Following several weeks of wet and windy weather a break in the weather finally came and we were on our way to Torumbarry on the Murray River. In tow was the Ranger 188VS Bass Boat.
This particular boat has been Trevor from Bendigo Marine World’s tournament boat for the last 12 months in the ABT Vic Bream Classics, and it would be fair to say that Trevor has become fairly attached to this boat.
Listening to his enthusiastic descriptions of this boat on the 70-minute drive north, I could hardly wait to get this rig on the water. The Ranger 188VS is one in a line up of 11 models of bass boat manufactured by the famous Ranger Boat company in Arizona U.S.A.
In addition to this the company has a range of 14 multi-species boats, all models available in several specification levels. The Ranger series is available in three spec levels, VS, VX and Comanche. The test boat was the entry-level VS model with Comanche options.
It was easy to forget we were towing a substantial rig behind us as the dual axle Ranger I Frame aluminium trailer tracked beautifully and was whisper quiet. With alloy wheels and matched fibreglass fenders the trailer oozed strength and quality; in fact you would be doing a disservice to this high performance boat putting it on any other trailer.
Ranger boats have an enviable reputation for quality, innovation, performance and safety, and have developed a cult following in the USA.
As interest in tournament fishing in this country increases, so too does the demand for boats like this. One of the first things noticed with this boat is the quality of the fit-out. I am hesitant to say that it is carlike, as only expensive cars have the attention to detail that this boat has, however I have seen very few boats that would come close to the quality fit-out displayed in this craft.
High quality carpets are beautifully trimmed with no visible edges; Perko fittings and heavy-duty seals, protected from water ingress by raised interior lips, complement the carpeted urethane filled fibreglass hatch lids.
A multitude of underdeck storage options are available up forward including rod storage for nine rods of up to 7’6” in length. Under the aft deck is an excellent live well and aerated by a high performance venturi system – as you can imagine these boats are designed for professional tournament anglers with plenty of prize money at stake, so the fish in the live well must be kept in prime condition.
In addition there were storage compartments either side of the live well and a rear hatch that contained the batteries and spare prop.
The cockpit features a beautifully proportioned console with ample room for a well-planned layout of gauges and Lowrance LMS520 Sounder/GPS unit. The test boat had a Sony Marine MP3 compatible CD/Radio fitted in the optional passenger side console.
Up at the pointy end the rig was fitted with a bow panel that held a second sounder that can be viewed when casting from the bow and using the Minn Kota Riptide 24volt/80lb thrust bow mount: an essential tool in a boat of this style.
The leather-look seating is super-comfortable and beautifully trimmed with a storage console in between. Other nice features include the heavy-duty wiring, pull up stainless steel tie cleats, Perko Nav light fittings, retractable buckled deck straps for securing rods on deck and extra sturdy Springfield adjustable pole seats.
Ranger boats utilise advanced fibreglass building techniques in the lay up and construction of the superstructure, and virtually all cavities inside the hull are foam filled.
This means incredible strength and safety, but also what Ranger call ‘One-Piece-Feel’. No rattles, no vibration, no noise, no hull thumping; just the sound of the water passing the hull!
Performance is enhanced by what Ranger call their ‘Rite-Track Keel®’ a deeply flared hull entry. Solid fibreglass stringers improve the hull strength and a solid fibreglass (Pultruded®) transom easily supports motors up to a rated maximum of 175hp. The test boat had the Mercury Optimax 175 ProXS mounted on a factory fitted hydraulic set-back plate, allowing maximum versatility with motor heights and settings.
The Ranger 188VS has more in common with a high-powered speed boat than the cuddy cabins, centre consoles and bow riders I am more used to driving.
I fired up the engine and slid the rig off the trailer and out into the river. With the engine trimmed in tight I firmly pushed my foot down on the foot throttle and the 188VS jumped out of the hole immediately.
As I blasted up the river I started to sound like my seven-year-old son, using words such as ‘man’, ‘cool’ and ‘awesome’. I took a couple of short runs up the river at a modest 70-80kmh as I got the feel for the hull, and pulled a couple of tight 180 turns.
With the engine trimmed in the deeply flared hull entry does in fact work like a keel and delivers amazing stability and directional control; it’s almost as if the boat is on tracks.
The hull is very responsive to trim and with the trim control positioned behind the steering wheel it allowed regular adjustment with both hands remaining on the wheel. Trimmed out and the hull lifts clear of the water and you really get to see why these boats are famous for their high speed performance.
Fully wound out this rig reached 103kmh with probably less than a square metre of hull in contact with the water. For anyone who has never travelled in excess of 100kmh whilst sitting about 12 inches above the water with bugs disintegrating on your face, take my word when I say its fast - scary fast!
Trevor tells me whilst the 188VS is not the fastest boat on the water, it’s handling more than makes up for it.
Taking the foot off the throttle and the boat drops down quickly; the brilliantly designed transom diverts the pressure wave around the boat with not a drop of the water I expected coming over the transom. It’s also worth noting that this boat produces very minimal wake, a positive when considering bank erosion.
With the Minn Kota in action the boat is nimble and extremely stable with plenty of casting space. Deck space remains uncluttered due to excellent under deck storage. The low profile hull reduces wind-induced drift and the 80lb Minn Kota had plenty of grunt to place and hold the boat exactly where you need it.
Whilst this boat is designed primarily as a tournament fishing boat, the applications in Australia are more extensive. This hull is suited to river and impoundment fishing for natives, as well as fishing for bream, trout, perch, flathead, mulloway and so on in Australia’s many estuary and freshwater lake systems. In the right conditions it can be equally suited to flicking plastics for snapper, Australian salmon and a multitude of other species in protected bays.
It’s difficult to fully detail all the features that this craft has to offer, but put simply you are getting a brilliantly designed and thought out product with almost 40 years of refinement.
If you are in the market for a boat at the premium end of the bass boat market, that you can drive hard and race all the other anglers to the best fishing spots and then fish in absolute style and comfort, take a close look at the Ranger 188VS: you won’t be disappointed!
Beam: 92 1/2’
Transom height: 23’
Inside Depth: 20 1/2’
Approx Hull Weight: 1575 lbs
Rated Max HP: 175hp
Fuel Capacity: 38 gallons
Livewell capacity: 24 gallons
Storage hatches: 6 plus live well plus battery
Price as tested inc rego and safety gear: $68,950