“Settling” for a family boat instead of a hardcore fishing boat has never been this satisfying.
Working anglers with families sometimes don’t consider premium brands like Ranger because they think such boats are out of reach. A fully rigged tournament battlewagon such as the Z522D Comanche can run well past $80K and might take care of an owner’s fishing requirements, but if the family comes along and wants to ski but can’t, he might have some ’splainin’ to do. Fortunately, anglers can see a Ranger badge on their boat without having to look at it from a doghouse. The newly redesigned 1850MS Reata includes many features from Ranger’s high-end bass boats, adds plenty of family friendly features and stays affordable — its price starts at $40,995, including a trailer. It comes with the Ranger look, too, including a choice of six standard four-tone sparkly gelcoat combinations and a nearly unlimited number of custom combinations.
Despite being one of the shortest boats in Ranger’s fleet, at 18 feet, 10 inches, it’s one of the beamiest, at 8 feet, 4 inches (not counting the rubrail), which creates a huge amount of passenger space. It’s even 6 inches wider than the 212LS, which is the Reata line’s flagship model. For a sub-19-footer, the 1850MS is really stable, a fact I noticed as soon as I boarded and started moving around the boat. The primary angler’s office in the bow lets observers know this is a serious fishing machine, with a large casting deck and an electronics panel that can accommodate up to a 12-inch screen. There’s even an insulated cooler to port just in front of the console, and on the opposite side is a baitwell, so live-bait anglers don’t have to trek to the stern livewell to grab a shiner.
Probably the 1850MS’s cleverest feature is the foredeck filler sectional, which is usually one or two pieces of starboard that have to be stowed when the fishing is done. Here, the bi-fold deck filler stays connected and folds accordion-style to store vertically, and the entire process takes all of two seconds. When it’s time for play mode up front, two pads can be attached to the deck to form lounge seats, though the low gunwale height and lack of a grabrail means they shouldn’t be used when the boat’s on plane. The backrests are permanently set into the front of the twin consoles, to make the conversion quick, but their verticality makes them less comfortable than others.
Our test boat featured Evinrude’s new E-TEC G2 150 hp direct-injected two-stroke, which proved to be a good match even though the 1850MS is rated to handle up to 175 hp. The G2 150 has lots of torque and pushed the boat on plane in 2.4 seconds and to 30 mph in 5.8 seconds, so it has plenty of oomph for waterskiing. Its speed peaked at 48.4 mph, which is respectable. Ranger will rig the 1850MS Reata with Mercury and Yamaha power, but curiously, they are the only two brand choices for the full 175 max hp rating. Ranger’s official reason is that the Evinrude 175 doesn’t provide a significant enough improvement over the 150 H.O. to warrant carrying it in stock, which could be because Evinrude fudges a bit on its horsepower ratings, especially with its H.O. version. That is allowable under the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) guidelines, which marine engine builders follow and allow 10 percent wiggle room either above or below the posted rating. A 150 can produce up to 165 hp, which is likely the case with the E-TEC G2 150 H.O. model.
Despite the 1850MS being the second shortest boat in the Reata lineup — 2 inches longer than the 190LS — it is the heaviest of the bunch at 2,290 pounds, mostly due to the extra beam, though the 190LS has the same beam and weighs nearly 300 pounds less. To me, this is an advantage, because while more weight makes a boat a little slower, it improves the ride when conditions get rough — a tradeoff I’ll make every time. Conditions were pretty benign on test day on Table Rock Lake, near Branson, Mo., but we had just enough chop in more exposed areas of this huge lake to appreciate its ride. The hull itself has 17.5 degrees of deadrise, which puts it between deep-V and flatter hulls, but when that deadrise is combined with the 100-inch beam and the boat’s weight, side-to-side stability is much improved. The 1850MS turns well, only losing prop traction toward the end of really hard turns. If skiing is a frequent activity, a four-blade prop will help get larger skiers up and slashing and whip the 1850MS into a 180 to pick up downed skiers.
As you might guess, the Fish-N-Play series is Ranger’s answer to the Swiss Army knife. Notice the word fish is first, because Ranger is not going to produce a boat that isn’t a great fishing machine. And buyers really don’t have to check a lot of boxes on the option sheet to go right out and start catching fish. Included is a 27-gallon recirculating livewell at the stern. That’s only four gallons smaller than the ones found on bass pros’ Rangers. Under the port gunwale is a lockable rod locker for a pair of rods up to 8 feet that does double duty by providing dedicated storage for the standard ski pylon. The in-floor storage compartment houses six rods up to 7 feet with tubes to protect fragile tips, but 8-footers will fit loosely on the floor.
At the dash is a standard Lowrance Hook 5 fishfinder that’s dwarfed by a huge panel that can handle up to a 12-inch screen. The 1850MS even comes complete with a 24v Minn Kota Power Drive 70 trolling motor and twin pedestal fishing seats for the bow and stern that do double duty in the cockpit behind the captain and copilot seats when running. I didn’t really care for the bulge in the upper part of the seatback that prodded between my shoulder blades. Anglers like to get an early start on the day, as did we, so the extra-tall walleye boat–style windshield was greatly appreciated on our cool fall test day. A Velcro-attached dam would be a nice addition to block the wind between the twin consoles.
Shifting into ski mode is as easy as dropping in the standard aluminum ski pylon. The in-floor locker can accommodate rods and skis at the same time, since the rod tubes are on the sides and leave plenty of room in the middle. And unlike hardcore bass boats, the 1850MS Reata has individual seating for six thanks to the two jump seats that flip up at the stern. An Infinity Bluetooth stereo is standard.
Large-screen electronics should be first on the upgrade list, and Ranger can rig it with a wide assortment of displays up to twin 12-inch Lowrance HDS-12 Gen3 screens ($3,312 each). Ranger offers a Family Fun Package for $2,135 that includes a Bimini top, bow cushions, a stainless steel ski pylon, upgraded trailer wheels and retractable trailer tie-downs. For protection from the great outdoors, a custom boat cover is available for $1,000. There is a wide range of trolling motor options, chargers and outboard kickers. Standard is a single-axle Ranger Trail trailer that can be upgraded to a dual-axle model, if desired, for $1,537.