The year is 1975 and by now bass boats have morphed from tubs with a motor into performance fishing platforms that were not only becoming fast but more and more useful. The early days of open decks, stick steering and small slow boats are beginning to make way for hulls designed for speed, dry storage and better electronics.
In the last installment of Old Bass Boats – 1974 we talked about the new Ranger A-series boats, designed by Darris Allison. We also talked about the new kid on the block, Hydra-Sport and their “step-pad” hull known under the name Hydra-Flight. Boat manufacturers were now looking to the race industry to not only make their hulls faster but more efficient due to the gas crunch.
The 1975 Ad campaign also shed a little light on the fact that things were getting a little better with the economy. In 1974 only 10 companies advertised in the magazines I did my research in whereas in 1975, 16 companies advertised. Of these companies, there were four companies new to national advertising – BassCat, Ebbtide, Eldocraft and Mackie.
So, why don’t we check out what we may have bought back in the 1975 time frame.
Arrow Glass – Arrow Glass had always been a big advertiser up until 1974 where they dropped from roughly four or five ads per year to only one. This year they decided to increase their campaign and put out two ads – one for their 17-foot Nova LTD and another for their 15-feet 6-inch Meteor. The Arrow Glass boats from one year to another don’t seem to change much and if you go back in this series of articles, I’m sure you’ll agree. It seems as if Arrow Glass isn’t doing much development wise while other companies are making big strides forward with R&D. We’ll see how this pans out for the company in the next few years.
Bass Cat – We’ve featured this Bass Cat ad before here on the Bass Fishing Archives but in order to make this article complete, we had to include it. This is Bass Cat’s first mainstream ad that was featured in the 1975 issues of Bassmaster Magazine. The ad shows the standard DLX Tournament model and their first attempt at a pad hull, the Bass Cat XL. The story of the XL is pretty cool and I was lucky to be able to talk with Bass Cat President Rick Pierce about its history. Anyway, another cool deal about the ad is it shows three of their prostaff for the year 1974 were all national champions.
Ebbtide – This was Ebbtide’s first foray into national advertising. The ad, which portrays their Bass Bandit model, talks about their hand-laid hulls and 1/2-inch 5-ply plywood decks. They boats have built-in tackle boxes, anchor mate anchoir system, fold-down captain’s chairs, livewells and a “large six holder rod locker.”
The boat is made with level floatation, BIA certified and has both chrome plated and anaodized aluminum hardware. It’s a good looking boat for the time and I can’t wait to see where they go from here in the future.
Eldocraft – Eldocraft had been around a long time prior to 1975 making both aluminum and glass boats but this was their first major ad in a national magazine. Featuring their Eldorado I, a 15-foot glass boat touted as having more space, storage and performance than ever before in a 15-footer. It’s a good looking boat for the time but the style is more like the status-quo in bass boats of the time.
In the ad they also mention six other models from 14 feet to 16 feet in length along with three new models – the Eldiablo series – with the Hot, New Extra Performance Hull. This lead me to believe that later in 75 or maybe in 76 they’d be coming out with a pad-style hull like many of the other companies were doing. Over my year I rode in two Eldocrafts and they were sold close to my house (Bellflower Boat Yard) when I was a kid. As far as I was concerned, they were great boats at the time but having never owned one, I could be wrong.
Fisher Marine – For years Fisher Marine had been recycling their ads year to year. In 1975, though, that trend stopped – and probably for good reason. It appears that in 1975 Fisher Marine and Bill Dance worked something out and Dance joined their staff. This shortly after Dance had helped design StarCraft’s 1974 StarCraft Bill Dance Pro. Dance was featured in two of Fisher Marine’s ads touting how cheap they are to run, how fishable they are and most importantly, how inexpensive they are.
Fisher Marine put out another new ad in 1975 that also made mention of how economical their boats were. For $2,200 you could have a fully-rigged outfit with up to a 25 hp motor that would “troll through the almost any vegetation.” Fisher Marine was still selling a solid economical package to the masses.
Glastron – The Glastron boat company was still pushing their Beau Jack models in 1975 as shown in this ad. Although it was a solid boat, it was starting to fall behind the curve when it came to high-performance bass boats that were starting to show up on the water. Within the next two years Glastron would change their tune, and their boat design.
As shown here in this V-172, the boat was still heavy and deep. It offered plenty in creature comforts but was lacking in the performance edge that other companies were starting to embrace.
Hydra-Sports – In Hydra-Sports second year of advertising, they were again hitting the market with the “more is less” concept for sales. They had one of, if not the, fastest hull in the market which they equated to more value for less operating cost.
They year prior Hydra-Sports put forth a 15-foot model but in ’75 they featured a 17-footer too. Not much is said about the boat in the ad but you’d think it was rated for a 150 hp motor and had all the amenities that the competition would have had. But that wasn’t all Hydra-Sports had to offer. You’ll have to wait until next year for them to change the market again.
Mackie – Okay folks, here’s one I don’t recall hearing about – that being Mackie Bass Boats. Built in North Carolina the Mackie boat looked a lot like the tub boats of the day. Yeah, you could call them tri-hulls but they really resembled more of a bathtub than anything else.
The boats seem to be put together as well as anything on the market back then but companies that weren’t changing with the times were soon to be doomed. The third ad shows that Mackie was looking ahead to the future with a High Performance hull. What’s crazy, and this can be said about a few of the other bass boat companies of the time, is they were making 15-foot boats high-performance boats.
MonArk – MonArk was one of the most-advertised boat brands on the market from the early days and 1975 wouldn’t be any different. What changed from the early years, though, was the number of different boats they’d have in an ad. In the past MonArk would feature up to 5 different boats in their yearly ad campaigns, this year, they’d only feature two. What may have been the difference was they’d just signed Jimmy Houston to the line and nearly every magazine I looked at from 1975 had the ad shown here with Jimmy in it. It must have done them some good because at least in the West a large market-share of the bass boat industry was owned by MonArk.
Ouachita – Once one of the big advertisers in the industry, Ouachita was now looking like they were going under. What used to be at least two ads per big magazine – complete with hot babes in bikinis – turned into this single ad in one magazine out of about 20 I looked through. After interviewing Ricky Green a couple of weeks ago, who was sponsored by Ouachita, they were on their last legs in 1975. Too bad – they made a great product and contributed to the growth of the sport. I guess that’s proof that a show salesman should never buy a boat company.
Ranger – In 1974 Ranger introduced the 150A and 170A. In 1975, they’d introduce their sisters, the 155A and 175A along with the 175 I/O built on the same platform as the 175A except with an inboard/outboard.
There was no doubt about it at the time that Ranger was one of, if not the, leading bass boat manufacturer in the market. They grasped the needs of the angler and accepted the fact that they couldn’t rest on their laurels when it came to design. It probably helped that Forrest was a full-time tour angler who pumped the pros constantly asking what they wished for in a boat. It was also forward thinking with respect to performance that led him to talk with racers such as Darris Allison in order to get the most out of his boats. He wasn’t the only one to do this, though, as Bass Cat and a number of other manufacturers started hiring or consulting the racers for their ideas on what made boats fast.
Rebel – I was pleasantly surprised when I saw this 1975 ad for Rebel bass boats. I had initially thought that Rebel left the industry in ’74 but evidently that wasn’t the case. Although Rebel wouldn’t be around for much longer in the bass boat industry, they were there in 1975 with a 17-foot model that could handle a 115 hp motor. There isn’t much said about the boat in the ad and I wonder if they even sold one in 1975 or thereafter. It’s sad, to go from the company that first provided the Classic boats to nothing within 6 years.
Skeeter – Ads for Skeeter Boats prior to this 1975 ad were all essentially slim and none. The first Skeeter ads I ran into were from the 1962 and 1964 issues of the Southern Anglers Guide and a single 1974 issue of Bassmaster. They were pretty mundane ads (and boats) but in 1975 they changed all of that with the Skeeter Wrangler.
Every bass boat manufacturer worth their resin was trying to come up with the fastest “regulation” bass boat and Skeeter was another one of those companies. Their introduction of the 16-foot 2-inch Wranger, which was capable of a 150-hp motor, was by far the smallest boat/biggest motor combination there was. To say it was fast would be an understatement. The Wrangler was a game changer.
StarCraft – A year after Bill Dance helped design the Bill Dance Pro 16 StarCraft is still advertising it as their flagship, even though Dance appears to have left them for Fisher Marine. It’s completely possible that Dance was still sponsored by StarCraft with regards to glass boats but it’s highly unlikely since StarCraft also built aluminum boats too.
Still, the ad featured a boat that’s well thought out and functional, obviously designed by an angler. What grabs me, though, is the beer in the cooler and the single bass in the well. Yeah, I remember, this is 1975 and it wasn’t until 1985 that my bass club outlawed beer in the boat but come on StarCraft, if you’re going to use beer at least use something better than Strohs.
Terry – Now we’re talking. Gone are the ads with Gritts Gresham and now we’ve got ads that are showing what the Terry boats I remember look like. Tri-hull pad boats that were solidly constructed these boat performed with the best. It would be a year or two before they’d change over to the metric system but it was the ‘75 models that really set them apart from their previous years and entered them into the high-performance bass boat industry.
Bassmaster Classic Boat – What’s interesting about this 1975 ad is it was to help sell the 1974 Bassmaster Classic rigs still owned by B.A.S.S. Although the rigs were definitely worth the paltry $5,295 price tag, it was evident that even though B.A.S.S. was big time now, they still weren’t big enough to pre-sell the Classic boats like they’d do in years to come.
What’s interesting is the fact that this ad was from February 1975 and they still had some boats left. I bet if there was an offer like this today, considering these boats were fished from by the “elite pros” of the day, there would be a waiting list a mile long the day they went on sale.