So far we’ve taken a look at bass boats from 1970, ’71, ’72, ’73 and a smattering from other years (here and here). Now we take a look at Old Bass Boat ads 1974 – or at least those companies who decided their hard-earned profits were worthy of advertising in fishing magazines.
In this installment, we have many of the companies who had advertised in the past, such as Arrow Glass, Chrysler, Ranger and Fisher Marine. What was interesting about the 1974 ad campaign was the decrease of advertisements and the decline of companies participating. In 1970 there were four companies displaying ads and that doubled the following year to eight. By 1972 11 companies were purchasing ad space in serious fishing magazines and then it peaked in 1973 with 15 companies. This year, though, only 13 manufacturers decided to spend the money. Why the decrease?
Well, if you think back, there was an entity named OPEC who had decided to place an oil embargo on the world thus increasing the price of crude oil. I remember prior to this, my mom going to the gas station, handing the Full Service attendant a $5 bill and asking him to fill up the ’68 Camaro. After 1973, gas prices more than doubled, thus putting a damper on luxury items such as boats. Sound familiar?
In any event, when one looks at the ads, we see some companies didn’t seem to pay attention that prices were on the rise, while it’s obvious that other companies were going to wait it out before they made a move to embrace new technology. Then there were the companies who were sitting in a perfect position for an energy crisis.
In this installment of Old Bass Boats, we’ll also look at the first ads for the Bassmaster Classic boats. Although they were all Ranger Platforms from 1972 on, it’s interesting to see what the Classic contenders were fishing out of.
So let’s take a look.
Arrow Glass – The only ad Arrow Glass placed this year in the magazines I could dig up was this one for their 15-foot Tarpon model. It’s obvious from prior years that the company felt comfortable with their lineup due to the fact that little had changed between 1970 and 1974. Maybe they had so much success they didn’t need to look forward at new design features. In any event, this boat from 1974 looks pretty identical to others they made from 1970 through 1973.
Bass Cat – The brainchild of Ron Pierce, Bass Cat started business in 1971 and within 3 years they’d become one of the most widely used boats amongst the pros. This isn’t just a statement, it was fact. Look at the list of anglers who were using the Mountain Home, Arkansas companies boats. Basil Bacon, Lanny Verner, Jim Rogers, Rayo Breckenridge, Skip Fisher and Tommy Martin were all running Cats in 1974. Between them, they either won their respective Angler of the Year or won its Championship. Rayo, of course, won the 1973 Bassmaster Classic, while Tommy Martin won two PSI National Championships (I think this translates to single events) and Basil Bacon won the PSI Angler of the Year award.
Chrysler – The first Chrysler ad that we saw was from 1973 and this ad from 1974 is exactly the same. It features Jerry McKinnis and describes five of their models. With Chrysler’s big investment in cars it’s obvious that they weren’t going to spend R&D money on boats. They were probably more interested in developing smaller cars like the Cordoba (with Corinthian leather) in order to keep profits high.
Fisher Marine – If there was a boat company that was prepared for the gas crisis it was the aluminum boat company Fisher Marine. Being small and light, these boats could be towed with a Datsun 510 (I’ve done it) and still get 25 miles-per-gallon to and from the lake. While on the water you’d be lucky to use 3 gallons of fuel over the course of the day. Still in years past Fisher Marine had up to 8 different ads in various magazines. This year they cut it back to three different ads.
Hydra Sports – Now here was a company that debuted in 1973 and they were all about new innovation. Originally billed as a performance boat, in 1974 they created an ad (on the right) that equated performance with fuel savings. What they also were debuting this year was their stepped-pad hull design. This not only gave better performance at the high end, it also allowed for better hole shots, thus conserving fuel. It’s hard to find a boat today that doesn’t have a stepped-pad design such as the one Jim Epps developed for Hydra Sports.
MonArk – MonArk was another company that reeled back their advertising campaign in 1974. I found 2 ads out of the 25 magazines I searched, the Super Sport ad from the year prior and a new Super Pro ad. The 16-foot Super Sport had a lot of creature comforts but came in at a hefty 1200 pounds – not too good for those looking for good fuel economy.
To me, though, the Super Pro ad is the one that really gets me. First, you have no specifications for the boat. Second, there’s that I/O concept that really tells your backseater, “I don’t want you to catch fish!” The craziest thing about the ad, though, is the fact that MonArk actually printed the picture for this ad with the passenger sitting in the front deck seat. I mean, how safe is that?
Osprey – Ever hear of International Fiberglass Fabricators? That’s what I thought. Well, in light of OPEC’s gas war with the U.S., they had an ad in 1974 for their 13-foot 8-inch Osprey Bass Boat. They offered two models, one with a 15-inch transom rated for a 25-horse motor and another with a 20-inch transom rated for a 40-horse motor – yikes! Rated by the Boating Institue of America (BIA) I’d hate to have been in that model rated for a 40-horse – with stick steer even. I bet that thing flew. I’m not sure how long the company was around but I sure would have hated to have been their lawyer.
Ouachita – Another company to tighten their belt with respect to advertising was Ouachita. In years past they’d place as many as 4 different ads in magazine touting their wares yet this year they cut it back to one ad and it was only in two magazines that I could find. Not only that, the ad was from the 1973 calendar year too.
Ranger – Here’s where things get a little interesting. Ranger was always willing to go the extra mile with respect to advertising. In past years they had at least one ad in every bass magazine and sometimes up to three full-page ads. 1974 was no different. Not only were they taking advantage of advertising during a year where few companies were doing it, they’d also teamed up with legendary boat racer and designer Darius Allison to design a new high-performance hull for their line. The Ranger 150A and 170A (A is for Allison) were a whole new concept to Ranger Boats. Although they were still manufacturing the Bathtub-style boats like the TR10, the new concept pad hull was here to stay. It wouldn’t be long before all of their lineup, and many other manufacturers lineups, would feature this design. Ranger was one of the companies looks to high performance in order to not only give speed freaks what they wanted but also the fuel conscious angler too.
There was also an ad for Ranger Boats put out by dealer, Ditto Sales – think Bobby Ditto of Ditto Worm fame. It’s a neat ad because it provides a price for a Ranger in 1974 – $3,998.40. The curious thing about the ad is they advertise that price for a Ranger Trio, a model I’m not familiar with at all. I wish there was a picture to go with it.
Skeeter – It wasn’t often that one would find a Skeeter ad in a magazine but by 1974, the “first” bass boat company decided they better get on the bandwagon. What I found in my search were these two ads, this ad for the Skeeter Hawk and another for what may be the first look at today’s deck boats.
When one thinks of early Skeeter, two images come to mind, the original 1950s boat and the Skeeter Wrangler. It had been a long time since I’d seen a Hawk hull and it wouldn’t take the folks in Longview, TX to change with the times and design a more futuristic bass boat.
Then you have the Sweet Thing ad. Billed as a family fishing boat, it resembles today’s deck boats, built for drinking, skiing and fishing catfish and crappie. For one, there’s no room up front for a trolling motor and that wrap-around seat isn’t too conducive to fishing. Second, at 15-feet 9-inches, it’s hard to imagine how much deck space there really is. To top all this off it’s rated or a 120-horse motor.
Dig down into the weeds of the ad and you see something pretty intriguing. Their talk about the new 18-foot concept tunnel hull bass boat called the Eagle I. I don’t recall ever seeing one of those in the west and wonder how long they were produced. I bet at 18-feet and with Skeeter’s generous horsepower rating, that boat flew.
StarCraft – In 1973 StarCraft placed their first ad for a bass boat in the magazines. Bill Dance was their angling spokesman and again in ’74, he was still part of the team. They touted having six different models to choose from and that included the 16-foot Bill Dance Pro model. Dance wouldn’t be with StarCraft much past this year as he’d eventually hook up with Hydra Sports and then Johnny Morris and Bass Pro Shops.
Terry – One of the oldest, if not the second oldest, actual bass boat companies, Terry’s boats hadn’t changed much since the late 60s. Not only that, their choice of front man, Grits Gresham, still hadn’t changed. You can’t tell much from the ad what model this was but it looks to be their 18-foot version. Also impressive about the ad is the number of dealers shown – and these were just in Florida alone. With that type of distribution in one state I’d really like to know what their national distributorship looked like.
Tide Craft – Tide Craft had been advertising their products for a good number of years by 1974. Their boats were hard to tell apart from other tubs of the time and being in all black and white, their advertising lacked any pizazz. In 1974 they placed this single ad in a couple of magazines – the same ad they’d used in 1973.
Bassmaster Classic Boat – The 1974 Bassmaster Classic boat again would be based on a Ranger platform and outfitted to the max for the Classic Contenders. Although it’s not stated in the ads, it looks as if the Classic boat was built on a TR10 platform. The boat came complete with a Johnson 85-horse motor, Lowrance LFG-405 BC electronics (one flasher on the console), Magnum Motor-Guise trolling motor, rod holders, Blakemore batteries, boat-reins, Okiebug aerator system, and a Johnny Reb LectrAnchor system. The boat supposedly retailed for over $7,000 but B.A.S.S. members could buy the slightly used boat for only $5,295* – price subject to increased manufacturing costs.
This was the first year that Ray touted the boats in Bassmaster Magazine for sale, although he sold each Classic boat prior to this year. I’m betting the reason for this would be to pre-sell as many boats before the Classic so he didn’t have to inventory boats. Pretty smart idea and over the years, I knew a number of guys who purchased the boats. In fact, one of my early mentors, Steve Blackwell, actually had the 1976 Classic boat – the first “real” bass boat I’d ever fished out of.
Stay tuned for the next round of Old Boats as we head into a time when bass boats would start to resemble the rides we have today. By 1975 the gas crunch had calmed down and more companies were willing to face the music and get on the technology swing.
Past Reader Comments:
Dean Smith: I have the 1974 bass master classic boat I’m working on right now.
Crizzy Brown: For me, these are all very wonderful boats! But I’m just wondering if any one is familiar with arrow glass boats. I like this boat because it is primarily set up for fishing and it has a big live wells and nice carpet and the gel coat is in good shape. Great post!
Jojo Norwood: I had a 1976 MFG Super Bass. Got it about ’81 and ran it until ’98….LOL.
My first bass boat was a King Fisher stick steering with a 40 Merc. I went to Texas to pick at up it the factory.. That was 1969.
Pete, man, I was only 5 years old then and more interested in going to the moon!