Imported bass boats have a strong following in Australia. The Triton range has won good favour for their high quality building, on-board features, performance and value for money.
The 17ft craft under review is the baby of the US made Triton Explorer range of bass boats. While several big brothers range up to 21ft long the 17 Explorer certainly packs in sufficient features to interest die hard competition and sports orientated anglers.
The rig has lots of bling with a brilliant red fleck gel coat contrasting against grey trim. But a test drive proved the boat was as well set up, as it was pretty.
Tritons are interesting craft. Constructed from Tri-Core composite material (polyurethane/fibreglass) and hand laid fibreglass there isn’t a scrap of wood within the extensive under floor stringer or bearer system or the transom.
As a result each craft carries a limited lifetime structural hull warranty in the case of the original owner. The second owner receives a 10-year warranty from the date of the original sale.
The Triton's extensive list of features start at the bow with a Mercury Motor Guide 40lb thrust electric motor. The motor’s foot control pedal is recessed within the deck to provide comfort in situations of extended use.
A plate adjacent to the Motor Guide electric motor sports a remote engine trim button for the craft's outboard. This plate can also be removed make room to install a forward sounder.
Storage is important in this class of craft, especially with the amount of tackle usually taken aboard by competition anglers. The Triton has four lockers, each with large hatches, built into the very strong casting deck, with its four transverse bulkheads.
A 2m long and soft lined rod locker is set to port, and to starboard there is another big general storage area for tackle boxes, clothing bags and other miscellaneous.
The non-skid step up onto the carpeted front platform with its handy seat spigot also doubles as the top of a locker for cold drinks or food.
These in-floor hatches are secured with heavy duty locking catches as well.
Up front there is also a retractable strap to port to secure ready-to-use rods to the deck and a pair of pop-up cleats set into each gleaming side of the deck.
The helm area is ergonomic and well planned. Sporting a self-draining cockpit it is equipped with three well-padded, supportive seats each with a decent footrest for the occupant.
The seats can be tilted forward independently to make for easy cleaning, but are designed to remain solidly in place for normal use. The central seat’s backrest can also be tilted back and locked in place forming a non-skid step to allow access to the aft platform.
The port passenger seat has a solid handrail and drink holder and the skipper is tucked in behind the side console with extensive legroom and a tinted windscreen equipped control centre.
The windscreen offers slipstream protection for the drive. It also houses an array of gauges (speedo, fuel, trim and tacho) which are set two per side of the Lowrance X52 sounder in a neat half circle arrangement.
A set of switches are located lower down each side of the Triton's soft feel sports steering wheel. Main accessories, like the live well aerator are set to port with cockpit, anchor and running lights in the starboard bank of switches.
The ignition key and forward controls for the 90 Mercury Optimax are set to starboard on the side of the craft along with a horn and 12V outlet. Overall it is an easily monitored and commanded set up.
Aft of the seating arrangements there are more features within the rear casting platform. To port is a cushioned rod ramp designed to accommodate several ready-to-use rods with a Velcro tie down strap to secure them.
Paired outer hatches immediately behind the seats are purpose designed to accommodate several tackle boxes each. Another pair of centrally located, wide hatches provide access to the Triton's 160L recirculating and plumbed live well.
A seat spigot is also set on the deck between the live well and the craft's full width transom storage area. The storage compartment contains a pair of batteries plus an onboard charger for the electric battery.
Finally there is also a non-skid step in each transom corner. The port step is set above a very nifty retractable ladder, which won design awards, recessed into the hull within a dedicated channel.
One of the primary concepts behind the dedicated American style of bass boat is the ability to travel quickly between locations. The Triton 17 Explorer powered by its 90 Mercury Optimax certainly had plenty of pace.
The craft planed at 2,800rpm at 20.1km/h, cruised sweetly at 3,000rpm at 24.4 km/h, 4,000rpm recorded 51.4km/h and 5,000rpm saw 63.3km/h.
A quick burst to 5,500rpm gave a top speed of 74.8km/h, during which the craft skipped across chop in the Gold Coast seaway area with the greatest of ease.
While I don’t drive many bass boats it was easy to adapt to driving this craft. Scott Butler from Nitro Marine says the secret is in the use of trim.
The 17 Explorer was perfectly content to track straight as a die and dead level in attitude at 6 knots in the signed areas, whereas several other such craft I've driven tended to annoyingly lift the bow at such low speeds. When power was applied to the 90 Optimax the 17 Explorer leapt from the hole and planed willingly.
Once past 3,000rpm the key was to match the power with appropriate trim and let the well-designed hull – with its 18 degree deadrise and large reversed outer chines – just keep skipping over chop.
I was surprised the ride was as dry as it was, given the low profile of the hull. But basic design factors ensure the high performance hull rides freely at speed within the sheltered waterways it has been designed for.
The 17 Explorer was a delight to drive with noise levels virtually non-existent courtesy of the foam filled hull clipping so cleanly along at speed.
The rack and pinion steering was very direct and responded instantly to driver input.
Power from the 90 Optimax was virtually instantaneous and I was impressed with the performance of the very quiet but equally responsive power plant.
The stability of the hull under way is impressive, and even more so at rest, as these craft are purpose designed for anglers to walk about them while casting.
The Explorer's hull – at about 500kg – is certainly quite solid and this is reflected in stability levels. Two anglers on one side made no difference to the level attitude of the craft.
Bass style boats aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. For serious competition anglers or really keen sport fishers who want a craft that will make fishing sheltered waters with lures, soft plastics or flies a treat, the Triton 17 Explorer has the lot. To top it off this boat is a mighty classy and well-finished package.
The package as reviewed includes a water separating fuel system, the MotorGuide FW40FB, a deep cycle battery, Lowrance in-dash sounder and Plano style tackle boxes.
On a Dunbier Rollamatic multi roller and skid equipped trailer (which allows for very easy launch and retrieval of the craft) the rig would come home for around $39,990. Enquiries can be made to Nitro Marine on (07) 55325812, fax (07) 55312311 or on --e-mail address hidden--
Engine fitted:90hp Mercury Optimax
|Height on trailer:||1.65m|
Towing:Family six sedan/wagon.