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Insight into Gator Trax Strike Series Aluminum Bass boats

FEATURED_2015-Gator-Trax-Interview

First things first. We must all thank Kent Saxon for taking some time out of his very busy schedule to allow us this rare insight into Gator Trax boats. So, from myself and hopefully all of our readers at BHQ… Kent, we thank you for bringing a little South to the West.

Kent: No problem….ya’ll. LOL!

I’m sure none of us are strangers to aluminum bass boats. There are plenty on the market. However, when it comes to finding a very capable aluminum rig that can compete with the glass manufacturers out there, well that’s another story.

Let’s get into a little history. Aluminum bass boats have been in production for many years. Since before I was born. Gator Trax has been producing boats for over 15 years so you know they’re experts at what they do best.

That being said, lets get into things a little deeper by asking a few questions so we all can become more familiar with Gator Trax high performance aluminum bass boats.

Zeth:
Let’s start with the most obvious question because I know there are some unique, key build features about your bass boats. What are they and why do you incorporate them?

Kent:
First things first we strive for quality. We cut our teeth in the shallow water boating industry with mud motors, tunnel hulls, jets, and the like. With this style of boating, it a matter of when, not if, you are going to hit something. We expect it. So we’ve been building boats for 15 years that stand up to jumping logs, rocks, sand bars, etc…open water is a breeze! That being said, our first priority of focus is on making you a boat that will never need repair. We back that up with a lifetime warranty by the way. Our hulls are made of .190 aluminum, 5806 marine grade alloy, and a web of proprietary bracing under our floors to prevent stress cracks due to unnecessary flexing. Most of the production aluminum bass boats out there rely on spray in foam to strengthen their hulls. This is a cheap and ineffective way of bracing a boat. We make many of our hulls with no foam at all, it’s optional. So we MUST brace the boat properly, or suffer the consequences.

Next in line of prioritization would be performance. Our performance features include an exclusive pad that allows the boat to get amazing top end speeds for a tin boat that is indestructible, as well as a reverse chine system that allows the boat to turn on a dime and eliminates chine walk at high speeds. These boats are amazingly easy to drive.

Lastly, but probably the most fun to talk about, is our ability to customize these boats however you want them. You choose the size you want, then we ask you, “Ok, how do you want it laid out?”. The rest is up to you. As much deck or as little, as many boxes or as few as you want. When you’ve seen the other boats out there and you say, “ I wish this was like that,” or “why cant my rod box hold an 8.5’ rod”…. this is where you come. That’s what we do. Along those custom lines as well, each boat is hand laid. There are no patterns to your decks and boxes so, your deck was made when a fabricator called out “48 and 3/16”, then the deck was cut and SEAM welded in place! No tabs that get beat with a rubber mallet till they “fit”. Your parts were cut for YOUR boat the way YOU wanted them made… perfect.

Zeth:
Comparing apples to oranges. Especially since there are many dare I say myths about aluminum vs fiberglass.
What is it about Gator Trax high performance bass boats which allows them to compete with the glass boats on the market?

Kent:
Usability. How many guys do I know that are basically afraid to use their boat? Lots. Don’t bump that dock! Don’t let us touch that cypress tree! Oh Lord, we scraped an oyster reef! Why they feel that way is understandable. Have you priced boats lately? Better yet, have you had fiberglass repair done lately? How’s the gel coat holding up to the brutal sun after 7 years? What are those spider web looking cracks in my transom? All problems with glass boats. While our boats are not as light as say an Allison or Gambler…(hulls made for speed, not fishing), they are lighter than most production glass bass boats. The BEST thing about aluminum is nothing has to be permanent. Don’t like your deck layout 3 years down the road? Bring it back and we can rip it out, add to it, or eliminate it altogether. Paint it back and you’d never know it wasn’t built that way originally. Wreck the boat and put a dent in it? We can fix it for less than a new rod n reel in most cases. Overall, aluminum offers the end user much more flexibility with their changing lives and conditions as well as a hull that can get a new paint job and hydroturf flooring every 10 years and still look and function like the day they bought it. You WILL NOT do that with glass.

Zeth:
Now, I understand that your Strike Series bass boats are custom made to the tune of 3-4 boats per year. This means any buyer will get attention to detail, quality and pride in craftsmanship from you. Could you tell us a little something about this custom experience?

Kent:
It’s the Gator Trax Experience. No different than any of our other boats, the experience you get when buying one of our Strike Series Hulls is unique. You will not be told that there are 3 models, 2 colors, and one motor choice… not here. We will wind up asking you more questions than you ask us. These hulls are not cheap and it’s too much money to get it wrong. We want you thrilled when you leave here. And because you play such a large role in the design of your own personal boat, it gives you, our customer, a great feeling of being part of the Gator Trax Team. We build about 350 custom boats per year. 98% of those are shallow water flat bottom boats. They are our “bread and butter” boats. We started building these Strike Series boats (they weren’t called that then) for our own personal use. Well, after being hounded at boat ramps and when people would see them here at our factory, we relented and built one for a customer. I’m not joking… we literally used to hide them in our boat sheds at the factory so no one would ask us to make them one. They are very time consuming and we can make 10 of our flat bottom boats to one of these. So after much demand, we decided to make a FEW each year to those on a waiting list. Yes, there is a list. Sorry.

Zeth:
A major factor in whether to choose aluminum over fiberglass for many people is the price factor. How does a custom Gator Trax bass boat compare in this dept?

Kent:
Right on track…with QUALITY glass hulls. See, there really isn’t anyone making a high performance, quality, aluminum bass boat. I know many of your readers just hit the roof! Sorry guys. What you think is high quality and high performance is just what you are used to. There is something better out there. Our hulls will out turn, out run, and DEFINITELY out LIVE any other production aluminum bass boat on the market… insert name here… doesn’t matter. But our prices are going to be higher than theirs. You get what you pay for. But as it compares to a glass boat, we are right in line. Our Strike series hulls have gone out as cheap as $32K and one left last week for $58K. Since they are all custom, the price tag is really up to you. We sell everything… Electronics, Trolling motors, Power-Poles, Talons, Humminbird, Garmin, Lowrance, Mercury, Suzuki, Honda, jack plates, double axle aluminum trailers with brakes, you name it, we sell it. So the end price varies greatly from one custom boat to the next.

Zeth:
Just out of curiosity… Kent, who are your typical Custom Bass boat customers? Why have your past customers come to you?

Kent:
Previous tin boat owners…. always. I rarely get a first time boat buyer. Why? They just don’t know. “A boat is a boat”…right? Wrong. But a new boat buyer sees a pretty bass boat with a nice plastic dash board, really cute plastic cup holders, the boat’s name printed on the trailer…. its shiny… looks like it’s made well… got a great price and hey, they finance! That’s it… no research, SOLD! He gets it financed for 10 years and before the note is finished being paid its riddled with stress cracks from one end to the next and most every option it had was riveted on and everything is loose and falling off and the boat is ready for the burn pile on the back 40. My customers are guys that played that game already. They have already experienced a poorly designed hull that looked much better on the showroom floor than it performed in the water. They’ve torn them up, worn them out, or got tired of interior layouts that didn’t suit what THEY wanted. They begin to research… they find us online, and then they get in line to have one built. One of the MOST common statements I hear constantly is, “…man, I’ve been looking at your boats for 2 years now. I’m ready to buy the last boat I’ll ever have to buy, and I want it the way I want it.” No problem.

Zeth:
Are there noticeable handling benefits to your custom bass boats over glass? I mean, I would think there would be with the ability to have a custom built hull which would suit the bodies of water you fish most.

Kent:
Our bass boats are made to traverse choppy seas and still draft very little water. Unfortunately with boats, you cant have it all in one boat. If anyone ever figures out how to do that, there will be only one boat made. If your V is too deep, your ride is great but you draft way too much to get in the backwaters. If it’s too shallow, you can get most anywhere you want but it will beat you to death in a 2ft chop. We have tried to incorporate the best of both worlds into our hulls. As much as you can anyway. Our bass boats are made to traverse shallow water easily, yet still offer a comfortable ride in a chop. As far as drivability, our hulls don’t get into that death wobble of chine walking seen in many glass boats. Our hulls wont slide in a turn either. It’s like riding on a rail in a curvy river.

Zeth:
Durability is an important factor when buying a boat. I know this is something Gator Trax prides itself in.
Just how durable are Gator Trax bass boats?

Kent:
Well, we’ve never had to repair any of them… none. Some of our customers will bring us a boat that’s 10 years old. We repaint it, put new flooring (hydroturf) down, and the boat looks like it did 10 years ago. Cosmetics is about the only thing that needs a refresher each decade. So… pretty durable.

Zeth:
Lets finish off with just two more questions.
Seeing as how your boats are custom made, what are some of the more unique and cool modifications you have built into a new bass boat?

Kent:
I wouldn’t know where to start. I used to be amazed at some of the things guys come up with. Now, its just second nature, it’s what we do. Removable sight-fishing platforms, intricate deck hatch layouts, and tricked out lighting are amongst the coolest. Its not the big things usually. Not necessarily something you can see a mile off that impress. It’s the list of 27 items this customer gave me incorporating everything from where he wants his switches, to how he wants the wires run, to the custom center console for two with a race car style shifter on the floor, that makes these boats truly custom. It’s the little things.

Zeth:
Lastly I’d like to ask you if there is anything else you would like to touch on before we part ways here?

Kent:
If guys would like to get a quote, its easy. Just shoot us an email to [email protected] and give me a wish list. Tell me the size, the motor, the trailer, the paint, electronics, trolling motor, the layout… everything you can think of that will help me get you an accurate quote. We will take that wish list and make you a line itemized work order so you can see exactly where your money is going on each item. We will also make a diagram of the boat and then email that back to you. Now you have something tangible to look at and an accurate price. We can tweak that work order back and forth until it’s just right for you. Lead times are generally 12 weeks or so depending on the time of year and we have plenty of shipping options to get your boat to you in an affordable manner.

Zeth:
Well that about sums it up for our interview. Kent I would like to thank you again for taking the time to share Gator Trax boats and for spreading the word about high performance aluminum bass boats.

Click here to check them out on the Gator Trax website >

Zeth Kinnett – Fish On & Keep Dreaming!

BHQ Angler website: www.zethkinnettfishing.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/zethkinnettfishing