Trying to Justify the Cost of a New Bass Boat

By Steve Graf

If you haven’t looked at bass boats lately, prepare yourself for sticker shock! Holy cow, it’s absolutely incredible how much bass boats have gone up over the last 20 years! There’s no way you can justify buying one of these bank-draining luxury cruise missiles that will sit in your garage probably 20 days out of the month. The big question is, “When will the prices level out and stop going up?” The answer is, “When anglers quit buying new boats and refuse to pay the price.” Let’s take a look at how much and why there is a price increase.

Back in 1998, Ranger Boats offered me an opportunity to be a part of the Ranger Pro Staff which was a dream come true. How cool was that to be able to run one of the greatest bass boats ever made and be a part of the Ranger family…a boat company under the leadership of Forest L. Wood (the founder of Ranger Boats) that set the standard by which all bass boats were measured. It was at the time the number one-selling bass boat on the market due to its design, dependability, and innovative features. 

While Ranger had several models to choose from, their top-of-the-line Z boat series had a hefty price tag of $32,000. It truly was the “cat’s meow” and took bass fishing to a whole other level with its innovative hull design, fully padded front deck, along with the best “soft ride” seats an angler could sit on. Even in 1998, $32,000 was a lot of money to spend on a bass boat. My recollection at the time; how stupid it was to spend that kind of money on a bass boat just to go fishing!

Fast forward to 2022. Today one of these same luxury Z boats will set you back $90,000 to $100,000! In just a little over twenty years, bass boats have skyrocketed…all brands, not just Ranger. Talk about sticker shock, and don’t try to justify spending this kind of money to go fishing even if you’re fishing the pro tournament trail.  Who would have ever thought you would have to spend basically six figures to go bass fishing?

It’s insane to think that back in 1998 your truck cost more than the boat you were pulling, but today the boat costs significantly more than the truck pulling the boat. But that’s where we are today, as anglers continue to want bigger and better. It’s all about supply and demand and as long as anglers are willing to pay, boat companies will continue to go up in prices! Everything on a bass boat has gone digital and is basically hybrid computers…touch screens monitor every facet of a bass boat from engine efficiency, oil usage, and battery life to gas consumption. Some boats have gone to keyless starts with digital touch pads that allow the boat owner to crank the boat simply by knowing a 4-digit code.

Today’s boats have trolling motors that can deploy themselves simply with the touch of a button. The best trolling motors today have what is called a “spot lock” system that will hold the boat in one spot anywhere on the lake. Some will even follow a straight line and run parallel to the shoreline all by themselves. When it comes to the electronics being used, there are depth finders that will allow an angler to see fish swimming at all depths 75 to 100 feet out. Another new feature today is called forward-facing sonar. You can literally watch the fish swim up to your bait and eat it…basically like a video game! This has been a total game-changer for all bass fishermen!

There’s also another system, the shallow water anchor system, that is being used by almost every tournament angler. This is where you have what is called Power Poles or Talons, two poles on the back of the boat that can be deployed into shallow water (12 feet or less) that will lock the boat in place. Great for sight fishing or anchoring the boat at the dock for weigh-ins.

So why the cost increase? Technological advancements! Back in 1998, we didn’t have forward-facing sonar, we didn’t have electronic units that worked off GPS coordinates, we didn’t have digital computer dashes, shallow water anchor systems or keyless touch pads. Is all of this technology required to catch fish today? Absolutely not! But if you want to compete at the highest level, you better have these luxuries and more. These up-and-coming young anglers of today know how to take advantage of every aspect of their electronic units and will take you to the cleaners and suck your money right out of your pocket as they are so comfortable using these devices with total confidence.

So, the next time you venture out into the bass boat market, prepare yourself for sticker shock! But understand, you can still get a really nice boat for $50,000 without all the bells and whistles. It’s all about how much money you want to spend. Till next time, good luck, good fishing, and don’t forget to wear your sunscreen.