How Shallow Can You Run A Bass Boat?

Buying and owning a bass boat can be super fun, especially if it’s your first time owning a boat, but there are somethings that you need to watch out for. Where do I launch it, how do I launch it, how fast can I go, and how shallow can I take this thing. All those are very good points and some I bet you haven’t even thought of. Keep in mind that most bass boats are made out of either fiberglass, or aluminum, which can puncture very easily if not properly driven.

We are going to take a look at how shallow a bass boat can really go, and when it is a good idea not to take your bass boat into places, even if big fish might be in there. Most bass boats will have an outboard motor and a trolling motor on it. The trolling motor will be used when you get to where you want to go because they are much quieter and will not scare the fish off.

How deep does it have to be to run a bass boat? You typically need at least 1 to 3 feet of water to run a bass boat. When running your boat into the water this shallow, it is extremely important that you take it slow and easy. If you can lift your outboard motor up, and run your trolling motor, you can get away with running in 1 foot of water, as long as you do not have too much weight in your boat.

How Do I know How Deep It Is?

So you are on the water, and you find that sweet fishing spot where you know there is tons of fish, but how do you know your boat will make it, and how do you know how deep it is? The easiest way to find out how deep the water is would be to add a cheap fish finder.

Even the cheapest ones will show accurately how deep you are. Fish finders for smaller fiberglass and aluminum boats are only around $100 bucks, and can be installed at home within a few hours if you are handy. another way is to take one of your oars that are in your boat, and try to touch the bottom.

Since oars are only 4-5 feet long, even if it only comes up half way, you will still be okay to run your boat. You can also use your anchor and line to check the depth of the water. Finally, there are some lakes that you can see the bottom, but be careful, light refracting off the water can give you a false sense of security, so use this as an absolute last chance.

Does A Trolling Motor Matter?

A trolling motor is a must have addition to any bass boat because they are so easy to maneuver and can get you in and out of places that a gas motor would just be too powerful for. Another reason that most anglers have trolling motors is because they run off battery, and much quieter, which will not scare the fish away, so you won’t be sitting there hoping that the fish come back.

If you are able to tilt your motor up, this will give you an extra 10 or more inches of clearance to take your boat, which will allow you to be in about a foot of water to run. Trolling motors are also not water cooled like normal outboard motors, so you can get away with the trolling motor barely being submerged.

What Happens If I Hit Bottom?

So you take your boat out and are having a good time, and all of a sudden, you hear a scraping, scratching, or even worse, your boat comes to a complete stop, what do you do? The first thing you want to do is STOP, turn off your engine or trolling motor, and stay calm. Trying to power through, or back your boat up with a motor might cause more damage to your boat.

Once your boat is stopped you can check your surroundings, and most likely do one of two things. If you know you are only in a foot of water, you can safely hop out, and check out what you hit. If you are in deeper water and do not want to get wet, you can use your oar to safely push yourself off of whatever you ran into and slowly motor back into the dock. If your boat is taking on lots of water, and you cannot make it back to the boat ramp, try and get your boat to safety on shore. It will be cheaper to only fix the body, than it will to fix a water logged motor and hull damage.

Why Go Into The Shallow Water?

So why go into the shallows? Why would I want to go anywhere near shallow water when all the big fish are deep. Fish are everywhere, shallow water, deep water, warm water and colder water. If you are bass fishing, I have seen big 10lb fish in less than a foot of water just laying there.

Bass also make their beds near the shore, so if you are trying to fish during or right before a spawn, you will want to be in shallow water. Trout also thrive in shallow water, especially if the water is cold. Never dismiss shallow water for not having any fish, I have caught some lunkers in 2 feet of water.

Keep Track Of Your Gear And Passengers

One thing you want to keep in mind is that as you add extra gear and people, your boat will sit lower in the water, this is because of water displacement. If you are bringing on 4 people in your boat that are all 200lb’s, you are going to weigh your boat down, so you have to keep track of how much lower in the water you are sitting. If your boat is sitting an extra foot deeper because of gear and people, you might only want to motor into 2-3 feet of water, and not chance getting any closer to shore.

Watch Out For Live Bait

If you have bait tanks in your boat, and you fill them with water, you will also weigh your boat down, just like adding people. Water is actually pretty heavy, so if you have 3 holding/bait tanks, and you fill them up, your boat is going to sit lower in the water than a dry boat would.


Keep all of this in mind while you are motoring out to your fishing spot. If you have the ability to only fill your holding tanks as you use them, go that route and you will be able to get into more places than you would with them full.

Rocks And Stumps

Two major things to look out for in a boat is rocks and stumps/branches. Any time you see something sticking out of the water, that is a red flag to slow down. Trees can be tricky because they can be so big and be sticking out of the water even in 5-10 feet of water, so you might be okay if you just motor around them.

If a rock is sticking out of the water, that is a good sign that you are in really shallow water, or that rock is really big, and your boat is not going to last in a fight with it. I always have someone sitting up front watching out for trees and rocks just in case, especially if the water is murky, or it is foggy when we launch the boat. Hitting a tree or rock, even at a slow pace can tear holes in fiberglass and aluminum, which will sink your boat in minutes.

Final Thoughts

Owning a boat is a lot of fun, but you still need to be responsible, and watch out for any dangers in the water. Keep your boat at a depth which you feel comfortable with taking it, and never listen to your friends when they say they know where the “sweet spot” is. Have someone sit up front for you to keep an eye out for trees and rocks. If you are going to spend thousands of dollars on a boat, spend an extra $100-$200 bucks on a nice fish finder to help you see what your actual depth is. It will also help you see where the fish are, so its a win-win situation.

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How Shallow Can A Jon Boat Run?

Typically, a Jon boat can run in 1-2 feet of water with no issues at all, but this all depends on what your motor shaft length is, and what your hull draft is. The longer the shaft, the deeper you have to be, so make sure you measure it before heading into really shallow water. Hull draft will be the same way.