The Nitro Z-6, Ranger Z117, and Triton 17 Pro share one thing in common: they’re relatively affordable bass boats that are also, though on the small side, competent competitors. And finding a tournament-level bass boat that costs less than $30,000 or so is no easy chore.
So, what if you want to become a bona fide bass pro? Or, even though you know you won't quit your day job, you just insist on being the best bass angler you possibly can be? One of these three is probably going to be a good choice for your fishing style, your performance requirements, and your bank account. Let's find out which one it is.
The Nitro Z-6 is the shortest of these three contenders, with four inches less LOA than the others. In truth this doesn't make a huge difference, and none of these models is likely to seem a whole lot larger than the others. All of them are designed for optimal fishing with two aboard, but they have enough seating and room for three when another buddy wants to join in. The Nitro is the only boat in this mix, however, to divvy up seating space evenly between the three cockpit seats, instead of offering two larger port and starboard seats with a smaller center seat.
At $21,995, the boat’s MSRP (at the time of this writing) is extremely reasonable. Add in dealer prep and shipping and cost goes up a grand or so, and there are a few options you’ll need (the automatic bilge pump isn’t a standard and the stock prop is aluminum, not stainless-steel). But even after those extras, you’ll be hard-pressed to get north of $25,000. And you don’t have to stress out over getting the best deal possible, since Nitro offers a “no haggle no hassle” nationwide price. That price includes a lot of extra gear everyone needs but manufacturers rarely supply (like a fire extinguisher, paddle, and horn). Nitro boats are sold through both individual dealers and Bass Pro Shops, so you’re virtually guaranteed to have a dealership (and the service that goes with it) close by, no matter where you live.
|Std trolling motor||55 lb thrust|
|Fuel capacity||22 gal.|
|Livewell capacity||32 gal.|
The Z-6 has a hefty livewell at 32 gallons, with two 500-gph pumps (one for recirculation and evacuation, and a separate pump for filling and aeration). Electrical components have Deutch-style waterproof connectors, but one annoyance is the automotive-style fuse panel—breakers would be a big improvement. Tackle-hungry anglers will love the aft deck compartments, which can hold up to seven trays or be used for bulk stowage. You’ll also like the fact that extra stowage is built in under the port and starboard seats.
You might be a bit less enamored with the single-step re-boarding ladder. It’s better than nothing, but climbing out of the water won’t be easy with just one step.
One cool feature: you can add a second console ($550) to give the passenger a bit of protection and gain a locking glove box.
See Nitro Z-6 listings.
Visit the Nitro web site.
The Ranger Z117 is built with construction details that have long set Ranger bass boats apart from their competition. The use of pultruded parts (in the transom and under some mounting surfaces) is a highlight: fiberglass is tensioned, rolled through a resin bath, and then pulled through a temperature-controlled die. The glass is resin-impregnated to the perfect level, excess gets squeezed away, and fibers are organized into specific shapes. The finished part is denser and stronger than normal fiberglass, which makes its use ideal in high-stress areas.
Inspect a Z117 closely, and you’ll notice that all parts of the boat are built with this kind of ruggedness in mind. Compartment liners are beefy, the sturdy lids all have gas-assist struts, and even the trailer sets itself apart, with features like Road Armor finish and stainless-steel fenders.
As one might expect, using these sorts of construction techniques and materials does up the ante. Ranger states that the boat can be had for under $30,000 (NADA lists the 2015 model at $30,560), which is still significantly less than average for bass boats and is half the cost of some.
This boat does have the largest footprint of these three, and Ranger makes good use of it. There’s slightly more stowage in the bow, and it has the most rodbox capacity (for rods up to seven feet). The cockpit bucket seats are extremely comfy, but the center seat (an option) is pretty tight.
|Std trolling motor||55 lb thrust|
|Fuel capacity||23 gal.|
|Livewell capacity||15 gal.|
Another place that’s squeezed for space is the livewell, which is only 15 gallons, the smallest in the running. Fortunately it’s aerated, has a divider, filter screens, and a timer.
The dash is a high-point, with more room for larger electronics than the competition. And take a close look at the bow design, which incorporates the trolling motor and recessed foot pedal, flush-mount electronics, and switch panel. IMHO it’s the best arrangement of the batch.
See Ranger Z117 listings.
Visit Ranger Boats.
Triton 17 Pro
Though it’s four inches narrower than its competitors, Triton still manages to outsize them with the 17 Pro in several ways. At 36 gallons, this boat has the largest livewell of them all—and it’s serviced by not one or two, but three up-sized 800-gph pumps. Fuel capacity is also 10 percent more than the others. That adds significantly to your bass fishing hot-spot range.
The Triton’s standard-issue trolling motor is smaller than the others at 45-lb thrust (both the Nitro and the Ranger have 55-lb thrust motors), but you can always option it up.
Fortunately, adding an option here and there won’t prove too painful. This boat starts with the lowest price tag of all, $21,495. (We did find a listing online for under $20,000). Much like the Nitro, after adding in all the extras and desired up-charges, $25K is a realistic figure to keep in mind. That's an awesome price for a serious bass boat.
|Std trolling motor||45 lb thrust|
|Fuel capacity||26 gal.|
|Livewell capacity||36 gal.|
Of course, no boat is perfect. There’s room for improvement with the cleats (which are recessed on the Nitro and are pull-ups on the Ranger), because Triton simply mounts them along the inside of the bow and gunwales—where they’re bound to stub toes and snag fishing lines. But beyond that, it’s tough to find stuff to nit-pick about. Construction highlights include the use of Tri-Core polyurethane coring, AME 1000 resin, foam-filled stringers, and four transverse bulkheads tied into the stringer system. Added bonus: the trailer has chrome wheels. Nice touch.
See Triton 17 Pro listings.
Visit Triton Boats.
All three of these models max out with a 115 HP powerplant, which is going to be the engine of choice for serious bassers—performance counts, come tournament-time. Speaking of which: all three of these boats will run in the mid to upper 40’s, possibly hitting 50 in the right conditions. The Triton should gain a slight edge in the speed department since it’s a couple hundred pounds lighter than the others, but remember that in a boat this small, an extra person or a full fuel tank is all it takes to make up the difference.
All three of these boats also include a Lowrance Mark 5x Pro as the standard fishfinder. If you’re familiar with this unit you’re probably laughing right now—it’s a black-and-white LCD which goes for under $200, and any bass fisherman leaving the dock with one is seriously under-gunned in today’s world of marine electronics. Serious anglers will consider upgrading it a must. But remember that size will be an issue on the Nitro and the Triton due to dash constraints. You can go to color, side-scanning, and down-scanning on any of these boats, but only the Ranger can handle significantly larger screen sizes.
All three of these boats also come with a custom-matched trailer. And all three have limited lifetime warranties on the hull and structure of the boat, though Nitro offers one year on the pieces-parts while Ranger and Triton each offer three years of coverage.
So now you know the good and the bad about each of these small but serious fishing machines. Which one’s the best pick for you will depend on your priorities. If size matters, construction quality is paramount, you like hauling a huge selection of rods, and you don’t mind paying a bit more, you’ll probably lean towards the Ranger Z117. If cost is a significant consideration, there’s a good possibility you’ll narrow the field to the Nitro Z-6 and the Triton 17 Pro. Then you’ll have to rank the importance of features like hassle-free buying, fuel and livewell capacities, seating, and stowage arrangements.
Whatever final decision you make, one thing is for sure: in the world of bass boats all three of these models are relatively affordable—and all three have what you need to compete in tournaments with the big dogs.
Want to visit the opposite end of the bass boat spectrum? Read 10 Bass Boats that will Blow You Away: Cast Action Heroes.