The 1980 Bass Pro Shops Catalog featuring the 1980 Bass Trackers. Bass Tracker III.

In 1978, Johnny Morris introduced the first package boat ever to come on the market.  Initially he was told by the experts the concept would fail, but by 1980, he’d proved the prognosticators wrong.  In that first year he brought forth the bass Tracker aluminum boat, fully rigged for the price of $2,995.  Today in 1980 Bass Tracker, we’re going to show you how in three years the Bass Tracker brand had grown.

This catalog opens with Johnny Morris welcoming you to the new catalog and a good talk about catch and release and conservation.  It’s a good message and one we should still heed today.  On the opposing page, there’s an image of one of his best friends in life, Charlie Campbell with a poem he wrote about him and catch and release.

1980 Bass Pro Shops catalog inside cover and page 3.

The next two pages cover the story of how Bass Tracker came to be.  It’s pretty much a sales pitch on why to buy a Tracker.

1980 Bass Pro Shops catalog and the Bass Tracker Story.

The next two pages we finally get into the boats, but here we’re talking one- and two-man Bass Tracker Bantams.  These were really cool little platforms to fish from if you had a private pond.  They were essentially the dimensions of a sheet of plywood, sturdy and fished well.  For the pond angler, they were awesome rigged with a small battery and a trolling motor.

1980 Bass Pro Shops Bantams and Belly Boat.

Finally on pages 8 and 9 we get to the aluminum rigs and opening is what became known as the standard Bass Tracker.  This boat was 15-feet long and bare bones with two swivel seats, a Minn Kota 535 trolling motor, and a 9.8-horse Mercury.  The only things it was missing was a depth finder and a livewell.  For the price of $1,995, you could spend another $150 and get a finder and outfit your own cooler with an aeration system and have that taken care of.

The 1980 Bass Pro Shops Catalog featuring the 1980 Bass Trackers. Bass Tracker.

The next two pages had the Bass Tracker I.  It was the same length as the Bass Tracker but was wider in beam, transom height and hull.  It could handle a 40-horse motor, had fore and aft raised decks, an aerated well, and several other items needed to get into club tournaments.  Again, missing from this package was a depthfinder but with a price tag of $2,995 it was a deal compared to outfitting your own comparable boat at any dealer in the day.

The 1980 Bass Pro Shops Catalog featuring the 1980 Bass Trackers. Bass Tracker I.

The Bass Tracker II was the next boat.  This rig measured out at 16-feet in length with a 69-inch beam and a 60-horse motor rating.  It came with a semi-raised front deck, driver and navigator seats and a rear fishing seat.  This boat was fully outfitted with depth finder, trolling motor and everything else an angler would need to fish tournaments.  The rig was priced at $3,395.

The 1980 Bass Pro Shops Catalog featuring the 1980 Bass Trackers. Bass Tracker II.

The final boat in the catalog was the lead-in image of this post.  The Bass Tracker III was the highest-end Tracker Bass Pro Shops put out in 1980.  It was built on the same platform as the original 1978 Tracker as well as the 1980 bass Tracker II.  But this version had raised casting decks fore and aft, a bench seat, a 40-horse Mercury, a Humminbird Super Sixty, and a Minn Kota 565.  Comparing the two boats, this one had a lot more accoutrements than the 1978 version and for only $3,595.

Johnny made a good boat for the money but they weren’t without fault.  Several of the anglers that came into our tackle shop purchased these early boats, which wasn’t an easy thing to do.  In these early days, you had to drive to Springfield to pick them up as there were no dealers.

The boats generally operated flawlessly minus typical boat problems.  But after about three or four years, the decks, which were made from plywood, would start cracking and warping.  Having worked on a few of these boats back in the day, the plywood didn’t seem to be marine grade and on top of that, was only sealed with either polyurethane or some other thin seal coat.  After a few years water would seep into the drilled holes for seat pedestals or the edges of the wood and would start to dry rot.  On the three or four boats I helped restore, every one of them had this problem and all the wood was replaced with marine-grade ply sealed with resin and glass.

Overall the boats were very fishable, the hulls strong, and provided those with smaller budgets a platform to get on the water.  If they were a total failure, Bass Tracker wouldn’t still be in business.

I wish there was something today that offered the same options to new anglers or anglers who are on a budget.  Today you can’t even get a kayak for less than what the Bass Tracker III cost.