Have you ever wondered what it takes to build one of today’s high performance bass boats? The best way to get a feel for what it actually requires is to schedule a factory tour of your favorite bass boat brand. If you are in the market for a new boat, most boat companies encourage you to schedule a time to tour and walk through the factory and see the boat building process. This is a great way for a consumer to see each brand and also what makes their boats different during the manufacturing process. Basically, all bass boats are built one at a time, according to customer order criteria, and the workmen spend the time and attention to make each boat to the specifications of the customer. With so many available sizes, models and options on modern bass boats, it is nearly impossible to mass produce a boat.
Before purchasing a new boat, I took Legend Boats up on the offer and toured the factory to see what separates them from the other boats on the market. Surrounded by world famous Bull Shoals Lake and nestled in the mountains of northern Arkansas, is the heart of the American bass boat industry. Within a short drive from Flippin (home of Ranger) is the Legend Boats factory. Literally down the street from Legend is Bass Cat Boats and numerous lesser-known brands. Since my visit to the site, Legend has purchased a bigger facility in the same area and plan to expand their production while still maintaining the quality they are known for. The Mountain Home, Arkansas area is also home to many factories that produce parts and accessories for bass boats. Windshields, trailers, covers, and other crucial parts are often manufactured right there in the Ozarks. It really is amazing to see how the whole process comes together.
Before the tour, I really didn’t have any idea what it took to actually build a boat. Sure, I knew it would include layers of fiberglass, finishing and electrical work; but until you actually see it up close – it is hard to appreciate the time, detail and American craftsmanship it takes to produce a bass boat.
Step One, the Hull
The process is fairly complicated and requires several key steps to make it all come together in a way that will produce a top quality product worthy of the price of a new bass boat. The crews work nearly non-stop on different stages of the boat. They have specific molds designed for all pieces of the boat and actually build the boat in somewhat of a backwards way, with a mold of the outside of the boat coming first. This shell of a boat is what will become the hull. Once molded, it is taken out, painted and finished as it moves to the next level of the build stage. The top cap is built by methodically spraying fiberglass from a “chopper gun” that shoots strands of fiberglass into the inside of the boat. The crew then hand lays the rest of the fiberglass and carefully rolls each inch of fiberglass to remove bubbles and secure a bond to the inside of the boat. This process, along with science, creates a bond that is solid and secure for the lifetime of the boat. Legend Boats adds an extra step to the process; while the boats are in the mold, they thoroughly sand down and finish off any rough edges or areas of jagged fiberglass to make sure that even the deepest layers of the compartments are smooth and finished.
Each livewell, storage box and compartment is molded separately and placed inside of the boat. Again, they are secured making a bond that will withstand the speed and water pressure created by operating a high speed bass boat. As the boat begins to take shape, each open area of the boat must be insulated with foam. This added insulation helps to ensure a good ride and superior floatation.
Fusing the Hull and Top Cap
Once both the hull and top cap are completed, they are placed together and reinforced by a vacuum process that seals the fiberglass and creates a solid bond. Legend Boats uses an eight-gusseted transom that they claim is built stronger than any transom in existence. Once that is completed, the boat is now one solid piece. The process of putting the two pieces together is really amazing to watch, as the whole crew physically lifts one piece and places it carefully into the other.
In reality, this is a three piece system as they join the hull, top cap and the third piece that ties them all together, the stringers. This process is a necessary step to solidify the boat as one solid unit as the transom, hull, and top cap are now fused together.
Once the pieces of the boat and fiberglass have been bonded and cured, it is time for the finishing department to begin work. This department handles all of the carpeting for the boat as well as the plumbing systems for the livewell, gas tanks and bilge pump. Besides the carpeting and plumbing, electrical work needs to be completed. The electrical systems in today’s bass boats require sophisticated wiring to connect all of the gauges, optional equipment, and also to network electronics. Crews work carefully to ensure that each piece of electrical equipment is installed properly and in working order before the boat is ready to move to the next step.
Final Inspection & Test Drive
Once the boat is completed, it is ready for a final inspection by the staff. It is now ready to be prepped for delivery or to be picked up by the customer; which is what I chose to do with my boat. Before a customer is allowed to leave, the staff takes them to the water for a test drive on Bull Shoals to make sure everything is in working order and built as specified. From the electronics, trolling motor and outboard ordered to the colors selected, and all the way to the installation of the hot foot based on the length of the customer’s legs; this is a completely custom boat built just for you.
Before deciding to purchase a new bass boat, take a tour of a factory. It is an ideal way to see the entire process up close. Taking the extra time to see this process ensures that you will be knowledgeable about your purchase and make the best decision possible.