The Latest On Aluminum

Anglers can be very particular concerning their boats. (January 2007)

Anglers can be very particular concerning their boats. While high-performance fiberglass bass boats dominate in the bass fishing community, there is a segment of these particular fishermen that prefers aluminum boats. Whether driven by finances or by the type of fishing they do, these anglers stick with metal.

Aluminum boats have come a long way over the years. From the 12-foot V-bottom skiffs and johnboats of years past have come some sophisticated fishing machines that fit both anglers' budgets and fishing styles. Johnboats and small skiffs are still available and almost every manufacturer markets them, but the focus today is on boats that will help fishermen be more successful on the water.

From a comparison standpoint, aluminum has some advantages over fiberglass that are worth noting. Welded and double-riveted aluminum boats are stronger pound for pound. Aluminum has a very high rigidity, requiring less support structure. That means less weight, and in turn a smaller horsepower requirement.

Aluminum is more puncture-resistant and immune to osmosis. The metal does not develop small web-like cracks where a stump or rock may have pushed against the side or bottom. Also, UV rays from the sun have no effect on the finish of an aluminum vessel.

About the only issue that many anglers have had in the past with aluminum has been the hull design -- or lack thereof. However, today's aluminum boats have answered that shortfall and are sleek, even eye-catching. Some models so closely resemble fiberglass in hull design that only a close inspection tells them apart.

Let's take a look at some of the more popular aluminum brands and see what's in store for anglers this year.

Alumacraft

Originating primarily as walleye or salmon boats, the Alumacraft line of boats has been around since 1946. They are designed primarily for big water, and are built with deep gunnels. But they can easily handle bass and panfish action from their expansive casting decks.

The Tournament Series provides wide, high, carpeted gunnels. This reduces boat noise while fishing and provides additional strength to the vessel. The Tournament Pro 185 is rated for a 200-horsepower engine, holds 41 gallons of gas, and weighs in at 1,510 pounds. That combination will get you to a distant fishing hole and back in short order.

Alumacraft uses a double-plated construction, known as a 2XB hull. It runs the entire length of the boat. This second hull provides additional strength for taking on rough water. The deeper keels are one piece and run the entire length of the boat, while spray rails make for a drier ride.

For more information on Alumacraft boats, visit www.alumacraft.com

Duracraft

Duracraft continues to make a solid lineup of all welded boats. One of the most popular is the DLX-178. At 17 feet, 8 inches in length, this traditional aluminum bass boat design provides a very stable fishing platform.

The entire floor and decks are carpeted, and there is ample storage space for gear, tackle and rods. The boat comes standard with the bass boat options, such as an aerated livewell and side console with full instrumentation.

The DLX-178 is rated for a 90-horsepower engine and provides a quick, dry, smooth ride even in a chop because of the semi-V-hull construction. With flip-down backrests, the boat provides both driver and passenger support when running.

Information can be found on the Duracraft line of aluminum boats at www.duracraftmarine.com

Lund

Lund Boats are made primarily for anglers who fish open waters and big lakes. High freeboards and protected casting platforms provide fishermen a better degree of safety than traditional bass boat designs in such conditions.

The 1900 Pro-V model is a favorite of fishermen and comes in three layouts with a single or double console. The IFS model has a double console that protects you and your partner when running on a cold morning.

This boat claims more storage compartments than other vessels in this class, including drop-in tackle storage and compartments for rods up to 8 feet in length.

Lund rates the 1900 Pro-V for a 225-horsepower engine, allowing this one to run as fast as most anglers want to go on the water. The trademarked IPS and IPS-2 hull designs keep spray to a minimum and provide a smoother ride.

On the Internet, you can find out more about Lund boats at www.lundboats.com

Crestliner

The Fish Hawk line is the most popular fishing boat that Crestliner sells. It comes in a tiller model, popular in big, open-water fisheries, and in a dual side console model with steering and engine controls on the right-hand console. The 1750 tiller model is rated for a 90-horsepower engine, and the side console model is rated for 125 horsepower. These models, as with all Crestliner boats, are made with hot welded construction with no rivets and weigh in at around 1,100 pounds.

The list of options includes complete 16-gauge carpeting throughout and two large aerated livewells. A front casting deck and trolling motor mount make it ideal for bass fishing. The 35-inch sides and moveable pedestal seats allow it to handle big-water trolling as well.

The 12-degree deadrise V-hull provides a smooth, dry ride even in a chop and allows the boat to remain a stable fishing platform at idle.

Check out the 1750 and the complete lineup of Crestliner aluminum fishing boats at www.crestliner.com

Lowe

Lowe has moved into the serious bass fishing realm with its Stinger 180 model. It is a modified V-hull designed to handle rough water better than traditional bass boats. Rated for a 150-horsepower engine, this boat weighs in at around 1,000 pounds and will get you there fast.

This 180 model is equipped with all the standard bass boat options. It comes as a factory-rigged package with aerated livewell, in-dash fish-finder, outboard motor of your choice, and a matching trailer with a swing tongue for easy storage. The total length of the boat, motor and trailer with the tongue stored is 20 feet, 8 inches, which allows it to fit straight into most garages.

The Stinger 180 is an all-welded boat with a limited lifetime warranty to the original owner. The warranty covers anything Lowe makes on the boat. Additional electronics and equipment are warranted by the particular component manufacturer.

For more information about the Lowe line of aluminum boats, go on-line to www.lowe.com

Polar Kraft

The Polar Kraft 180 Pro is an 18-foot model designed for bass fishermen. Polar Kraft has made this one with a full range of standard features to please bass anglers. With 20-ounce marine grade carpet and an all-welded hull, the 180 Pro is rated for up to a 150-horsepower engine.

As do all models of Polar Kraft boats, this one comes with "plug and play" electrical wiring harness and system. If you have ever had to work on the electrical wiring on your boat, you will appreciate this feature somewhere down the road.

Polar Kraft uses pressure-treated panels made from wood, under the decks and in the transom. Those features carry a limited lifetime warranty, as do the outer aluminum hull, seam rivets and welds.

The Polar Kraft Web site can provide more information for you, go online to www.polarboats.com

Tracker

Tracker Marine was the originator of the "complete package" line of aluminum boats. Its Bass Tracker boat line has been a top seller since 1978. Over the years, its welded hull design has been improved to provide an excellent fishing platform.

The Tracker Tournament V-18, advertised as being for the serious bass club tournament fisherman, is one of its best-selling models. Rated for engines from 90 to 150 horsepower, it comes standard with almost all the bells and whistles of a high-performance bass boat. Included with the boat are the motor (in the size of your preference), trailer and trolling motor, with authorized dealers selling the packages at factory preset prices.

You can find out more about Tracker boats by going online to www.trackerboats.com

Triton

Triton boats, already known for its fiberglass lines of fishing machines, also has a complete line of aluminum boats. They cover bass models up to 19 feet in length, as well as deep freeboard, big-water models designed for walleye and salmon anglers.

The Magnum Series is the most popular, with the 197 SC being an ideal boat for bass fishermen. The long list of standard options includes an in-dash depthfinder, trolling motor and trailer.

Tritons have no wood and are built with welded construction. And the Magnum bass line of boats have a hull of .125-gauge aluminum that includes a pad. That pad feature, which is also found on high-performance fiberglass models, gives the boat more stability at high speeds and more top end speed than other aluminum boats of comparable size.

The recommended engine range is for 150 to 200 horsepower, putting the Magnum line almost on a par with its high-performance fiberglass cousins.

You can find out more about the Triton line of aluminum boats at www.tritonboats.com

Bottom Line

Fiberglass boats, both bass fishing and big-water varieties, have held the attention of most fishermen in most locations in recent decades. However, with modern advances in construction techniques, smart anglers are taking a closer look at metal boats. These boats today have come a long way from their post-World War II surplus aluminum beginnings. They are no longer small, tinny rattletraps and second-rate fishing vessels. They are fishing machines that can really do the job, and do it usually at a much more affordable price.

All of the boats we reviewed meet or exceed all National Marine Manufacturers Association and United States Coast Guard requirements for boats in their size. They all have aerated livewells, and plenty of storage, including rod lockers, tackle compartments and dry storage containers.

It's worthwhile to give aluminum boats a look this year if your fancy turns to looking at a new fishing vessel. You may be surprised at what you find, and your wallet may thank you as well!

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