Some fishing boats can go very fast - more than 70 miles per hour. Average fishing boats are not built for speed, but some fishing boats are.
A boat with a powerful motor and the right hull shape can travel very fast. Some bass boats can travel at 70 mph or even a little over 100mph. Speed boats are even faster.
An average bass boat maxes out at about 30 to 50 miles per hour, with cheaper boats usually being slower. Other types of fishing boats have different average/max speeds. Large fishing boats or trawlers travel at about 10mph on average, or at most 23mph.
Many things affect a boat's speed - the power of the motor, the shape of the hull, and how much weight the boat is carrying. Two different boats of the same type can have very different maximum speeds. While lakes often have speed limits, you can still drive a boat very fast without breaking any laws in many places.
Even though it can be unsafe, I like to ride my bass boat fast sometimes. You should do this in the middle of a lake in the daytime, not near shore or after dark. When I buy a new fishing boat, I want it to be fast, so I know a lot about different types of boats and their speeds.
More Powerful Motors Equal More Speed
The first thing that makes a boat fast is a powerful engine. While doubling the engine's power won't double the speed, an engine about four times stronger will double it.
Boats with more powerful engines are more expensive, so you will have to pay extra if you want a very fast fishing boat. Not everyone needs a fast boat, but they are necessary for competitive fishers. People use flat-decked bass boats in tournaments.
Why Are Bass Boats so Fast?
Bass boats are fast because they are designed for speed first and everything else second. Bass boats can be unsafe because of what their design sacrifices in favor of speed. Bass boats are similar to racing boats and can sometimes go well over the usual limit of 70mph.
A bass boat maximizes the power of the engine and minimizes everything else. There is a casting platform, two seats, a large engine, and as little of anything else as possible.
A bass boat is made to float on the water, not in the water, which makes bass boats much faster than conventional boats. If you go fast, the bass boat becomes a hydroplane, skimming along the surface of the water rather than pushing through it. This reduces drag, which helps your boat go faster.
You Need a Fast Boat for a Fishing Tournament
The main reason to have a very fast boat is to get to your fishing spot as fast as possible. Contestants in a fishing tournament might also race to the best fishing spots. Competitors with slower boats won't get the first choice of places to fish.
Different Types of Boats and Their Speeds
- Tug boats (15mph on average, usually maxing out at 21mph)
- Deck boats (34mph or up to 57mph)
- Dinghies (7mph, up to 28mph)
- Sailboats (17mph, up to 78mph)
- Pontoon boats (22mph, up to 41mph)
- Houseboats (5mph, up to 12 mph)
- Yachts (17mph, up to 66mph)
- Ski boats (18 mph, up to 36mph)
Different boats of the same type can also have very different maximum and average speeds. Different brands of pontoon boats have different speeds:
- A Bass Buddy can travel at 18mph (60 horsepower engine)
- A Party Parge can travel at 25mph (75hp engine)
- Suntracker: 21mph (70hp engine)
- Starcraft: 22mph (90hp engine)
- Crest 3: 28mph (90hp engine)
- Tritoon: 26mph with a 90hp engine, 36mph for a larger boat with a 175hp engine
- Sweetwater: 20mph at 90hp, 24hp at 115hp
Types of Fishing Boats
There are many kinds of fishing boats out there. Some of the common types are:
- Bass boats, which have completely flat decks, are low to the water and can be used in shallow waters. Bass boats are specifically for fishing and not good for anything else.
- Bay boats, which are similar to bass boats but with a deeper hull and higher sides. They are good for saltwater as well as freshwater fishing, as their fiberglass hulls protect them from saltwater.
- Bowrider boats, which are large, safe, have room for a lot of people and are good for families. Not all of them are fast, but some of these boats can go over 50 miles per hour or even over 80.
- Offshore boats are nothing like bass boats and are designed to be taken far away from shore. They are large, sturdy, and can handle larger waves. You can get an offshore fishing boat that can go at least 70 miles per hour, but they are not built for speed.
How to Calculate a Boat's Maximum Speed
You can estimate the maximum speed of a boat using the hull measurements and the engine's power. You need to know the boat's displacement - how many tons of water the boat pushes out of the way or how many tons of water would be necessary to make the boat float.
The speed of a boat is:
Speed = square root (power / displacement) * C
"C" is crouch's constant, a number that is different for different types of boats. If a boat can move faster because of its hull shape and design, C is higher.
Divide Power by Displacement
First, you divide the boat's power (how many horsepower the engine produces) by the boat's displacement (in pounds). For example, if a large boat has a 3000hp motor and displaces 7000 pounds of water, you would divide 3000 by 7000 and get 0.429. You would then find the square root of this number, which is 0.654.
You then need to know what crouch's constant for your type of boat is. If crouch's constant is 200, you will multiply that by 0.654. That gives you 130.93 - your boat would travel at a maximum speed of 130.93 miles per hour.
These numbers work just as well for fishing boats as they do for larger boats and large ships. Anything from a small motorboat to an aircraft carrier uses the same formula. For a fishing boat that has a 125hp engine and displaces 1200 pounds of water:
- Divide 125 by 600 to get 0.104
- Find the square root, which is 0.323
- Multiply that by a crouch's constant of 150 for your boat type
- Get 48.41, so your boat can travel at a maximum speed of 48 miles per hour
How Fast is too Fast?
If you are traveling so fast that your boat is unstable, you are traveling dangerously fast. Traveling faster can actually make your boat more stable at slower speeds - a boat moving at an average speed is more stable than a boat at rest.
However, if you keep accelerating, your boat will eventually become unstable, dangerously so. As your speed increases, the boat's stability increases reaches a maximum, and then rapidly goes down.
Do People Get Hurt in Fishing Tournaments?
Yes, people are sometimes injured and occasionally even killed in fishing tournaments. Competitors race to the best fishing spots, going up creeks and around narrow turns. Since little of a bass boat is below the surface, hitting an object in the water can send the boat flying.
You can also get hurt if your drive a fishing boat recklessly, whether you are in a fishing tournament or not. Don't drive a bass boat as wildly as you might see on television. Don't do something like go around a blind turn in a small river at high speed.
Engine Size Limits for Fishing Tournaments
Usually, the most powerful engine you can have in a tournament is 250 horsepower. You can go very fast on a light bass boat with a 25hp engine.
How to Drive a Fishing Boat Safely
Driving a fishing boat fast is not quite so dangerous that you shouldn't do it at all. Driving fast in the right location is thrilling and isn't always all that dangerous. Some safety tips to keep in mind are:
- Wear a seatbelt. If you hit something in the water, a seatbelt can save your life.
- More than anything else, watch out for sandbars. Hitting a sandbar at high-speed can seriously injure you and anyone else on your boat.
- Remember that other boaters are not necessarily driving safely. If you park your boat in the wrong spot, someone could come around the corner and hit you almost as soon as they see you.
- Watch out for waves, especially if you don't have a lot of experience. If you ride a fast and light boat through big waves without a lot of experience, you could easily lose control of the boat.
Another thing that can keep you safe is a kill switch. Since you might fall off of your boat, a kill switch will make your boat's engine stop running as soon as you let go of it. If you don't have a kill switch, your boat could speed along the water until it hits and injures someone else.
Finally, you shouldn't let passengers ride on the deck. They can fall off easily if you turn too sharply or hit a wave. Only take passengers if you have enough seats for them.
Water Speed Limits
You should also obey water speed limits, both for your own safety and other people's. Boating too fast is more dangerous than driving too fast because no one has any brakes.
There might not be a maximum water speed limit for your entire state or country. Lakes often have maximum speed limits. There might be a low maximum speed limit, such as 10MPH, for boats that are fairly close to shore.
The speed limit at night might also be around 10MPH. If you are away from shore and it is daytime, the limit might be 55mph or higher. If you want to drive a fishing boat fast, there are many places where you can do this legally.
About THE AUTHOR
I have a deep love of houseboating and the life-changing experiences houseboating has brought into my life. I’ve been going to Lake Powell on our family’s houseboat for over 30 years and have made many great memories, first as a child and now as a parent. My family has a passion for helping others have similar fun, safe experiences on their houseboat.Read More About Brian Samson