So, you want to buy a boat? Easy enough, right? Wrong! There are so many options and things to consider before purchasing a boat. Once you get that boat though, your life will be changed, so it’s important to take the time and go through all of your options. Two popular boat purchase options are the bass boat and the pontoon boat. Here I’ve gathered together all the need-to-know information about these two boats to help you find the one that best fits you and your needs.
- Bass Boat Benefits
- Pontoon Benefits
- Rough Water Handling
- License Requirements
These are twenty-one of the criteria that you might want to look at before deciding which one is best for you. Now, let’s go through each of these criteria and we’ll find which one will best complement your life. These two boats serve very different purposes, and you may know what you want but you also should be open to the idea of getting the boat that feels right.
1. Bass Boat Benefits
Bass boats are the ultimate fishing machine. It’s lean, it’s mean and it gets the job done. These boats are known for their incredible ability of speed, storage and access to all parts of the water. Bass boats can sneak and squeeze through even the tiniest of nooks. Not only this, but it isn’t too deep at all. Most of the boat will be out of the water, which means that you can travel to even the most shallow ponds and the boat hull won’t be scratched or dinged.
All of these features and more create the perfect dream fishing boat. Each little thing, from the covered storage to the immense power a bass boat has, each one benefits the angler in one way or another. Even down to the high-tech livewells that each bass boat has. The livewells can help a fishing trip last a couple of hours to all day. This boat was one that was built with the avid fisher in mind.
2. Pontoon Benefits
While a bass boat is built and bred for fishing, the pontoon was dreamed up with fun in mind. With the incredible stability and spacious room for friends, family, and storage, this boat is meant to be taken out on the water, and allows people to have fun in the sun! While the bass boat aches for speed, the pontoon is just the opposite. It loves to leisurely stroll down the water. When it does hit its top speed, it still only can barely pull a jet ski.
While you can fish on a pontoon boat, it is not the same as the bass boat, because it was not built specifically for that task. The pontoon is a sort of Jack of all trades. A reviewer for The Ocean Sailing Guide states the following when describing the versatility and luxury of a pontoon.
Capacity is one of those things that you want to make sure you have an idea of about before deciding which boat is the boat for you. It’s one of the few things that is a major difference between the bass boat and the pontoon boat.
A bass boat most usually only fits about 2 anglers at a time. While some people view this as a negative thing, other anglers love that it only fits two people at a time. This helps keep the settings intimate and quiet, which is crucial in order to keep the anglers catching the big fish.
A pontoon boat is a completely different story. A standard pontoon holds 10 people, but a double Decker pontoon boat can hold up to 14. These great boats are made so large and in charge because of their purpose. The jack-of-all-trades in the boating world does it all. It is made for handing out with big groups of people while still being able to sun, swimming and water sports, and even fishing!
Depending on how many people you want on any given fishing trip or activity. If you’re someone who wants to get out on the water with your partner and create some memories, the bass boat is the one for you! But if you have a big family or know you’ll want to take friends out on the water, the pontoon might be a better option. So the winner of this round goes to the Pontoon.
|Largest Capacity||Pontoon Boat|
Once you buy your boat, customization’s will start. While customization isn’t necessary it is fun to be able to make your boat yours completely. So which boat will give you more options for this?
Bass boats are pretty straight forward. They’re built simplistically in order to be the best boats for the one job that they’re used for. But, if you’re building a bass boat from scratch using one of many companies such as Skeeter or Ranger, you can customize your bass boat to your wants and needs. The horsepower of the outboard, the color, the storage and much more can be customized to your needs.
As for pontoon boats, they have more luxury options and customization available if you’re buying new from companies such as Harris. You can choose your model, colors, and layout of the deck. On top of this though there are many things that can be added after purchase. There are fishing sets, skiing sets and many other fun activities that can be added to your pontoon. (Adding a fishing set to a pontoon boat can be a great way to get the best of both worlds if you’re having a hard time choosing.) With the versatility of a pontoon boat, there are endless options for customization as well.
|Most Customizable||Pontoon Boat|
When out on the water, a boater wants to know that they won’t capsize or suddenly go flying off their boat. The stability of a boat is incredibly important not only to the peace of mind of the boater but to the boaters physical well-being as well. While both bass boats and pontoon boats are incredibly safe and stable, each one has things that make is stable in its own way. But one thing that will help to stabilize any boat is to spread people and equipment evenly over the deck of the boat.
As for bass boats, the stability also depends a lot on the brand and build of the boat. The bigger the underwater footprint is then the less tippy it will be. With a more narrow base, the boat will be more likely to shift with the movement of the water and wind. Especially if there will be a heavy load on board. So watch for this when looking to buy a bass boat. Bass boats are always known to have stable fishing platforms and elevated fishing decks.
Pontoons, on the other hand, are one of the most stable boat options out there for recreational use. Mind, this is in calm waters only. With a pontoons large base and two hulls, this boat has an incredibly large underwater footprint. This makes it incredibly hard to capsize a pontoon. While it will still get pushed around by the wind and such, boaters can rest easy on a pontoon. That is until the waters start getting rough.
|Most Stable||Pontoon Boat|
6. Rough Water Handling
Depending on where you want to take a boat, it is important to see how it can handle the rough waters that can come with deeper waters. These rough waters can be powered through if you have the right boat.
The bass boat can muddle and power through most of these rough waters with ease and grace. Of course, like anything else, when there are rough waters ahead it is crucial to take them slow and easy. But the v-hull shape of the bass boat and the bass boat’s powerful motor help to give the boat some power in the face of the overwhelming power of the water. If you know you’re going to be in rough waters often choose a bass boat that is large in size. The heavier it is the more power it has.
One thing about the bass boat in rough water though is that the bass boat has no protection from weather and water. So in rough waters, the anglers will 100% get wet. The only protection from the weather or splash is what the angler is wearing.
Although a pontoon is incredibly stable in calm waters and while a pontoon can handle rough water fairly well because of their balanced large base and two hulls, they still don’t stack up next to the bass boat. While the bass boat cuts through large waves with it’s v-hull a pontoon boat just can’t do that, as it is a broad square shape. So instead of moving over the wave which is safest, it ends up moving through the wave. This can jostle the boat and passengers around quite a bit.
|Best in Rough Water Handling||Bass Boat|
Whenever boating is involved its crucial for boaters to understand their boats ability to move through obstacles and get out of tight situations. Depending on where you’ll be boating most of the time affects this choice as well. If your main body of water is an open lake with little to no twists and turns, you don’t need something that is super easy to maneuver. But, if you’ll be boating somewhere like a lake that turns into a river with many bumps and turns, you’ll need something that goes where you want it to go the second you want it to go there.
The thing that makes something easy to maneuver is its weight, size, and controls. Bass boats are one of those boats that ranks incredibly in all three of those categories. Their (comparatively) lightweight, v-hulls and thin sleek design help the bass boat to be able to maneuver the waters no matter how sticky or tricky it can get. The bass boat also has a very low profile which eliminates the push and pull coming from any possible wind.
On the other side of that spectrum, we have the pontoon boat. Pontoons are the complete opposite of aerodynamic. They’re bulky and awkward shaped, not to mention often tall. Let’s be honest they’re the semis of the recreational boating world. That means when the wind gets out of control, these pontoons are in trouble. On top of this, because they’re so large, they take a long time and a large area to turn. The reviewer from The Ocean Sailing Guide says the following about his own boat experience with maneuverability.
All boats require a certain amount of maintenance. Whether that be yearly maintenance or daily maintenance, each boat requires a different amount of attention. There are ways to prolong the life of a boat, whether it’s upkeep each time the boat is used or whether it’s a full winterization of the boat for the cold months. Each boat has a checklist of things that need to be checked every once in a while, but especially after not being used for a while.
As for Bass Boats, these things are built to fight against large waves and go speeding along the water. Needless to say, bass boats are built to be tough. But that doesn’t mean they don’t need to be maintained. In fact, it means maintenance is more than essential. In order to keep your bass boat running and cutting through those waves and picking up those big basses, maintenance is necessary.
According to Bass Resource, James Wilkins suggests the following for maintaining a bass boat. These things are important to do the first trip out on the lake after the winter as well any time that your boat hasn’t traveled the waters recently.
- Batteries should be fully charged and full of acid. Watch for overcharging a battery. Don’t let this happen.
- Visually inspects all hoses and connections.
- Check engine mounting bolts.
- Steering cables should be check.
- Inspect the lower unit by checking for any signs that there is water in the oil.
- Make sure that the oil level is full
- Power trip and tilt need to be checked.
- Check the wiring.
- Check aerator and bilge pumps for cracks.
- Look over problems on the trailer.
As for a pontoon boat, there are several things that need to be checked and kept up with in order to prolong the life and look of your pontoon. Avalon Pontoons suggests the following.
- Cover boat when not in use to prevent sun or critter damage.
- Shrink wrap boat in the winter months.
- Check pontoon regularly for dents or leaks. If there is a problem immediately contact your dealer.
- If used in salt water the engine should be flushed after every outing.
- Clean bottom of boat every once in a while to avoid salt build-up.
- Clean boat deck with non-skid cleaning solution.
- Wax boat every few months.
- Allow the furniture and all things on the pontoon to dry out so that mildew and mold don’t build up.
- Maintain engine.
Although the maintenance of these boats is pretty similar in amount, bass boat maintenance can often require someone with a deeper understanding of boats. With all of the wiring and technical maintenance required, it can cause maintenance to be pretty spendy if you don’t know these technical upkeep jobs. So although I chose pontoons to win in this scenario, it also depends on your wants and needs.
|Maintenance Required||Pontoon Boat|
It is important for safety to come first when it comes to such things as boats. There are boating accidents and tragedies so often that safety really needs to be one of our top priorities when looks for a boat. No matter what you plan to use your boat for, it needs to be safe enough to keep everyone involved safe from harm or tragedy.
The safety of bass boats is actually quite a controversial subject. Skip Miller of the Daily Press describes one horrific event that captures why. His article sits on the extreme side, titled, “Bass Boats are not Safe at any Speed.” But most boaters and critics state that the safety of bass boats is doubled if they would only slow down a bit. But, Miller describes why bass boats are so unsafe by writing the following.
“A bass boat is little more than a casting platform with a huge motor bolted to the transom. It is built for two-man fishing. There is no freeboard or raised sides. There is a recessed cockpit that has two seats. Conventional boats are made to float in the water. Bass boats are made to float on the water. They are a dangerous craft.”Skip Miller
There are many people that say that bass boats are so dangerous because of their high speeds or the recklessness of the drivers, and while this is true, this is true as of all boats. The thing that makes bass boats so dangerous is their design. They’re designed to glide atop the water with absolutely no rails or sides to prevent people from being launched from the boat. Add reckless drivers and tremendous speeds and danger is bound to happen.
According to a study, Boater Exam did the following is the amount of death and injuries per year in 2010. Obviously, this study was done a while ago, but this information can still be applied to today.
|Open Motorboat Deaths and Injuries||2,220|
|Pontoon Boats Deaths and Injuries||127|
While this statistic includes all open motorboat deaths and injuries, 17 times more people got hurt on these open motorboats. And bass boats are some of the most open motorboats around.
Now, as for pontoon boats, they lie completely on the other side of the safety spectrum. One of the things that makes a boat safe is its width. This is one of the reasons that pontoons are so safe. They are some of the widest recreational boats out there which increases stability.
Especially because pontoons are built for families, they’re made especially safe to protect kids. Not only the width of a pontoon makes it safe, but the railings that surround the deck prevent anyone from falling off. Along with this, the speed of the boat, especially when compared to bass boats, really affects safety. Pontoon boats are extremely slow compared to bass boats.
|Safest||Pontoon Boat (by a long shot!)|
When looking to buy a boat, price is a pretty good thing to factor in! While there are many things that affect each price of each individual boat when comparing bass boats and pontoon boats, we can look at the price ranges of each boat.
According to Fast Cast Rods, a bass boat will range anywhere from $17,000-$70,000. According to Better Boat, a pontoon boat will range anywhere from $18,000 to $60,000. So depending on the size, engine, model, brand, and features of the boat you get, either a bass boat or pontoon boat could be close to the same price.
Bass boats are used solely for bass fishing. Not only that but are mostly used for tournament bass fishing. So these boats are for very dedicated anglers and not for much else.
Pontoon boats, on the other hand, are made specifically for versatility. They can be used for water sports, fishing, skiing, and relaxing out on the water with friends.
Again, depending on the reason you’re looking for a boat, one might be better than the other for you. If you’re looking for a strict efficient fishing machine, a bass boat is the one for you. If you’re looking for a boat great for going out on the water with friends and family, a pontoon is the one for you.
|Most Versatility||Pontoon Boat|
Depending on what you use your boat for, you’ll have different storage needs. Bass boats have an incredible amount of storage, which is necessary for bass boats. Most often most of the deck opens up to be storage. The nice thing about this is that all of this storage is protected from water and weather.
Pontoon boats have a large amount of storage space as well, considering they are so large. They are made to hold more people, and so they, of course, have more space to hold things as well.
Overall, each boat has the perfect amount of storage for their individual purposes.
|Bass Boat||17-24 feet||1500-1700 pounds|
|Pontoon Boat||20-31 feet||2,200 pounds|
The average size of a bass boat will sit at about 17 – 24 and will weigh anywhere from 1500-1700 pounds according to Fast Cast Rods. A pontoon boat will weigh around 2,200 pounds and will sit at 20-31 feet according to Pontoon Boats.
14. License Requirements
Whether you decide on a bass boat or pontoon boat, it is important to know license laws. These laws will depend on what water you’re boating in, what state you’re boating in and how old you are. Driving a bass boat may require increased training or practice because of the high speeds. Pontoon boats might need more practice being able to turn. The turns need to be taken wider, so practice needs to be done in order to make those turns.
Although boating insurance isn’t legally required in most states, with boats such as bass boats and pontoons, insurance is always a good idea. According to an article on Better Boat, “the general rule of thumb when it comes to calculating average boat insurance prices is that you’ll pay about 1.5% of the value of your boat in annual rates.”
|Boat’s Worth||Insurance Cost per Year|
So basically that means that the more you spend on a boat the more you’ll spend on boat insurance. As with all insurance though, safety pays off literally! If there are any accidents insurance cost will go up.
Bass boats are known for their intense power and speed. Their outboards can be powered by up to 350 hp. That’s a lot of power! This power helps to anglers to travel from fishing site to site. With an outboard as powerful 350 hp, a bass boat can go up to 100 miles per hour.
A pontoon boat is a lot more slow-paced than a bass boat. According to The Ocean Sailing Guide, Pontoon boats tend to catch a speed of around 28-35 mph. This is the perfect speed for the use of a pontoon boat. Most of the time pontoon boats spend their time flitting around the water. Even when they’re being used for water sports, their speed range is the perfect range for those sports.
|Most Powerful||Bass Boat|
As for cleaning, they both require the same kind of cleaning; non-toxic and non-skid cleaner. Both boats should be cleaned after each use.
Bass boats are going to be smaller usually, and the surfaces are simple to clean. With the casting deck, casting chairs, and the livewells, cleaning is kept pretty simple. You water it down, clean it out with some safe soap and let it dry out.
As for pontoon boats, they’re often much larger than bass boats. This means that there will be more surface to clean. Along with this, there is a lot of furniture on the pontoon that will need to be cleaned and properly dried out so mildew and mold don’t start to acquire. Because of these things, a pontoon will be more difficult and time-consuming to clean.
|Easiest to Clean||Bass Boat|
As for buying a boat, both the bass boat and pontoon will have close to the same availability. Most local boat dealers that have one have the other as well. This also depends on where you are though. If you are in a big fishing community with lots of great fishing grounds, bass boats will be readily available. If you’re in a place where people like to party and socialize on the water, pontoon boats will be everywhere. Then again, if you’re someone where there aren’t many places to get on the water, finding either of these boats may be difficult.
One of the best parts of owning a boat is finding all of the best accessories to build your dream boat with. If this is something you look forward to in boat, it’s important to look into which boat has more available accessories that you would want. Here I’ve collected a couple of accessories available to give you an idea of what’s out there.
- Boat Dock Line Bungee – $15-$25
- Universal Boat Cover – $80-$90
- Arnall’s Pontoon Grill Bracket Set – $40-$50
- Fishing Supplies
- Water Sport Supplies
Because of a pontoon’s versatility, there are innately more accessories that are available. The more purposes something has, the more accessories it has.
Stealth is really only important when it comes to fishing boats, so it is apparent as to why a bass boat would travel with more stealth than a pontoon. A bass boat travels extremely quietly and smoothly through the water as to not alarm surrounding fish that they’re coming.
A pontoon, on the other hand, is extremely noisy when powered by an outboard. Even when it’s powered by an inboard engine, the large bulky shape of a pontoon can make it extremely hard to sneak up on the fish if using a pontoon for fishing. For this reason and many others, if looking for a boat to fish from, a bass boat is the one that will give you the most success.
Overall, each boat has its benefits and cons. Each shines in its own way and own categories. Each person has different needs and tastes, so choosing the boat to fit your personality is key.
If you’re seeking out a boat that will carry you with speed from fishing spot to fishing spot a bass boat is your obvious choice. It’s the sports car of boats. Shiny, sleek and speedy.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a large boat that will get you out on the water to have fun with family and friends, a pontoon boat is the one for you. It’s the tour bus of boats. Fun and family-friendly.