Up to this point, in our series Old Bass Boats, we’ve covered old boat ads from 1970 through 1975 and a smattering of older years where information was available. In the last installment, Old Bass Boats – 1975, 24 boat manufacturers advertised in the various magazines I could locate, up from 13 in 1974. In 1976, where my magazine collection starts to become deep, the number of boat manufacturers advertising jumped to 27, a 215% increase in only two years. So, let’s look at Old Bass Boats – 1976 and see what was offered.
Ten companies that were not in the 1975 ad campaign decided to advertise their product in the major magazines in 1976. Those companies were Baretta, Chrysler, DuraCraft, Fish Master, Holiday, MFG, Polar Craft, Raider, TideCraft, and X-Calibur. Missing in 1976 from 1975 was Airgator, Astroglass, Bassmaster Boats, Hurst, Maiden Craft (Procraft), Ouachita, and Rebel. Ouachita and Rebel having either gone out of business by 1976 or decided their money was best spent making baits.
Although most companies changed their ads from their 1975 versions, they’d only run one or two different ads in the magazines from issue to issue. Two companies, Hydra Sports and Ranger, went on major campaigns featuring between six and eight different ads – some of them two and three-pagers.
Another interesting aspect of the ’76 campaign were companies like DuPont advertising their new Kevlar product and using Hydra Sports pictures. In fact, looking at the DuPont ads you’d swear it was a Hydra-Sports ad.
Two things were missing from this year’s ads that were present in the 1975 magazines. First, I was unable to find championship boat ads placed in The Lunker Hole, American Bass Fisherman, and American Angler. This left the Bassmaster Classic boat offered. Part of the reason for this may be that I only have a few issues for this year of the other magazines.
Due to the magnitude of boat companies advertising this year, we’re going to break this piece up into three parts. This week we’re going to go from A (Arrow Glass) to F (Fish Master), next week we’ll go from F (Fisher Marine) to R (Raider), and then we’ll finish up with R (Ranger) to X (X-Calibur) along with the Classic rig. So, without further ado, here are the boats of 1976.
Arrow Glass – It seems that Arrow Glass, although one of the big boat manufacturers there was, just didn’t care about advertising their goods with color ads. In fact, now looking back at six years’ worth of their ads, I don’t recall but maybe one color ad. They always produced great ads showing what their boats featured, which was important, but looking at the ads from a consumer standpoint, they didn’t sell as well as the full-color motion ads many of the others were going to.
This year Arrow Glass featured three models; the 15’-6” Meteor, the 17’-0” Nova LTD MK-1 and the undescribed Nova LTD MK-2, which looks like an even bigger boat than the MK-I. I really wish Arrow Glass would have put more into their ads with respect to the specifications. It really leaves us to wonder what came with the boats.
Baretta – To say it nicely, here’s an “interesting” ad from Baretta Bass Boats. This is the first time I’ve seen a Baretta ad in any magazine, this one coming from the International Bass Association – Bass News, and I have to say, I really don’t see much. I’m not sure why the company would only show the cap of the boat (maybe they hadn’t designed the hull yet) and it was a bad angle at that. You can’t see anything the boat offers, stats, interior, did I mention the hull?
They state that they are introducing “America’s Top High Performance Boat,” so maybe they were trying to add a little suspense with the reveal. Still, you’d think that a new company would want to capitalize on their ad dollars by giving the reader all the scoop. Maybe that’s why I’m not in marketing. And, unless the photo has been flipped, am I crazy seeing the driver on the port side?
Bass Cat – In 1976 Bass Cat Boats ran ads in every issue of Bassmaster Magazine, up from two issues the year before. They also ran ads in the Bass Caster’s Association’s Lunker Hole magazine. Each ad was essentially the same ad used in 1975, showing Basil Bacon, Jerry Crowell and Tommy Martin, along with their DXL Tournament and XL models. I’ll need to talk with Rick to find out if they didn’t have any new models for the 1976 year and if that was why they didn’t change their ads.
Chrysler – Chrysler Marine again was advertising their bass boat and motor lineup in all the bass-centric magazines in 1976. This year, though, they were more focused on letting the consumer know about their new lower unit – probably because they had had so many problems in the past. This single ad was placed in nearly every magazine I looked through for the year. All that was said about the boats was they offered a full line of bass boats from 15 to 17 feet in length. The ad also featured their new Bass Runner 105 – no words on its stats, though.
It was a great looking boat for the period but for some reason, Chrysler could never build a boat (or motor) that would last. Even with Corinthian leather and Lee Iacocca, Chrysler Marine was a failure from the start.
Delta Marine – Delta Marine first came onto my radar in the 1975 ad campaign. In that year, they placed two different ads in magazines, both boasting their bass boat speed record of 81.081 mph. Both ads provided some good information about their boats, but you could tell that they were selling speed. The 1975 ad also revealed they had both v-hulls and tunnel hulls, although there is no picture of the hulls themselves.
In 1976, though, it seems they held back on their ad campaign. In probably 30 magazines I looked through, I only found one ad. The ad was in black and white and featured both their 15- and 17-foot boats. The nice thing about the ad is it listed all the specifications of each boat.
What’s amazing about their boats was how light they were. The 17-foot model weighed in at 825 pounds while the 15-footer came to the scales at 625 pounds. No wonder these boats flew. I wonder how they handled three-footers over the course of a couple years.
For the time, the boats appear to have all the creature comforts expected in a bass boat. Notice the bench seat on the 17-footer and the small rod lockers on both models. Man, we have it easy these days.
In the 1975 ads, Delta Marine was all hot about their N.O.A. bass boat record of 81.081 mph. At the time I didn’t know what boat and motor setup they used for that record, but this 1976 ad may give some clues.
In the 1976 ad Delta Marine is claiming another bass boat speed record of 62.9 mph*. I found the callout for the asterisk in the bottom left-hand corner. It stated that the record was for the 85 hp Stock class N.O.A. record. This leads me to believe that this record was obtained with the 15-footer and possibly the prior record of 81.081 mph was obtained with the 17-footer. I wish there were some record keepers from back then with which I could verify this with.
DuraCraft – In 1976 DuraCraft placed two ads in bass magazines, one featuring their new bass boat lineup and the other featuring their standard line of jon boats. By 1976, DuraCraft had been making aluminum boats for 30 years and were a powerhouse in the boating industry, especially with hunters and anglers.
Their first “Bass Fisherman Models” is an obvious business change on their part to get into the hot new market of bass boats. The ad provides the specifications on the three models – essentially length, beam, and maximum horse power rating but other than that, you’re left to guess how each model differed on the inside.
The 17-foot model (really 16-10) displayed is advertised as having a casting platform, which leads one to believe the smaller 14-foot models didn’t come equipped with casting decks. There’s no mention of livewells and unless the storage is under the driver’s and passenger’s seats, there appears to be none. Still, DuraCraft was known for making solid aluminum boats and I’m sure they would start to take some of the aluminum bass boat market share from Fisher Marine at this time.
Ebbtide – In 1976, Ebbtide continued their ad campaign by placing two more ads in Bassmaster. But what caught my eye wasn’t the fact they were forging on with promoting their products. It was the name of one of their 1976 models that did.
The Bass Tracker, as it was called, was billed as a performance bass boat with full instrumentation, two livewells and other nice features. The boat was 15’-8” in length, but the ad doesn’t give any horse power rating or other specifications for the hull.
What I wonder about most, though, is how long they held the name as Johnny Morris would soon come out with his first bass boat offering. The 16-foot Bass Tracker aluminum boat would debut in 1978. The name of the boat makes one think about future lawsuits and/or copyright infringements. Did Johnny have to buy the name or was some other deal agreed upon?
The second ad reveals three of their models, the Super Bass Bandit, Super Tracker and Bushwhacker bass boats. These boats were constructed with a balsa wood core and hand laid fiberglass, with Kevlar as an option.
Now, if you compare the first ad with the second, you’ll notice that the first ad states Ebbtides were sold in 140 dealers worldwide. The second ad states that they were sold in 175 dealers. The second ad is older, and if this is the case, they make mention of only three models and the Bass Tracker isn’t one of them. But maybe they changed the name to Super Tracker? It may all be a coincidence, but it makes you wonder if Johnny contacted Ebbtide and purchased the rights to use the name.
Eldocraft – In 1975 Eldocraft advertised six different bass boats in their line. In 1976, that number had risen to 13. The Smackdown, AR company had been in business manufacturing boats a long time and had obviously embraced the bass boat world. They made a solid, fast boat for the time with ample storage and creature comforts. Makes you wonder what happened to companies like Eldocraft and why they aren’t around today.
Fish Master – Here’s another boat company I’m not familiar with, Fish Master. A LaGrange, GA company who was advertising two different hulls, a 16-footer and an 18-footer Both with outboard and I/O options.
If you look at the features offered on the boat, you might think you’re looking at one of today’s boats. These things were loaded. But what grabbed my attention right off the bat was the hull design of the 18-foot model. The hull looks a lot like the hulls of today’s bass rigs – a v-hull. There’s no mention if there’s a pad at the stern but from looking at the pictures, the stance of the boat suggests there might be one.
If anyone has any information on these boats, I’d like to hear from you. It’d be nice to know more about them.
Come back on Sunday and we’ll continue with Part Two of this piece. Until then, we hope you enjoyed this look back on bass boat history.