Not so long ago, an 18- to 19-foot bass boat with a 150 hp motor was the standard, but as tournament competitors faced increasingly difficult waters, like lake Michigan or the st. lawrence seaway or even Kentucky or Barkley lakes in a blustery north wind, bigger became the norm. But 21-footers exceeded $50,000, and boatbuilders looked at 19-footers as unworthy of tournaments. Ranger changed all that with the Z518 — a 19-footer with all the tournament fishability of a 21-footer.
Livewells are tournament class with fill, aerate and recirculate settings plus redundant pumps to make sure the catch is alive to be released after the weigh-in. The helm station, too, features a full-featured dash with high brow that shields a full-size lowrance HDs chart plotter and sonar.
The forward deck was easy to step up to, thanks to a built-in step that conceals a cooler underneath. As if that wasn’t thoughtful convenience enough, inside the cooler is a sandwich shelf that keeps food dry in the cool-storage compartment.
Once on the casting deck, I experienced a stable platform from which to pursue fish — and no less stable from side to side than Ranger’s 21-foot Comanche.
At high speeds and in chop, the ride was comfortable thanks to spring suspension seating that softened the slap of the waters hitting the rigid hull. Ranger prides itself on solid construction and safety — and has since it built its first boat 50 years ago. Every boat exceeds Coast Guard and NMMA standards for flotation. Hole the boat, an unlikely possibility, and we think chances are you’ll still drive it home. A solid, rotproof pultruded transom molded with foam, resin and tensioned fiber reinforcing make it solid enough to handle high horsepower and rough waters.
All that comes together in the finest ride we’ve found in a 19-foot bass boat. It steps onto pad, riding on just a few inches of hull with stability we’ve found lacking in some other brands.
Contact: 800-373-2628, www.rangerboats.com