The other day I was heading down the waterway heading towards the inlet on a pretty calm day. Normally I am surrounded by large sportfishing boats, center console boats, and the occasional aluminum pontoon boat staying in the calmer waters. However, this specific day I saw something I had never seen before. I saw an old bass boat coming up beside me and it looked like he was going to follow me out into the ocean.
Like I mentioned, it was a pretty calm day with 1-2′ waves spread out in 7 to 8-second intervals and the wind was blowing at just 5 or 6 knots, so it was a very pretty day, but still! It was a bass boat going out into the ocean.
This got me thinking about can bass boats go in the ocean? Can the survive the corrosive nature of saltwater in their systems? What would happen to the engine, the carpet, the electrical system?
Needless to say, my mind was racing with questions. I didn’t have the answers so I decided to do a little research on the topic and here is what I learned.
Can A Bass Boat Go In Saltwater?
Can a bass boat go in saltwater? A bass boat is capable of going in saltwater, but it’s best to keep your bass boat in freshwater because many components of your boat’s system were not designed for the corrosive nature of saltwater boating.
The bottom line is I would NEVER take a bass boat into saltwater and definitely out into the ocean. I know a few readers may argue with me, but after 30+ years of boating and being caught out in storms, you always have to be prepared for the worst.
Even on a calm day, inlets can turn dangerous in a heartbeat. If the tide is going out and the wind is coming in (or vice-versa) it can cause the waves to stack up tall and even form breakers like you see crashing on the beach.
If you are in a bass boat, chances are you will not make it back through the inlet in those conditions.
But, I’m willing to accept that on a really calm day you could take your bass boat into the ocean, but there is much more to be worried about than just safety on the water.
Obvious Issues From Using A Bass Boat Into Saltwater
Let’s talk about some of the most obvious and some not so obvious issues of taking a bass boat into the ocean and exposing it to saltwater.
Carpet Flooring On A Bass Boat In Saltwater
Carpet is a popular flooring choice for bass boats. The problem with carpet on a bass boat used in saltwater is carpet holds onto saltwater and it slowly dries out. As the saltwater sits in the carpet it holds moisture and the saltwater will destroy the wood subflooring causing it to rot quickly.
Using A Bass Boat Engine In Saltwater
Most bass boats are built with engines designed for use in freshwater. When you build a bass boat engine to perform in saltwater conditions it is much more expensive because the use of noncorrosive components are required. As a result, an engine designed for freshwater should not be used in saltwater.
I will say, if you decided to take a freshwater bass boat in saltwater, you absolutely must flush the engine very well with fresh water as soon as you are done.
Yes, saltwater will cause damage to metals and fittings not designed for saltwater exposure, but a good freshwater washdown will go a long way in minimizing the damage from funning the engine in saltwater.
Using A Freshwater Trolling Motor In Saltwater
Just as bass boat engines may not be designed for saltwater use, there are two types of trolling motors built. Those for saltwater use and those for freshwater use.
If you use a freshwater trolling motor in saltwater you are going to rapidly reduce the usable lifespan of your trolling motor.
Trolling motors are expensive so I suggest not risking using one in saltwater unless it is specifically built for the harsh saltwater environment.
Steering Systems In Saltwater
Steering systems and components like cables, adjustment knobs, pivot arms, and hydraulic lifts and cylinders that are not designed for use in saltwater get absolutely destroyed in saltwater.
I read countless reports about steering systems that completely froze up after just a few months of use in a saltwater environment.
Sure you could change out the steering cable and all of the hydraulic fittings on your bass boat every year, but that could become really annoying and not to mention EXPENSIVE!
Bass Boat Electrical Systems In Saltwater
Saltwater boat or freshwater boat it doesn’t really matter… All electrical systems hate saltwater. In just a little exposure electrical systems can form corrosion and fail to work.
Fortunately, the electrical systems for saltwater boats use specially produced processes to help their electrical component resist the harmful nature of saltwater.
Freshwater boats like bass boats often do not require this type of expensive upgrade at the manufacturer. As a result, if they get exposed to saltwater they tend to fail at a much faster pace.
Metal Bass Boat Hardware In Saltwater
Most of the time bass boats designed for freshwater will use chrome-plated hardware such as anchor cleats, door hinges, and other metal hardware.
Boats designed for saltwater use specifically use stainless hardware and fasteners so they will not rust in saltwater conditions.
Trim Tabs (Flats Boats vs. Bass Boats In Saltwater)
Some people ask why they can’t use a bass boat in saltwater since it is similar to a flats boat. One feature often found on a flats boat but not a bass boat are trim tabs.
Trim tabs are almost universal on flats boats because if the chop in the water gets high, the boat user can use the trim tabs to force the bow of the boat high up in the air to get above the chop.
While running a flats boat with the bow high will not be very comfortable, it is much better than swamping the boat and taking a wave over the bow.
If I Still Want To Use A Bass Boat In Saltwater What Should I Do?
Thankfully for you, old bass boats are cheap. It’s one of the reasons you do see them in saltwater every now and then because its so cheap that once it dies you just get rid of it and buy another cheap old bass boat to destroy in the salt water.
At least that’s the way I look at it.
Let’s say you do want to go this route and use your bass boat in saltwater, what are some things you can do to protect your bass boat and get as much life out of it as possible.
Tips For Using A Bass Boat Is Saltwater:
- Flush the engine with freshwater after every single use. Absolutely no exceptions.
- Wash all hardware and boat surfaces with soap and freshwater to remove all salt and saltwater from the boat.
- Remove all carpet and replace with other materials such as a Sea Dek or other products that will not hold moisture like carpet.
- Clean and lubricate all steering components after every use. Yes, every used! Saltwater can destroy your bass boat steering quickly.
Are There Any Bass Boats Designed For Use In Saltwater?
What if there was a way to have the best of both saltwater and freshwater fishing by using a bass boat that is specifically created for use in both fresh and saltwater environments? That would be great, wouldn’t it!
So, are there bass boats designed for saltwater use? Yes, many popular bass boat manufacturers offer boats qualified for both fresh and saltwater use.
If you want a go-anywhere bass boat type boat there is a boat out there to fit your needs. Just know it will not be cheap!
They cost more because their components are built to stand up to the long-term saltwater environment, but that money allows you to enjoy your boat in both fresh and saltwater.
Examples of Bass Boats For Saltwater Use
Bass boats are amazing fishing machines! They do so many things well and are perfectly designed for working different bodies of water, but one thing they were never known for was use in saltwater.
In recent years this has all changed.
Today’s bass boat manufacturers offer boat models designed for saltwater use. These boats included aluminum or galvanized trailers, no carpeting, stainless steel components, saltwater rated trolling motors, and electrical systems all designed to perform well in a saltwater environment.
Here are three examples of Bass Boat Manufacturers who also make saltwater model boats!
Ranger Boats offer two lines of saltwater capable boats. They offer their Bay Ranger and their Intracoastal model.
Bay Ranger by Ranger Boats
The Bay Ranger is more along the lines of today’s bay boats that offers high-end performance, fishability, and a plush interior for comfort while on the water.
Bay Ranger Cost: In searching new 2020 Bay Ranger 2510 boat listings on boattrader.com, I found that most Bay Ranger 2510’s were listed above $100,000!
The Intracoastal Z5201L by Ranger Boats
The Intracoastal Z5201L Model from Ranger Boats is your classic bass boat built by Ranger Boats, but it has all the components and upgrades required for saltwater use.
Intracoastal Z5201L Cost: In searching new 2020 Intracoastal Z5201L model boat listings on boattrader.com, I found only one 2020 model posted with a price and it was listed at $74,955.
Skeeter is another popular name in the bass boat industry that offers a line of “bay boats”.
Their products range in size from 20 to 24-feet long.
You can find out more on their website: Skeeter Boats
Triton offers their Bay Series boats in 22′, 24′ and 26′ length boats.
All three Triton Bay Series boats have an 8’6″ beam which is a great size for stability while fishing. They also are light weight so the horsepower their engines create goes straight into forward momentum and speed.
The 22′ Triton weighs in at 2200 pounds and the largest 26′ boat weight just 2,650 lbs.
While this is straight from the manufacturer’s brochure, even when you have these boats full of friends, ice and all your gear, a motor ranging from 150 to 400 horsepower is sure to make these boats scream across the water at a quick pace.
Here’s what one of their owners said:
In general, it is advised that you should not take a bass boat that was designed to operate in freshwater and use it in saltwater. The risk of long-term damage and catastrophic failure of components is just too great in my opinion to risk your boat.
With this said, it is great seeing brands like Ranger, Skeeter and Triton bring more saltwater capable boats to market. I think the more we see a crossover from freshwater to saltwater the more enjoyment these boat owners can get from their boats.