Flipping decks became popular in the early- to mid-80s. The problem was, the boat manufacturers didn't offer them until roughly 1987. Here's a 1990 ad from the January issue of the ABA newsletter for Pro Deck, an aftermarket company offering flipping deck inserts amongst other things.

Here’s an interesting ad I found in the January 1990 American Bass Association’s (the California-based ABA that started circa 1986 or so) newsletter. For those of you reading who have only been bass fishing for the last 30 years, the concept of not having a raised flipping deck in your boat may sound a bit crazy.

The ad states Pro Deck will not only raise the height of your deck for better flipping but also add under-deck storage and even extend the deck back towards the consoles. At the time of this ad most of the bass boat manufacturers didn’t have flipping decks in their boats. What is a standard deck today is the work of a number of crafty anglers throughout the U.S. who actually built their own deck extensions over the existing small decks on their boats at the time.

1986 Ranger 393V layout. Notice the front deck stops well ahead of the driver’s console and also the lack of dry storage. This was standard in the ’80s.

Bass boats from the early days through about the mid-80s had a nominal front deck – many of which stopped at the rear of the front seat pedestal- and these decks were anywhere from 6 inches to a foot below the boat’s gunwale. Early flippers, realizing the higher they were in the boat the better they could see AND the easier it was to actually flip a lure and not hit the gunwale, started making their own decks that would lift them up to a better vantage point in the boat. (In fact I remember one particular angler in southern California around the 1982 time frame who actually built a scaffold 3-feet high on his front deck to allow him to flip over the high cattails on the Colorado River and its impoundments.)

An ad for the 1986 Bass Master Classic boat. Note the distance from the deck to the top of the gunwale and the short front deck.

As more and more anglers started making these makeshift decks, more of these tinkerers realized, “why stop at the front deck?” Soon they started making their decks to cover the open area between the rod lockers – a place where most anglers carried their tackle boxes. What resulted from this was the first covered tackle storage areas in the front deck.

What was obvious from the Pro Deck ad was that by 1990 everyone was wanting to increase the fishability of their older bass boats by adding the raised and extended flipping deck. My question was, “What boat manufacturer made the first flipping deck and what year was it?”

Stratos’ 1987 181-Pro model with what appears to be the first OEM flipping deck.

From memory I thought it was either Skeeter or Champion who came out with the first OEM flipping deck – they were the first companies that I’d remembered seeing with them. So I got out my old collection of magazines and started on a quest to try and figure the question out.

A quick search prior to 1986 showed that no company advertising in the bass magazines had yet claimed to being the first with such a deck. Nearly through the year 1986, I was starting to feel it was going to be later, until I hit the November 1986 issue of Bassmaster Magazine. In the middle of the magazine was an ad for Stratos boats. The ad vividly displayes the front deck of their 181-Pro model, complete with gunwale-height front deck.

In the write-up Stratos says, “The all-new flippin’ deck, flush with the front gunwale, raises you to new heights of flippin’ distance and accuracy.” Well folks, we may have found our winner.

In the past I have talked at length with Rick Pierce, president of Bass Cat Boats, about the evolution of bass boats. In those conversations he’s always mentioned how it was the anglers who have advanced nearly all aspects of bass fishing, mainly tackle but most especially boats. In the case of the flipping deck, that was without a doubt the case.