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Keel Guards: Are They a Valuable Investment?

You have just bought a new fishing boat and it seems there are a plethora of aftermarket items on your purchase list. Trolling motors, fishing nets, downriggers, the list goes on and on. There are also some boat applications you have heard of that you aren’t sure you really need. Such as a keel guard. Is a keel guard worth it?

The short answer is yes, a keel guard is absolutely worth the money for almost all boats. They really don’t cost that much and they can provide important protection against damage to your boat. But we’ll go into more detail than that as to why we think keel guards are absolutely worth the money.

In this article, we’ll go over exactly what keel guards are, the pros and cons of installing a keel guard, and other common keel guard questions.

Let’s get into it.

What is a Keel Guard?

Before we go into why we think keel guards are worth the money, let’s take a moment to describe exactly what keel guards are. A keel guard is a strip of thick plastic or nylon with adhesive on one side that you attach to the front portion of the keel on your boat. The keel guard helps absorb the impact of your keel hitting any sort of object (including your bunk brackets).

Author Note: If you tend to fish or boat in shallow areas, it is only a matter of time until you accidentally hit something with the keel of your boat. A keel guard will help limit the expensive damage an accident like this can cause. 

Pros and Cons of Keel Guards

Small white motor boat stands at the berth

Now that you know what a keel guard is, let’s discuss the pros and cons of installing a keel guard. We will start with the pros.

Pros of Keel Guards

  • They are relatively inexpensive. As we mentioned early, keel guards aren’t very expensive. Most keel guards cost between $50 and $100 and can be installed at home. Comparing this cost with the cost of fixing a dent or hole in your keel due to ramming something hard, it’s no competition.
  • They are very easy to install. Almost all keel guards come with adhesive on one side which allows them to be attached to your boat by applying pressure. Simply cut the keel guard to the right length and press it onto your boat’s keel. Most keel guards come with installation instructions as well, so just follow those and you’ll be good to go.
  • They don’t impact the performance of your boat. Contrary to some opinions, adding a keel guard to your boat will not impact how it handles or planes in the water. Keel guards are too thin and cover too small of an area on your boat to materially impact how it handles. 
  • They work on all types of boats. Keel guards work on aluminum boats, fiberglass boats, jet boats, salmon boats, and even wooden boats. So it doesn’t really matter what kind of boat you own, you should add a keel guard to it.

Cons of Keel Guards

  • They may need to be replaced depending on usage. If you moor your boat year round or go boating very frequently, you may need to keep an eye on your keel guard and replace it if it starts to wear out. Since most keel guards use an adhesive to stick on to the keel of your boat, eventually this adhesive will wear out. You may also need to replace your keel guard if you tend to beach your boat frequently or if you hit the bottom. But in both of those cases, it’s doing its job and you’ll be glad you have one!
  • They aren’t super aesthetically pleasing. Yes, keel guards do add an additional patch to the keel of your which may mess up how sleek it looks. But this is a minor concern and not something we really care about.


How Long Should a Keel Guard Be?

The length of your keel guard depends on the brand and type of boat you are applying it to, but here are some general guidelines. We recommend applying your keel guard at least 6 inches above the water line on the bow and 2 to 3 feet beyond the lowest point on the keel.

This will ensure that the areas on your keel that are most likely to hit something are covered and the keel guard can do its job. Any shorter than this and you might have portions of the keel that are unprotected and can get damaged. It wouldn’t really hurt to go longer, but you only have a limited amount of keel guard material. 

Can You Cut a Keel Guard?

For most types of keel guards, you can absolutely cut it! In fact, you’ll most likely need to cut it in order to fit the size and model of your boat. We recommend either using a box cutting knife against a work table surface or heavy-duty trimming sheers to cut your keel guard. 

As with cutting anything, be sure to measure twice and cut once. You can always double-check your measurements, but once you cut your keel guard you’ll be stuck with the size you cut.

Do Keel Guards Affect Performance?

We touched on this briefly above, but if applied correctly keel guards do not affect performance at all. The amount of surface area they cover on your boat is minimal and it should not affect the speed or handling performance at all. 

When your boat gets up on plane, the area of the keel guard that touches the water becomes even smaller. On some boats, it won’t even be touching the water. So don’t worry about it.

How Do You Remove a Keel Guard?

You might want to remove a keel guard for many reasons – it needs to be replaced, you want to add a bigger keel guard, or you don’t like how it looks. Luckily it is very easy to remove a keel guard. All you need is a heat gun and some determination.

Simply heat the keel guard up with your heat gun the begin to pull away from one end of the keel guard.

The heat gun will heat up the adhesive and make it much more pliable. If you can’t get one of the edges up off the surface, try using a boxcutter to wedge in between the guard and your boat. Just be careful not to scratch your boat!

Boats in the dock

Ending Thoughts

Deciding to buy a keel guard for your boat should be an easy decision. Buying a keel guard is definitely worth the money, and highly recommend it for pretty much all boat applications.

We hope you enjoyed this article on is a keel guard worth it. If you have further questions about keel guards, how to apply a keel guard, or if you want to share your experience, leave us a comment below. 

Happy Hunting!


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