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Any suggestions on purchasing my FIRST fishing boat. I will be buying used. I live close to downtown Austin and will be primarily looking to bass fish nearby on the weekends. I assume mostly Lake Austin, Lake Travis, Bastrop, and maybe Fayette.

Debating between a bass boat, a hybrid fish/fun boat, and bay boat. I like the bass boats primary for the set-up (front and back platforms for you and buddy to fish) and the sharp looks, ha. I assume the hybrid fish/fun boat would give me the benefit of a bass boat type setup with the benefit of just taking some buddies out during summer for fun on Lake Austin. The bay type boat I like because I prefer to stand while driving since I'm not very tall, makes me have better visibility and I feel more comfortable. Also, I hear the bay rides on rougher water better, however some don't have the front & back platforms that I prefer while fishing. I own a 4x4 Ford Truck so size shouldn't be an issue to tow. I will mostly likely try to stay under $10k for a used boat, but no more than $12k for my very first boat.

Any suggestions would be helpful based on the lakes I will be primarily fishing.
 

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...will be primarily looking to bass fish nearby on the weekends.

...
I love all the other stuff: taking the gang out on the water, bay fishing, pulling a tube, etc.

But I have an obsession to catch green fish. I've read similar threads with interest and it seems to lead to one conclusion: Buy the biggest, fastest bass boat that you can.

I don't own a gas engine motorboat, so I'm also considering a first boat. My dilemma would be fiberglass or aluminum.
 

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Don't get the combo fish/ski... you'll regret it. It's why you rarely see them. Unless you plan to go to the coast quite a bit I'd opt for a bass boat. I've owned all 3. Get the bass boat and bring a phone book if you need it... and yes, get the biggest boat with the biggest engine that you can afford.
 

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I just bought my first boat a few months ago and can confirm a couple things that have been said - dont look for a FIRST boat, get every bit of boat you can afford. It will be a hell of a lot more expensive to have to sell your first boat for the boat you really want two years from now. I joined a local club and rode on a few boats, talked to a lot of folks and spent 6 months on craigslist and various other sites. I rode in 1 fish and ski learned enough to know not to get one. They are not very good to fish out of and not very good for taking people out in. I bass fish 90% of the time and the family can deal with not-optimal seating the other 10% of the time.

Be sure to add in everything you want/need on top of what you are paying for the boat. Taxes, graphs, new trolling motor, carpet, upholstery, repairs, etc. add up in a hurry.

I ended up with a 98 Bass Cat PII with a 200hp vmax. Its 19' (which fishes plenty big) and has a top end I havent found yet (somewhere over 65). It has a removable flipping deck so I can actually put 4-5 people in the boat if needed. I put on some used high end electronics that have enough features to keep me busy for a while too. Trolling motor is a 24 volt 80# (which I thought I couldnt want more - but already think about it on windy days).

That being said I learned a ton about bass boating since owning it and have discovered about 8 things that I should have prior to buying it. I could have negotiated more money off or at least gone with out that bad feeling when you discover a problem later. Look at a bunch even if you know you arent going to buy them. Just practicing talking to people about their boats will help. Take someone along that knows bass boats and/or pay the money and have a shop check out boat AND TRAILER thoroughly. Motor and transom are the big things but things like crappy wiring, rusting trailer, fuel issues, hydraulics, etc. can cost you $ks.
 

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Look at max occupancy if you are planning on doing the fun things too. That is why I ended up with my Lund Fish and Ski. No one is ever left on shore.
 

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Look at max occupancy if you are planning on doing the fun things too. That is why I ended up with my Lund Fish and Ski. No one is ever left on shore.
Yup, if you go fish and ski go with a lund or the like. I was speaking to the bass boats hulls with more seats and less fishing room like the skeeter SLs, Ranger Reatas etc. Bass boat hulls are not made for a comfortable ride in chop like a deep V. You can safely do it, but dont bring the wife along on lake Austin when the wake boats are out. I believe occupancy on my 19' cat is listed at 5, but 2 of those better be little kids. Also, bass boats wont plane out at skiing speeds unless you swap props or whale-tail them.
 

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I have a Ranger Reata and love it. I bass fish out of it 90 percent of the time but its nice to just have a fun day in the summer also. Its not as fast and cant store as much tackle as a dedicated bass boat but it rides like a cadillac and is easier to drive.


Matt
 

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I just bought my first boat a few months ago and can confirm a couple things that have been said - dont look for a FIRST boat, get every bit of boat you can afford. It will be a hell of a lot more expensive to have to sell your first boat for the boat you really want two years from now. I joined a local club and rode on a few boats, talked to a lot of folks and spent 6 months on craigslist and various other sites. I rode in 1 fish and ski learned enough to know not to get one. They are not very good to fish out of and not very good for taking people out in. I bass fish 90% of the time and the family can deal with not-optimal seating the other 10% of the time.

Be sure to add in everything you want/need on top of what you are paying for the boat. Taxes, graphs, new trolling motor, carpet, upholstery, repairs, etc. add up in a hurry.

I ended up with a 98 Bass Cat PII with a 200hp vmax. Its 19' (which fishes plenty big) and has a top end I havent found yet (somewhere over 65). It has a removable flipping deck so I can actually put 4-5 people in the boat if needed. I put on some used high end electronics that have enough features to keep me busy for a while too. Trolling motor is a 24 volt 80# (which I thought I couldnt want more - but already think about it on windy days).

That being said I learned a ton about bass boating since owning it and have discovered about 8 things that I should have prior to buying it. I could have negotiated more money off or at least gone with out that bad feeling when you discover a problem later. Look at a bunch even if you know you arent going to buy them. Just practicing talking to people about their boats will help. Take someone along that knows bass boats and/or pay the money and have a shop check out boat AND TRAILER thoroughly. Motor and transom are the big things but things like crappy wiring, rusting trailer, fuel issues, hydraulics, etc. can cost you $ks.

I would say thats true of a lot of fish an ski's but there are a few out there that due both really well. I can take my trolling motor off, put the bimini top on load up with 6 people and have a great day on the lake pulling a tube around wakeboarding, swimming etc. Handles the 3-4 ft waves that you see on Travis during the summer with ease. I can also put the trolling motor back on, take the bimini off throw some poles in the boat then go out bass fishing. It will run 50 mph not 70 mph like a true bass boat so if you are tourney fishing its not ideal. But on the other hand if you are fishing for fun when it gets rough it will run 30mph and cut through the nasty waves that build on the big lakes without breaking your back. You sit deeper in the boat behind a full glass wrap around wind shield so its a million times more comfortable. The back deck is as big or bigger than most dedicated bass boats and the front deck is plenty big enough to fish one. One downside of a bass boat also is how they are typically propped. If you plan on pulling a tube or wakeboard etc with a bass boat you will probably need a second prop. Most of the bass boats are propped with a very large high pitch high rake prop that gives a lot of bow lift and top end efficiency. This will not be ideal and may not get you on plane when you load up with a bunch of people pulling a big tube behind you.
 

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I own an aluminum deep v 19' Tracker Targa V18 and I love it. I spend most of my time fishing alone or with a buddy on Travis/Bastrop/LA but I do pull tubers and just party quite a bit in the summer. I got the fish and ski for higher occupancy ratings and I also wanted to be able to easily fish alone. I also take this boat to the coast a couple/few times a year. The aluminum not only cuts 330 lbs, it is also much more forgiving if you hit a stump or rock, and also doesn't scratch so easily.
 

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man, if i had it to do all over again, lol...
traded my fish and ski after one year for an 18ft center console bay boat, and while all 3 styles have their place and capacities, i really like the cc...
but knowing what i know now, i'd probably have a chiquita scooter cuz i really like fishing shallow flats on the coast, but it'll handle most days on bastrop (in fact, i've seen a few there and was filled with envy, lol) buddy has one with a yamaha jet drive and we were in 4 inches of water...
good luck on the search!
 

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Aluminum!

Lowe (which is what I have)
Stinger 18HP w/ 115HP Mercury.
Its an 18.5ft boat with a HUGE front deck. Bigger than most and has a pretty competitive top end (not like a 200-250HP but I'll compare balance sheets and fuel costs (towing included) any day).
I fish alone 90% of the time and the other 10% it has plenty of room for more people. It could pull tubes if I put a ski pole in the rear seat mount and clamp supports to the transom. A fish & ski will most likely have convenient clasps for you to lock those supports into.

Enough about my boat ...
I wanted to chime in on buying it and things learned SINCE purchasing it that I've learned/realized, much like Cannonwood said ...

1) Agree with everyone get the biggest engine and most boat you can afford.
With your price range you're in pretty good aluminum territory. You can get a good fiberglass boat but most likely it will be a bit older. I found out that there is a BIG technology jump in the last decade (or less!!!), so consider that when you set your minimum year requirement. You may get a good boat with older graphs, etc. If that's ok with you then great! If not, you'll be rigging it up yourself if you're a DIYer or paying $ome cash to have it done (labor is not necessarily cheap these days)

2) Gas/Hydraulic pistons on storage compartments. I didn't think this was a big deal. I thought it was a nice touch on the Ranger's. I thought I was giving up comfort for $avings.
Until ... Try having a rod locker or storage compartment open with one arm in it on a windy day ... After the first time you get judo chopped, you'll wish they stayed open on their own.
I'm adding them to my main rod locker and main tackle storage compartment at my own expense.

3) HDS/Structure/Side scan. If this is important to you, try to get a boat that has it. To have it added afterwards ... let's just say it can get costly.
I was lucky enough that my 2012 boat had a Generation 1 HDS12 at the bow. It also had an Elite 5 (NOT HDS) at the console. I purchased a Gen 3 HDS7 to replace the Elite 5 and had it network to the HDS12.
Had I not gotten lucky with a HDS12 originally on the bow, I was looking at possibly adding the expense of another unit. Sure you can get them used. I added the side scan transducer as well.

4) Power Poles (not sure how that'd work out pulling tubes) AND/OR GPS trolling motor with anchor mode.
Expensive to add, depends on how much you bass fish vs. pleasure boat.
These are not essential but VERY nice to have. One of the things you will give up if you go aluminum without a deep V is boat control on a very windy day. A trolling motor install can be done DIY tho, so really that just cost parts if you're handy.

5) Recessed foot control on the trolling motor.
If you don't get a remote controlled trolling motor, then make sure yours is recessed. Not sure of your age ... but I get back aches (I'm an old guy) from mine, which is not recessed. Especially on windy/choppy days where I am constantly working the motor.
I'm getting an Xi5 put on my boat this month to rectify it. I'll eventually get power poles, but not this month ... these expenses add up.

6) Compression test.
Mandatory. Don't buy a boat without it. End of story.
You don't have to use Gary ... but you'll be hard pressed to find anyone with more recommendations from these boards ... have someone look it over, mechanically speaking.
They can give you list of every code your engine has ever logged (for engines that log that sort of thing).

7) Get the NEWEST boat you can.
My boat was a 2012 and HDS was Gen 1 and pretty new-ish then. That's 4/5 years ago (since we just started 2017). The HDS7 I have is now touch screen and Gen 3. Boots supremely faster than the Gen 1 and is more responsive. Can also do more.
There is onboard wireless networking, blue-tooth, etc. and just plain ole improvements in the way things are stored, rigged and fuel economy for newer boats/engines.

8) Get low hours if you can, but remember that boats aren't necessarily like cars in my opinion. My experience is that boats are meant to be run.
There is no winterizing for me because rarely more than two weeks go by where I don't go fishing at least once (unless the weather pounds us for weeks). I think that when boats sit, they break. I'd be interested in hearing other opinions, but that's mine!

9) After you buy it ... get it serviced.
Unless the seller can provide maintenance records of what's been done RECENTLY ... I'd get it into a shop and have an annual service done immediately.
They can take care of your trailer, bearings, lower unit, etc. And you know the anniversary month of when its due. Who doesn't remember the date the first time they bought a boat?
No one is going to tell you they took crappy care of their boat and when you ask them I'm sure they'll 'tell' you its tiptop. Trust no one but a good mechanic. If you're a good negotiator, you can somehow split this cost (or get them to cover it) at purchase time.

10) Because I went aluminum, I require less tow vehicle. a 19-20+ fish and ski with 150-250HP is going to require a much higher towing capacity

$21k would get you one hell of an aluminum bass boat.

These are also fantastic aluminum boat manufacturers:
Ranger
Lund
War Eagle
Alumicraft
G3

There are probably more, but those are the ones I looked into once I knew I was going aluminum.

Good luck with your purchase, and post pics!

P.S.

My aluminum boat was not my "very" first boat purchase. My first was a fish & ski. In my profile pic with that ~10lb fish, I caught it on Lake Fork in a 1996 HydraSport 175FS
The Fish & Ski had amazing hole shot, but that was about it. As you can see, I did not buy another ... but just know you can catch bigguns in em too!
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thank you @envasquez, and thank EVERYONE for taking the time to respond and give me great advice. I've got some considering and some shopping to do, ha. I will be sure to update and post pic of what I end up with.
 
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