Boats and Maintenance

How to Make Your Old Bass Boat Look Brand New

Walker Smith

If you've read any of my articles for the past several years, you're well aware that I don't necessarily buy into the whole shiny, brand-new boat stuff. I'd love a new, shiny boat but I refuse to make payments on one. So I've been rolling with my 21-year-old bass boat for well over a decade with absolutely zero regrets. It's paid for and it works just fine. I couldn't be happier with it.

Although I view my boat as a work vehicle, I still have to have a little dignity about things. Last year, my boat finally got nasty enough to make me consider buying a new (to me) bass boat. It was turning heads for all the wrong reasons. After all of the bass I've swung over its gunnels and all the tiny creeks it snuck and scraped into, it was showing its age and I was getting a little embarrassed, if I'm being honest. The previous owner sprayed automotive clear coat on it like you'd spray tire shine on a tire and it was beginning to chip, fade and turn yellow. It honestly looked awful.

I started asking around my groups of fisherman friends and instead of getting advice about new boats, I found myself being urged to try Pro-Tec products. There was a bunch of hype about this company and its various products all over message boards and Facebook, so I figured I'd give 'em a shot before dumping a bunch of money into a newer boat. Heck, if it worked, I could potentially save myself tens of thousands of dollars.

Besides all of the hardware removal, the process wasn't difficult whatsoever. Within a few days, my boat looked like it just rolled off the showroom floor. I'm not a technical guy and I'm very impatient, so trust me when I say the process wasn't bad at all. Now, over a year after we restored the boat, someone offers to buy it nearly every time I stop at a gas station. I have one of the best looking (and cheapest) bass boats in town.

In this article, I'm going to walk you through the entire process; no frills or cute stuff. This is exactly what we did to bring life and add a bunch of resale value to my old bass boat. You'll scroll through both before and after photos of my boat.

It's also important that you know that I am not affiliated with Pro-Tec in any way. It's just good stuff that flat-out works. I appreciate any blue-collared company that makes a quality product.

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Before: The back corner of my top cap

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Walker Smith
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When I was a young, broke and single fish bum, I kept this boat outside of my crappy rental townhouse for years. You can see the damage the sun did to it. Back then, I didn't really care. It was a work vehicle and a means to get a paycheck. 

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Before: The top cap

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Walker Smith
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On both the port and starboard side, my boat looked awful. The bad clear coat job was peeling off, the color underneath was turning yellow and the entire boat looked like a bad sunburn.

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Before: The cowling

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Walker Smith
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I actually tried to keep the cowling looking nice, but with all the hours I spent on the water, it just kept fading into oblivion. The water spots were out of control and no matter what I did, I couldn't get rid of them. 

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Step No. 1: Remove the hardware

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Walker Smith
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In all honesty, this is the worst part. This is when you have to start breaking apart your boat's exterior piece by piece.

Cleats, clamshells, windshield, trolling motor... it's all gotta go, man. I know it's a royal pain in the butt. It's important to work with a totally clean slate, though. Make sure you save and label each screw and bolt you remove. Put them into small Ziplock baggies to make sure you know exactly where they are when it comes time to reassemble everything. 

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Step No. 2: Remove all existing clear coat

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Walker Smith
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This is a "quick fix" a lot of boat owners utilize these days. Instead of restoring the gel coat, they'll spray automotive clear coat all over the boat just like you'd spray tire shine on a tire. There's one major problem, however: Automotive clear coat is rigid and fiberglass (your boat) flexes while in use. This creates an ugly separation over time, which you can see in these photos. It looks like a peeling sunburn. 

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Step No. 3: Wet sanding

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Walker Smith
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Wet sanding is a very important part of this process. It removes any clear coat or impurities from your fiberglass. On my boat, we started with 800-grit sandpaper. Then we moved from 1,000-grit, to 1,500-grit all the way to 2,000-grit. 

The most important part of wet sanding is to make absolutely sure to keep the paper wet. When the water turns clear, you know the oxidation is gone and it's time to use a higher grit. 

Throughout this process, we learned that a teaspoon or so of Dawn dishwashing soap in the water bucket can help a bunch. It keeps the plastic from the gel coat from building up on the sandpaper, which helps it last a long longer. 

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Step No. 4: Wash and apply Pro-Tec Nu Paint Moisturizer

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Walker Smith
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Once your 2,000-grit sandpaper stops gripping and glides smoothly over the surface, it's time to wash the boat with Pro-Tec Wash and Gloss. You don't have to go too crazy with it. Just make sure to get all of the wet sanding residue off of the surface. 

After the surface was clean, we applied Pro-Tec Nu Paint Moisturizer by hand. This particular product was designed to rejuvenate the paint surface and bring the luster and shine back into old and oxidized gel coat surfaces. 

We let it "soak" for roughly 45 minutes. 

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Step No. 5: Remove Pro-Tec Nu Paint Moisturizer with high-speed buffer

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Walker Smith
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Next, we removed the Nu Paint Moisturizer with a high-speed buffer and wool pad. The buffer ran between 2,200 and 2,600 RPMs during this step. 

During this step, it's imperative to keep the buffer moving and keep the wool pad moist. At all times, no matter what. 

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Step No: 6: Wash again and apply Pro-Tec Sealant Polish

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Walker Smith
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Now it's time to wash your boat one more time. Carefully remove the impurities with Wash and Gloss and then apply Pro-Tec Sealant Polish by hand. This is a polymer sealant that bonds to your gel coat. It's meant to provide long-lasting shine and protection from UV rays, dirt and other crud you might encounter.

Just like waxing your tow vehicle, remove the Sealant Polish by hand after it dries with a microfiber cloth. 

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Step No. 7: Maintain, maintain, maintain

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Walker Smith
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People always compliment my newly restored boat, but they're curious as to how long is actually lasts. If you maintain it and take care of it, the sleek look will last as long as you own your boat. But you have to take care of it. 

I use Pro-Tec Showroom Conditioner each and every time I get off the water. I live a few seconds from our boat ramp, so while I let my livewells drain to avoid water on my garage floor, I'll spend about 45 seconds wiping down my boat with Showroom Conditioner. Not only does it maintain the shine, but it removes any crud or scum lines from your hull and provides additional UV protection. If you like to fish muddy water like I do this is a must-have. It works better than any other wipe-down product I've used thus far.

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After: A 21-year-old boat has never looked so good

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Walker Smith
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This is a boat that is not and never has been babied. I shoot into backwaters, grind past laydowns up rivers and guide fishing trips out of this rig. This is my work vehicle. Not a show piece. 

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After: More than a year later, the top cap looks brand new

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Walker Smith
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Compare this photo to the photos at the beginning of this article. It's a night/day difference. I can't really say much else. 

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After: The cowling is almost in showroom condition

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Walker Smith
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About once or twice each month, I spend a few minutes in my shop and wipe the cowling down with Pro-Tec Water Spot Remover. It's 100% biodegradable and FDA safe. It descales hard water spots caused from calcium and other minerals in the water.

I don't know what's in it, but it gets all the gunk and hard water stains off of your cowling that have occurred over the years. 

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Final impressions

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Walker Smith
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I could not possibly be more thrilled by how great my boat looks. Again, I've never been overly concerned about looks when it comes to my fishing rig, but it sure feels good when it looks like a brand new boat. If it weren't for this Pro-Tec system I used, I probably would have spent tens of thousands on a brand new boat.

I'm sure glad I stuck with it and took the time to do this. If you have a crusty old bass boat in your driveway or yard, spend a weekend or two and knock this out. You absolutely won't regret it.