Bass Boats 1964

Don Fuelsch SAHG 1964Recently a good friend of mine, avid angler and exemplary jig maker from Oklahoma, Jack Hall, contacted me about a book he had called, “Don Fuelsch’s Southern Angler’s and Hunter’s Guide.” Being originally from the West, I’d never heard of it but the fact it was printed in 1964 had my curiosity up. Jack said it had a lot of old bass fishing info in it and if I wanted it, I could have it. Of course, being the book and magazine junky I am, I couldn’t refuse.

A week or so went by then I received the book in the mail. I didn’t really know what to expect from this book, originally thinking it’d be a small book on fishing and hunting in the South. How wrong could I have been. The book is nearly 1000 pages long and has more information packed within its bindings than can be imagined. Fuelsch had every southern state covered from freshwater fishing to saltwater and the hunting too. Impressive.

As I was first scanning the book I noticed a number of cool old ads that caught my attention. Then as I thumbed through the bass fishing section, an article caught my attention named “Choosing a Fishing Boat. It really wasn’t the article that got my first attention, though, rather it was the Skeeter ad on the adjacent page that got me excited.

Many of you probably know that Skeeter lays claim to being the first company to manufacture boats specifically for bass fishing, starting out in 1958. I can’t argue with that but my question is, when was bass boat first coined?

Anyway, back to the article.

SAHG 78 79The article, aptly titled, gives the reader a few pointers on how to choose a boat appropriate for fishing. Some of the author’s must-haves for a boat include enough room to handle your equipment, not cramped, fishes comfortably, handles you bait and your catch and has a reliable power plant – all features today’s anglers look for.

What’s different between yesterday’s anglers and today’s, though, is the size of the boats and the amount of tackle used/stored. Look at some of the dimensions and layouts of the boats shown in the article and adjacent ads. Most are 12- to 14 feet in length, rated for 15- to 25-horse motors and most are powered by tiller-steer motors. This isn’t bad, it’s just a drastic contrast from what we today feel is the optimum form of boat in which to fish bass from.

So, let’s take a more in-depth look at the ads and pictures.

Stemco Marine Skeeter:  First off, the Skeeter picture and ad. This is really cool. The picture provided in the article shows the 13-1/2-foot Stemco Marine Skeeter. The boat has a 46-inch beam, is 14-inches deep, weighs in at 185 pounds and is rated for a 25-horse motor. The author states that “This is a Fishing Boat.” He then goes on to describe their bigger model, the Super Skeeter, a 15-foot version with a 53-inch beam, 17-1/2-inch depth and capable of handling a 35-horse motor.

You’ll also notice that the boat has two seats in it, fore and aft, and it outfitted with a bow-mount trolling motor – specifically a Motor Guide. We’ve previously written about MotorGuide and their advent of the foot-controlled trolling motor but here is the first actual picture I’ve seen so far with one in use.

SAHG 80 81MonArk:  The MonArk name became huge in the bass boat industry in the early 70s. Here’s a look at where they were in 1964.  Presented in the article picture is a 16-foot Jon Boat with a 56-inch beam and capable of a 25-horse motor. It seems to be a nice sturdy fishing platform with lots of room but the 25-hp rating confuses me a bit since the 15-foot Skeeter is rated for a 35-hp.

The MonArk ad a few pages later shows six of their 28 models available – none of which even remotely look like a bass boat of today.

Kenner Boat Company:  Here’s one I’d never heard of – the Kenner Boat Company Ski Barge. Although the name implies that it’s a ski boat, if you take one look at the room in the boat you’ll see that it wouldn’t make a bad platform for fishing. They are by far the largest boats in the article in beam, hp-rating and weight. From the pictures provided, the hulls seems to have more of a contemporary modified tri-hull configuration and would definitely be better in rough water compared to the smaller aluminum v-hulls and Jon boats presented thus far.

SAHG 82 83Master Molders KingFisher:  Here’s another familiar name in bass boats from the 70s. The KingFisher 150, a 15-foot boat rated for a 50-hp motor had the option of a casting seat stick steering and a storage compartment. The look of the hull is also starting to look like the modified tri-hull boat we were used to in the early 70s.

DuraCraft:  Finally the article ended with the company DuraCraft, probably one of the most well-known boats of its time. The article picture shows a modified Jon boat that’s 14-feet 8-inches in length and rated for a 15-hp motor. They also talk about a 16-foot model rated for a 20-hp. I can’t speak for the quality of the boats in 1964 but DuraCraft has become known as one of the sturdiest aluminum boats made. I wonder how many of these old ’64 versions are still on the water?

In the next few months we’ll take a more in-depth look at Don Fuelsch’s Southern Angler’s and Hunter’s Guide. There’s much more in it than boats so stay tuned.

  • fish_food

    Have you seen this old page documenting the restoration of a Skeeter Hawk (it may actually be a Super Skeeter)?

    http://www.stickmarsh.com/skeeter/

  • ff, I hadn’t seen that but it’s dang cool!

  • Sometimes I shake my head in disbelief, and other times I have nothing but admiration for the innovators whose products have led us to the present state of bass fishing. (Repeat that statement in 25 years, if you like). But if we’re talking “firsts” is it the “name” or the “configuration” we’re most concerned with. I’m good with Skeeter getting credit. But for many other regional products, baits and methods, I tend to believe that actual firsts will be very difficult to pinpoint. Remember, individuals often operated in a near informational vacuum–and conjured up their own problem solving wrinkles–without marking the moment. Instead, much like today, a new generation will see something for the first time and call it “new.” And so it is, I guess. Just like it was for those in 1920, 1950, 1970…or tomorrow.

    • George, I agree with you. The finesse subject is a prime example. Ned Kehde’s is constantly talking about how finesse fishing was invented in the Midwest. I can somewhat agree with that but the fact that many anglers in the West heard nothing of these tactics and developed their own based on need is a prime example of what you’re talking about.

      The same goes with the flipping deck. I can’t remember what boat manufacturer actually came out with the “first” one but many anglers were retrofitting their own boats to get the front deck higher to the gunwale years before the first boat company actually put one in a boat.