H OLE-SHOT IS A MUCH-MALIGNED performance trait. The matter of time it takes for your boat to transition from putt-putting along to being on plane is measured in seconds, often just a handful of seconds. Some boat owners will ask why it even matters.
In reality, hole-shot can be very important. When fishing inshore of backcountry waters and a low tide has you pushing draft as far as you dare, a fast hole shot can mean the difference between getting up and on plane, or running aground.
In a competitive situation it can make the difference between being the first boat to hit the hotspot, and the one that had to choose a different destination. In rough seas it can make the difference between the ability to get over the hump and plane the boat without getting your spine compressed, and bashing against multiple waves as the bow points absurdly high in the sky. So yeah—hole shot does matter.
The second question a lot of folks ask is how they can affect it. Short of throwing down the throttle faster, is there any way you can really control just how quickly your boat gets up and over the hump? Sure there is, starting with propeller choice.
The blades on aluminum propellers flex more than those made of stainless-steel, and it does make a slight difference when the boat’s coming onto plane. Added bonus: you’ll gain a couple mph at top end by going to a stainless prop.
You can make an even bigger difference by swapping out that three-bladed prop for a four-blade. True, this will cut top-end speed by a mph or two, but the difference it makes when you nail the throttle is huge.
Now let’s say you have an aluminum three-bladed prop. Replace it with a four-blade stainless-steel propeller and you’ll have both a better hole shot, and more or very similar top-end speed.
Wait a sec!
Don’t people say that if you hit a rock or other immobile object, an aluminum propeller is more likely to give while a stainless-steel prop is more likely to transfer damage to your lower unit? Yes, and they’re correct. My suggestion would be to get the stainless prop and stop running into rocks.
Another way you can improve your boat’s hole shot is by taking a look at the weight-distribution on your boat. In a nutshell, more weight forward usually translates into a better hole shot since it minimizes bowrise and helps the boat get onto plane faster.
Any waterfowl hunter is used to dealing with this in aluminum boats. How many times have you had to ask someone to scramble into the bow, to get a duck boat to plane out? Yeah, we’ve been there too.
Although on larger fiberglass boats, neither the problem nor the effect is usually quite as extreme, shifting weight forward will make a difference. Sure, you can send someone forward. But you can also relocate batteries from the stern into the center console, shift gear in stowage compartments, and move drink coolers or tackleboxes.
In a real pinch when you’re running aground every time you try to plane and you need the boat to really jump out of the hole, try this. You can fill your forward livewell with water. Also fill any forward coolers or fish boxes to weight down the bow.
Note: Be careful if there are seas of any size, since the bow will act less buoyant than you’re used to. As soon as you’re on plane, the drainplugs should be pulled and the compartments should be evacuated.
In this situation, of course, there are other tactics you should apply as well. Start by trimming the motor all the way in, which helps shove the stern up and the bow down. One of the most effective ways to get up and running when you don’t have quite enough water is to “lean” the boat up onto plane.
Before you attempt this maneuver, warn everyone onboard to hold on tight—and secure any loose gear. Then, while just idling along, turn the wheel hard over. As the boat begins to go into the curve, hit the gas, which will provide forward thrust but also force the boat to lean hard into the turn.
As the boat leans, it effectively reduces draft because the lower unit is no longer pointing directly down, but is instead sideways. When the boat has enough momentum built up to break and remain on plane, crank the wheel back to straight. As the boat stops leaning and the turn is eliminated, you’ll have reduced the draft needed to get on plane by several inches.
The most basic way to improve hole-shot, of course, is simply to remember to trim that outboard all the way in before you hit the throttle. Don’t feel bad when you forget. Even pros sometimes try to take off, wonder why it’s happening so slowly, and look back over their shoulder only to notice that the engine’s trimmed up.
Email Lenny Rudow at [email protected]