Bass Cat Puma Review


BBM Personel Director
May 11, 2009
Bass Cat Puma Review

By Steven Neu

The Bass Cat Puma and its brother the Puma FTD just might be the best boats in any line up! The “all fiberglass” compression manufacturing, utilizes our trademark vacuum process, which is years ahead of other bass boats construction methods.
The 20′4″ hull with its 94″ beam is rock solid. This hull is very stable, yet agile even in the roughest waters. The deck layout provides storage from the bow to the console with six (6) compartments. There’s even a place for your net and measuring board, close within reach. It’s trendy modular consoles designed to provide space for a built-in LCR. Plus, conversion to a dual console (DC) is a pretty simple process. This console also sports a custom designed Italian steering wheel with six (6) sides, and a Bass Cat mark in the center cap. Beside the console you will find two cool items. First, lighted handrails, which are, too cool, and added pop up mooring cleats at your fingertips for securing your ride at the dock. Compare the standard features, performance, handling, rough water ride, quality craftsmanship, customer satisfaction, and Bass Cats reputation to any bass boat on the market…bar none.
Our structures carry a Transferable Limited Lifetime Structural Warranty.
Length ……………………………….. 20′4″
Min. Storage Length …………….. 25′6″
With Swing Away Tongue ……….. 23′
(Add 4″ for Yamaha Outboards)
Beam ……………………………………. 94″
Approx. Wt. ………………….. 1805 lb.
Fuel Capacity ……………………. 43 Gal.
Max. H.P. Range ………………. 200-300

Here is what JD Powers has to say:
Model Introduction
The Bass Cat Puma 20 is a single-mission tournament bass boat, Bass Cat built the Puma specifically to take the weight of a large V-6-outboard, with a little more beam than previous models, and gave the boat some euro styling for good measure.
The Bass Cat Puma 20 gets off to a strong start with high-quality construction methods and materials. Probably most significantly, the complete hull laminate is wet out using a premium vinylester resin, which has physical properties close to that of the fiberglass reinforcements. This makes an all-vinylester laminate superior (it’s stronger, more impact-resistant, has better cosmetics and appearance, and is far more resistant to osmotic blistering) to one using orthophthalic or isophthalic resins, all else being equal.
The solid fiberglass hull layup is supported by a 1-piece fiberglass flanged stringer gridwork that is bonded with fiberglass between the hull skin and the grid’s flanges, then vacuum bagged in place while the fiberglass is setting up. Vacuum bagging is the best possible means of clamping two surfaces under great pressure, and it does so uniformly to all the surfaces covered by the bag. Once the fiberglass is cured, the bag is removed and the voids within the grid (and elsewhere in the hull) are pumped full of foam, adding positive floatation and substantial sound deadening.
The transom is built of solid fiberglass and microsphere fiberglass composite laid up between inner and outer molds. Wood is not used on this boat, structurally or otherwise. The hull-to-deck joint is riveted together to hold it in place, and then fiberglassed together and also to the hull grillage and transom.
Bass Cat is confident enough in its construction methods and materials to include a lifetime structural warranty with the boat, which is transferable to subsequent owners. Given how well the boats are built, they will not have too much trouble backing this up over time. It’s pretty hard to imagine a better built boat than the Bass Cat, which is part of the reason for the company’s success.
Hull Design
The Bass Cat Puma 20 has a modified-vee bottom with a sharp entry tapering to moderate transom deadrise. The boat has a very good ride, especially considering how shallow hull deadrise is on bass boats in general. The Puma 20’s hull includes a pair of essentially molded-in trim tabs, which would tend to reduce or eliminate porpoising and help get the boat up on plane a bit faster. The test boat was also fitted with a keel-chaffing pad forward that offers protection for the gelcoat against abrasion from grounding.
The Bass Cat Puma 20 is conventionally laid out (the generic bass boat layout is pretty much down to a science, with slight variations in locker and livewell location) with fore and aft carpeted casting areas atop a deck comprised largely of hatches leading to various lockers and livewells.
Starting at the forward end of the boat, there are rod storage lockers outboard, and net, tool and incidental storage inboard on centerline, including tackle storage and even a plastic box inside one of the lockers for the registration and other papers to keep them dry and out of harm’s way. There’s also a deck compartment for a net and measuring stick forward, as well as an insulated cooler just forward of the cockpit along with a day storage box. A pair of Velcro-fastened straps hold rods down securely when they’re not in the rod storage boxes below the deck.
The electric trolling motor is in the bow. Similar to most units, it is strapped down horizontally on the deck when not being used. A pull on a line releases a mechanism that allows the motor to be raised up and lowered into trolling position. Connected to two deep-cycle batteries back aft, the motor is controlled by a foot pedal that uses heel and toe action to turn it left and right, and a second pedal to control the on-off switch. A third control adjusts current flow to the motor, which regulates propeller speed and thrust. The motor on the test boat had more than enough thrust to move it.
The fixed cleats in the bow and stern are recessed to prevent snagging, and one doesn’t have to go through the trouble of popping them up and down every time to use them or put them away.
In the center of the boat in the recessed cockpit, the helm and companion seats are well-padded and contoured, and even have adjustable spring-loaded lumbar supports. The padded bolsters help to restrict lateral movement in a tight, high-speed turn. In a little touch of class, the plastic handrails outboard of the two cockpit seats light up with the company logo highlighted. There’s also a bonus pair of pop-up cleats that are handy for tying off. Between the two cockpit seats is a flip-up deck panel that holds a throw cushion at the ready, a very sensible design feature.
The test boat had a pair of side consoles, with the one on the port side affording a little wind and spray protection for the passenger, and providing room for a glove box for dry storage of small articles. To starboard is the helm console, ergonomically laid out with the steering wheel, engine control binnacle, gauges and electronics intelligently situated for comfortable operation. The boat also had a padded steering wheel that afforded a good, comfortable grip. The Lowrance GPS plotter took up a majority of the helm console to starboard, and it’s an important piece of equipment, helping anglers get back to their favorite spots without involving any guesswork.
Below the side-mounted engine control at the helm console is a master switch for the electrical system, including the helm console, engine starting and trolling motor. There is plenty of legroom at the helm console, and the steering wheel and throttle double as handholds for the driver when running at the 60- to 70-mph speeds this boat is capable of. The passenger has a strap to hold onto under the seat, along with the gunwale-mounted acrylic handrail.
Back aft is a second casting platform with more storage compartments, along with the boat’s two-compartment livewell below. On the Puma, all of the deck hatches, or lids, are equipped with micro switches that turn on lighting inside the boxes when opened, and there’s also cockpit courtesy lighting around the deck perimeter. Back at the stern, the discharge fittings for the livewell pumpout and the two bilge pumps are near the boarding ladder, up high where one can see them, and higher off the waterline than hull-mounted fittings could be located. The idea is to add more insurance against taking on water through these fittings if the hoses were to come loose.
At the transom, a Detwiler hydraulic jack plate supports the 225 hp Mercury Optimax. Being able to adjust the engine height is a strong point. The jackplate allows the engine to be raised vertically in shallow water to reduce draft, it minimizes risk to the prop when putting the boat back on the trailer at the launching ramp, and it also makes it possible to fine tune the engine height to help optimize high-speed performance.
Engine and Propulsion
The test boat had a Mercury Optimax 225 Pro XS engine mounted on a hydraulic jack plate. The mechanical compartment is under a removable hatch just forward of the engine. Inside are two deep-cycle trolling motor batteries, a starting battery, the outboard’s VRO tank, and a charger that feeds all three batteries. There’s a pair of bilge pumps–one manual and one automatic, as well as livewell recirculating and aerator pumps with pump bodies that, incidentally, are interchangeable with the bilge pumps if need be.
The Puma comes with three fuel tanks-one on centerline forward, and two aft on either side outboard of the mechanical compartment. Two valves control suction from the tanks, either drawing from the center tank or the two aft tanks together.
Sea Trial
The test ride, on Lake Champlain, offered a bracing few hours on the water. With temperatures in the low 40s, and a steady 20-mph SE wind, conditions were perfect for putting the Bass Cat Puma through its paces.
The first order of business was the speed run. The test boat’s big 225-hp Optimax XS made short work of getting the boat up on plane and up to speed. The engine not only offered very strong acceleration from any mid- to high-range throttle setting, but also ran very clean, with very little noticeable fumes, even at low speed with the wind coming from abaft the beam. These direct-injected 2-strokeengines have come a long way from the days of carbureted engines–cleaning up their act, and burning a lot less fuel in the process.
The Puma topped out at 71.6 mph with 2 passengers (about 500 lbs. total), and 2/3 fuel onboard. Having run three bass boats within a 2-week period, a Ranger Comanche Z21 (250 Yamaha HPDI), a Skeeter 20i (250 Yamaha HPDI) and this Bass Cat Puma 20 (Mercury 225 Opimax), it’s interesting to note that the three all hit precisely 72 mph.
The Optimax’s trim limiter stopped the engine from tilting up so far that the prop would ventilate, but far enough so the hull was clear of the water with the exception of the last foot or so of running surface. Running at 65 to 70 mph, trimming the engine all the way up to the stops, had the boat chine walking (an oscillation in roll that happens when very little of the hull is in contact with the water). Chine walking under these conditions is not unusual in a boat as fast and light as the Puma, but it’s important to know how to control it (slow down gingerly, trim the engine in, move weight forward, or all three). This is a great deal of power for so small a boat, so those not experienced at driving a small high-powered, light boat like this one should be sure to spend plenty of time with the dealer or a knowledgeable bass boat owner before taking delivery of a boat such as this.
The Bass Cat Puma 20 did not have a tendency to porpoise at any throttle or trim setting, perhaps due to the small hull extensions aft and outboard mentioned earlier that limit bow rise and increase dynamic lift aft.
Helm ergonomics worked very well, with the controls well positioned for seated driving. There’s also plenty of legroom at the wheel, and plenty to hold onto at speed.
The hydraulic jack plate lets the boat get into shallow water with the motor level, rather than having to tilt it up to clear the bottom. It also comes in handy when adjusting the depth of the lower unit at high speed–in calm water, one may raise the motor to reduce drag, and in rougher water, lower it just enough to keep the prop from ventilating. It’s also great to have back at the launching ramp, when raising the motor makes powering onto the trailer a lot less hazardous.
Finally, it’s worth noting how easy it is to drive the Bass Cat onto its custom trailer at the ramp. The carpeted trailer wheel well liners serve as natural guides to keep the boat centered over the rollers and bunks below.
Manufacturer’s Comments
The Puma is presently at the top of the Bass Cat lineup and has great popularity for its ride and features. Bass Cat is an All Fiberglass hull construction with a Transferable Lifetime Warranty, the only one transferable for life to the next owner. The boat is a base Vinyl Ester blended resin with both the boat and trailer made exclusively by Bass Cat. The carpet and accessories are all premium quality and represent the best raw material goods available to the marine climate.
All dash and accessory components are made to withstand the environment of the outdoor industry and have been selected for their dependability and functionality in the pressing rigorous tournament uses that the boats were design to perform in. Simplicity and function over cosmetic appeal are keys to the success of Bass Cat. Bass Cat prides itself on being the oldest family owned and operated company with over 35 years of history. In those years they have not failed, sold or changed the core principles which have built their reputation of customer service. Innovations abound in many of the models and extend back through the heritage as one of the premium tournament grade bass boats. Models are available from the Sabre and Sabre FTD through to the Puma model, which are able to handle from a 115-hp engine through to the 300 hp range.
The Bass Cat Puma 20 produces a very high-quality, exceptionally well built and good-running boat with an intelligent layout that has obviously made its customers very happy, and loyal to the brand.
This Puma is a high-performance boat that clearly takes experience to operate safely with a 225-hp outboard. Similar to the 100-mph-plus, open-ocean boats, this high-performance bass boat is not for the novice, and should be driven at high speed only after mastering its handling. Once mastering the driving techniques, and fully understand the performance dynamics and how to control them, this boat will be fun to own.
Options include rigging for Yamaha or Evinrude outboards, the port console, boarding ladder, a ski tow bar, GPS and Fishfinder, trolling motors from either Minn Kota or MotorGuide, hydraulic jack plate, lighted livewell, windshield, stereo, keel protector cladding forward, foot-pedal throttle and center fold-down seat.
Company Background
Bass Cat is a small, family-owned and -operated builder of high-end bass boats located in Arkansas, down the road from Ranger, another bass boatbuilder. Now run by the second generation of the founding Pierce family, Bass Cat enjoys very strong customer advocacy and loyalty.-Eric Sorensen