Getting the most out of your boat with Randy Howell
Whether it’s burning a spinnerbait or driving a bass boat, bass fishermen as a whole like to do things fast. The need for speed has become part of the sport. One pro who has a reputation for pushing his boat to the outer limits and getting the most speed out of his boat is Alabama’s Randy Howell. He is passionate about his boat’s performance and admits that he loves driving fast almost as he loves bass fishing. Below, he shares his boat performance expertise gained through research and years of trial and error.
One of the most crucial elements to getting the most out of your bass boat is the prop. With numerous blade sizes, number of blades and prop styles the selection can become complicated, but Randy Howell, believes the most universal prop for his Triton 21HP is a 26 pitch Mercury Fury that comes with three blades. He was part of the campaign to bring to market a new prop from Mercury designed for higher performance and the Fury is the result. It’s this size and number of blades that will usually get the best speed and performance but there are times when he will change out props based on the conditions.
Each area of the country and each altitude will change how a boat performs. Randy advises boaters to research your areas and test different props to get the best performance. He recalls a tournament on Clear Lake in California that slowed down his boat’s top end speed because of the higher elevation and forced him to drop down in pitch size. Just before this event was the California Delta, which has a much lower elevation, enabling his boat to reach much higher speeds there. “So much information is available on the Internet to help you decide what prop is best for your area and for your boat. Look into what works best in your area and ask around to find the best prop for you,” adds Howell.
A standard prop, straight from the manufacturer will not always suffice for pros like Randy Howell. “I like to do some modifications to my prop to make it a little faster. There are some great prop shops out there that do good work, but I have learned how to make some tweaks myself,” says Howell. He does advise to not try it at home until you know what you are doing as he has ruined a few props in the process of learning the intricacies of prop modification.
It goes without saying that rough water and speed do not mix, but Howell believes that the right prop can make a difference in boat performance and control. For big water and rough water conditions, Randy prefers to use a five bladed prop. The bite in the prop gives it better control while sacrificing some top end speed, but the benefit outweighs the reduction in speed. He alluded to a new four blade prop from Mercury that is coming out that should bridge the gap between speed, hole shot and rough water performance differences between a three and five bladed prop.
Randy Howell goes against a common practice among bass anglers that has them putting more weight in the back of the boat to get better performance. “I know a lot of guys want to shift weight to the back compartments, but I don’t do that. Today’s bass boats are already heavy in the back end and the weight really adds up due to the weight of the Power Poles, pumps, batteries, and livewells filled with water.” He is generally careful about how much weight he adds to his boat and will limit his tackle as much as he can to ensure that he will get a better speed.
Randy Howell believes that a hydraulic jack plate is a crucial piece of equipment for his boat. He favors the hydraulic version over the manual type for one major reason: the ability to adjust on the fly. “With a hydraulic jack plate you can raise or lower your engine easily based on conditions or even based on the weight of your partner in the boat. I can tell you that if you have 300lb partner versus a 150lb partner, a 1.5 inch adjustment can mean all of the difference for performance,” adds Howell.
He prefers to use a 10” Jackplate over the 6” and 8” versions. “I run a 10” Bob’s Machine Jackplate. I ran an 8” for years, but the bigger jackplate has better set back lift and creates air under the back of the boat to give me some extra speed,” acknowledges Howell.
The fuel that’s used is an often overlooked element in boat performance. Randy Howell uses premium octane gas on tournament days and feels that it runs cleaner and stronger. For the pre-fish period and general fishing, he runs the standard regular octane gas.
When all is said and done, Randy Howell can get his boat going 5-7 mph faster than a boat without his modifications. “Between the set-up, load, prop selection and tweaks I make I can get my boat going faster than another similar Triton,” adds Howell. He gives a lot of credit to his Triton 21HP and Mercury Pro XS. “The boat was built for speed and I can’t say enough about the Pro XS. Mercury has always been known for speed and performance and the Pro XS has the most torque and raw horsepower,” mentions Howell.
Tips for the Every Day Angler
Not everyone has a high performance bass boat or the financial resources necessary to obtain all of the latest equipment and accessories. When asked what he would say to someone in this situation, Randy says, “The easiest thing you can do to help your boat’s performance and speed is to lighten the boat. It sounds simple, but by reducing the amount of tackle and making sure everything is distributed right you will get more speed.” He says that all bass boats are sensitive to weight and this is one of the best ways to improve your boats performance.
Not everyone is wired to go fast, but for anglers like Randy Howell it becomes part of the fun. He adds that, “Figuring out how to get the most out your boat is kind of like someone telling you a seasonal pattern for fishing. No matter what you hear and read about, you still have to make little adjustments and tweak things yourself.” The best advice he could give is to experiment with different parts of the equation until you get what is best for your boat and for where you live.