There’s been a lot of “next big thing” statements made over the years pertaining to all sorts of bass fishing products. Perhaps one of the more notable statements that comes to mind for me was the question posed in a 1977 Popular Science article hinting at the possible coming death of fiberglass as a hull material in bass boats.
The actual opening statement in the article was as follows; “Fiberglass, the core of modern hull construction, is now obsolescent.” That’s a pretty bold statement, surely made mostly to grab the readers attention. But what was going to end the reign of fiberglass?
It was going to be eclipsed by a new hull material “some 25-percent lighter, 50-percent stronger, and 50-percent stiffer.” The new material at the time was Kevlar, an invention of Du Pont, then recognized as the strongest synthetic fiber in the world. Yet nearly 30 years after this article made print, and fiberglass still seems to be alive and well in the boat manufacturing world. Still, back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Kevlar boat hulls were ‘all the rage’. The promise of indestructible hulls had the bass boatin’ world abuzz. So what went wrong?
On its surface it seemed like a great idea. Lighter weight meant better fuel efficiency, and easier towing, a big deal back in those days of double digit inflation and gas embargoes. Where ramming a stump or other solid object would puncture a hole in the hull of a fiberglass boat, it would only dent a Kevlar built hull – and it could be popped back out in some cases. Remember that ad where the bulldozer is running over the hull of the Hydra Sport? At one point according to accounts, HydraSports was building 93 percent of their boats with the stuff. There were several problems though:
- Kevlar was more difficult to work than fiberglass.
- It was trickier to prepare for lamination.
- While it had great tensile strength, it was relatively weak in compression.
- Finally, it was a pretty costly material, adding between $300-$500 per boat built with the stuff (doesn’t actually sound like much). Kevlar woven roving costs $14 per yard versus $1 for fiberglass.
I still see where it is being used in some hulls of modern day bass boats, usually in the more custom built lines. Again, it seems like a case of great science, but just not at the right time.
Did any of you guys actually own or run one of these Kevlar hulls?