By Captain Dan Armitage
The name of this boat describes her mission: a pontoon boat that has specialized features for bass or multi-species fishing. Because the Sun Tracker Bass Buggy 18 DLX has twin toons and an affordable price, she is intended for more sedate running, so this is not intended for high-speed towing. Sun Tracker has other boats for towing watersports.
Having said that, during our test of the Bass Buggy 18 DLX, powered by a 40-hp Mercury 4-stroke, we had a WOT speed of 16.8 mph on average, burning 3.8 gph. So that means that you can tow a banana or some other water toys in a pinch, but if that is what you want to do, you should get more power, and maybe even consider a triple-toon. At best cruise, which was at 3500 rpm, we averaged 7.4 mph, burning just 1.3 gph and got 5.34 mpg, for a range of 168 miles from the boat's 32-gallon (121 L) fuel tank -- with a 10% reserve. This is the speed that most people will run the boat most of the time. At that speed, you can motor around for 24 hours without refueling.
Going for a more upscale look, the Bass Buggy 18 DLX features corrugated deck "fencing" coated in a high-gloss black finish and fewer graphics than found on previous models. The deck features a new extruded aluminum edging and has full-width Z-bar supports and sport cleats at each corner.
The all-welded-aluminum motor pod is new for the Bass Buggy 18 DLX this year and serves double-duty by securing the boat’s built-in fuel tank beneath the aft deck. The reservoir’s 32-gallon (121 L) capacity is generous, and by containing the weight of the fuel centered and below deck level, its position helps keep the boat’s center of gravity low.
At the stern to starboard of the motor pod is a heavy-duty boarding ladder that appears to be designed for a larger boat. The ladder has three rungs, unfolds to drop 38'' from the deck, and leads to a small boarding deck outside of the fencing.
Anglers find two aerated livewells aboard the DLX, one on the fishing deck aft and another built into the front of the steering console. Both livewell stations offer rod holders.
An optional fish package adds a Lowrance X-4 Pro fishfinder and a MotorGuide W55 Wireless Series 12V, 55-lb. thrust trolling motor with remote control. The bottom panel of the Bass Buggy’s bow gate is cut out to accommodate the head and shaft of a bow-mounted trolling motor when it is flipped up onto the deck between deployments. This feature allows the gate to remain in place and secured despite the presence of the optional secured motor.
The deck of the Bass Buggy 18 DLX is a hybrid, with 22-ounce marine-grade carpeting underfoot in the cockpit and easy-to-clean, skid-free vinyl flooring on the fish platform aft. Accessories such as cargo netting on the underside of flip-up seat bases add utility to the storage capacity of this 20' (6.1 m) boat.
We appreciate the coverage of the Bimini top, as well as the options for stowing it while fishing, cruising or trailering: folded overhead and secured against the aft supports or dropped down to stow atop the stern railing. Note the amount of deck space to port of the helm in the bird's-eye photo. We like the way the contours of the re-designed helm console reflect those of the helm seat and the lounge seat base, giving the boat a stylish appearance.
An overhead view shows just how much space is available to passengers – including elbow room for anglers – aboard this 20 footer. Check out the combo cup-holder/tackle racks on the bow and the vertical rod storage rack adjacent to starboard of the forward fishing seats. The aft angler has a deck to his or her own, complete with livewell and a rod holder.
On the Road
The trailer for the Bass Buggy is custom built for the boat, with full-length bunks supporting the pontoons and the trailer’s wheels underneath. The trailer structure offers direct support and a broad stance for stable towing. The three-step entry with handrail on the winch stand is a welcome standard feature, as are the EZ Lube hubs and the trailer’s powder-coat-over-galvanized “Galvashield” finish.
The following items are part of the Sun Tracker Warranty --
• Ten-Year Bow-to-Stern Warranty -- that means factory-installed workmanship and materials are covered for ten years from the time of purchase, including electrical components, livewells and plumbing, carpet and vinyl, furniture, Bimini top and much more. Your engine is covered by the Mercury manufacturer's warranty.
• Lifetime Limited Structural and Deck Warranty -- provides coverage for pontoon logs, motor pod, other structural elements including deck supports, perimeter fence rails and gates, and more, for the life of the boat.
• Transferability to Second Owner -- the resale value of your boat can be enhanced by provisions to transfer warranty elements to a second owner. Your Sun Tracker dealer can help you put applicable elements into effect when you are ready.
• One-stop Warranty Resolution -- 10+LIFE coverage offers a one-stop solution, eliminating the need to pursue separate warranties with component manufacturers.
• Full Coverage During Warranty Period -- means there is no pro-rating, or reduction of your coverage over time. So the peace of mind you enjoy at the outset carries throughout your coverage period.
In addition, Sun Tracker even backs its optional trailers by warranting the Galvashield steel tubing against structural failure due to corrosion for three years!
Most of us here at BoatTEST.com have children of our own and appreciate any attempts at addressing the needs of families – especially where boats are concerned. The stability and high bulwarks (aka "fences") inherent with most pontoon boat designs make them an excellent choice for anyone considering boating with youngsters. Just remember that pontoon boats are designed for use on protected waters.
With features such as pinch-free folding seats, dual-locking latches on the gates, a sturdy, deep-reaching boarding ladder, enough elbow room on deck and plenty of protection from the sun and rain overhead, the Bass Buggy DLX is about as family-friendly -- and affordable -- a boat as we can find. Even without the optional fishing package, the boat can serve as a fine fishing platform for occasional angling.
At the end of the day, the 20' Sun Tracker rig is easy to load, trailer back home and store. You can match the boat to the outboard power and price point you wish to hit and get the family on the water for what we feel is a very reasonable cost. Our test boat was powered by a 40-hp Mercury ELPT 4-stroke EFI BigFoot which has an MSRP of $16,895.
Test Result Highlights
- Top speed for the Sun Tracker Bass Buggy 18 DLX (2014-) is 16.8 mph (27 kph), burning 3.8 gallons per hour (gph) or 14.38 liters per hour (lph).
- Best cruise for the Sun Tracker Bass Buggy 18 DLX (2014-) is 8.6 mph (13.8 kph), and the boat gets 5.34 miles per gallon (mpg) or 2.27 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 168 miles (270.37 kilometers).
- Tested power is 1 x 40-hp Mercury EFI BigFoot.
Standard and Optional Features
|Outlet: 12-Volt Acc||Standard|
|Limited Lifetime Yes http://www.suntrackerboats.com/about/warranty.cfm|
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