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:
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!
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!