The First True Boat Wraps

Denny Brauer in 2002 with Busch beer, his primary sponsor at the time.

Denny Brauer in 2002 with Busch beer, his primary sponsor at the time.

A few weeks back we posted a picture of Charlie Brewer’s old 1970s bass boat featuring both his company logo and his Fishing Facts Field Staff credentials. It was a pretty common display for the time, and was one of the many precursors to true boat wraps in the freshwater fishing world that we now see on most every semi-serious angler’s boats. But somebody had to have been the first guy to wrap their boat with a fully covered vinyl decal. The question is who? I think I now have the answers.

Based on seeing Denny’s picture at the top of this story, you’d likely guess that he was the first angler to run a wrap…and you’d be partly correct. As best I can tell, right about 2000-2001 is likely the time when Denny ran a Busch beer wrapped Ranger on Tour, the first to do so. A year later, he actually had to leave his sponsor deal with Chevy trucks because he and Anheuser-Busch decided to also wrap his Suburban.  In a November 2002 Bass Fan article, Denny stated, “it’s just a step to try to push the sport forward. The whole rig together is drawing tremendous attention, and that’s what the sport needs. Hopefully by doing this it will help some of the other guys.”

Denny's 2002 wrapped Suburban. Photo credit: Chad Brauer

Denny’s 2002 wrapped Suburban. Photo credit: Chad Brauer

While I’ve given away a lot of my old Bassmaster magazine collection, a few issues I had from 2003 showed that by that time, at least a handful of pros were running wrapped boats, mostly by companies that were primary sponsors of BASS at the time, Busch included. However, a lot of guys hadn’t made that leap yet.

But there is a little more to this story, and that is because Denny, while being the first professional BASS angler to have ran a wrapped boat, isn’t technically the first freshwater professional angler to have done so. That honor goes to Scott Fairbairn, a then touring walleye pro on the In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail (PWT). The year was 1995, and this, I believe, is truly the first time spectators saw a fully wrapped rig out on the water in a professional fishing event.

Scott Fairbairn's "Ice boat". Walleye In'Sider, Oct.-Nov., 1998.

Scott Fairbairn’s “Ice boat”. Walleye In’Sider, Oct.-Nov., 1998.

Scott had signed a non-endemic sponsor in North Star Ice, and beginning that year on tour, he had his Fisher fiberglass boat wrapped with their logo and design. If you look at the picture above, you’ll clearly see the companies logo on the boat’s side hull. All the lighter blue parts underneath the rub rail are part of the vinyl hull wrap. While not immediately apparent from a distance, take a look close-up (see pic below), and you’ll then see that the entire design is a large graphic of ice cubes placed all over the entire non-white sections of the hull.

Fairbairn's "Ice boat," close up.

Fairbairn’s “Ice boat,” close up.

Jim Kalkofen, former PWT tourney director, stated back in a 2009 NPAA article on Scott;

His North Star “ice boat” was the first wrapped boat in the entire fishing industry, appearing on TV, in magazines, in newspapers, on posters and at grocery store promotions.  The “ice boat” campaign started in 1995 and propelled (and paid) him further along his career path.

So, as Paul Harvey used to say, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

Scott Fairbairn, 1998 In-Fisherman/PWT Angler of the Year. photo: Oct.-Nov., 1998 Walleye In'Sider

Scott Fairbairn, 1998 In-Fisherman/PWT Angler of the Year. photo: Oct.-Nov., 1998 Walleye In’Sider

  • JWM

    Fished with a guy in a BFL years ago that had a brand new wrap on an older Ranger. Driving down the lake that morning, pretty much the whole wrap came off and was trailing behind the boat. I thought it was pretty funny, he didn’t. Turns out he paid for it out of his own pocket (and it wasn’t even his company!) He was getting a little bit of tournament money but it didn’t cover the cost of the wrap. Ouch.