Anglers who thought they couldn’t afford a Ranger haven’t checked out its aluminum RT series of boats. The new flagship model for 2017 is the RT 198P, which, with a Mercury 150 hp Pro XS, costs less than $29K — including a Ranger Trail trailer complete with aluminum spoke wheels. Ranger started building aluminum boats in 2013 and since then has integrated many features from its legendary fiberglass tournament boats, such as the roomy bow section. It’s all about the little details — recessed foot control for the standard Minn Kota Max 70 BG trolling motor, cupholders and tool holders — that are often left out.
Like on the big rigs, two rod lockers are built into the padded front deck. The centerline locker has a tackle organizer and eight rod tubes that can handle up to 8-foot rods; the portside compartment has seven tubes that can hold up to 6-foot, 6-inch rods. Anglers in run-and-gun mode can avoid tip breakage by parking three rods on the portside ramp, which has three rod tubes built into the front deck. For refreshments, an insulated fiberglass cooler rests just in front of the helm console.
At the fiberglass helm, which has Ranger’s sparkle finish, there’s a standard Lowrance Hook 7 touchscreen GPS/fishfinder that has advanced features such as StructureScan and Insight Genesis, which can build detailed maps of one’s favorite fishing holes. An optional passenger console is available ($519), but adding it eliminates the starboard rod ramp. Between the running seats, there’s a step-up to a rear deck that sits atop a shallow storage compartment perfect for cellphones and wallets. Set into the back deck are twin dry storage compartments and a deep aerated livewell with a divider.
When some people think about aluminum boats, they picture pokey Jon boats, but our test RT 198P rocked our performance test thanks to a Mercury 150 hp Pro XS. Wisely, Ranger only offers this model with 150 hp outboards from Mercury, Yamaha and Evinrude, because it’s the perfect match. On plane in just 2 seconds with little bowrise, our test boat ripped to 30 mph in just 5.2 seconds. It had a surprisingly fast top speed of 56.4 mph, thanks to the bass boat-like planing pad design on the 13-degree deadrise hull, but it was very stable at all speeds.