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From the SIERRA Experts


A blue and white center console fishing boat quickly moving across open water

Whether you’re chasing bass across your favorite lake, running a hundred miles offshore in pursuit of tuna, or enjoying skiing, tubing, or wakeboarding with the family, every day on the water is more fun when your boat is performing at its best.

When an inboard, I/O, or outboard-powered boat is running at its optimum performance level, it will get up on plane faster, accelerate more quickly, reach a higher top-end speed, and perhaps most importantly, get better fuel efficiency at cruising speed.

A boat’s performance parameters are largely dictated by its hull style and power-to-weight ratio, however, there are some basic steps every boater can take to make sure they’re getting the best out of their rig.

A Clean and Smooth Hull Bottom

Anything that interferes with the flow of water across the hull bottom creates drag that can negatively affect acceleration, top-end speed, and fuel efficiency. This is especially true for saltwater boats stored in marinas, where algae, barnacles, and other marine growth can quickly attach themselves to all submerged surfaces. If your boat is stored in the water, make sure to regularly have your hull bottom and running gear professionally cleaned and apply a fresh coat of marine bottom paint (which impedes marine growth) at least every other year.

Fishing boats with large thru-hull transducers can reduce drag by installing a modern shoot-through the hull transducer or low-profile flush mount transducer. Boats that are stored on trailers can see a significant improvement in acceleration and speed when you fill and sand smooth any gouges or pitting in the hull’s gelcoat surface. Lastly, a fresh coat of wax will give a temporary performance boost to any hull.

Choosing the Right Propeller

A bent pitted, or damaged propeller can significantly reduce boat performance and can even cause issues with your boat’s drive train. Inspect your boat’s propeller and have it professionally repaired or if necessary, replaced. It is also important to make sure the propeller is of the right size, type, and style for your boat.

Engine manufacturers will usually provide recommendations as to the size (diameter), pitch, and number of blades that will work best. Pitch is sized in inches. It indicates the distance the boat will be propelled forward with each revolution of the prop. Finding the perfect pitch is very important because it can vary from boat to boat based on your needs and style of boating. A low-pitched prop is like low gear in a car. It will provide fast acceleration and hole shot but may cause the engine to over-rev before reaching optimal top speed. A high-pitch prop will increase top speed but can cause issues getting out of the hole and up on plane. Finding the best option requires some trial and error. The ideal prop for a given boat is one that provides strong acceleration while allowing the engine to reach the recommended maximum RPM range when running wide open.

Trim Matters

The performance of any boat — especially boats with modern high-powered outboard engines — can be greatly affected by adjusting trim. This includes both the trim attitude of the engine itself in applications like bass boats, as well as the adjustment of trim tabs on boats ranging from bay boats and flats skiffs to large center console sportfishing machines.

A boat that is trimmed down will ride with the bow too low in the water. Like driving a car uphill for long distances, speed and fuel efficiency will decrease. In contrast, a boat that is trimmed up too much will tend to get airborne, pound over waves, and be prone to “porpoise” — rhythmically rising and falling in the bow. All these things are contradictory to solid running performance and can even be dangerous. Adjusting engine trim can result in an increase in engine RPMs and speed without having to adjust the throttle.

Boats with electric trim tabs, such as Dometic Standard and Adaptive Trim Tabs, can benefit from more precise adjustments to the ride, even as conditions change throughout the day. Trim tabs allow the operator to fine-tune a boat’s running attitude, as well as side-to-side roll, with the touch of a finger. A well-trimmed boat will be running level - not listing to either side - and should fall within recommended maximum engine RPMs when running at full throttle. Remember that wind, weather, and direction of travel can affect your boat’s ride, as can weight load and people moving around inside the cockpit. You can constantly adjust trim to keep your boat riding and performing at its best.

Get Rid of Extra Weight

Excess gear and equipment can add up to a lot of weight which can decrease acceleration, speed, and fuel economy. Take a good look through all your storage lockers, cabinets, consoles, and other hideaways. Take stock of what you really need to carry around. Things like extra anchors and ground tackle, expired safety gear, clothing, and old parts take up space and add unnecessary weight.

If you’re fishing, drain all your live wells and live bait tanks for the ride home if you don’t need them. Water weighs about eight pounds per gallon, so an unnecessarily filled bait tank could be like hauling around an extra NFL linebacker in your boat.

Keep Your Engine and Fuel System Clean

A clean engine runs strong, smooth, and efficient. It starts with your boat’s fuel system. Make sure to check and clean/replace all fuel filters as part of your regular maintenance routine. Use a quality water-separating fuel filter and monitor it regularly — especially if you store your boat for long periods of time. Make sure you fill your boat with name-brand, Top-Tier gasoline and fill up after every trip to prevent water formation during storage. Treating your gas with a marine-specific fuel additive can stabilize fuel and enhance performance by cleaning fuel injectors, carburetors, throttle bodies, and combustion chambers.

These are just some of the ways boaters can enhance the performance and efficiency of their vessels. Whether you’re trying to beat the other boats to the best fishing spot, increase your range to reach fish far offshore, or just want to save some fuel money, it’s worth the effort to give your boat a performance checkup.

When in doubt, contact your local dealer and ask about increasing your boat’s performance.


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