Bell Wildfire vs Curtis Lady Bug

Both boats are composites. The Wildfire is a 1993 kevlar deluxe with 1-piece wood gunwales (42 lbs) (most similar to white gold) and the Lady Bug is a 1988 lighter lay up (32 lbs). I just acquired the Wildfire 4 days ago and have paddled it twice on small local lakes.

I’m 5’6" and 160 lbs.

I paddled both boats unloaded yesterday, one after the other, using both a 50" ZRE Power Surge and a 54" Grey Owl Freestyle. I paddled both sitting (w/o foot brace) and kneeling. The Wildfire was 1st.

The Wildfire seems like it too big and too inefficient for me, especially when compared to the Curtis Lady Bug, which is a tad smaller. The Lady Bug is just easier for me to keep moving with relatively little effort. My impression is that it’s the difference in hull size and shape, rather than the slightly more scratched up gel coat on the Wildfire. Does this experience jibe with that of others familiar with both boats? I may end up selling the Wildfire sometime soon because of the apparent excess effort that it seems to require for cruising comapared to the Lady Bug, though the Wildfire handles nicely and firms up better when heeled. An alternative to selling the Wildfire because of the effort it takes to keep moving on lakes is to keep it for river day trips when I’ll be expecting larger standing waves, but I don’t encounter that very often.

When I bought the Wildfire, I was well aware that it would likely be too big for efficient use for someone my size, but was surprised by how much more work it was to keep moving than the Lady Bug. The price was right and it was only 30 miles from home, so it was worth taking a chance on it.


Call me when you decide to sell that big, old, clunky Wildfire.

Sounds like the Wildfire lived up to your expectations. What else could one expect ?

drag and fit
Certainly, WF is probably too wide for you, although it might be your Far North solo of choice. If memory serves, you have a FlashFire too. Widths are WF 30", LB 29" and FF 28.5, so we’d expect the Flash to fit a compact guy best.

R.e. skin friction, better re-read Winter’s on drag. A scratched hull can have twice the drag of a new one.

A closer look at hull surface condition
on both boats reveals that the condition is very similar on the two. The white hull just doesn’t show the scratches as well.

I believe that the Lady Bug has diff
rocker for touring. Wild does not and is an incentive to develop a spot on yawless jstroke. Or an exercise in frustration; if its too wide you won’t be able to get a vertical shaft plant and you kind of lose the game from the get go.

Have a friend look at you head on paddling both boats. I bet dollars to donuts the Wild being too wide for you is all in the way…

Differential rocker boats do make up for paddler error and at this point I am not sure if your stroke is in error in the Lady Bug and you are able to get away with it or the Wild is too big.

If you want to dump one MFS is an ideal buy sell hotspot.

Yawless J stroke
What is meant by a yawless j stroke?


one that works to keep the boat straight
My first solo was a good bit more rockered than the Wildfire. It was a good teacher of the J stroke … once I got beyond the initial wrist pain.

Lady Bug has symmetrical rocker, but
it has less rocker than the Wildfire and Flashfire. There are also other subtle differences to underwater hull shape.

It just seemed that it was more effort per stroke to move the Wildfire. I’m suspecting increased skin friction is the major factor - more boat surface in the water.

I know that my forward stroke is far from perfect.

Hull width didn’t seem like an issue - gunwale width was about the same - hardly had to adjust gunwale brackets going from Wildfire to Lady Bug.

I rarely paddle with anyone else, so getting bystander feedback isn’t too likely.

Thanks for the insights.

the term, yawless j-stroke is…
an oxymoron, in that the j correction is needed to counter yaw produced by the forward part of the stroke. So, no yaw, no necessity for the j stroke. More proper would be, a yaw-less forwrad stroke or actually nearly yaw-less, since a yaw-less forward stroke in terms of physics is virtually impossible. Please to remember that a J-stroke has 2 parts, the Forward plus a J-correction.


Might wanna consider just what type of
"effort" you’re thinking right now…so try it/them out in whatever conditions you’re going to want to paddle each in. Usually a lot easier and more accurate to judge performance by plunking it/them down on a somewhat less than perfect day, then let your technique and the hull to do their thing…instead of always choosing that bluebird, windless day = lots of peope can paddle most anything on days like that.