda. While, for over 20 years I partnered with a boat brand, I haven’t in quite some time, allowing me to make clear-headed decisions based on form and function.
I spend a bunch of time in boats, everything from jonboats to offshore monsters. I still drool over new bass boats: the shine, the sparkle, the smell. But I’m uniquely able to see the pros and cons. Join me in learning more.
Let’s break this down into a few major topics. Aluminum bass boats excel in a few areas:
This is the one we hear about most. Many aluminum rigs draft less than 6 inches of water. They float much higher than glass boats, and I’ve taken mine – repeatedly – over rock bars and roadbeds with no sign whatsoever of damage.
I’ve also run aground more times than I can count. There is simply no comparison of the durability of aluminum. They’re also a breeze to maintain. Where I live and fish in Florida, my boat is constantly wet and full of stinky shiner slime. I pressure-wash it every few months and do nothing else in terms of care. It’s never had a cover. Carpet isn’t even a consideration, and EVA foam decking is wonderful.
3. Easy to load and trailer
I routinely load and unload my boat by pushing it on and off the trailer. Often, I have little if any “ramp”. This would be simply impossible with a traditional heavy bass rig.
4. Cornering and planing
One thing you’ll immediately recognize when running an aluminum boat is their ability to turn around on a dime. This comes from a relatively flat bottom. I can easily spin around with my outboard in a creek where others can’t, and get on plane in water just 2 feet deep. I never “idle out” of anything.
5. Plowing through cover
With a high-floating, light boat, I can push through thick vegetation much more efficiently than a glass boat. It’s not even comparable. It’s possible for my rig to troll through areas that a glasswork boat wouldn’t even try, accessing unpressured fishing areas.
Let’s not forget what drives the tournament industry.
While my wide-bodied aluminum boat is adequately stable, nothing tops a big glass rig in this regard. If you fish with two big guys standing over the gunnel, it takes a bit of getting used to in a small aluminum boat. The biggest tin models, though, compensate well and give a decent feel through massive front decks.
When navigating truly rough water, glass boats reign supreme. Length vs. width is the main principle on how a boat displaces water, and therefore how it rides. As aluminum boats keep getting bigger and compensate for stability issues, they also grow wider and displace more water, leading to a rougher boat ride. It’s simply impossible, currently, to compete with a big glass boat in terms of ride when navigating a heavy chop, unless you move to a true Deep-V aluminum hull, which suffers in shallow water.
Nothing offers more storage than a big glass bass boat. If you carry massive amounts of tackle, it’s something to consider.
4. Gas tank
Today’s largest aluminum rigs – designed for tournament bass anglers - top out around 50 gallons of fuel capacity. Most have less than that. If your usual routine involves making gigantic runs, this may be a real sticking point. And don’t be fooled into thinking that a big outboard gets drastically better fuel efficiency with a lighter boat – that’s simply not the case. Wide Open Throttle is a nice way of saying “drinking gas”, regardless of what’s being pushed.
5. Mountings and screws stay put
On aluminum rigs, running in a screw is often a temporary adjustment. It’s frequently difficult to mount accessories and know they’ll stay put, unless you can include a washer and locking nut on nearly everything. Also, shoot-through transducers are a pain, and even epoxy is only temporary. Something to think of if you do a lot of swapping and rigging of electronics.
There’s a quick list. Like anything, you’ll need to consider the pros and cons, and really determine your uses and needs.
Do you fish tournaments on Lake Champlain and frequently traverse the lake?
Do you wish you could get farther back in the slop on Toho, or run in fear from the wing dams on the Upper Mississippi?
How often, really, do you need 60 gallons of fuel? When is the last time you used a crankbait from your back-up box? Are you tired of putting a cover on your boat in attempt to keep it dry?
Maybe it’s time your rethought your approach. With bass boat costs now higher than automobiles, perhaps a dealer could lend you a demo boat for the weekend to get a true feel. It’s not out of the question.
In the end, you may just join the army of anglers who’ve reevaluated their needs.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)