Build Your Own Bass Boat 70s Style

A couple weeks ago we posted a piece on building a bass boat control center. The article was based on an article written by Howard A. Bach in the 1973 Bassmaster Fishing Annual. While writing that piece it occurred to me how in the early days, especially in the West where there weren’t many bass boats, all that was required to bass fish was a boat, some tackle and a desire to catch bass.

This was evident in the early magazines because a large number of the articles had pictures of anglers fishing out of their small aluminum boats – not full-blown bass boats mind you – catching fish. A good example is the opening picture for this article.

Bass Master Magazine even, at the time, had a column printed in each issue called “Dry Dock Talk” where anglers would write in with new ways and ideas to rig your outfit for bass fishing. New ways to mount trolling motors, electronics, bilge pumps, rod holders, how to make dry storage, you name it.

Besides “Dry Dock Talk,” there was also a series of articles through the 70s on how to rig a boat for bass fishing – again pertaining to small boats. These again showed the ingenuity of anglers and their desire to make their experiences on the water more enjoyable.

The interesting thing about all of this, and this was eluded to in the Retro Ads piece Old Boat Ads – Bass Cat by Rick Pierce, is that all the tinkering by do-it-yourselfers is what led to nearly all the advancements in full-up bass boats.

With that in mind, I thought you might like to see a snapshot of some old DIYers in action. They not only helped pave the way for boats of the future but they also showed that with a little thought and desire, they could make a very fishable rig without spending a whole lotta dough.

Terry Ryan's budget bass boat for small waters. Bass Master Magazine Nov/Dec 1971.

Terry Ryan’s budget bass boat for small waters. Bass Master Magazine Nov/Dec 1971.

Here’s Terry Ryan’s “small waters boat” that he designed after moving to an area of the country where the only waters he could fish had horsepower restrictions. The boat has all the accoutrements of a bigger of the day. The cost? $500.00 – boat not included.




James Corbin’s Last Chance Boat. Bass Master Magazine Nov/Dec 1973.

Here’s the way James Corbin rigged his bare 1971 Terry to suit his needs. Notice he rigged everything out of sight and out of the way.










Don Hobbs’ bass boat layout. Nov/Dec 1971 issue of Bass Master Magazine.

Also of note would be Don Hobbs’ Profile of a Bass Boat. In this article, Nov/Dec 1971 issue of Bass Master Magazine, Hobbs talks about what’s important in a bass boat and gives a general layout of features he needs.






Ryan, Terry D. (1971). Here’s How to Rig a Bass Boat for Small Waters. Bass Master Magazine, May/June, 32-35.

Hobbs, Don (1971). Profile for a Bass Rig. Bass Master Magazine, Nov/Dec, 23-26, 38-39.

Bach, Howard A. (1972). Bass Boat on a Budget. Bass Master Magazine, Nov/Dec, 24-25, 52, 54.

Corbin, James L. (1973). Last Chance Bass Rig. Bass Master Magazine, Nov/Dec, 60-63.

  • Jeff Hahn

    Terry: Is that top photo the head of Wisconsin DNR and his assistant out to show the B.A.S.S. guys how it’s done?

    • Jeff, I think you be on to something here. 😉

  • I can live without the 12 foot aluminum bass boat conversion I started with, but man do I miss my 14 foot, stick steering Terry! That was a “real” bass boat. But in those days. real bass boats came naked, except for having a couple swivel seats. We had to rig them ourselves. And it was fun, dammit!

    • I agree with ya Rich. It was always fun to rig your own boat. Plus you knew exactly how the wiring was done when you needed to fix something or make additions.

  • Retrofitting smaller aluminum boats to turn into modern day ‘bass rigs’ is alive and well, especially near hp-restricted lakes. I’ve completely redone my own 16′ jon boat into one such rig, and the largest search segment of visitors to my website are based around “turning your small boat into a bass boat”. It’s definitely an untapped market that could be capitalized on.

    Going back in the archives, and on a similar theme, there was a big push back in the late 70’s and early 80’s in B.A.S.S. toward smaller, more miserly rigs and tow vehicles. One such regular series of articles was Don Wirth’s “The Weekend Angler”, in which almost all articles were subtitled around a ‘Budget Bassin’ DIY theme.

    B.A.S.S. around that time used to sell their own “branded” boat to the public, and the 1980 B.A.S.S. Champ pushed this downsized trend as a 16′ boat with a 50hp engine (the pros were running 115-150 hp then), and sold for $5,195.

    The other big factor pushing smaller boats was the gas savings at a time when gas prices were skyrocketing (the Carter years). One particular article in the 1980 BASS Fishing Guide stated, “After gasoline prices started jumping past the dollar-per-gallon mark, a lot of the nation’s fishermen began taking a real close look at the possibility of owning a smaller, lighter boat, one that would perform adequately with a lower-horsepower engine”. That quote belonged to Ray Scott himself.

  • As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Where I was raised in Florida, we had plenty of lakes, ponds, large bass and desire, but not much money. Therefore, we would have to use plenty of ingenuity in rigging our boats. Most of these boats were small aluminum boats that left a lot to be desired. In a lot of ways, those were some of the best fishing I have ever experienced as it seemed like it was a simpler and more intimate time of fishing.