When editor Steve Quinlan and I converged on Missouri’s Stockton Lake last spring to conduct an aluminum bass-boat shootout, I debated the amount of excitement I’d feel, especially when the hottest of the quintet was only supposed to top out in the 70-mph range. However, I was pleasantly surprised; despite the fact that the top speeds didn’t get my adrenaline flowing, the overall performance and quality of these five rigs really got my attention.
Quinlan’s idea was to get at least five of the top aluminum bass-boat builders together on the same day and the same lake, and “run what they brung” (with a 200 hp cap) through our standard battery of Bass & Walleye Boats test procedures. Months before our arrival, Quinlan made arrangements and we woke up early on a windy but warm morning to find five well-equipped, moderately priced rigs at the ready.
TRACKING AT THE TOP
At the ramp, the TRACKER® is the closest thing to fiberglass that an aluminum hull can be. Its very unique, stretch-formed and welded hull gives it a smooth, highly finished look that really rivals the best fiberglass hulls. Unless you look closely, it's difficult to tell that it's aluminum.
Designwise, the TRACKER® Avalanche™ is a cross between a multispecies fishing boat, a bass boat and a runabout, making it very versatile for a family angler. It isn't the fastest, it isn't the quickest. However, its ride, overall utility, attention to detail and quality are top-notch.
With a conventional (nonpad) hull and heavier weight, the Avalanche will never be the fastest boat on the lake. However, with a Mercury® 150 OptiMax®, we hit a solid, very controllable 60.4 mph at 5340 rpm turning a 23-inch-pitch Mercury Tempest propeller. We clocked 0-to-30 mph acceleration at 6.4 seconds, slowest of the test- but keep in mind that in our history of bass-boat tests, 6.4 seconds is a strong time indeed. Under 6 seconds is truly excellent, 6 to 7 is very good, and over 7 is pretty sluggish. The TRACKER®'s time is quite acceptable.
Handling and stability at rest and at speed were the best of this test. The Avalanche™ simply does what you want it to do, when you want to do it. Turns can be carved with ultimate precision without fear of spinouts or skips at almost any speed shot of WOT. Rough-water ride was stellar, and we stayed completely dry despite the whitecaps on the main lake. The only drawback to handling can be attributed to the standard dual-cable, rack-and-pinion steering, which provided lots of torque feedback at the helm. We'd spend the bucks for the optional Teleflex SeaStar Pro hydraulic setup. On this boat, it should be standard. At least the steering wheel provided a nice, thick, solid grip. At rest, the Avalanche's wide-body hull really helps keep it even keeled when two anglers are standing on the same gunwale.
Inspectionwise, we were really pleased with the TRACKER®. The rigging under the dash and at the stern is the way rigging on all boats should be- clean, purposeful and tight. The gauges were the most accurate we've seen in a while. Although they placed drvier and passengers a bit "high" in the boat, the seats were very comfortable. Storage compartments rated well in terms of number and capacity. Construction was nothing short of excellent; weld seams were nearly invisible in most cases, and what we could see was sturdy and well executed. The lids for the livewells and storage compartments featured excellent gusseting and did not flex. There was no rod storage retrieval system for the rod locker (optional). Overall, we found very little to squawk at; a few loose carpet edges, a few poorly cut carpet corners and the driver's drink holder placed a bit out of reach. In the overall scheme, however, these are minor annoyances. For the as-tested price of $26,865, this Avalanche is truly a bargain performer.
Reprinted with permission from Bass & Walleye Boats, Oct. 2005.