Bass and Walleye Boats Magazine

Used by Permission of Bass and Walley Boats Magazine

Bass and Walleye Boats, July 1, 2004
By Dan Armitage


RiverPro’s shallow running LoPro fishes like a bass boat, but runs in 4 inches of water 

The guy in the kayak saw us coming and got all white-knuckled on his gunwales as he anticipated the wake. We nodded respectfully from our seats aboard the sleek, mustard-colored craft as we swept by at about 20 mph on our way upstream, leaving him bobbing gently in the slow-moving waters of the narrow stretch of river. 

He also didn’t realize that if I’d have slowed down, he would have had a wake to worry about," continues Turner as we slowed to The fellow just stared, as confused by the craft’s lack of a wake as he was about a boat being there at all."He’s probably never seen a boat up this far," comments the man at the helm, Kevin Turner, who had been there a time or two.

By "this far," Turner meant waters where traditional prop-driven boats don’t go because of obstructions, a lack of water depth or both. I knew this to be the fact in the present case as our 20-foot-plus boat passed by my favorite duck hunting spot on a shallow, shale-studded bend in the river, far above where I had ever seen any internal-combustion engine pushing a boat.   survey the riffle ahead. "This boat runs flat on the water. When we’re running on the step there just isn’t much in the water to generate a wake."

Such was one of the lessons I learned during a long day atop waters at times so skinny that my own knuckles paled a time or two until I realized the RiverPro LoPro’s potential. Once I did, the ride was awesome. And fun.

She’s a Brick House

I’ve been in my share of jet-powered walleye and bass boats, but never in one that looked, handled, performed and fished like it was made exclusively for use with a jet from the hull up. From the minute the boat caught my eye in the parking lot of the launch ramp, I was fascinated by the edgy-looking craft. I spent the first hour under the trailered boat before I allowed Turner to consider launching it, and had plenty of questions.

My first question had to do with the construction. Despite displaying the right-angle signs of a metal-built boat, everything else about the LoPro had the appearance of fiberglass, including the hard-as-nails finish.

"She’s all aluminum," assures Turner. "And all welded," he adds, referring to the .190-inch-thickhull bottom I was knocking on. "The sides are .100-inch aluminum and each section is pre-stressed as the boat goes together." Turner was referring to RiverPro’s Pre-Stressing Technology (PST), the stretching, pulling and precision-curving process each panel is given after it is plasma-cut from marine-grade aluminum stock. The result is a strong, graceful, seamless hull that Turner claims to be 30 percent lighter than comparable aluminum craft.


By incorporating a modified reverse chine, a large delta pad in front of the jet’s intake and 8 degrees of deadrise at the stern, Turner says the LoPro can actually help bring along its own supply of water to float the boat and feed the pump.

"We found that with an inboard jet-powered hull, wetted surfaces are a good thing for what we want a boat to do," explains Turner. "Most modern performance fishing boat hulls are designed to decrease the amount of wetted surface, and use the reverse chine to provide lift, and to a lesser degree, deflect water down and away from the boat."

What we found was that by adding lifting strakes, widening and increasing the degree of downturn on the chines, we could contain more water under the boat, which is what a jet-powered boat intended to cross extremely shallow water needs."

When I’m running this boat over really shallow water," explains Turner, "I’m actually rolling on additional water I’m bringing with me. Using a combination of kick turns and throttling back to put the boat into a glide, we’ve crossed sandbars that were barely wet before the boat got there. Same with thick mats of exposed weed beds; we skim across them on a layer of water the boat helps bring along, trapped between the chines."

Turner credits the incredible static thrust inherent to the mixed-flow, high-volume Mercury® SportJet pump, for the ability to lift and support the LoPro’s delta pad-equipped hull. The pad is a flat section of the hull immediately forward of the inboard’s water intake, which tapers from 18 inches wide there into a point about 11 feet forward along the hull, resulting in the delta shape that gives the pad its name.

He says that when the LoPro is on plane, less than 4inches of the hull is actually in the water, and with no skeg or prop protruding, the boat leaves very little wake. The LoPro needs 15-18 inches of water to get on plane and to settle back into, says Turner, and the boat can drift across water as shallow as 8 inches.

Turns Happen

Going from idle speed to on plane, which took about 8 seconds with three of us aboard, the boat tended to chine-walk a bit and felt some what "squirrelly" in my hands. But once on step and underway, the LoPro tracked well and was easy to handle.

What did take some getting used to was the steering, which travels only 270 degrees from lock to lock and, as a result, is extremely sensitive. Compare that to conventional wheels that may make more than two full 360-degree revolutions between locking port to starboard, and you get an idea of the difference.Compounding the sensitivity is the fact that the standard Teleflex cable system controls the direction of a small nozzle rather than man handling a lower unit or an entire outboard; all it takes is a gentle nudge to the wheel to make things happen. The quick-ratio, high-sensitivity steering is important aboard a boat that may need to turn on a dime while negotiating obstruction-filled waters, explains Turner, but it can be dampened and the ratio increased if desired.

Turnkey Topside

Above the waterline, the LoPro resembles a traditional twin-console bass boat in layout and amenities. The two consoles are set slightly forward to aid in the boat’s balance, which results in a smaller front fishing deck than what might be found on a 20-foot bass boat, but there is still plenty of space above and below the platform.

The boat comes wired for a 12/24-volt electric motor, and the small front dash panel includes a 12-volt accessory receptacle, gauge and switch for the trolling-motor batteries, and a receptacle for a post-mounted bow light. Beneath the deck is a common, carpeted storage area for trolling batteries and gear that is accessible via three hatches around the pedestal seat base.

A small, 14-gallon livewell is also built into the front deck, between and just forward of the consoles. The small-capacity livewell and standard 19-gallon fuel tank keep the boat as light as possible to help it negotiate shallow water, according to Turner, who mentions that an optional 50-gallon fuel tank is available.

The consoles are sturdy extensions of the .100-inch aluminum sides, and despite their low profile, they offer a decent amount of legroom, thanks in part to the fact that they don’t require traditional floor-to-console supports underneath each corner. The top of the helm console is flat but small, and unless you want to lose the windscreen to gain clearance, some full-size sonar units and other top-mounted electronics will have to be mounted on the gunwale or elsewhere.

The passenger console boasts an open compartment for stowing small stuff. There is also long, narrow storage space inside each gunwale along the cockpit that can be used for fishing rods or items like stern light posts and pedestal seat extensions.

A sturdy locker that spans the back of the cockpit, fitted with simple racks and lined with carpeting, accommodates a small battalion of fishing rods. Aft of the rod storage locker is the engine compartment, which is huge and offers plenty of space for stowing large, bulky items.

The engine area is accessed via an equally huge aluminum deck that is hinged aft, gas-shock assisted and features a rectangular hump that accommodates the inboard’s powerhead. The deck actually extends beyond and over the transom, so that the rear angler has floor space behind the hump, which doubles as the base for the rear pedestal seat.

Stomp Options

One problem with jet-powered boats operated in shallow water is the debris that can be picked up with the water that feeds the pump. A grate across the intake filters the debris sucked up by the pump to keep it from ingesting impeller-damaging gravel, and that screen can become clogged with stones, weeds, wood and man-made trash, eventually choking the pump.

Clearing a clogged grate can be as simple as shutting down the engine while the boat is on plane, allowing water flowing over the intake to flush out the debris.

On the other hand, the process can require shutting things down altogether, climbing out and reaching under the boat to pull or pry away the debris or, in worst cases, loading the boat on a trailer, pulling it from the water and removing the material.

Turner, who crosses gravel and weed-infested shallows to get to his fishing spots as a matter of course, offers customers a spring-loaded, hinged grate for the SportJet intake that can be cleared of debris manually from the deck of the boat. Commonly referred to as a “stomp grate” for the foot action that’s required to put the mechanism into motion, the self-clearing add-ons have been used by jet-boat operators for years in Canada and Alaska.

Using their technical assistance, Turner developed his own style of stomp grate for use with the SportJet, which he makes in his Hillsboro, Missouri, shop. The addition of the optional, easy-cleaning grate and drops the top speed of the boat by about 2 mph, which I consider a fair trade-off.

In fact, I consider the entire RiverPro package as it is priced an extremely fair deal — but only for anglers who really need the ability to cross skinny water on a consistent basis. For those fishermen, the sturdy, shallow-minded LoPro may be a dreamboat come true.