With bass boats, the buzz starts behind the helm, with a hand on the throttle and an extra snugging of the life jacket. We set up the Z18 that way for our test. I jammed down the gas, expecting the bow to stab skyward before settling into a running attitude. But it didn’t. Oh, it shot forward with head-snapping acceleration, but that bow lifted gently, barely obscuring the horizon immediately forward — an experience that bass boats don’t often give. This gentle step to plane and blistering acceleration come from a new hull that engineers call Nitro Vortex Technology (NVT).
What makes it work are longitudinally curved parabolic bottom surfaces that are so different, Nitro won’t even label them strakes. These are “parabolic curved surfaces” that meet every 6 inches or so in a crisp peak. With the throttle still firewalled, the Z18 continued to rise in flight until only the pad — a long, flat surface about 6 inches wide extending from the transom to amidships — touched the water. The boat topped out at 64 mph, an impressive bass-boat speed on 150 ponies.
Even more remarkable was its stability. Many bass boats begin to chine walk, or rock from port to starboard, an experience that also yaws the stem back and forth, creating an uncomfortable handling experience difficult to correct. We had none of that belly-wrenching experience as the Z18 glided along on its pad. And how did it turn? Oh my. Nudging back on the throttle just a bit, we eased down to 50 mph and cranked the steering wheel to starboard, then to port. The boat turned crisply, heeling slightly to center in arcs that showed off a hull so perfectly balanced, a coffee cup could stay put on the casting deck. We proved it was also stable at rest by walking back and forth; the boat settled only slightly with the shift in weight. A recessed pedal pocket eases any back or leg strain while operating the electric motor. There is room for an optional 12-inch sonar/GPS display at the bow; a Lowrance Mark-5x Pro fish finder is standard.
Nitro’s tackle storage is exemplary. A portside rod locker holds 8-foot sticks, and you can stow life jackets and the mooring cover in the starboard compartment. A center deck locker offers dedicated storage for tools, utility boxes and tackle bags, and it even includes a drink holder. Dual lockers aft stow more utility boxes. The forward step has a cooler and trash bin beneath, and the aft step gives access to livewell plumbing and storage.
Our take is that the Z18 is not just a boat at a great price point — it’s a great boat.
Comparable Model: Skeeter ZX190