I have a soft spot in my heart for old bass boats. When I was young I wanted a Terry for obvious reasons. Over the course of time my family or I have owned a number of different boats – Sea Nymph, MonArk, Champion and Skeeter. All were great rides, fished well and – except for the Sea Nymph – were reasonably fast in their day.
Going through a 1975 vintage Bass Master Magazine the other day, though, I ran across an add for the boat company I’ve been running the last 7 years – Bass Cat.
The ad shows an old “tub-style” boat common for that era and also a more aggressive pad-style boat. It also shows Tommy Martin, Jerry Crowell and Basil Bacon, anglers that were staffed by Bass Cat at the time and all three 1974 Champions. Pretty impressive.
Knowing Bass Cat has been owned by the Pierce family for over 40 years and that they just completed a search and found the first boat they produced in ’71 a few months back, I knew I could call and get some good information on the history of Bass Cat. So I got on the phone with Rick Pierce of Bass Cat.
Here’s what he had to say about the ad shown above.
The Second Ad
“This was actually our second ad in Bass Master but it was our first full-page ad,” Pierce said. “The first one was just a small ad as we’d been advertising in other smaller tournament magazines at the time.
“The ad shows our Deluxe Tournament model, the DLX, a flat-bottomed boat that everyone was producing back then. It was 16 feet in length and had a 64-inch beam. It was eight inches wider at the bottom than Ranger’s comparable TR10 at the time. The boat was also rated for an 85 horsepower motor and would run in the low 40s. The boat in the ad was actually made for TV angler John Fox.
“The second boat was our XL version, which was our first pad boat. It was 16-feet 4-inches in length and had a 76-inch beam. You could hang a 125-horsepower motor off the back and it would do mid-50s. The boat was a lot heavier than it should have been weighing in at 1050 pounds. The boat also had a 50-gallon unpartitioned livewell in it – bigger than anyone has ever produced. As for boats of that era, it didn’t have much storage – only a small storage compartment on the right behind the front deck and storage under the driver’s and passenger’s seats.”
Martin, Crowell and Bacon
“The ad also shows our anglers at the time,” Pierce said. “We had Tommy Martin, Jerry Crowell and Basil Bacon, all 1974 Champions for their respective trails. Of course Tommy won the Bass Master Classic in ’74 and that really elevated him as a professional angler. Then there was Jerry Crowell who won the Bass Casters of Association (BCA) Tournament of Champions and Basil who won the Project Sports INC (PSI) Tournament of Champions. Most people don’t know that at this time there were three major circuits running.
“The year before that Rayo Breckenridge (Classic Champ 1973) was with us and we also had Joe Verbeck who was the BCA Champion and Basil was also the 1973 PSI Champion.”
I asked Pierce what sponsorships were like in those days.
“Basically we handled the boats for the anglers so the guys got memo deals,” he said. “We’d pay some entry fees and maybe some gas money too. The market really wasn’t there yet. All these guys had day jobs along with their tournament fishing. Martin was guiding in Texas, Basil was working at his family furniture store and Jerry was a rail road engineer. They were all apt to fish any weekend tournament close to home as they were to fish a big event.”
Boats have come a long way since this time and I was curious about what Pierce’s thoughts were on the subject.
“I think the biggest developments came from those in the industry who used them,” he said. “We would always send out questionnaires to our pro-staff and ask them what could be improved and we would implement these improvements into our line.
“This was a break-out time for dad (Ron Pierce, founder of Bass Cat), and the company as in ’73 and ’74 we had the bulk of the major winners in Bass Cat models. Then the pad hulls started to take hold and the game changed.
“I have to credit Hydrostream and Allison to the advancement of bass boats,” he said. “These were the racing hulls that introduced the pad-style hull to the market. Dad was very reluctant to go to the pad-style boat even though we had the 7th Allison hull sitting outside the shop for a long time. He traded Hugh Massey for it for a new DLX boat.
“Everyone thought it was a fad then, though it caught on pretty quick, with Ranger developing the 150A and 170A hulls in cooperation with Darius Allison. Dad was slow to build our own design in ’74 and when it came out, it was a tank. We redesigned the hull in 1975 and that’s the 1974 boat you see in the ad.
“Those were some great times. The sport was building and the industry was starting to get some legs. Next time we talk, I’ll tell you about our work with Dave Fenton and how he helped us from the crash of the late 70s and how we got back in the pro ranks.”
Rick Pierce has lived nearly his entire life in the bass and bass boat industry. In his early years, he fished the B.A.S.S. Invitational circuit but his love for boat design and building always brought him home to Mountain Home, AR and the Bass Cat factory. He’s a wealth of knowledge, not just in the bass boat industry but also the bass fishing industry. We hope to hear more from Rick on both of these subjects in the future.