To be the best-built, most functional, high-performance (but safe) bass boat on the market. To be all of those things at a price to the consumer that is considerably less than other brands for their premium models. Finally, to see to it that more of the purchase price for the Z-9 goes into the materials of the actual build than any other bass boat on the market.
Rapid Planing System
It just wouldn’t do justice to this boat without discussing the Rapid Planing System. With a tournament-rigged boat, there will definitely be a lot of weight being carried onboard between fuel and full livewells. But that simply cannot slow the boat down. With Nitro's Rapid Planing System, the performance is intact. The proof was our recorded time to plane of 2.6 seconds with our 250-hp test outboard.Her stern pad plus her stepped hull not only gives quicker hole shots with minimal bow rise, and our tests have shown that she has excellent handling throughout the performance envelope. The only chine walk we experience was from outside influences, such as crossing a wake, and it was easily managed with the hydraulic steering that is sure to ease fatigue on long trips. It also allows operations with lower horsepower engines, which translates to getting better fuel economy and lower operating costs.
The Nitro Z-9 has a length overall of 20'9" (6.32 m), a beam of 96” (244 cm) and a draft of 16” (40.6 cm). With an empty weight of 2,100 lbs. (952 kg), half fuel, two people and test power we had an estimated test weight of 3,205 lbs. (1,454 kg).
With the 250 horsepower Mercury OptiMax Pro XS turning a 14 5/8 x 25 Tempest propeller we reached a top speed of 70.0 mph at 5800 rpm. At that speed we were burning 22.9 gph giving us a range of 187 miles.
came in at 3000 RPM and 30.1 mph that speed reduced the fuel burn to only 4.95 GPH giving us a range of 372 miles and an endurance of 12 hours and 24 minutes while still maintaining a 10% reserve.
We had a quick time to plane of only 2.6 seconds, reached 20 mph in 5.1 seconds, 30 came and went in 7.5 seconds, 40 in 9.8 seconds and we continued accelerating through 50 mph in 13.2 seconds.
There’s no doubt that the Z-9 is an exciting boat to drive. She accelerates quickly and once on step things really start to happen in short order. As already mentioned, she only seems to exhibit chine walk when it was induced by outside influences such as crossing the wake, which we think is important to note. Some bass boats in class will start to chine walk over 62 mph in flat conditions. Other than that, she remained stable throughout the acceleration curve.
Talking the Walk.
When chine walk did start, it was easy to correct and continue on through it. Naturally at full speed we didn't do any cranking and banking as the hull design is made for more of a straight and fast type of an operation. But at lower speeds she can take full-on hard over turns and comes around in a fairly flat attitude. In that she has higher freeboard than the average bass boat and she's able to take chop quite well.
It is good to remember that she has a 16-degree deadrise at the transom, more than some other boats we can think of. That gives her a good ride in the chop without sacrificing too much speed or fuel consumption. While a flatter bottom will make her a bit faster, I'd say 16-degrees is a good compromise because our teeth were left in tact after the test.
Consoles are Important.
70 mph generates a lot of wind and the windscreen at the console did a fine job of deflecting the wind out of my face and into my hair. She's offered in either a single or dual console and I don't think I'd want to be a passenger for any extended period of time without the same benefit of having the wind deflected.
When pulling power off, her slippery hull allows her to continue ahead on plane for several seconds under her own momentum before finally dropping off and settling back into the water stern first. And no matter how fast I took the power off, the following wave showed no sign of washing over the transom.When taking power off, the anti-splash reverse flow transom keeps water from sloshing over the stern, and allows for settling in at a nearly level attitude. It also means quieter approaches so the fish don’t go running off at the sound of the Z-9 approaching.
A bow pad serves as a non-skid space to board from without stepping on gear. Deck space is key in this level of fishing and the Z-9 has plenty of it. All covered with a marine grade 22 oz. carpet. Wait, carpet on a fish boat? Oh yes, and since it’s a cut pile with no loops hooks will not snag on it. And underneath all of it is padding to significantly reduce fatigue. And all four cleats are pull-up to eliminate snags as well.
The foot control for the trolling motor has a dedicated space in a recessed cutout in the bow. This keeps both feet at the same level, thereby improving balance and again… reducing fatigue. Also, Nitro adds a waterproof control assembly that contains switches for the navigation lights, livewells, bilge pumps, courtesy lights and engine trim.
All pedestal seats are on telescoping shafts, and the bow offers two base positions to ensure the proper distance from the foot control regardless of the height of the fisherman.
One of the high points of the Z-9 is clearly the capacity for storage. It’s not only easy to bring enough gear to easily switch between species it’s also easy to keep it all well sorted. Tackle boxes are all in dedicated holders, lids are held open with gas struts allowing both hands to be free. And even the undersides of key lids have clips to hold plastic packages, all sorted and within easy reach.
The center of the bow deck has a massive compartment. All are insulated so gear doesn’t heat up on hot days. Each compartment has courtesy lights which automatically light when the lid is lifted -- as opposed to a remote switch somewhere else. As a result those early morning or late night trips are still possible without a flashlight.
Probably the cleverest use of storage space is right at the sides of the consoles. Two drawers are in the most convenient spots to store the small items that are needed most often, or are dropped in at every trip. Sunscreen, lip balm, wallets, cell phones…. All now have a dedicated spot close at hand.
In the center rear of the aft deck is another compartment with some versatility built in. There are two storage trays that can be loaded up, and underneath are the batteries and oil reservoir all within easy reach. There is a trap door under this space revealing bilge pumps and switches.
The helm includes full instrumentation so operators can see, at a glance, critical information without having to select through a digital menu or search through a 4-in-1 gauge for the one we want to see. This is an important detail in a boat going 70 mph. The steering wheel is adjustable and linked to hydraulic steering, again to reduce operator fatigue.
Non-skid footrests are angled towards the operator and allow the operator to literally wedge into position when operating through rough water. There’s even a cut-out for a Hotfoot. And the seats have a shock-absorbing feature in addition to being well padded. And with the console well opened to the sides, it’s easy for even tall fishermen to swing their legs out without slamming knees or ankles. For those who choose to fish with a buddy, the Z-9 accepts an optional and removable port console. This is a serious consideration as no one wants to be subjected to a 70 mph slipstream with no protection.
To the stern are two large removable boxes that offer a lot of possibilities. Most popular is loading them up with tackle boxes and bringing the box dedicated for the days fishing aboard. Other options will have them loaded up with supplies and tools. It’s all about choices and swapping out those choices at will. Under the port box is a spare prop holder.
There are livewells but Nitro takes the concept a step further. Here it consists of two separate 20-gallon (75.7 L) tanks. This keeps the catch between two guys separate or keeps the species separate and both tanks have their own recirculating controls. There’s an anti-slosh baffle under the lid and corners are rounded to reduce the shock on the fish. Oxygenators keep the water saturated till the weigh-in. Most important, the Z-9 has a high-speed raw water pick-up so oxygenation will continue no matter what the boat speed.
Comparing the Competition
In preparation for this report on the Nitro Z-9 we looked closely at the top models at three other builders of premium bass boats to see what Nitro was missing in its build that had any real-world, practical import. Here are a list of elements that we found on one or more of the other three builders’ top models which the Nitro Z-9 does not have--
We found three other items that the Z-9 did not have as standard equipment but did have as options that we would like to have on a bass boat rig: a 4-bank charger, dual axle brakes for the trailer, and a spare tire for the trailer. These three items cost at total of $790.In addition there were several other things we found that the Z-9 does not offer but we categorized them under the headings of "cosmetic" or "nice-to-have-but-not-really-needed" for the safe and successful operation of a bass boat. See below for how much they cost extra.
Pricing and Observations
The MSRP price of the 2014 Nitro Z-9 is $39,995 (plus shipping and dealer prep) which includes the 225-hp OptiMax Pro XS engine and the tandem-axle trailer. We think that Nitro has really stepped up with the Z-9 and created a tournament-level boat and made it available to the average Joe. She’s equipped as well as nearly any other boat on the market but when we compare her to the crème-de-la-crème top end bass boats, we find that she is from $20,000 to $50,000 less money. That's right, the MSRP of one of the 2014 21' bass boats we looked at with a 300-hp engine was over $90,000. We can buy a lot of LED lights for that kind of money.
Test Result Highlights
- Top speed for the Nitro Z-9 (2014-) is 70.0 mph (112.7 kph), burning 22.90 gallons per hour (gph) or 86.68 liters per hour (lph).
- Best cruise for the Nitro Z-9 (2014-) is 30.1 mph (48.4 kph), and the boat gets 6.08 miles per gallon (mpg) or 2.59 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 372 miles (598.68 kilometers).
- Tested power is 1 x 250-hp Mercury OptiMax Pro XS.
- Time to plane for the Nitro Z-9 (2014-) is 2.6 sec. seconds.
- Time from 0 to 30 of the Nitro Z-9 (2014-) is 7.5 sec. seconds.
Standard and Optional Features
|Outlet: 12-Volt Acc||Standard|
Boats More Than 30 Feet
|Generator||Standard oxygen generator|
(It's quick and FREE!)