Boat Test Videos
Content courtesy ofThe team at Nitro had four simple goals when developing the new 2012 Z-9: performance, fishability, comfort, and affordability. Our recent test and review reveals how they achieved these goals. It’s important to remember that the Z-9 has been a proven workhorse on the professional bass tournament circuit for years and has been undergoing subtle modifications each year. With most bass boats comprising essentially the same overall design, the important differences boil down to handling, durability, and price.
Prices, features, designs, and equipment are subject to change. Please see your local dealer or visit the builder's website for the latest information available on this boat model.
Captain's Report by Christopher Hughes --
Critical Handling Characteristics
Whether you start your ride with a classic hole-shot or more gradual acceleration, the first thing I noticed about the Z-9 was her straight and true tacking. There was no torque pull when power is applied so no need for corrective steering. Once on plane the hull has a good sight in the turns and responds smoothly to even the slightest steering inputs.
is designed into the aft section of the hull which leads out to the bottom of the transom. Nitro has designed into the hull what they call a 16 degree variable deadrise hull for a smoother, drier ride. They call it the RPS or rapid planing system transom design. But the RPS does more than make the boat scoot.
Our test confirmed the efficiency of Nitro's design both with our standing-start numbers, WOT speed results, and most important, in the boat's handling at speed. For example, sometimes pads can cause a boat to seem to slip or skip in turns, but the Z-9 did not exhibit any bad habits as we maneuvered the boat at reasonably high speeds.
is another issue common for some bass boats past 50 or 60 mph. In most cases this is driver induced, but in some cases we think it is due more to the hull design. The Z-9 did not chine walk during my test, even at wide open throttle on our 250-hp Mercury Optimax.
Does She Pound?
When we first started testing the Z-9 the water was flat so we had to make figure 8s to kick up some waves. Later in the day the wind kicked up on Table Rock Lake which has quite a fetch. Waves got up to 2' or so and our host opined that most bass fishermen didn't go out in conditions like that which was all we needed to hear to want to do it.
Some bass boats are full forward to make sure there is good stability for a man standing on the bow. The downside of a full bow is pounding in a chop. In our test conditions the Z-9 did not pound thanks to her V-shaped hull forward and when we went through a wake or a large wave the boat tracked true and was not deflected to one side or the other. Even in the rough stuff in the afternoon when doing "S" turns the boat stayed dry.
When it comes to fishing amenities built into the boat, the Z-9 has them all. But more importantly, she has them exactly where you need them. To start, Nitro designed-in two 500 GPH (1,892.71 LPH) aerator/fill pumps with timers, two 750 GPH (2,839.06 LPH) re-circulator pumps with timers, and two 20-gal. (75.71 L) insulated aft Guardian livewells. There are oxygenators in each livewell along with standard pump-out systems and dual remote drain controls.
The forward casting deck
has numerous compartments including organized rod storage to port, a deep general storage to the center, more rod or general storage to starboard, and a cooler in the step down to the cockpit. Inboard and under each console are two pull out storage drawers. On the aft deck there are five compartments; centered is the livewell, to port and starboard are tackle management compartments, and aft is more storage in a pull-out bin. With the bin removed, there is excellent access to pumps, to the 2 heavy-duty Interstate trolling batteries, a 2-bank (20 amps total) onboard battery charger, and to a 1,600 GPH (6,056.66 LPH) bilge pump.
At the bow
is the obligatory trolling motor, in this case a Minn Kota 24V, 80-lb. thrust, foot controlled type. In our test we took our Z-9 into a tight inlet and the Minn Kota easily maneuvered us with pin-point accuracy. The foot control is sunk into a well just like on far more expensive bass boats. Forward of this is a panel for mounting electronics, and a control panel for navigation lights and livewell.
A comfort factor
is the padding installed on the forward casting deck. It provides a soft feeling sure to reduce the stress of many hours of standing. The seat pad on the forward leaning post is also a comfort area. Unlike some that squish down after a while, the one on the Z-9 has higher-density foam. The post is heavy-duty stainless steel and is threaded to lock in place in one of the two positions provided. It is also fully adjustable up and down.All the bow storage is also fitted with automatic lighting.
At The Helm
The comfort continues at the helm. During our test we felt the seat was contoured to our backside as it is shaped much like the seat in an expensive sports car. With a full internal spring system and bucket design, we could have driven the Z-9 all week long. The angle and height of the seat aligned well with our reach to the wheel and the position of the Mercury throttle control. Located on starboard are the valve controls for the livewells. The two main gauges, RPM and speed are located high, angled in and have a deep bezel. Even having the LDS-7C Lowrance fishfinder/GPS mounted on the dash did not obscure visibility.
To port is a passenger seat behind a console that is removable if you want to have only a one-console boat. Nitro has also added convenient step pads between the seats to get from the cockpit to the aft deck.
The port side console
seat has the same shock absorption design and padding, only with a lower back to allow easy access to the aft deck. There is a large, lockable glove box, grab handle and removable tinted windscreen. The seat is the same as the driver's and an additional grab handle and pull-out storage are at deck level. The cockpit also has two medium-size drains and one large 4” drain center for dewatering.
The Z-9 is available with 225-hp up to 300-hp outboard power and our test rig was powered by a Mercury 250 OptiMax Pro XS V-6 two-stroke with direct fuel injection. This was mounted via an adjustable jack plate extended 9 inches off the transom. We reached an average top speed of 71.1 mph turning 5700 rpm while burning an average of 23 gph providing an average range of 189 statute miles. At 4000 rpm we recorded an average speed of 41.9 mph while burning only 9.2 gph for an average range of 278 statute miles. Our time to plane was 4.3 seconds with a 0-30 time of 8.6 seconds. I should note that our time from 30 mph to 50 mph was only 3.1 seconds.
The overall fit-and-finish of the Z-9 was good and it is clear to me that Tracker Marine is working hard to build boats of quality. For example, all the hull and deck colors are gel coat and there are no tape pin stripes that can rub off as can happen on some of the more expensive bass boats. And, the standard trailer comes with a No-Touch Vortex hub lubrication system.
As a boat-motor-trailer, this rig is package priced at $39,995, you will be hard pressed to find a better combination in this class. If you are wondering what the difference between this bass boat and ones those are far more expensive, the answer is nothing of critical importance, in our opinion. Bass boats are, after all, small boats that usually operate in lakes. The fact is that Nitro is the #2 best-selling bass boat in the country only a just behind #1. It is about 30% ahead of #3. It wasn't always that way as times and boats have changed. If you have not taken a look at Nitro lately, perhaps you should look in on the new Z-9.
Test Result Highlights
Pricing Range: $39,995.00Prices, features, designs, and equipment are subject to change. Please see your local dealer or visit the builder's website for the latest information available on this boat model.
Test Results - Change Measurement Unit
All fuel consumption numbers are the total for all engines in the boat. Speeds are measured with Stalker ProSports radar gun or GPS. Fuel consumption (gallons per hour) measured with Floscan digital fuel-flow meter or by on-board factory-installed diagnostic instruments. Range is based on 90% of published fuel capacity. Sound levels determined using Radio Shack digital decibel meter on A scale. 68 dBA is the level of normal conversation. Time to plane is measured from start of acceleration to formation of rooster tail behind boat.