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Navigating Shallow Water

Don’t be afraid of shallow water. These nine tips will help you get skinny.
Boating Safety

Shallow Water Tactics

Tactic 6
Staying on Plane

When you’re caught in shallow water, the best thing to do can be to keep going and stay on plane, until you reach deeper water.

Sometimes if you find yourself running through water that seems too shallow for your boat, the best thing to do is keep going. When your boat is on plane, it is riding on the V toward the transom, and the prop and drive are elevated. When a boat falls off plane, the forefoot now comes into play and the boat’s full displacement takes effect, meaning it will sit deeper in the water. Also, increased lift occurs in water depth equal to your boat’s draft. You can feel the boat “rise” as you head over the shoal. However, this is a tactic best used when you know the water, not in an unfamiliar area.

Even if you keep the boat on plane, your first instinct may be to slow down. But sometimes, it pays off to go faster. Take a look at how a bass boat flies on plane. At high speeds it’s running on nothing but a small delta pad and almost the entire drive is out of the water — everything but the prop. Conversely, riding at slower speeds tends to make your boat squat, digging deeper in the water. The higher your bow is riding, the deeper the stern.

Going fast can get you into trouble, like with the speedster we saw slam the sandbar, but if you know the water’s deep enough to stay on plane and you have a clear path back to the channel, keeping your speed could be the key to escape.

Run & Gun
1. Maintain your speed to keep the hull and drives as high in the water as possible.
2. Trim the engines to the boat’s performance sweet spot to help the hull release.
3. Running on plane in shallow water increases your boat’s lift, decreasing  draft for running.

Tactic 7
Tabbing Down

Most people associate trim tabs with improving a boat’s ride in rough seas or correcting a list, but they’re also great tools for shallow water situations. When climbing onto plane, dropping the tabs pulls the bow down to plow through the hump rather than climb over it, so the boat keeps a more level attitude. It’s less efficient but it will keep your skeg and prop a few extra inches off the bottom.

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