Tips For Better Boat Performance

Improving the performance of your boat is more than making it go faster. Better fuel economy and even safer boating are among the benefits of fine tuning the performance of the boat, engine or both.

Some tricks of adding a few miles per hour—or gallon—are simple and you can do this yourself. Others might require having qualified experts at the dealership handle the work. Either way, the money is well spent. You might just discover your boat runs better than ever.

Is your boat really running at its best? You might be missing out on making it run faster, smoother and even saving a few bucks at the gas pump. Find out ways you can improve the performance of your boat with these tips.


Speed Defined

Before we get into the tips, here is a myth-busting fact—boat speed is affected by friction. Here’s how. A car needs a little over 100 horsepower to make it go 100 mph. Pushing a boat through the water that fast takes several hundred horsepower. The reason is water is almost 800 times denser than air! That explains why a 150HP outboard won’t go 150 mph. Which is why there are add-ons like jack plates, trim tabs and power trim and tilt on the throttle handle. Now, let’s get started with another myth-buster.

Will A Hydrofoil Make My Boat Go Faster?

Probably not. A hydrofoil can level out the ride by forcing the stern up and the bow down while greatly reducing porpoising. How does it do that? The hydrofoil consists of a wing-like structure mounted on the outboard. At low speeds, the hull glides through the water; as speed increases, the hydrofoil creates lift. Hydrofoils are more appropriate for sailing yachts. The foils run the length of the hull to make them more effective. If you want to try it anyway, be cautious and go with a clamp-on version before choosing to drill the required holes in your outboard for a permanent installation. Read on for more logical performance options for outboard-powered boats.

Should I Add A Jack Plate?

The answer is yes. Jack plates are good for overall performance with any outboard, especially those with performance hulls like fiberglass bass boats. A jack plate is installed on the transom, and the outboard is mounted to the jack plate. The result is less of the lower unit in the water, which reduces drag and improves efficiency. A jack plate also allows undisturbed “clean” water to reach the prop for a better bite and improved handling. Choosing a jack plate comes down to whether or not you want the lesser expensive manual version or a hydraulic model. With the latter, you can adjust the outboard’s height on the fly, which is a definite advantage. Don’t discount manual jack plates, though. With either model, you will find noticeable improvements in performance.

Trim tabs
Should I Add Trim Tabs?

Maybe. Planing boats run at their best when at near full speed and lightly loaded. Of course, you won’t run a boat without passengers and all the accessories. Large and small boats benefit from trim tabs by getting the boat out of the hole and on plane quickly, then correcting for uneven weight distribution that is common on larger boats. Trim tabs can increase speed, reduce hull pounding and eliminate porpoising. They add efficiency by reducing fuel consumption. Safety benefits include improved visibility when the hull is running flat across the surface, reduced wake size and improved handling. Here are the basics of how they work. The tabs can be deployed downward for quicker planing. Adjust the tabs upward to let the bow rise and reduce the wetted hull surface.

Foot Throttle
Will A Foot Throttle Make A Difference?

Absolutely, if you own a performance bass boat. The throttle allows you to drive the boat like a car. The foot throttle is connected by cables to the outboard. Your foot regulates the speed, allowing you to keep both hands on the steering wheel for an obvious safety benefit. The throttle returns to idle if you remove your foot. What are the performance advantages? More precise throttle control when you need to throttle up quickly.

Trimming 101

Knowing how to properly adjust the outboard using the trim and tilt switch on the throttle is a must. If the bow porpoises and the engine throws a high rooster tail then you trimmed too high. The rooster tail should be long and low—behind the boat 20 to 40 feet and no higher than the outboard cowl. With the throttle opened up you will know it’s just right if the spray exits the boat at the transom.

Foot Throttle
Will A Fuel Additive Increase Performance?

Before answering that question, let’s deal with the ugly side of the fuel world as it relates to outboard motors. The ugly word is 15% Ethanol (aka E15). While safe in many newer-model-year vehicles, E15 presents a particular risk to marine engines due to the increased risk of fuel separation when in the presence of condensation and water. In addition, the increase in ethanol presents more opportunity to harmfully react with fuel tanks, fuel filters and carburetors. That is the short answer.

One of the biggest challenges facing boaters is maintaining fuel stability. Gasoline begins to degrade immediately and, if untreated, has a shelf life measured in weeks, not months. Gasoline oxidizes and forms films and lacquers that can gum up and clog fuel components such as carburetors and injectors. That is where fuel stabilizers can help. Companies like Chevron, Sta-Bil and Lucas offer stabilizers that can help. So, no, a fuel additive will not directly improve performance, but over the long term it will keep the engine healthy.

Does The Propeller Need Attention?

Below are symptoms to look for. A prop shop/Power Pros service center is your best bet for the needed adjustments.

Is your boat slow to come onto a plane? A subpar holeshot is the result of a propeller with too much pitch. Engine RPMs and pitch are related. Increasing the pitch will decrease RPMs and decreasing pitch will increase RPMs.

Are you using too much fuel? A dinged or bent prop can rob you of 10 percent of your fuel costs. Check the prop for even the slightest damage. Also consult with the experts about switching to a different diameter prop.

Do you just want to go faster? Switching from aluminum to stainless steel can add 3 MPH to a runabout. Stainless steel is stronger and the thinner blades slice through the water with less resistance. Aluminum is a softer metal, giving it less ability to withstand the pressure and demands of higher-torque motors. What you gain in MPH can be well worth the cost.

Lighten Up

Here is a worthwhile tip that costs nothing. Most boaters carry too much stuff. Rid your boat of extra weight that robs speed. Leave behind anything you rarely use, or can do without on some trips. What you do bring along place it strategically to maximize bow lift and speed.


Make A Video

Here is one final tip that is worth the effort. At the service center, you will be questioned about how the boat is running at top speed. Shortcut the answers by having someone shoot a video using your smartphone. The experts can see firsthand how the boat is running.


Expert Advice And Service

As you can see, there are lots of moving parts and factors that influence boat performance for the boat and motor. If you have questions, find the answers at your nearest Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Boating Center. There, you’ll find products and services under one roof to make your boat and motor perform the very best it can. The factory-trained Power Pros technicians have the knowledge and skills to offer you the best marine services. 


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