188VS brings a prolevel
bass boat into the
Story and Photos
by Bruce W. Smith
Bad is good — and the Ranger 188VS,
the largest of the VS series, is one bad
boat for the money. I found that out
during my first day behind its helm on Bull
Shoals Lake just a few miles from Ranger
There’s something about this 18-foot, 8-
inch boat’s attitude that makes you feel good
sitting behind the helm or standing at the bow.
The newest and largest Ranger entry into
the “value-priced,” pro-level tournament
bass boats isn’t the quickest platform on the
water, but it doesn’t have to be to prove itself
worthy of accolades.
When I first set foot aboard the 188VS, it
was early morning. To my surprise, Randy
Hopper, president of Ranger Boats, and
Forrest Wood, Ranger’s founder, were already
on the water in another boat. But the Ranger
bass boat they were in as they motored away
from the ramp was the very one you see in
some of Ranger’s ads that show the dynamic
duo fishing from a boat with big sections cut
from the hull — and the water level in the
boat is above the seat bottoms.
Of course, one of the Ranger selling points
is the upright floatation and extreme stability
designed into each fishing platform. On
this morning, Hopper and Wood were actually
headed out for a photo session demonstrating
those aspects when I arrived for my
own test session with the new 188VS.
nice response to the trim resulting in a high
bow angle at wide-open throttle. The 188VS’
bow attack angle and nimbleness across the
water make you feel like you are going a lot
faster than the GPS indicates.
Of course, those very same attributes lead
to a boat that takes a little driver skill and concentration
once the 188VS pops up on the pad
and you trim it to eek out those last couple
mph — or encounter boat wakes where it
pays to get the bow down.
■ Rod and dry storage are bountiful aboard the Ranger 188VS. Note the built-in rod organizer in the
port rod locker.
Seeing them fishing and motoring around
the lake in a boat that you’d swear would sink
at any second reinforced one of the points
common to all Ranger boats: They are built
well beyond industry standards and Coast
Guard requirements. That’s both good and
bad, depending on your perspective.
The good part is that Ranger’s boats are built
stout using the very best materials, from the
thick-walled storage compartments and highgrade
carpet to the resins, materials and the
bonding adhesives used to build the boat itself.
That makes for a boat that is going to hold up to
the most severe use for years while providing a
solid, safe and well-designed fishing platform.
On the downside, because Rangers are built
stout, they weigh more than many of their competitors’
boats, which oftentimes makes Flippin’s
finest a tad slower when it comes to
Those who buy Rangers already know all
that and would prefer owning a boat that has
earned a strong reputation within the industry
for fit, finish and fishability. The Ranger
188VS dual-console looks like it’s going to continue
place) directly to the hull, fill the voids with
floatation foam, and the result is basically a
The 188VS’ solid hull negates the sound of
water slap and vibration, which, in turn, gives
you a very real sense that you are running in a
much bigger, heavier boat.
But it handles more like a sports car. The
wide 921/2-inch beam, coupled with Sea Star
Pro hydraulic steering, and the short hull make
it easy to slip in and out of tight areas or to maneuver
in the crowded waters around the boat
ramp at day’s end. This boat would feel right at
home on small impoundments, reservoirs, lakes
or on any river short of the lower Mississippi.
Out on the open water, those familiar with
older Rangers will find the 188VS very similar
in handling to the old 350V, which exhibited a
A TRUE PERFORMER
Speaking of wringing out the new Ranger, we
couldn’t resist doing that repeatedly because,
well, it was just plain fun.
Our test boat was rigged with an Evinrude
E-Tec 150 propped with a 22-inch-pitch Raker.
The 188VS is rated for up to 175 hp, which I’d
recommend for those with a need for speed
— or at least the need to see 60 mph.
The 150 ’Rude responds quickly and smoothly
to throttle demands, and with the little Raker
on the business end, it popped the Ranger to
30 mph in 8 seconds. That’s a fairly quick
holeshot for a boat that weighs somewhere in
the neighborhood of 2600 pounds with two
Fuel economy is just as impressive. Evinrude
is big on promoting the fuel-efficiency of
the E-Tec technology. During our tests, the 150
E-Tec averaged 3.4 mpg from the time it rolled
on plane until it reached top end. The best fuel
number we saw was 4 mpg at 3000 rpm (29.9
mph), which gives the 188VS a cruising range
of nearly 140 miles on its 38-gallon fuel tank.
The performance disappointment came at
the top end; we could only get the 150 E-Tec
to turn 5200 rpm, which resulted in a top
speed of 54.8 mph. We were expecting a top
speed in the high 50s.
ONE TOUGH HULL
Ranger builds its bass boats with the notion
that the less flex between hull and deck cap
the better. To that end, they use a process
called “pulltrusion” to make the fiberglass
composite material used in the floor, transom
and deck. The pulltrusion composite is closer
in strength to steel than fiberglass. Plus, they
put stress-directed fiberglass in the strakes
instead of putty and use one-piece fiberglass
stringers to further stiffen the hull.
Add in structural bonding agents that cement
the deck cap (which is molded with the
storage boxes and other compartments in
38 April 2006 BassAndWalleyeBoats.com
■ The driver console is nicely laid out, including placement of the Lowrance X-135 depthfinder and
the array of toggle switches that control boat power. Legroom at the helm is enough to keep over-sixfooters
in the comfort zone.
Ranger 188VS DC
Base Price: $31,112
Price As Tested: $31,112
Length: 18’ 8”
Beam: 7’ 9”
Rigged Weight: .
Maximum Horsepower: 175
Standard Equipment: Teleflex hydraulic steering;
24-volt Minn Kota trolling motor; on-board Pro-
Charger 15x2; Lowrance X-135; ProStow tackle organizer;
rod storage system; power pedestal seats;
tandem-axle Ranger Trail trailer with swingaway
tongue; recirculated/aerated livewell system; stainless
Optional Equipment as Tested: None
Engine Tested: Evinrude E-Tec 150
Type: EFI 2-stroke V-6
2.6L (158 cid)
Weight (per mfg.):
Recommended WOT RPM: 4500-5500
Gear Ratio: 1.86:1
22” Raker stainless 3-blade
■ The recessed footwell for the Minn Kota 24-
volt trolling motor adds to angler comfort on the
bow. The 188VS is a very stable fishing platform.
Ranger said our test boat was set up properly
and that there wasn’t anything left on the
table. Still, Evinrude lists the 150 E-Tec operating
range as 4500-5500 rpm, with peak horsepower
coming at 5250. That puts our engine’s
rpm on the low end of the power curve. We
also noted a slight “miss” in the engine during
the WOT runs that couldn’t be cured. So, don’t
be surprised if a similarly rigged 188VS ends up
being quicker than the one we tested.
■ Evinrude’s 150 E-Tec is ideal on the new
Ranger if you are trying to keep weight down
and fuel economy up.
The 188VS’ fishing stability is second to
none. We spent a couple of hours annoying
Bull Shoals bass off windy points and in protected
coves. No matter where my Ranger pro
partner, Jim “Big Daddy” Nolan, or I moved on
the deck, the little Ranger stayed rock steady.
It also seemed to hold straight against crosswinds,
which made fishing those windy points
a lot easier behind the power of the 24-volt
Water Temperature: 75.4F
3 mph crosswind
Engine Speed Fuel Range 1
(rpm) (mph) (gph) (mpg) (miles)
1000 4.7 2.2 2.1 73
1500 6.4 3.1 2.1 71
2000 8.2 5.1 1.6 55
2500 9.7 6.7 1.4 50
3000 2 29.9 7.5 4.0 136
3500 34.9 9.7 3.6 123
4000 42.1 12.0 3.5 120
4500 47.2 13.4 3.5 120
5000 53.4 15.8 3.4 116
5200 54.8 16.3 3.4 115
Based on 90% fuel capacity
Optimum cruise speed
P.O. Box 179
Flippin, AR 72634
DOWN TO FUNCTION
From a basic layout standpoint, the new
Ranger is no different from any other midsize
bass boat. What is different is that the 188VS
feels more like a 20-footer as far as fishing
room and interior spaciousness. Legroom is
more than abundant under the consoles, even
for those well north of 6 feet.
There’s also abundant room in the dual rod
lockers: the port accommodating 7-inch, 6-
foot rods in the built-in rod storage system;
the starboard handling 7-foot rods or a lot of
mixed gear and tackle. The box lids are big,
and gas struts assist you when opening them
and keeping them open.
Your backseater can keep his rods handy by
strapping them down on the angled rod holder
alongside his seat. More gear, tackle and
snacks/drinks can be stored in four other compartments
located fore and aft of the cockpit.
40 April 2006 BassAndWalleyeBoats.com
■ The rear deck is typical of an 18-foot bass boat. Every inch available under the deck is put to good
use. Livewell lids are insulated to keep water temps cooler during the heat of summer.
When you are lucky — or good — enough to
bring a fish to deck, which Big Daddy Nolan is on
both counts, the 188VS has a pro-level, divided
livewell to keep them feisty and happy until
No doubt the newest addition to the Ranger
VS line is going to catch the favor of a lot of
pros looking for a smaller package that delivers
the same level of overall performance of
a bigger platform.
Smaller boats cost less to use both on the
water and to trailer; they’re easier to keep
garaged (Ranger Trail trailers have swingaway
tongues), and they’re a little easier on the
bank account. Still, at $31K, the new Ranger
isn’t cheap. The upside is Rangers hold their
resale value very well, so when it comes time
to sell, you are still smiling.
That’s the beauty of the Ranger 188VS —
you smile a lot. BWB