In Old Bass Boats – 1975 Part 1, we covered bass boat manufacturers from Airgator to Hydra-Sports. In that piece we saw a drastic change in the technology of bass boats, where they were moving from tub-style fishing boats to pad-style high-performance machines. Today we pick right up where we left off in Old Bass Boats – 1975 Part 2, with Mackie Boats through Venture bass Boats. In the next part in the series, we’ll be looking at the Championship boats offered by Bassmaster, Bass Caster’s Association and American Bass Fisherman. We hope you enjoy this look back in time.
Mackie Deluxe Bass Boats, Wake Forrest, NC – Okay folks, here’s one I don’t recall hearing about – that being Mackie Bass Boats. Built in North Carolina the Mackie boat looked a lot like the tub boats of the day. Yeah, you could call them tri-hulls but they really resembled more of a bathtub than anything else.
The first two ads are essentially the same ad, one in color the other in black and white. The dimensions of the boat were 16-feet in length, 62-inch beam, 800-pound hull weight and rated for a 75-hp motor. This is a first boat I have seen at this time that offered an 8-foot rood locker. There specification list is a dream come true. It lists everything the boat offered – and I mean everything.
The third ad shows that Mackie was looking ahead to the future with a High-Performance hull. What’s crazy, and this can be said about most of the other bass boat companies at the time, is they were making 15-foot boats high-performance boats. The 153HP model was 15-3 in length, had a 73-inch beam, 11 inches wider than their 16-foot model, weighed 700 pounds and was rated for an 85-hp motor. Looking at the side profile, it appears to have a stepped hull, and staggered driver/passenger seating. I’d like to have driven it.
Maiden Craft, Smyrna, TN – Maiden Craft placed two ads in 1975 magazines, both in American Bass Fisherman. The first ad refers to the company as Maiden Craft and features five pictures of their bass boat in various situations. There are no specifications for the boat, just an address and phone numbers to call.
The second ad, on the other hand, provides a lot more information and another name – Procraft. Maiden Craft’s Jim Epps said at the top of the ad, “Experience is your guarantee of quality and performance for my all new Procraft.”
Below that quote are two good pictures of the boat layout and below that is a list of standard equipment and specifications. The overall length of the boat was 15-0, the beam was 74 inches, motor rating was 85-h.p. and the hull weight 550 pounds.
Standard equipment was four seats, windshield, mechanical steering, wet box and dry storage. The seating arrangement was staggered between driver and passenger, to accommodate the rod locker.
Between both ads you get a pretty good idea how the boat looked and handled in the water. It’s a sharp looking ride for the day, and in my opinion, resembled the Hydra-Sports hull.
MonArk, Monticello, AR – MonArk was one of the most-advertised boat brands on the market from the early days and 1975 wouldn’t be any different. What changed from the early years, though, was the number of different boats they’d have in an ad.
In the past, MonArk would feature up to 5 different boats in their yearly ad campaigns. In 1975, they’d only feature two. What may have been the difference was they’d just signed Jimmy Houston to the line and nearly every magazine I looked at from 1975 had the ad shown here with Jimmy in it. It must have done them some good because at least in the West a large market-share of the bass boat industry was owned by MonArk.
The two boats they featured in 1975 were the Super Sport I and Super Sport II. The Super Sport I has little other than a description with some features. Two aerated livewells, two fishing platforms, two livewells, rod storage, everything you’d expect in a boat from this era. I went back to the Old Bass Boats – 1974 to see if there was anything further with respect to dimensions and found they only advertised the boat as the Super Sport. It was listed as being 16-feet 4-inches in length, 68-inch beam, a hull weight of 1203 pounds and was rated for an 85-h.p. motor. It was a tank.
The Super Sport 2, which featured Jimmy Houston in it, seems to be a new model for the ’75 sales year. With this boat they took a little off the overall length, added a bit to the beam and decreased the hull weight significantly. I wonder if Houston had anything to do with those specifications, maybe wanting a more nimble and fast boat. The boat’s specifications were 16-feet 3-inches overall length, a beam of 69-1/2-inches, 985 pound hull weight and was rated for an 85-h.p. motor.
These boats may have been big and heavy for 16-foot models but they took rough water well and were really stable.
Ouachita, Arkadelphia, AR – Once one of the big advertisers in the industry, Ouachita was now looking like they were going under. What used to be at least two colors ads per big magazine – complete with hot babes in bikinis – turned into this single black and white ad in one magazine out of about 20 I looked through.
After interviewing Ricky Green in 2013, who was sponsored by Ouachita for a time, he told me they were on their last legs in 1975. They had recently gone under new ownership and the new owner didn’t know much about the boating industry, let alone the bass fishing industry. It’s too bad – they made a great product and contributed to the growth of the sport. I guess that’s proof that a shoe salesman should never buy a boat company.
The boat they promoted in 1975 was their Contender series. There were minimal specifications on the boat, only that they were available in 16- and 17-foot models rated for 85- and 120-h.p. outboards or a 140-h.p. I/O. Other than they had two aerated livewells, raised casting decks, ice box, lockable storage and carpet.
Ranger Boats, Flippin, AR – In 1974, Ranger introduced the 150A and 170A, boats built by consulting race boat builder Darius Allison. In 1975, they’d introduce their sisters, the 155A and 175A along with the 175 I/O – the inboard/outboard version of the 175. At this point it appears that Ranger is moving away from the standard TR-style hull, knowing full well they have to stay ahead of the design curve if they want to remain at the top.
In 1975, Ranger Boats place six different ads in the national magazines. None of the ads gave specifics of the models other than a short description of length, storage and livewell options. But what Ranger did give in these ads was lots of pictures showing their boats in action. Let’s start with the first ad.
The first ad is pretty simple and features two boats coming at you on the page. The ads says, “The high performance boat with a bass fisherman’s interior. Smooth coated live well with optional aerator system, top opening chest type rod storage, power pedestals and for your safety, rack and pinion steering and level floatation.”
Back in this day mechanical steering was the standard, either single pull or dual pull. I knew several guys in the early days who were thrown out of boat when their single mechanical steering broke. This is the first ad I’ve seen that mentions this safety afterthought.
The next ad features the new 175A. This boat was new for 1975 and was built on the 170A hull but had a different cap that provided a new deck design. For 1975 they’d included a larger rod locker, two livewells, and other features they don’t describe. As you’ll notice from the picture, the compartment lids are still not flush with the deck.
Their next ad shows several their boat models for 1975. At the bottom left is the 14-foot Model R-11, bottom right is the 16-foot Model TR-10, middle left is the 16-foot DTR-10, middle right is the 15-foot Model 150A. Above these at the left is the 18-foot Model 18-5 I/O and above that is the 17-foot Model 175A.
The next two ads are also pretty plain and feature the 175 I/O, the 155A and the 175A. Although the ads don’t say much in relation to what the boats have to offer, they do show impressive shots of the boats moving across the water.
The next ad is probably the best of the bunch in that it gives a good walk through of J.D. Skinner’s new 175A. Skinner was an early Bassmaster Trail angler and belonged to the Vulcan Bassmaster’s out of Birmingham, AL. In the ad, Skinner talks about what makes the Ranger his choice for a tournament boat. What grabbed my attention was the 28-gallon gas tank and room for three batteries in the bilge. That’s way more than I remember being offered on any boat back in the day. It’s a great ad that shows in-depth what this boat had to offer.
There was no doubt about it at the time that Ranger was one of, if not the, leading bass boat manufacturer in the market. They grasped the needs of the angler and accepted the fact that they couldn’t rest on their laurels when it came to design. It probably helped that Forrest was a full-time tour angler who pumped the pros, constantly asking what they wished for in a boat.
It was also forward thinking, with respect to performance, that led him to talk with racers like Darris Allison in order to get the most out of his boats. He wasn’t the only one to do this, though, as Bass Cat and several other manufacturers started hiring or consulting the racers for their ideas on what made boats fast.
Rebel, Fort Smith, AR – I was pleasantly surprised when I saw these 1975 ads for Rebel bass boats. I had initially thought that Rebel left the industry in ’74 but evidently that wasn’t the case. Although Rebel wouldn’t be around for much longer in the bass boat industry, they were there in 1975 with a 17-foot model that could handle a 115 hp motor.
There isn’t much said about the boat in the ad, and I wonder if they even sold one in 1975 or thereafter. It’s sad, to go from the company that first provided the Classic boats to nothing within 6 years.
For those lure history buffs, the ad also highlights their Mini-R, Humpback, Super-R and Broken-back Minnow lures. All these baits were a big deal back in the mid-70s.
Another cool thing about this ad is it touts their trolling motors. If you remember, the 1971 Bass Master Classic Rebel boat came with a Rebel trolling motor. In all the ads I have looked at from this era, I am hard pressed to find a Rebel trolling motor ad. This is one of the first ones I’ve seen.
Roughneck, Smackover, AR – Here’s another ad I almost scanned past due to its size. Roughneck boats, of Smackover, AR placed this 1/8th-page ad in one of the 1975 issues of The Lunker Hole. There isn’t anything describing the boat, just an address to send for more information. Next year, Roughneck will get a bit more aggressive with their ads – but just a bit.
Skeeter, Kilgore, TX – Ads for Skeeter Boats prior to this 1975 ad were all essentially slim. The first Skeeter ads I ran into were from the 1962 and 1964 issues of the Southern Anglers and Hunters Guide and a couple ads in 1974. The ads themselves didn’t really showcase anything special, but in 1975 they changed all of that with the Skeeter Wrangler.
Every bass boat manufacturer worth their resin was trying to come up with the fastest “regulation” bass boat and Skeeter was another one of those companies. Their introduction of the 16-foot 2-inch Wranger, which was capable of a 150-hp motor, was by far the smallest boat/biggest motor combination there was. To say it was fast would be an understatement. The Wrangler was a game changer in the day and everyone making boats took notice.
Let’s take a quick look at the features. Console steering, pre-wired trolling motor plug, six dry storage compartments, 6-foot 6-inch side rod storage box, gel coated liners in all storage boxes, a 6-foot 6-inch floor rod box, front and rear deck livewells. That’s a lot for a 16-foot boat and I believe the center floor rod locker was a first of its time.
StarCraft, Goshen, IN – A year after Bill Dance helped design the Bill Dance Pro 16, StarCraft is still advertising it as their flagship, even though Dance appears to have left them for Fisher Marine. It’s completely possible that Dance was still sponsored by StarCraft with regards to glass boats but it’s highly unlikely since StarCraft built aluminum boats too.
Still, the ad featured a boat that’s well thought out and functional, obviously designed by an angler. What grabs me, though, is the beer in the cooler and the single bass in the well. Yeah, I remember, this is 1975 and it wasn’t until 1985 that my bass club outlawed beer in the boat but come on StarCraft, if you’re going to use beer in your ad, at least use something better than Stroh’s.
Stryker, Huntsville, AL – Here’s another new bass boat company advertising in 1975, Stryker boat from D and B Inc. Both ads I found in American Bass Fisherman magazines. From reading the ABF magazines, it was Stryker Boats that ABF gave away to the winners of their events and the second ad features 1974 World Champion, Jim Melvin. I love the boat in the ad but what really got my attention was the trophy! Look at the size of that thing. The NPFL trophies they’re giving away today can’t hold a candle to this thing.
Back to the boat.
As with most of the boat companies we’ve looked at, specifications are non-existent in this ad. There is a picture of the deck layout with a legend showing some of the features like a splash well, rear compartment, storage compartment, rod locker, live well, etc. It would be nicer to know the length, beam and motor rating. We’ll have to see if they change their ads in 1976.
Terry/Woodstream, Delhi, LA – Now we’re talking. Gone are the ads with Gritts Gresham and now we’ve got ads that are showing what the Terry boats I remember look like. Tri-hull pad boats that were solidly constructed, these boats performed with the best. It would be a year or two before they’d change over to the metric system, but it was the ‘75 models that really set them apart from their previous years and entered them into the high-performance bass boat industry.
In 1975 Terry introduced the ABF, or American Bass Fisherman High Performance models. These models came in 15-foot and 17-foot lengths and had some innovative features for the day. For example, their livewells could shift water to accommodate weight distribution, a battery compartment in the center of the boat for the trolling motor, side-by-side seating for passenger and driver.
Terry placed three ads in the national magazines in 1975. The first ad, in one form or another, was in nearly every magazine I went through. In one iteration, they took out two pages and added a list of some of their dealers in AL, FL, GA, LA and MS. The next ad they placed highlighted their ABF-15 on a glass-smooth body of water.
The best ad they placed, in my opinion, is of their ABF-17. I love this ad because it has Johnny Morris and Jim Rogers in the boat. The boat is blazoned with an old-school Bass Pro Shops sticker and wording as well as the old-school Garcia sticker. If you look a little harder, you also see something illegal with the rig. Blow up the picture and you’ll notice a 135 Johnson hanging off the back of the boat. Terry states in this exact ad that a 115 is the motor rating for this boat. Johnny……are you running too big a motor?
Venture Boats, Winchester, TN – Venture Boats was the final bass boat manufacturer I found in the national magazines for 1975. They were a new advertiser but one with another big claim. Based out of Winchester, TN, a state where you find a high percentage of the fastest bass boats made, Venture hit the ad campaign stating they owned the National Outboard Association (NOA) speed record for a bass boat from 1974. If you recall, that record was already claimed by Delta Marine, so who held it?
In this ad Venture states that their 1500 model beat 35 other manufacturers making runs of 75.44 mph (two-way) and 76.1 mph (one-way) to take the crown in Knoxville, TN. Maybe Delta took the crown for a bigger boat?
Each ad that Venture placed talks heavily about their speed record but smartly, they make sure to equate this speed to efficiency. Again, gas prices were high for the time and anglers wanted a fast boat without the price at the pump. Venture made sure through their ads that this came across.
Venture offered three different models of boats. Their record-holding 15-foot 1500, the 16-foot, 6-inch 1650 and the 18-foot 1800. There is no talk about motor ratings for any model but the third ad shown gives a good description of the standard features of the boat.
That brings us to the end of this part of Old Bass Boats – 1975. In Part 3 we’ll be looking at the Championship boats offered by the leagues as well as some of the major boat dealers who advertised in the 1975 bass fishing magazines. To read Part 1 of this series, click here.