Outdoor Life Online Editor

My first “real” bass boat was a battle-worn 15-foot Terry with stick steering up front and a 25-horsepower Evinrude on the back. It was tiny, nearly flat-bottomed and slow, and it would beat you to death in a chop. But I caught more big bass from that rig than from any of the fancier iron I’ve owned since. The truth it taught me still applies today: If you want a fishing tool instead of a rocket-powered, metalflaked ego-stroker, you can put together a boat that will do the job cheaply-maybe for around $5,000, or very close to that magical $100-a-month payment.

Power Points
If you opt to buy an economy rig new, start with an aluminum hull: You’ll get more space for less money than with fiberglass. A 16-foot semi-vee johnboat like Tracker’s Sportsman 16 goes for about $1,450. Add a $600 trailer; then go shopping for an outboard.

A 25-hp manual-start from Yamaha, Mercury or Bombardier costs $2,800 or so; a Suzuki or Nissan will save about $500. (Nissan offers a 25-horse electric-start for about $2,300.)

A 12-volt trolling motor with foot control goes for about $300 from the discount houses, and a pair of swivel seats costs $100. A single deep-cycle battery (about $75) will take care of electrical needs. And you’ll want a basic depth finder: figure about $100. Flooring for the Tracker Sportsman 16, made from five-eighths-inch marine plywood at about $25 a sheet, will add $50 to the cost. The final cost will be about $4,985 with a 15-horse from one of the “big three” outboard companies, or $5,485 with a 25-hp, and that’s for a tiller-steered rig.

Pre-Rigged Bargains
You may be better off price-wise buying factory-rigged packages. There are some good choices. For example, for $5,395 you can purchase a Tracker Grizzly Bass 16 rig that includes an all-welded hull, a 25-horse Merc outboard with bow-mounted stick steering and a trailer. Once you add a troller and depth finder, the final tally is likely to be about $5,800, plus taxes and shipping.

So, the bad news is that there really isn’t a bass boat for under $5,000 anymore, at least not if you buy it new and pre-rigged. But the good news is that if you’re going to be making payments, the difference between $5,000 and $6,000 for 60 months at 10 percent is only about $20 a month-$106.24 versus $127.48. Whether you build your own or buy one ready-rigged, that’s not too tough to take.