TRACKER was started in 1978 by Johnny Morris, who wanted a ready-to-fish boat package -- boat, motor, trailer, trolling motor and fishfinder — to sell in his Bass Pro Shops stores at an affordable price. The idea took off: White River Marine Group is now America’s number one boatbuilder, and includes not just TRACKER Boats, but NITRO, MAKO, TAHOE, SUN TRACKER, REGENCY and ASCEND kayaks as well. TRACKER boats are still sold at Bass Pro Shops, and by a network of dealers, too. They are built in a modern factory in the Ozarks.
Why aluminum? Aluminum is an excellent boatbuilding material: It is light, strong, easy to weld and, when the correct alloy is chosen, corrosion–resistant in fresh and salt water. An aluminum hull is impact-resistant, the reason so many boaters in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, where the waterways are home to snags, drifting logs and other menaces, prefer aluminum to fiberglass. An impact that will crack fiberglass will frequently only dent aluminum.
TRACKER builds its boats with 5052 marine alloy, aluminum combined with about 2.5% magnesium, .25% chromium and traces of iron, silicon, copper, manganese and other metals. This alloy is easily formable, so can be worked into the shapes required for boatbuilding. It's very corrosion-resistant, so is the alloy of choice for marine construction. It's also weldable; not all aluminum alloys are. All TRACKER boats (except Topper jon boats) are built with all-welded construction.
Decks on the larger TRACKER boats are marine ply resting on the aluminum supports seen above. The whole hull, including the deck, has a lifetime warranty.
If you have questions about any of the boats in this roundup, please contact us at BoatTEST.com, and we'll try to answer them.
The Targa V-20 WT is the biggest model in TRACKER’s Deep-V line. This multi-species fishboat is designed for more challenging conditions than the company’s Mod-V bass boats, and with 20 degrees of transom deadrise, the Targa V-20 WT should show a welcome combination of speed and comfort in a chop, and stability at rest. However, deadrise at the bow is just 35 degrees, not nearly as sharp as a true open-water boat. (Forward deadrise in an offshore hull can be 45 degrees or more.) But we'd be confident aboard the Targa on open bays and sounds, and large lakes, keeping in mind she's a 20-footer. Remember, that the USCG requires that all powered boats 20’ (6.09 M) must float level if swamped.
TRACKER sells the boat with a choice of several Mercury® outboards, two– and four–strokes from 150 to 225 hp. Base power is a 150 XL Four Stroke, but we tested the boat with a two-stroke 225 OptiMax® Pro XS; a 225-hp Verado® four-stroke is also available. With test power, our Targa V-20 WT hit 46.1 mph, and our test captain noted her quick acceleration and solid handling. Her transom is set–back for increased water flow to the prop, and reverse chines improve handling, reduce hole–shot times, and add to stability.
The Targa V–20 WT is built to last, assembled from parts cut to a hair’s–breadth tolerance by computer-controlled plasma cutters so they fit together perfectly -- close fits make for good welds. The two–piece hull is welded to an aluminum extrusion at the centerline; the extrusion both strengthens and stiffens the hull. A robotically welded grid supports the hull, which is further reinforced by transverse bulkheads and other aluminum structure. Finally, TRACKER injects foam into unused hull cavities for flotation and to improve stiffness and quiet the ride. Each TRACKER is covered by a limited lifetime hull and structural warranty.
The Pro Team 195 TXW is leader of the TRACKER Mod-V pack, and she is both fast and rugged. With a 150-hp Mercury Four Stroke on the test boat's PowerTrac set-back transom, our captain measured a top speed of 57.9 mph. That's the biggest engine available, but it's not much extra dinero over the boat with base power, a 90-hp Four Stroke: $24,995 vs. $21,195, for boat, motor, and trailer.
Built of welded aluminum using essentially the same materials and process as the Targa V-20 WT, the Pro Team 195 TXW rides on a flatter, lower-deadrise hull (10 degrees at the transom, 16 degrees at the bow) that makes her a rock-solid casting platform. The casting decks and cockpit floor are made from pressure-treated plywood, better than aluminum for absorbing heat, vibrations and noise. Marine-grade carpeting provides sure footing. Compartment lids are aluminum, with rain channels to keep the insides dry.
TRACKER loads the Pro Team 195 TXW with fishing gear: A Minn Kota® Edge 12v. trolling motor is standard; a single battery is standard, but the wiring's in place for a second. A Lowrance® HOOK-4 color fishfinder is standard. Lockable rod stowage, a 27-gal. livewell, two folding fishing seats, two-bank battery charger, in-floor cooler, even the fire extinguisher and paddle -- all are standard.
TRACKER builds a Tournament Edition of the Pro Team 195 TXW, too; it's the same boat but with upgraded equipment -- a second fishfinder, more powerful trolling motor, hydraulic steering, extra batteries, etc. It costs $2,000 more than the standard boat.
The Pro Team 175 TXW is the best-selling fishing boat in the world, according to TRACKER. It's the descendant of the first TRACKER built by Johnny Morris four decades ago. A smaller version of the Pro Team 195 TXW, the Pro Team 175 has most of the same equipment, including the trolling motor and fishfinder; is built to the same standards as the bigger TRACKERs; and comes with a custom-matched trailer with GALVASHIELD Impact powder-coat finish that's backed by TRACKER’s multi-layer corrosion protection. (Powder coating uses an electrostatic charge to attract dry color particles -- like colored flour -- to a metal surface. The metal is then heat-treated to bond the color to the surface.)
The trailer isn't the only powder-coated component in the package: TRACKER finishes all their Mod-V and Deep-V boats not with paint, but with their multi-layer Diamond Coat finish. The company says Diamond Coat is three times harder, four times thicker and lasts up to 20 times longer than liquid paint.
Applying Diamond Coat is a complex process: After the hull is cleaned by a multi-stage wash, two powder-coats of color are applied, followed by a clear coat. The hull is baked at 500 degrees to bond the paint to the aluminum "at the molecular level," according to TRACKER. The result is a finish more like that on a new car than on a typical boat hull.
The Pro Team 175 TXW carries much less horsepower than her bigger sister, so doesn't go nearly as fast. Our test boat managed 35.2 mph with a 60-hp Mercury FourStroke with two people aboard; on the other hand, at cruising speeds in the low-20-mph range -- fast enough for an 18-footer on all but calm water -- fuel efficiency was more than 8 mpg. That's 160 miles of fun cruising on 20 gallons of gas. Folks desperate for three or four extra mph can upgrade to a 75-hp Mercury 4-Stroke.
The Pro Guide V-16 WT will get folks out on the water for less than the cost of even a bare-bones car, and we guarantee she'll be a lot more fun than some four-wheel clunker. TRACKER lists the Pro Guide V-16 WT for $19,395 with the biggest engine, a 90-hp Mercury FourStroke, or $17,295 with a 60-hp FourStroke. And like all Deep-V TRACKERs, the price includes a trailer, fishfinder and trolling motor.
We tested the Pro Guide V-16 WT ("WT" stands for "walk-through windshield) with the 60 Merc; she ran 30.1 mph WOT. Why is she slower with the same power than the Pro Team 175, which is almost two feet longer? It's the deadrise, and the effect it has on displacement: The Pro Guide V-16 carries 20 degrees of deadrise aft, vs. 10 degrees for the Pro Team 175.
Flatter-bottomed boats go faster, at the cost of a harder ride. The V-16 is also 200 lbs. heavier, thanks to her deeper hull. Both factors affect speed -- but improve ride, comfort and handling. We'd gladly give up a couple of mph at the top end for a smoother riding boat in most cases. It is important to select the boat that best suits the fishing requirements and the body of water were the boat will be used -- and that may mean speed and stability trumps ride.
TRACKER builds the Pro Guide V-16 WT, one of the smallest boats in the Deep-V line, with the same attention to quality they lavish on their largest, most expensive models. She has the same aluminum hull, built with the same 5052 marine alloy, and supported by the same all-welded aluminum grid. (Bounce into a rock or a waterlogged snag, and the advantages of aluminum will be immediately obvious.) Her finish is the same glass-smooth Diamond Coat as mentioned above, her standard equipment list is almost as long, her options list nearly as short.