Nitro Z20

The new Z20 is Nitro’s state-of-the-art tournament boat at an affordable price.

A lot of times when a boat builder replaces a really popular model, it doesn’t stray too far from what made the model successful, but Nitro didn’t stick to that script when it decided to replace its Z8. The designers basically shook the Etch-a-Sketch and created a bassin’ wagon called the Z20, which is new from the keel up.

Unique Factor

While the outward dimensions of the Z20 are similar to the Z8 — it’s one inch longer and still 8 feet wide — the most startling difference is best viewed head-on. The hull looks unlike anything we’ve seen before. Nitro calls it the NVT Hull (Nitro Vortex Technology), and instead of traditional strakes, it has a series of parabolic curves, which look and act differently, but more on that later.

The overall theme of the Z20 is more: as in storage, comfort and refinement. Its overall dry weight is 100 pounds more, at an even one ton. Curiously, however, a couple of things shrank, including the maximum allowable four-passenger weight, which went from 850 pounds to 600 pounds, but bass anglers usually travel in twos or threes, so that’s really not a big deal. The other feature that got smaller is the gas tank, which went from 68 gallons to 55.


I could tell something was different when I shifted the Mercury 250 OptiMax Pro XS in gear for the first time. Gone was the really loud clunk I was used to hearing, replaced by a much quieter snick, which was the new Flo-Torq SSR (Soft Shift Rubber) HD hub at work on the Torque Master lower unit. The hub itself is solid stainless steel but has a bonded rubber drive sleeve that cushions the gear’s engagement. The new hull still features Nitro’s Rapid Planing System (RPS), which has a notch at the transom and a stepped transom, giving the prop less disturbed water, for a better prop bite — and it really works. Normally, bass boats pop a stern-squatting bow wheelie and take a while to get on plane, but the new NVT and the RPS designs work really well together. After I stomped on the optional Hot Foot accelerator, there was very little bowrise and the boat reached plane in just 3 seconds. Time to 30 mph was a quick 7.4 seconds, and when we trimmed the Mercury 250 up and aired out the hull to reduce wetted surface, the Z20 was nearly flying at 74 mph.


Bass boats aren’t normally known for their turning ability, and I’ve been scared by a few that caught chines and turned hyper-violently, which is why I always wear a kill switch and a life jacket when driving one. But hard turns with the Z20’s NVT hull are different. Taking progressively harder turns, with the trim down, I discovered I could really crank it hard over, because the event was predictable and very smooth. At high speeds, it was very stable, even with very little hull in the water. One of the coolest attributes of the NVT hull is that when it comes off plane suddenly, water doesn’t go rushing into the splashwell or onto the rear deck, thanks to its anti-backwash stern design. It’s also designed to deliver a drier ride by knocking down spray.

On test day at Table Rock Lake, not far from where Nitros are built in Springfield, Mo., the water was unusually placid, so we couldn’t tell how the new hull would fare in rough water. Like its predecessor, the Z20 has 16 degrees of deadrise, which is more than most other bass boats and should provide a smooth ride.

Best Uses

While the alpha dogs on tour might be using the Z21, a lot of club anglers and avid bass fishermen will use the Z20. It’s designed for efficiency and long days of fishing with features such as the anti-fatigue pad on its casting decks. The gunwale is lower this year to help anglers more easily swing a fish aboard or pitch a lure. Twin rod boxes set into the front deck can hold up to 10 8-foot rods, and the centerline tackle locker in between is big enough to hold a steamer trunk. All three compartments include a fan, to help dry wet gear. Twin storage compartments on the rear deck have lift-out bins for ease of transporting and loading gear. The passenger seats are a vast improvement over the old overstuffed buckets; they are actually designed with a NASCAR flair, in collaboration with legendary driver Tony Stewart, who drives the Bass Pro Shops number 14 Chevy. Twin 19-gallon livewells are among the best in the business and have rounded rotomolded edges and baffles to keep bass from sloshing around. A handy pull-out ruler is nearby for convenience. A much larger cooler is under the step-up to a front deck that has a sandwich bin and a trash can.

Preferred Setup

The option plan for the Z20 is pretty easy. Serious bass anglers need only select one box on the options list: the Pro High Performance Package. While it does raise the price by $8,000, it saves $3,800 off the normal upgrade cost, and Tracker’s No-Haggle, No-Hassle national pricing for this boat starts at just $38,995 with a trailer and a 200 hp OptiMax. Our test boat did not have the Pro upgrade, and several deficiencies were immediately apparent, such as the outdated Lowrance Mark 5-X Pro fishfinder, a 5-inch grayscale display set into a space at the helm designed for a 12-inch screen (looking as out of place as an 8-track tape player on a new Cadillac CTS-V). The Pro upgrade includes two state-of-the-art Lowrance HDS 9 Gen 3 touchscreen GPS/fishfinders, a Power-Pole shallow-water anchoring system, a four-bank battery charger with an extra battery, a Hot Foot accelerator, a Pro-Trim lever, a factory-applied Keel Guard, a remote oil fill, an automatic bilge pump and a HydroWave, which is something we’ve never seen before. It’s an electronic fish attractor, which draws fish to the boat like the Pied Piper by simulating a variety of sounds, such as a school of baitfish being savaged by predators. The only other upgrades needed are bumping the electronics displays up to 12-inchers and going with the Mercury OptiMax Pro XS 250 ($4,300). Lock and load.

Owner Review


Purchased by David and Renee McCormick, plus Riley, 11, and Abby, 6, Lee’s Summit, Mo.

Purchased at Pro’s Choice, Warsaw, Mo.


LOA: 20 ft., 2 in.
Beam: 8 ft.
Fuel: 55 gals.
Engine: Mercury OptiMax Pro XS 250
Base Price: w/test power $44,790
Standard Equipment:

Dual-axle trailer w/swing-away tongue, Minn Kota Maxxum 24v trolling motor, manually adjustable jack plate, bow bike seat, removable port console, boarding ladder

Optional Equipment:

Humminbird or Lowrance electronics, Hot Foot throttle control, Sony Bluetooth stereo, hydraulic jack plate, CoolGuard livewell cooling system, center bucket seat, Elite 4-color hull


Tracker Marine,

9 thoughts on “Nitro Z20

  1. The Nitro Z20 I recently purchased has good fishability. However; with the livewells full of water and adequate gas; the boat has a serious porpoising issue untill I reach the 4200 r.p.m. mark. With boat loaded; don’t expect over 65 m.p.h… and is real slow about getting on plane.
    I’ve tried several props from a 24 & 25 pitch Fury as well as a 4 blade Bravo 25 pitch. Nitro needs to go back to the drawing board.
    To truly test a boat for results; test it when it is loaded. Which is normally the way it is.

  2. Agreed- I’ve had the same issue during the break-in period (and presently) and when I explained this to my salesman, he treated me like a high-school twerp who’s never owned and operated a boat before. This is my (4th) boat and I understand there’s no two boats alike and drive differently but the boat does porpoise too much unless it’s trimmed down. You shouldn’t have to trim down that far to get it to stop. I’m curious to all who have one if you’re experiencing the same thing? Otherwise, the boat does drive good but is NOT a boat for med-heavy chop despite the weight.

    • I agree with u both these boats have a porpoising issue. The boat anywhere from 30 to 40 mph is unsafe to handle. My boat came with Fury 25, which handles awfully.
      I recently tried a 27 Tempest plus which improved the porpoising some but made the boat squirrelly above 68 mph. I had a 26.5 Bravo 1xs which was designed for this boat yesterday and will run today. The Mercury rep explained that this is the prop that was designed for this boat. Anxious to see the results. The boat fishes great but it is a tough boat to find a safe setup to run. High speeds give a pretty severe chine walk and low speeds will litterally beat you out of the seat. Will update

  3. If you buy this boat without a 250 you will be under powered for sure. This is a heavy rig and to get the full potential a 250 is a must. I’m a heavy guy (300+) and with a full load and a 25 Tempest Plus @ 3.5″ below pad mine will run 72.5 with a rocket like holeshot empty/full livewells it’s all the same. With a partner it will do 70. The Fury is not going to give you the lift to run this boat so go with a larger diameter Tempest and it will make a huge difference. No this isn’t the fastest rig on the water but it’s fast enough and I like fishing off of a deck that looks and feels like a California King Size Mattress. The Tempest will also calm the porpoising issue and the rest can be cured with proper trim control. Overall it’s a great fishing platform and excellent value.

  4. I’m Having the same porpoising issue at lower speeds as well. I have to keep the trim just below half way to get it to calm down, also, dropping my jackplate helps as well. I higher RPM and speeds it runs great. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  5. Just started to break in my new z20 and I’m having the same issue. It’s a very sluggish hole shot and also starts to get swirly when I hit 65 at 3/4 throttle and 1/4 trim up. Any suggestions on how to solve the walking motion?

  6. Pingback: Nitro Z20 – Boat Test – Fishing –

  7. I have an 2018 model z20, rocket hole shot, haven’t had any porpoising issues, could be your weight distribution or just getting the trim dialed in. Most boats come factory rigged with the best prop set up, and jack plate height. Just need to learn to drive the boat, they’re all different. My 2011 Z8 handled different than my z20 does, trim settings are different etc. typically, if you start chine walking at higher speeds you can trim down a hair and it will settle down. Or learn how to drive it fast with the walking and make minute steering corrections to really fly!

    I keep all my plastics, lead/tungsten in the back storage and all my lighter stuff up front, also need to pay attention to your rod lockers and what you have in them. If your boat is heavy on one side you can “fall off” pad which makes handling rough. I would recommend messing with weight distro prior to changing props and motor heights.

  8. I have a 2017 Z20 haven’t had any problems all out or half speed I agree about make sure your load is distributed right so it doesn’t get wild on you.


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