The year is 1975 and by now bass boats have morphed from tubs with a motor into performance fishing platforms. Not only were they becoming fast, but their functionality was also becoming more evident. The early days of open decks, stick steering and small slow boats are beginning to make way for hulls designed for speed, dry storage and better electronics. In this look at Old Bass Boats -1975, you’re in for a real eye-opening.
In the last installment of Old Bass Boats – 1974, we talked about the new Ranger A-series boats, designed by Darris Allison. We also talked about the new kid on the block, Hydra-Sports and their “step-pad” hull known under the name Hydra-Flight.
Boat manufacturers were now looking to the race industry, not only to make their hulls faster but more efficient due to the gas crunch. But sifting through the magazines, I came across two other boat companies, Delta and Venture, that were taking speed to another level. You’ll see what I mean in the coming paragraphs.
In 1974 I could find only 13 companies who advertised in the magazines I conducted my research in. For 1975, that number almost doubled to 24 companies that advertised. This could be because I recently acquired several old Lunker Hole and American Bass Fisherman magazines from 1975 compared to my meager stash of 1974-era magazines.
Boat manufacturers weren’t the only ones pushing their brands, though. The tournament organizations were doing the same with their championship boats. B.A.S.S. of course was pimping their Bass Masters Classic boat and the Bass Caster’s Association and American Bass Fisherman got in the swing doing the same. We’ll check out what they all had to offer the angler later in this piece.
New to this column, we’re also adding some of the major marine dealers to the mix. Boat sales were starting to grow and some of the bigger dealers found it worthwhile to market their stores in national magazines. This addition will also give you an idea of what a boat package cost back in 1975.
Due to the length of this piece, we’re going to break it up into three pieces. Part 1 will cover Airgator to Hydra-Sports, Part 2 will cover Mackie to Venture and Part 3 will cover the Championship boats and Boat Dealers.
Let’s check some boats out.
Airgator, Orlando, FL – I almost left this one out of the mix but felt it might bring a chuckle or two. I found this ad in American Bass Fisherman (ABF), which was located out of Kissimmee, Florida. Based off the ad, it looks as if Airgator got together with ABF to come out with the Air-Powered American Bass Fisherman Boat. Touted as the “Newest in Bassin Machines,” this air boat was rigged with the bass fisherman in mind. Let’s look at some of the features.
Aerated livewell, 150 HP aircraft engine with optional turbo charger, pilot seat, 280-degree swiveling, two 12-volt batteries, weather-proof carpet, full instrumentation, fishing chair, storage, 12-24-volt trolling motor, non-skid deck, tackle storage, rod/gun storage and an ice chest. The description doesn’t state how long the boat is.
Airgator touts the craft as being tough, no launch ramps required, and the 1/8-inch-thick aluminum will stop a .38 slug at five paces. That made me laugh out loud. They also say they’re economical at half the operating cost of a 150-hp outboard. Having never owned an air boat, I can’t argue that point, but my intuition feels different.
One of the other humorous lines in the ad was, “replace your snowmobile and bass boat with the American Bass Fisherman Airboat.” I wonder how many of these things made it north of the Okefenokee Swamp.
Arrow Glass, Memphis TN – Arrow Glass had always been a big advertiser up until 1974, where they dropped from four or five ads per year to only one. For 1975 they decided to increase their campaign and placed two ads in Bassmaster. There is a third ad I found in The Lunker Hole, but it was placed by Bill’s Marine in St. Louis, MO. We’ll talk about that ad after we look at the manufacturer’s ads.
The first Bassmaster ad featured their 17-foot Nova LTD. With a beam of 76 inches and rated for a 115-h.p. motor, it had all the amenities for the bass angler.
Their next offering in Bassmaster was the 15-6 Meteor. The beam was 74 inches and had standard level floatation, kill switch, mechanical steering, aerated livewell, 18-gallon fuel tank, and a forward control panel and more. No motor ratings were mentioned but I would expect it to be around 85-h.p.
The Arrow Glass boats from one year to another don’t seem to change much and if you go back in this series of articles, I’m sure you’ll agree. It seems as if Arrow Glass isn’t doing much development-wise while other companies are making big strides forward with R&D. We’ll see how this pans out for the company in the next few years.
As mentioned, there was another ad featuring an Arrow Glass boat, that from Bill’s Marine. This ad sheds a lot of light on just what this boat rigged would cost you in 1975. Rigged with a 115-h.p. Merc, Motor-Guide trolling motor, Humminbird depth finder and a custom trailer, you could get out the door for $4,795. I don’t know if this includes batteries and the rest of the things you’d need to be Coast Guard legal. In today’s money, that comes to $24,775. For that, they could add another flasher to the front and a paper graph to the back and you’re still sitting better then, than you would today for a glass boat.
Astroglass, Pleasant View, TN – Astroglass, only placed one ad in all the magazines I searched, and it came out of American Bass Fisherman. The same ad was in every issue I looked through and was paltry at that. Dimensions of the ad were 1/4 page in area but the picture of the boat was nice.
The Astroglass Pro, “The Cadillac of Bass Boats.” The only other information given was the boat, “Meets all Coast Guard and bass tournament requirements,” you’d have to write the office in Pleasant View to get more information.
Like I said, the boat looks nice in the picture but what’s it’s length and motor rating? Storage? There’s a lot of blank space there for someone to have added just a little more information. Maybe words cost too much?
Bass Cat Boats, Mountain Home, AR – Bass Cat Boats placed two ads in bass-centric magazines in 1975. First off, they upped their advertising by placing their first full-page ad in Bassmaster Magazine and they continued their ad campaign in The Lunker Hole. Let’s look at the ad in Bassmaster first.
We’ve featured this ad before on the Bass Fishing Archives, but in order to make this article complete, we include it (https://bass-archives.com/old-boat-ads-bass-cat/). The reason for including it is because, as mentioned above, Bass Cat had only advertised in smaller-venue magazines up to this point. With several high-profile anglers fishing their rigs, I suspect it was time to ramp up their campaign.
The ad features Tommy Martin, Jerry Crowell and Basil Bacon – all winners of their respective championships in 1974, and two of their boat models. The DLX Tournament was the standard flat bottom that everyone was producing at the time. The XL, on the other hand, was the Pierces’ first foray into a pad-boat. Although the ad doesn’t state any dimensions I was able to get them from Rick Pierce and they can be seen in the article called out above.
The second ad I found came out of The Lunker Hole and featured Jerry Crowell sitting in his Bass cat with his trophy for winning the 1974 BCA National Champion of Champions. This ad was placed on the back inside cover of each issue in 1974.
Although it is an ad for the boat company, it continues to show that the league champions were fishing out of a Cat. The verbiage, “As in the Past bass Cat Boats were the choice of champions,” pretty much says it. It’s a pretty plain-Jane ad but it’s effective and also boasts the original Bass Cat logo – mint!
The next ad I found with a Bass Cat in it was again from Bill’s Marine, again from The Lunker Hole. This ad was for the Bass Cat 16’ Super. Evidently Bill’s was the boat dealership in the day because they’re advertising the First Showing of the 16’ Super. It was touted as being a special design, hi-performance hull for maximum speed and stability and rated for a 115-h.p. motor. I can’t tell if this is the same hull as the XL. Maybe if Rick sees this, he can let us know in the comments.
Bassmaster Boats, Junction City, KY – I know it’s confusing but this is not a Bass Master Classic boat. This is a boat manufactured by Bassmaster Boats out of KY. I’m sure the company name spun some heads in the day. This is the first time I’ve heard of this company but let’s see what they had to offer.
The model BSM-16 STD and Pro editions were 16 feet in length with a beam of 68 inches. Hull weight was 635 pounds and was rated for an 85-h.p. motor. The boat was a tri-hull design with two livewells, a 7-foot rod locker carpeted and had an enlarged instrument panel.
You can’t help but notice the blonde in the front of the boat and the dude on the back deck haphazardly fishing. No trolling motor, no flasher (maybe it’s her?) and the boats is right on top of the cover he’s fishing. It’s almost as if Bassmaster Boats has taken marketing tips from Ouachita – scantily clad women sell boats. Oh, where the passenger’s seat?
Delta Marine, Sharpsville, IN – Here’s another new company advertising for 1975 – Delta Marine of Indiana. These two ads really caught my attention. Do the words “tunnel hull” and “Record Speed” pique your interest? They did mine.
In the first Delta Marine ad they claim to have been manufacturing high performance bass boats for three years. They have two models, a 15-footer and a 17-footer. It’s difficult to tell from the boat in the ad which model it is but I’d have to say it’s probably the 17-foot model. Look how far back the driver’s and passenger’s seats are and how small the back deck is. Reminiscent of Champion’s design. You also can’t tell from the picture of it is a tunnel or a V-hull.
Weight for each hull is 600 pounds (15-foot) and 800 pounds (17-foot) with a 72-inch beam on each model. Each model comes with a standard list of equipment for the day, rod locker, dry storage, livewell, 12-24 volt trolling motor harness, etc.
In the second ad, Delta boasts the N.O.A. record speed of 81.081 MPH, although they don’t state which boat/motor they took it on. That’s flying in any boat, even today. But they make sure to let the prospective buyer know that the don’t just make fast boats, they make boats fit for the bass pro. Here are their words:
“Built for speed? You bet it is. But the record-setting Delta ‘Pro’ is a lot more than just a speed boat. It’s called the “Pro” with good reason. Because it’s designed to meet the tough demands of professional bass fishermen.
“That’s why you’ll find many custom bass fishing “extras” included as standard equipment on the Delta ‘Pro.’ A livewell, for example. And a rod compartment. Even indoor/outdoor carpet.”
I wonder if that was a joke or if they were serious? By this time, rod lockers were standard on most serious bass boats and livewells definitely were. Yet they made it sounds as if those were custom options. In any event, the boats featured look pretty cool for the time. I do say, I like the Moonies on the wheels.
Ebbtide Corp., White Bluff, TN – This was Ebbtide’s first foray into national advertising. The ad, which portrays their Bass Bandit model, talks about their hand-laid hulls and 1/2-inch 5-ply plywood decks. Their boats had built-in tackle boxes, anchor mate anchor system, fold-down captain’s chairs, livewells and a “large six-holder rod locker.”
The boat was made with level floatation, was BIA certified and had both chrome plated and anodized aluminum hardware. Where they lack in the ad is there’s no dimensions, you can’t see what kind of hull it is, and what the motor rating is. Other than that, it’s a pretty standard bass boat of the time.
Eldocraft, Smackover, AR – Eldocraft had been around a long time prior to 1975 making both aluminum and glass boats but this was their first major ad in a national magazine. Featuring their Eldorado I, a 15-foot glass boat touted as having more space, storage and performance than ever before in a 15-footer. It’s a good looking boat but the style is more of the status-quo in bass boats of the time.
In the ad they also mention six other models from 14 feet to 16 feet in length along with three new models – the Eldiablo series – with the Hot, New Extra Performance Hull. This led me to believe that later in 75 or maybe in 76 they’d be coming out with a pad-style hull like many of the other companies were doing.
Through my years in bass boats and bass fishing, I had the chance to fish out of two Eldocrafts. They were reasonably fast, stable, had a lot of storage, and fished well. I look forward to seeing more of their ads as we continue covering Old Bass Boats.
Fisher Marine, West Point, MS – For years Fisher Marine had been recycling their ads year to year. In 1975, that trend stopped – and probably for good reason. It appears that in 1975 Fisher Marine and Bill Dance worked something out and Dance joined their staff. This shortly after Dance had helped design StarCraft’s 1974 StarCraft Bill Dance Pro. Dance was featured in two of Fisher Marine’s ads touting how cheap they are to run, how fishable they are and most importantly, how inexpensive they are. Dance would be with Fisher Marine until roughly 1980 when he’d jump ship and join forces with Johnny Morris.
Fisher Marine put out another new ad in 1975 that also made mention of how economical their boats were. For $2,200 you could have a fully-rigged outfit with up to a 25 hp motor that would “troll through almost any vegetation.” Fisher Marine was still selling a solid, economical package to the masses.
The other thing I appreciate about their ads is in at least one ad per year, they list each boat and its specifications. Not only did it give you an idea of what each boat had to offer in 1975, it gives me something to talk about and compare today, 50 years later.
Where I grew up, Fisher Marine boats were everywhere, especially in the San Diego area. The San Diego lakes all had a 10-mph speed limit, were rarely affected by winds and hand poor launch ramps. These small boats were winners.
Glastron Boat Co., Austin, TX – The Glastron boat company was still pushing their Beau Jack models in 1975. Although it was a solid boat, Glastron was starting to fall behind the curve when it came to high-performance bass boats that were starting to show up on the water. Within the next two years Glastron would change their tune, and their boat design.
Shown here are three ads for 1975, although two of them are essentially the same ad with a different picture of the boat. The first ad (color) is the V-172 Beau Jack “Super Pro.” The Beau Jack featured a tri-hull, 18-gallon tank, livewells, rod storage, dry storage, anchor winch mounts, and more.
The Beau Jack came in three models, 15-, 16- and 17-feet in length. The third ad I found I almost missed due to its size. Here they were introducing their 15-foot Beau Jack. They didn’t have much to say other than what had been said in the previous two ads. But, they did show a picture of the boat.
The boats were still heavy and deep and looks as if it may have built off one of their run-a-bout hulls. It offered plenty in creature comforts but was lacking in the performance edge that other companies were starting to embrace. You’ll see a drastic change come about in the coming years and may also be surprised who they pick up as their number 1 angler.
Hurst Enterprises INC., TAFT, FL – The Hurst name became synonymous with speed in the early 1980s and I expect this boat here would move. Although there are no specifications, it appears to be in the 15-foot range and is sporting a 115-h.p. or 140-h.p. motor.
Not much is said about the boat other than a few standard features you’d expect. But looking at the picture itself, you see that staggered seating and the standard above deck compartment lids. Boy I don’t miss those. There was nothing worse than tripping over those things.
You can also see from the picture and legend, the boat had fore and aft livewells. This was another inherent problem with boats of this time. It seemed logical at the time, place the boater’s fish in front, the passenger’s fish in the back. The problem was twofold in this design, though. One, due to the rise of the hull in front, the livewell carried little water. Second, in rough water conditions, the weight at the front of the boat would act against you, beating not only you and your passenger, but your fish to death. It wouldn’t be until the mid-1980s that someone would have an epiphany and place the wells in the back of all boats.
Hydra-Sports, Nashville, TN – In Hydra-Sports second year of advertising, they were again hitting the market with the “more is less” concept for sales. They had one of the fastest hulls on the market, but they didn’t talk about speed, they equated it to cost savings at the pump. A prime example is their two-page ad placed in The Lunker Hole.
The ad talks about their 15-foot Hydra-Flight hull and the tests they conducted on it in a controlled lab situation. With a stock boat and stock 85-hp Johnson, they ran a battery of tests to determine fuel economy and high-speed stability. They published the fuel economy data on the second page and it’s pretty impressive for a carbureted motor of that vintage.
In 1975 they also introduced a 17-foot model. Not much is said about the boat in the ad, but the Tower of Power hanging off the stern should give you an idea of what motor it was rated for. It’s disappointing that Hydra-Sports didn’t put more into their ads other than tout how fuel efficient they were. Nowhere can you find specifications as to length, beam, motor rating. It makes it extremely difficult to compare boats. I guess is they were relying on the look of their boat to get you down to the dealer and take a closer look.
Towards the end of the 1975 calendar year, they put out another typical Hydra-Sports ad. A teaser talking about a new material that will enable them to make even lighter, sleeker boats in 1976. We’ll talk about those next time in Old Bass Boats – 1976.
That covers it for Part 1. In the next installment we’ll look at Mackie through Venture and in Part 3 we’ll cover the Championship boats and some of the major boat dealers. We hope you enjoyed this look back on the history of bass boats and will check out Part 2 in a couple days.