What Is Boat Draft? & The Average Draft Of A Bass Boat

Bass boat in shallow lake water

Boat draft is a very important consideration for anyone who boats on inland waters or ocean waters. The draft of a boat determines the type of water depth that the boat can easily handle. Some boats are better for shallow water while others are better for deep water. Boat draft helps you determine which are which.

What Is Boat Draft?

Before we begin let’s make sure you have your definition of draft correct.

If you already know all about boat draft then please forgive me but you’d be surprised at how many people are confused when it comes to this subject. So allow me to briefly explain how draft works.

The draft of a boat refers to how deep the boat sits in the water.

Boat draft determines the minimum water depth for a boat.

A deep draft boat sits deep in the water with its bottom (and the lowest part of the boat, which is usually the keel) far below the waterline. This gives the boat a lot of stability in rough waters.

A shallow draft boat has a bottom that sits closer to the waterline (and no keel), thus allowing the boat to be used in shallow water areas.

If you need a more in-depth explanation of draft read the article shallow draft vs deep draft.

Shallow draft should not be confused with shoal draft which is a completely different thing.

A flat bottom boat is a shallow draft boat.

A v-hull boat is a deep draft boat.

A shallow draft boat is better for inland water uses as most inland waters have areas of very shallow water.

A deep draft boat is better used in open water, such as the ocean or large deep lakes, as it offers more stability and is much safer in choppy water.

The difference between running draft and floating draft

Running draft and floating draft are terms that I use to explain the difference between how shallow a boat can run and how shallow a boat can float. These are two completely different things.

Because the average draft of a bass boat is between 8″ and 11″ this basically means that the boat can comfortably float in water bodies with those depths. However, that doesn’t mean you can run the boat at those depths.

Just because a bass boat can float in 8″ of water that doesn’t mean it can run in 8″ of water.

To navigate areas with only 8″ of water a bass boat must have its motor fully trimmed up.

Most bass boats can comfortably run in shallow water that is 24″ deep (2 feet) with the motor fully engaged.

Some bass boat owners will run their boats in water as shallow as 12″ (1 foot). But, most will only do this in bodies of water with a sandy bottom and when they know the waters and are sure there are no obstacles that could snag the boat.

The small number who do it without knowing the waters usually live to regret it.

If you are using a bass boat in water below 12″ you find that it will float shallow without a problem.

However, it would very unwise to engage the motor in such shallow water as the prop will almost certainly be damaged by the river bottom.

Of course the shaft length of the motor also plays a part in this.

If you do want to venture into the extreme shallow areas of 8″ be sure that there are no potential risks to the bottom of your boat.

It is a good idea to keep a pole for punting/poling the boat in shallow water areas where you don’t want to risk your prop getting damaged. It is also good for stealth while fishing.

How load affects boat draft

The draft of a boat is greatly affected by the load it is carrying.

You can’t expect the draft of an unladen boat with one angler on it to the same as a fully kitted out boat, with livewells, rods, nets bait and 3 anglers onboard.

With extra weight comes an increase in draft.

A bass boat with a 8″ draft can quickly turn into a bass boat with an 11″, 12″ or 13″ draft when it is loaded up with gear and people.

The Average Draft Of A Bass Boat

Bass boats are great shallow water fishing vessels. A bass boat can handle most inland waterways with ease and offers some great design features that make its the perfect boat for the river and lake angler.

But when you need to get into the shallows do you really know how shallow your bass boat can go? To be confident taking your boat into shallow water you should know the average draft of a bass boat.

The average draft of a bass boat is 8″ – 11″ depending on the specific setup. This means the boat can float in water at this depth.

However, it cannot run at these depths. An average bass boat can run at shallow depths between 24″ and 12″.

Although there are shallower draft boats, few are as well adapted to fishing in shallow waters as a bass boat.

Benefits of a bass boat’s shallow draft

So to be clear, the shallowest water a bass boat can be used in is 8″ with the motor trimmed up and the prop out of the water.

Though, if the boat is heavily weighed down the draft will be limited to 11″ or more. This is more than enough draft to access areas for shallow water fishing.

The shallowest water a bass boat can run is is between 12″ and 24″.

As bass typically feed in 8 feet of water until the summer heat forces them into deeper cooler regions a bass boat is perfectly suited to accessing these shallow areas. It is not unusual though to find shallow water fish in 2 feet of water and a bass boat can be used to easily access these areas as well.

How shallow draft makes the bass boat perfect for skinny water fishing

A bass boat is designed to be used in the type of shallow waters where you find bass feeding in the early mornings and late evenings.

Its shallow draft allows it to easily access the type of shallow waters that other boat types can not navigate.

However, a bass boat is not the shallowest draft boat available. It has a more “v” shaped, or semi-v shaped, hull to give it better stability in rough water.

Obviously with its semi-v hull a bass boat cannot access the same type of extreme shallows as the likes of a Jon boat, but it can go pretty shallow.

An average bass boat will have a draft of 8″ – 11″.

This means the minimum water depth for a bass boat is 8″. This is very shallow water (though not as shallow as some other boats can go).

Just be aware though that this doesn’t mean you can speed about in 8″ of water in our bass boat.

Limitations of a bass boat’s draft

Where Jon boats can be used in water that is only a few inches deep (2″ in some cases) bass boat owners must be much more careful.

Most shallow draft boats have a flat bottom that allows them to slide over submerged obstacles. Even a mod-v Jon boat, with its semi-v hull design is essentially a flat-bottomed boat.

A bass boat does not have this capability. If you hit submerged obstacles you are less likely to slide over them and more likely to damage the bottom of your boat.

So while Jon boat owners will be happy to navigate areas with extremely shallow water, sometimes as shallow as 2″, a bass boat owner is more restricted to the waters he/she can venture into.

Bass boat gets stuck in the shallows (video)

This is what happens when you try to fish off a bass boat in water that is too shallow for the draft of the boat.

A Clever Way To Reduce The Draft Of A Bass Boat

Believe it or not you can actually reduce the draft of bass boat. Well … sort of!

What you do is start off with a Jon boat and convert it into a bass boat. Jon boats make excellent bass boats and the conversion is pretty simple.

Obviously you will not end-up with the same quality of boat but you will have a fully functional bass boat that costs a fraction of the price.

Also be aware that a Jon boat can be easily setup for bass fishing without any conversion and this is a much cheaper way to hit the water for shallow water fishing.

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