So far we’ve taken a look at bass boats from 1970, ’71, ’72, ’73 and a smattering from other years (here and here). Now we take a look at the boats of 1974 – or at least those companies who decided their hard-earned profits were worthy of advertising in fishing magazines.
In this installment we have many of those who had advertised in the past, such as Arrow Glass, Chrysler, Ranger and Fisher Marine. What was interesting about the 1974 ad campaign was the lack of advertisements and the decline of companies participating. In 1970 there were four companies displaying ad and that doubled the following year to eight. By 1972 11 companies were displaying ads in serious fishing magazines and then it peaked in 1973 with 15 companies. This year, though, only 10 manufacturers decided to spend the money. Why so few?
Well, if you think back there was an entity named OPEC who had decided to place an oil embargo on the world thus increasing the price of crude oil. I remember prior to this my mom going to the gas station, handing the Full Service attendant a Lincoln and telling him to fill us the ’68 Camaro. After 1973, gas prices more than doubled thus putting a damper on luxury items such as boats. Sound familiar?
In any event, when one looks at the ads, we see some companies didn’t seem to pay attention that prices were on the rise while it’s obvious that other companies were going to wait it out before they made a move to embrace new technology. Then there were the companies who were sitting in a perfect position for an energy crisis.
In this installment of Old Boats we’ll also look at the first ads for the Bassmaster Classic boats. Although they were all Ranger Platforms from 1972 on, it’s interesting to see what the Classic contenders were fishing out of.
Let’s take a look.
Arrow Glass – The only ad Arrow Glass placed this year in the magazines I could dig up was this one for their 15-foot Tarpon model. It’s obvious from prior years that the company felt comfortable with their lineup due to the fact that little had changed between 1970 and 1974. Maybe they had so much success they didn’t need to look forward at new design features. In any event, this boat from 1974 looks pretty identical to others they made from 1970 through 1973.
Chrysler – The first Chrysler ad that we saw was from 1973 and this ad from 1974 is exactly the same. It features Jerry McKinnis and describes five of their models. With Chrysler’s big investment in cars it’s obvious that they weren’t going to spend R&D money on boats. They were probably more interested in developing smaller cars like the Cordoba (with Corinthian leather) in order to keep profits high.
Fisher Marine – If there was a boat company that was prepared for the gas crisis it was the aluminum boat company Fisher Marine. Being small and light, these boats could be towed with a Datsun 510 (I’ve done it) and still get 25 miles-per-gallon to and from the lake. While on the water you’d be lucky to use 3 gallons of fuel over the course of the day. Still in years past Fisher Marine had up to 8 different ads in various magazines. This year they cut it back to three different ads.
Hydra Sports – Now here was a company that debuted in 1973 and they were all about new innovation. Originally billed as a performance boat, in 1974 they created an ad (on the right) that equated performance with fuel savings. What they also were debuting this year was their stepped-pad hull design. This not only gave better performance at the high end, it also allowed for better hole shots, thus conserving fuel. It’s hard to find a boat today that doesn’t have a stepped-pad design such as the one Jim Epps developed for Hydra Sports.
MonArk – MonArk was another company that reeled back their advertising campaign in 1974. This is the only ad that I could find out of the 20 or so magazines I looked at and it was again an ad from a boat design from the year prior. The 16-foot Super Sport had a lot of creature comforts but came in at a hefty 1200 pounds – not too good for those looking for good fuel economy.
Ouachita – Another company to tighten their belt with respect to advertising was Ouachita. In years past they’d place as many as 4 different ads in magazine touting their wares yet this year they cut it back to one ad and it was only in two magazines that I could find. Not only that, the ad was from the 1973 calendar year too.
Ranger – Here’s where things get a little interesting. Ranger was always willing to go the extra mile with respect to advertising. In past years they had at least one ad in every bass magazine and sometime up to three full pages ads. 1974 was no different. Not only were they taking advantage of advertising during a year where few companies were doing it, they’d also teamed up with legendary boat racer and designer Darius Allison to design a new high-performance hull for their line. The Ranger 150A and 170A (A is for Allison) were a whole new concept to Ranger Boats. Although they were still manufacturing the Bath0Tub style boats like the TR10, the new concept pad hull was here to stay. It wouldn’t be long before all of their lineup, and many other manufacturers lineups, would feature this design. Ranger was one of the companies looks to high performance in order to not only give speed frewaks what they wanted but also the fuel conscious angler too.
Skeeter – It wasn’t often that one would find a Skeeter ad in a magazine but by 1974 the “first” bass boat company decided they better get on the bandwagon. This ad for the Skeeter Hawk was the ad I could find in my collection of magazine from the year. When one thinks of early Skeeter, two images come to mind, the original 1950s boat and the Skeeter Wrangler. It had been a long time since I’d seen a Hawk hull and it wouldn’t take the folks in Longview, TX to change with the times and design a more futuristic bass boat.
StarCraft – In 1973 StarCraft placed their first ad for a bass boat in the magazines. Bill Dance was their angling spokesman and again in ’74, he was still part of the team. They touted having six different models to choose from and that included the 16-foot Bill Dance Pro model. Dance wouldn’t be with StarCraft much past this year as he’d eventually hook up with Hydra Sports and then Johnny Morris and Bass Pro Shops.
Tide Craft – Tide Craft had been advertising their products for a good number of years by 1974. Their boats were hard to tell apart from other tubs of the time and being in all black and white, their advertising lacked any pizazz. In 1974 they placed this single ad in a couple of magazines – the same ad they’d used in 1973.
1974 Bassmaster Classic Boat – In 1973 Ray Scott decided to give the folks at home a look into the Bassmaster Classic rig in Bassmaster Magazine. The feature showed all the bells and whistles the pros would be using at the biggest championship event in fishing. Obviously it got a lot of good reviews because in 1974, Bassmaster came back and used a 6-page spread to describe not only the boat the pros would use but the boat you could buy.
The boats appear to be Ranger TR-10s fully decked out with Johnson 85s, Motor-Guide 24-V trolling motors, Blakemore batteries, Lowrance electronics, Johnny Reb LectrAnchor, Okiebug aerators, boat reigns, and Fo-Mac Sur-Temp surface temperature gauge. All this rested on a SilverTrail trailer. It was a $7,000 value all for around $5,295 – price subject to increased manufacturing costs. These were cool boat packages not only because they were custom built, colored and fitted with all the top gear of the year but also because they were used by the anglers we all idolized. A close friend of mine back in SoCal still has his old 1976 Classic boat and it always made me giddy when I fished with him thinking maybe Roland used the boat for the Classic. Even cooler is another close friend here in North Carolina actually has boat #17 from the first Classic at Lake Mead. Talk about a time capsule.
Stay tuned for the next round of Old Boats as we head into a time when bass boats would start to resemble the rides we have today. By 1975 the gas crunch had calmed down and more companies were willing to face the music and get on the technology swing.