Are All Bass Boats the Same?

Are All Bass Boats The Same?


pultrusion photos


Are all bass boats getting to be the same? Certainly every good new idea gets copied by all the major builders by the next boat show. Virtually all bass boats are low, flat, sleek, full of rod and tackle lockers, and with decks covered with what appears to be the same gray carpet. So what is left to really differentiate the boats besides the hull graphics? The answer is: the differentiation is in the details. Bass boat builders actually put as much, if not more, work into perfecting the fine points of bass boats than any other type boat, foot-for-foot. These builders hone, polish, and improve everything they can think of – and many of these details unfortunately can’t be seen. The best example we can think of is Ranger Boats' use of pultrusions. It sounds like a dirty word, you can’t see them, and they’re as strong as steel. Why does Ranger use them? What do they do?


In one of Capt. Rob Smith’s video boat tests he says that all bass boats look pretty much the same. We agree. But just because they look the same, doesn’t mean they are the same. When we toured the Ranger factory we were introduced to the first pultrusion machine that we had ever seen in the boat business.


Pull What?

What is a pultrusion? Wikipedia says: “Pultrusion is a continuous process of manufacturing of composite materials with constant cross-section whereby reinforced fibers are pulled through a resin, possibly followed by a separate performing system, and into a heated die, where the resin undergoes polymerization.”

Pulltrusion machine layout schematic



The word pultrusion is a made-up word, combining “pull” and “extrusion” which does a good job of describing what is going on. Ranger’s pultrusion machine pulls the glass fibers and mat through a special resin bath, then through a super-heated die that instantly cooks the resin and produces what is a long, relatively thin extrusion that is sawed off in desired lengths.


Strong as Steel!

Pultrusion fiberglass ranger boats


After the gray pultrusions coming out of the end of the machine cool, they are like steel plates, only lighter. Pound for pound, they are stronger than structural steel and 25% of the weight. And they don’t rot or soak up water or anything else unpleasant that standard boat building coring or deck-stiffening material might do. 


And, that is how Ranger uses their pultrusions – as coring material. First, and most importantly, it is used in the transom of all Ranger boats, providing rigidity and strength precisely in the area that has to support the weight, torque and power of huge outboard engines.

Ranger Pulltrusion Machine Photograph



Secondly, other pultrusions of many different sizes are used all over the deck for stiffening and strength. Forget about plywood, balsa core, and closed cell foam. Ranger is glassing in what amounts to steel plates any place on the deck where the fiberglass might be stressed or flex. On one boat, I counted over 25 pultrusions spotted all over the boat in critical locations.


Ranger's technological building advantages do not end there!  They utilize other high tech, cutting edge, devices in the build process.


In its first 41 years, innovation and technological advancements have been a staple of Ranger Boats' legendary reputation. In an increasingly competitive industry, Ranger has set the bar once again, this time through an efficient and resource-conscious manufacturing process made possible with the addition of a custom JetTool® water jet. 


Much in the same way that the RoadArmor® system revolutionized the RangerTrail division of the boat company and pultruded fiberglass changed the way transoms were built and components reinforced, the new robotic water jet will fulfill one of the factory's least-popular jobs: cutting holes and lids into the fiberglass, interior deck components of the more than 40 different Ranger models. 


"In the past, these interior deck compartments were trimmed by some of the hardest-working men and women in the factory - each dressed head-to-toe in protective gear - working with a variety of jigs and making the cuts with routers, saws and drills," said Ranger Boats President Randy Hopper. "It was a difficult job that generated a lot of fiberglass dust. With the new robotic water jet everyone benefits: fellow employees get a cleaner work environment and the cost savings from improved efficiency help offset the rising cost of raw materials and the initial equipment investment." 


The process begins once the boats are wheeled into the robotic water jet's booth. Following an introductory calibration process where the machine uses lasers to measure the precise placement of the cutouts, the robotic water jet forces water at 60,000 psi through a near-microscopic nozzle opening, resulting in clean, uniform cuts. The jet trims the interior deck on each Ranger model, including all hatch and storage openings, precisely locating and drilling for deck hardware. Confined within its 675 square-foot booth housed inside the 364,000 square-foot production facility, this advancement in boat building results in a cleaner work environment for employees and an improved product for the consumer. 


The difference in results between robotic water jet trimming and conventional boat-building methods are vast. For the consumer, the edges of compartments underneath the deck that house batteries, breakers and pumps are smoother and offer a level of quality not seen with conventional methods. When removing mounting plates on the front deck to install electronics, the cutouts are uniform and do not impede wiring. For the manufacturer, water jet cutting means improved production times - as well as a significant savings in energy, maintenance and tool-making costs. 


"There will be substantial annual savings each year in perishable tooling," said Lance Newton, Ranger Boats' Engineering Project Manager. "As our process becomes leaner, not only with the robotic trimming system but with other processes as well, it results in decreased manufacturing costs for Ranger, which can ultimately result in a more stable cost to our dealers and customers from year to year."