Content courtesy ofBass boats can be very expensive so we suggest that consumers take a deep breath and think about what is really needed to get the job done. It is easy to buy the big $65,000 rig – all it takes is money. But a thinking angler might step back to see if there is a smarter why to go. We think that the Nitro Z-7 is a good place to start the quest. She has everything that is needed to become a good bench mark for measuring the larger boats on the market.
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.
Mission of the Nitro Z-7
The mission of the Nitro Z-7 is to be able to do everything the large Z-9 can do, but do it for less money. Obviously some casting space will be given up, but for two anglers there should be plenty of room. The 18'8" (5.68 m) with the 150-hp OptiMax is about as small as one can go and still be competitive in tournaments. With a couple of options she can have all the goodies as the big $65,000 rigs and be half the cost. Call her the thinking man's bass boat.
What distinguishes the Nitro Z-7 is not gear or design because she has pretty much the same functionality as every other bass boat on the market. What sets her apart from other brands is the package that Tracker Marine Group has been able to put together.●
The builder has a (very) special relationship with Mercury Marine. That alliance permits Nitro to get the best pricing on the OptiMax 150 (or any other engine wanted). We think the OptiMax 150 is a good match for this application because it is a lightweight, has high-torque, and is a low-maintenance 2-stroke design. Her times to plane are as good as any boats with this horsepower in class, and we have tested her and found a top-end of 59.4 mph with the XS model engine. ●
A division of Tracker Marine Group makes trailers, so needless to say Nitro gets the friends and family pricing. And because the same company has to stand behind its trailer product, the quality is high. It is hard to beat a color-matched, powder-coated trailer for wow appeal. We'd go for the tandem-axle, 2-brake option which adds $1,170 to the price, but then the rig not only looks first class -- it actually is.●
With a 150-hp OptiMax Pro XS 2-stroke engine and a single-axle trailer, with freight and dealer prep she sells for about $28,940.
The Boat -- Nitro Z-7
We have tested the Z-7 twice over the years. The first time was in 2007 with a 150-hp Mercury OptiMax. She had a WOT speed of 56.4 mph and a best cruise at 3500 rpms of 37.2 mph getting 6.45 miles per gallon.
Tale of Two Tests.
Two years ago we tested her with an OptiMax XS 150 and got a WOT speed of 59.4 mph. This time her best cruise came in at 3000 rpms at 31.4 mph, getting 5.98 mph. On the second test the boat was propped for max WOT using a 14-5/8x24x3 Tempest prop which gave us a good top-end speed at the expense of a little mid- range speed and fuel efficiency. (When propping boaters need to be sure to dial in what is wanted most -- top-end speed, fuel-efficiency at best cruise, or high, low-end torque.)
Nevertheless, when we compare published data on 18' bass boats with 150-hp engines of other makes we find that the Z-7’s top-end is a few tenths faster than the other boats we checked and her mid-range fuel consumption during both tests was outstanding – and better than any other test numbers we could find.
What this signals to us is that the folks at Tracker Marine Group know how to set up a boat right. The maximum recommended horsepower for the Z-7 is 150 and that can drive her at nearly 60 mph. While for high-stakes tournaments it might be advantageous to have a boat that could go 70 mph, that is going to take a bigger engine and bigger boat to carry it.So the question begs, how often is that extra 10 mph necessary?
During our testing we didn’t note a hint of pounding with the 16-degree, variable-deadrise hull crossing a light chop at planing speeds. A 16-degree deadrise at the transom is a reasonable compromise between a flatter bottom for more speed but rougher riding, and a deeper deadrise for more comfort but lower speeds. In the conditions we encountered with two different test captains on two different years it is noteworthy that both remarked on the good ride. Even more important was the observation of our last test captain, BoatTEST.com's COO Christopher Hughes, who reported that he did not feel any tendency to chine walk at the WOT speed of 59.4 mph.
Amenities For Running
We would exercise the Hot Foot option that Nitro makes available if we were ordering for the Z-7 – having two-hands-on-the-wheel is always better than one. A standard bicycle bow seat and the folding pedestal seat stow inside the forward locker. The rig has a 32-gallon divided livewell aft with aeration and timer standard. There is a second mounting base for the rear fishing pedestal located a bit farther forward on the aft deck.
A standard flush-mounted Lowrance Mark 5x fishfinder centers on a dash that features tachometer and speedometer gauges placed up high above the wheel for easy viewing. Trim and battery level gauges, located adjacent to the steering column and obstructed the wheel, are less visible. But the important thing is that the fishfinder is not mounted on top of the dash thus obscuring visibility forward.
Removable Port Console
Both the helm and passenger consoles offer reasonable wind and spray protection for fishermen while the Nitro is underway. The optional companion console to port is removable for solitary fishing use or to gain more deck space. The console is attached with three fasteners, fitted with thumbscrews, so no tools are required to remove or install the convertible unit. It just takes a minute to install or remove.
We were impressed with the comfort and the design of the seating we found in the Z-7’s cockpit, noting that all three seats are open at the back to keep the air flowing and occupants comfortable. The bottom sections of the outboard pair to port and starboard flip up to reveal storage compartments; the middle seat hides the access to the boat’s 41-gallon center-balanced fuel tank. It can be removed to make passage aft easier.
Capacity, Construction and Other Details
The rated capacity of the Z-7 is 4-persons or a total of 600 lbs. (272.72 kgs.). So if there are four people aboard, owners should make sure they are all pretty trim folks or kids, because the controlling number is the weight. Typically, boats such as this one are used by two people. Because the boat is under 20’ in length she has positive flotation and will float level if swamped per USCG regulations, even with its 150-hp motor attached.
The Z-7 has a hand-laid fiberglass hull with longitudinal and transverse foam-filled stringers which are glassed into the bottom. The transom uses composite materials. Consumers should not be concerned with the integrity of the hull because all bass boat builders we have visited are doing a conscientious job with hull scantlings. What we would be more concerned with is the rigidity of the deck.
The deck of the Z-7 is resin-coated balsa wood but keep in mind that most of the surface of the casting decks are hatches to storage below. Those hatches are made of aluminum and most have reinforcing hat sections for strength. The deck is chemically bonded and mechanically fastened to the hull. The consoles are both molded fiberglass. The livewell is rotomolded plastic.
The Z-7 comes with an Interstate cranking battery for the outboard and two Interstate heavy-duty trolling batteries to power the standard Minn Kota Maxxum 24V 70-lb. thrust 42”-shaft foot controlled trolling motor. There is a 2-bank, 8-amp battery charger with external receptacle. Nitro uses water-resistant connectors on all pumps and nav lights and covers the wires in an abrasion-resistant wrap. Automotive-style fuses are used in a dedicated panel with cover.
There is one 12V outlet, a 1,000 gph bilge pump, a 750 gph livewell recirculation pump, and a 500 gph aerator pump.
Major Standard Equipment
•Fire extinguisher•Lowrance Mark 5x Pro fishfinder•Hydraulic steering•3 Interstate batteries•Bike seat with pedestal•Single-axle trailer•Minn Kota 70-lb thrust trolling motor•150-hp Mercury OptiMax Pro XS outboard
•Port and Starboard rod lockers for 8’ (2.44 m) rods•Partner rod storage with rod handle organizer•Recess in the bow for the trolling motor foot pedal•Lift out molded aft storage boxes for tackle trays•Complete livewell system with water and aeration pumps
Nitro’s warranty is for one year. In addition it warrants the “hull, interior hull, stringers and transom” for the lifetime of the original purchaser. Items excluded from the warranty are the engine (which carries its own 2-year warranty) and other third-party equipment not manufactured by Tracker Marine, the gel coat, windscreen, leaks around the hatches and thru-hull fittings plus some other things.
Bass boats are pretty simple rigs and their utility and functionally come down to a few basic questions –1) How good is the ride and how does she handle? 2) How fast will she go? 3) Can the transom handle the horsepower?4) Is the deck solid?5) Will the electrical system keep working? 6) Does the boat have all of the fishing amenities wanted?7) Will the boat last?8) What is the price?The above report should answer all of those questions. Typically, consumers look at the next boat larger and the next boat smaller from the model they’re interested in. The Z-6 is the next step down, a 17-footer with a little less beam, and a max horsepower rating of 115. She is about as small as bass boats get. The next step up is the Nitro Z-8 which is 20’1” LOA and will handle a 250-hp engine. Good hunting!
Test Result Highlights
Pricing Range: $27,595.00Prices, 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.