International Bass Boats – A Look Into Our Past

A 1960s Bassmaster event or??? Photo Basser Magazine 1986.

Looking at the lead picture one might think they were looking at a picture from an early 1960s bass tournament. Instead, what you’re looking at is a picture taken in 1986 at one of the biggest bass events held in the world – even today – the Japan Cup.

When I first wrote this story a week or so ago I wanted to show what type of boats anglers in other countries use to fish tournaments. Then John Johnson at BassFan beat me to the punch by posting a story about Scott Martin and his trip to China.

I’m not going to let that keep me from posting this, though, as anglers in many countries – Japan, Italy, South Korea and China – use small boats instead of what us Americans call a “normal” bass boat.

I don’t know how many of you have been to a foreign country that has bass but I’ve personally been to three countries (not counting our northern cousin Canada) that host the U.S.’s most popular gamefish. During those trips I was not only able to check out their tackle shops and drop some well-earned USDs on “Not Made in the USA” baits, but in a couple of them I was actually able to fish and experience bass fishing in their environment. In both cases the experience took me back to my early days of bass fishing with respect to the passion and the boats used.

Photo Popeye’s Japan 2006. Terry Battisti.

Over the years I’ve had many discussions with US anglers regarding my travels to fish places like Italy and Japan and they always ask the same question pertaining to their boats. “Why do they use such small boats?” The answer to that question is really threefold. One, most all bass boats – except for maybe in Africa – are made in the United States. Tariffs to ship full-sized rigs over oceans can double the cost of a boat, making it near impossible to own unless you have mucho Euro, Yen or whatever currency we’re talking about.

The second “problem” with the big boats is the fact that roads in a lot of these countries simply cannot handle big trailers and if they can, road tariffs make it extremely costly again. For example, most roads (not the Autostrade, or highway system) in Italy were made during the horse-and-carriage days and are too narrow to handle a full-size US SUV let alone a 20-foot bass boat. The same can be said regarding Japan.

In Japan, those anglers that have bigger US-style bass boats actually have to store them at a marina or moor them at the lake they fish most often. Then they have to obtain the proper permitting to trailer their boat to a lake. It all boils down to economics and the ability to get your boat from point A to point B efficiently.

The third problem anglers in these countries have is the price of petrol – or as we call it, gasoline. In Europe, gas costs on average around $8/gallon. In Japan it’s almost that high. Most cars in these countries are small in order to decrease the cost of fuel. Plus, to own a larger car, you have to pay the luxury taxes that come with owning a gas guzzler.

These “problems” mean most people who want to own a boat end up buying something small.

Photo Popeye’s Japan 2006. Terry Battisti

What anglers in these countries lack with respect to full-sized bass boats is made up with their passion and desire to fish. Anglers in other countries, much like the early U.S. anglers, have found out they don’t need the 20-footer with a 300 horsepower motor to catch bass. In fact, most bass boats you see on the water in these countries are anywhere from 10-foot Jon boats to 14-foot aluminum v-hulls. In Japan, where I’ve spent too much time in tackle and boat shops, the favored boat is a 12-foot aluminum v-hull that resembles a full-sized American bass boat cut off at the console. It’s essentially all front deck except for a small area in back where the angler sits to steer his tiller-controlled gas motor.

The point I’m trying to make here is if one wants to catch bass, don’t let the money get in the way. If you can’t afford a big rig, get by with something smaller. Just like the early U.S. bass anglers who made a 14-foot boat work, thousands world-wide are getting by with the same. The sport isn’t about who has the biggest Johnson, it’s about who weighs the most fish at the end of the day.

  • fish_food

    I used to love seeing the boat ads in Basser mag. They have neat little rigs there.

    Have you ever seen the miniature versions of glass bass boats? They’re like twelve foot rangers (or smaller)!

    • Hey fish_food,

      Actually I have pictures of the mini Rangers. I debated on putting them in this post but didn’t. I’ll see what I can do.


      • fish_food

        Wow, Terry–thanks for posting a separate entry on the mini Rangers made for the export market!

        • Anytime FF! Glad you liked it!

  • Bill M

    How big was George Perry’s boat or for that fact Kurita’s? It ain’t the size of the boat that matters, just what is coming over the side. In fact, my largest bass came from my old Jon Boat that I couldn’t even stand in.
    I never want them leg cramps again though…. yeeeeooooww.

    • Bill,

      I think it’s obvious how big Perry’s boat was but Kurita actually caught his fish from a full-sized US boat. But I hear what you’re saying. The biggest fish I ever hooked was out of our 15-foot Sea Nymph aluminum bass Jon around the 1980 time frame.

  • cc

    I’ve always had a soft spot for the homemade bass boats like we used to see back in the 70’s before aluminum bass boats took hold. There was something more serious about those boats than the full-on glass boats, which sometimes just reflected the owner’s wallet more than anything. Kind of like homemade street machines vs factory muscle cars back in the day as well.

    Those pictures posted above remind me of those days and I totally agree with what you said.

    In a way we’re behind the curve because energy costs are going to continue to rise whether we like it or not and until electric power matures (e.g. battery technology) those Euro and Japanese style boats might be in many American bassers futures.

    Makes sense after a generation of kidding ourselves – economically speaking – IMHO.