It used to be anglers would come in from a day of tournament fishing with sore knees, aching backs and decks cluttered with lures, hooks, sinkers, tools, rulers and a tangle of loose rods. Lockers were a similar snarl of hooks and line, wads of rain gear and life jackets with a whiff of rampant mildew. Anglers would be hungry from tossing cooler-soaked sub sandwiches and dehydrated from exhausting their meager supply of tepid soft drinks.
Then Ranger Boats introduced the Z-series tournament bass boats in 2008. It’s refined that Ferrari of the fishing world relentlessly since then.
It’s not easy to improve on Ranger’s near-perfect running surface and super-strong pultruded transom. The latter is molded under stress, adding strength and rigidity while reinforcing Ranger’s legendary flotation features. The result is, in our experience, the most stable-running, high-speed performance bass boat we’ve run, period.
Our tester had a trim lever in fingertip reach of the helm and a Hot Foot throttle. Any one of our test crew could step on the gas and trim the Z to a 72 mph top speed. Chine walking is for other boats.
Beneath the deck, Ranger Boats has added a unique ventilation system to its forward lockers, ensuring that wet-stowed tackle and gear dry quickly without growing a science project of mold. The system stows up to 20 rods in protective cradles. An entire battery of tackle nests in utility boxes. To starboard another large, ventilated locker holds rain gear and spare life jackets. The ample insulated cooler has special sandwich racks for keeping lunch dry.
On deck, fatigue is kept at bay with thick padding and a recessed trolling-motor pedal pocket to enhance balance. The forward casting deck electronics panel can accept a factory-installed Lowrance 12-inch HDS Gen2 touch-screen sonar/GPS plotter with StructureScan sonar.
Opulent polished stainless-steel trim isn’t just for looks. Tool and lure holders are fashioned into this jewelry, adding deadly efficiency. A measuring board slips out of the step to the deck, in a place we find most handy for culling to the lake or saving in the livewell.
Ranger Boats has set high standards for comfort, safety and reliability since Forrest L. Wood founded it in 1968. The Z520C is the pinnacle of that ongoing commitment to the tournament angler.
*Digital switching with keyless ignition is durable, reliable and weather-resistant.
*The upgraded interior lighting system includes LEDs below deck with pressure switches.
*Oxygenator livewell system features culling doors to protect the catch.
*Portside compartment with spring-loaded hatch is ideal for empty soda cans or buddy rain gear.
*Contoured helm station protects rod tips nested between it and the gunwale.
*Lowrance electronics are standard.
How We Tested
Engine: Evinrude E-TEC G2 250
Drive/Prop: Raker II HO 26-inch stainless steel
Gear Ratio: 1.85:1
Fuel Load: 45 gal.
Crew Weight: 240 lb.
$79,495 (as tested)
Ranger Boats Flippin, Arkansas; 870-453-2222; rangerboats.com