"Steady on the water" is what we jotted on a notepad that was crumpled from our 75 mph check ride. The shredded notepaper was all the reminder necessary of the eye-watering speed.
Your personal Nitro Z-8 might not hit this top speed after you load up the dedicated storage compartments with tackle, gear, gas and everything else bass anglers keep on board, but our test team would expect you to hit the low 70s. We also think in midrange cruising speeds, you'll be impressed (maybe surprised) with the remarkable fuel efficiency of the OptiMax engine.
In bass boats, like most performance rigs, blistering hole shots aren't the objective so we didn't punch the stopwatch, but we did appreciate the short amount of horizon loss — a byproduct of a hull that's aggressively speed-oriented. More important to us were the midrange speeds and comfortable driving position. Cruise speed is relative for bass-tournament contestants, who are often more concerned about minutes of casting than gallons per hour, but we skimmed the boat around our test lake taking in the dashboard view at stately 40, 50 and 60 mph throttle settings anyway. "Easy to control, comfortable in chop," was scrawled in wind-driven, tear-stained notes. Even quartering across wakes at 45 degrees left us "hanging on loosely" to either the throttle and wheel or the chicken handles conveniently mounted near the passenger seats.
Next, we went into a cove and kicked out the trolling motor, and then pulled it up again to see how easily it found its place. It was set up well, and steering it was eased by recessing the pedal in the deck. Our Nitro tech guy showed us how the foot-pad pocket was removable to ease changing motors, servicing cables or other connections.
Dual rod lockers gave so many rod slots, we'd be tempted to just throw life jackets and other gear in the starboard compartment. Tackle compartments below the deck gave easy access to utility tackle boxes — you could leave them locked in the boat 24/7 with the heavy-duty hatch locks or tuck them in a utility bag and cart them home at the end of the day. They'll drop back into their dedicated slots in a heartbeat.
Nitro has eased the climb to the deck by supplying a step. Underneath, it is a wastebasket and cooler. Aft, dual livewells with automatic controls were easy to access while kneeling on the seats.
None of the Z-8's practical applications would be much fun to own without the bling we've come to expect from bass boats. So, it sports a racy metal-flake finish and plenty of crisp striping and color accents. We'd say it's stable but speedy, with just enough flash for fun.
Key Note: The Z-8 helm station gives a clear view of instrumentation over the steering wheel and offers comfortable ergonomics for easy control.
• Instrumentation pods to the left and right of the depth finder are easy to read at high speeds.
• Centered Lowrance fish finder is ideally positioned to search for fish-holding structures.
• Reboarding ladder increases angler safety and enhances recreational opportunities.
• Recessed trolling motor foot-pedal pocket makes steering the electric motor comfortable.
• Blue-finished livewell interiors make culling easier by improving visibility inside.
• Step pads between the three-across main seating preserves the upholstery.
- Vital Stats
- Length Overall(w/platform): 20'1"
- Beam: 8'
- Dry Weight: 1,950 lb.
- People/Weight Capacity: 4/1,000 lb.
- Fuel Capacity: 55 gal.
- Maximum HP: 250
- MSRP (w/Mercury Optimax 250): $42,585
- NMMA Certified: Yes
- Test Drive
- Test Engine: Mercury Optimax 250
- Test Prop: Tempest 26
- Test Load: People (400 lb.); Fuel (20 gal.)
- Top Speed: 74.2 mph @ 5,800 rpm