Last Wednesday we posted Old Bass Boats – 1976 Part 1 starting with Arrow Glass and ending with Fish Master. Today we’re on to Old Bass Boats – 1976 Part 2, with Fisher Marine to Raider. Within this group of nine boat manufacturers are five companies I’ve either never heard of, never seen one of their boats, or both. It’ll be an interesting look back and one I hope elicits some discussion below in the comments.
Of the boats what were well known, at least to me, were Fisher Marine, Glastron, Hydra-Sports, and MonArk. Over my early years I’d fished out every one of these boats and each did its intended job. The boats I have little or no knowledge of are Holiday, Mackie, MFG, Polar Craft and Raider.
So, without wasting any more time, here they are.
Fisher Marine – In years past Fisher Marine had up to eight different ads in the magazines but in ’76, they whittled that down to just three. Yes, they still had ads in every magazine I looked through for the year but maybe they were starting to feel the pinch of the economy.
Fisher Marine had also talked about a number of their models in the years prior to 1976. This year they deviated from that stance and instead talked about “who” was fishing their boats. In all three ads placed that year, Bill Dance was featured in each of them, and John Powell was with Dance in one of those. I guess with Dance and Powell in your boats, you didn’t really have to say much more than that.
Other than talk about Dance and Powell, Fisher Marine talked about how economical their boats were. Remember, we were at the tail end of the 1973 OPEC oil crisis and the national average for gas was $0.59/gallon. That’s $2.76 per gallon in today’s money.
Fisher Marine touted their boats as being able to do the same things a heavier glass boat could do, and more. Lightweight meant you could tow with a compact car, it meant that you didn’t need a big outboard to push it, you could launch on any type of ramp, and get into places a big boat couldn’t.
The one thing I found a bit hard to believe, though, was Fisher Marine claimed that Powell and Dance fished their aluminum boats in tournaments. I’m not too sure I believe either of them would give up their glass boats while fishing the B.A.S.S. Trail. Especially since Dance had just signed with Hydra-Sports. I’m sure there’s someone out there reading this that knows the answer.
Glastron – Prior to 1976, Glastron ads had always been pretty boring – generally showing a couple of older guys fishing in one of their tubs. No action at all. Like the first and second ads shown here. Then in 1976 they introduced the low-profile, fast HP-154. Not only was the ad an action shot, but it also looked as if the boat was coming out of the paper it was printed on.
Fully integrated pad and lifting strakes, the boat was one of the fastest bass boats on the market at the time. The boat wasn’t only a high-performance hull, it had all the features the serious bass angler would need. Dual livewells, rod locker and Rick Clunn’s seal of approval.
Clunn had recently been brought on as their top-tier angler and they were proud of that fact. To make a boat purchase even sweeter, they offered Rick Clunn fishing tips to their customers.
Holiday – When I saw this ad, I thought it was for a marine dealer – not a boat manufacturer. Again, Holiday Boats is another one foreign to me. From this ad it appears they only offered one boat from the Yellville, AR plant. At 15-feet long it had a 70-inch beam and weighed in at 760 pounds. Rated for an 85-horse motor, the boat probably moved pretty well – at least that’s one of their big selling points.
Reading the fine print really takes you back to the era. They talk about using hand-glassed, solid fir for their stringer system as well as ample glass for a tournament bottom. Along those same lines, Holiday refers to their use of marine-grade plywood, 1-1/2-inches thick, and a triple layer of glass for their transoms. This all makes me happy to be in the day of composite stringers and transoms.
The bottom line on this boat is it looks a lot like many of the other boats being offered in this time frame. The Glastron above, the Hydra-Sports below and the Delta in Part 1 of this series. If anyone has any real life experience with this boat, We’d like to hear about it.
Hydra-Sports –This was Hydra-Sports’ third consecutive year in the bass boat market and it could probably be looked at as one of their biggest. In 1975 they featured only two ads in the press that I could find. But in ’76, they debuted six different ads, along with a four-page spread at the end of the year.
To top that off, 1976 was the year they joined forces with DuPont to make the first Kevlar-hulled bass boats and benefitted from that with DuPont running two different ads featuring their boats too. In all, it seemed like you couldn’t turn a page in the major bass magazines without seeing a Hydra-Sports ad.
The first Hydra-Sports ad you see came from the Feb 1976 issue of Bassmaster. A two-page affair describing the new material they were using for the first time in the boating industry. It’s an impressive ad that cost a pretty penny I’m sure.
The next ad was run in the March/April issue of Bassmaster as well as the March/April issue of The Lunker Hole. It shows one of their models (maybe the 17-footer) from two different angles. The ad again talks about the amazing new material and the speed records they’d just taken with the new material. So far, they haven’t said anything about what boat models were touting the new material.
Hydra-Sports next ad in the May/June issue of Bassmaster is more of the same. At least this time it’s a cool image of an aired-out boat. Verbiage in the ad continues to talk about the speed records and the advantages of Kevlar.
The first July-August ad, more of the same. Come on Hydra-Sports, tell us about the boats! Then a few pages later, another ad. The picture shows their 18-foot model with a 150 hp motor blazing down the lake. But again, they’re mostly pushing Kevlar and how they’ve sold 2000 Kevlar boats in 1976. At the end of the ad, they mention they’ll be introducing a sponson-less v-hull rated for a 115 in the near future.
In the November/December issue of Bassmaster Magazine Hydra-Sports outdid themselves. In that issue they placed a four-page ad with Joe Reeves, the front man, letting it all hang out. Reeves talks about their new 18-foot model and the new 168-Vee sponson-less v-hull. Then he breaks into the bad news.
Evidently there was a shortage of good glass layers in Tennessee at the time. This was going to limit their production and with two new models coming out, availability would be limited for the calenda year 1977.
Page two of the ad showcased the 168 Vee, a good looking boat that has lines of even modern day bass boats. Page three of the ad shows the new 18-footer, the Model 180 HP, and talks about how Billy Westmorland had been using it all year. The ad ends with page four and a shot of the 150 HP and the 17-footer, the 170 HP that Bill dance, Glin Wells, and Bobby Murray had been fishing out of.
This was a great ad in that you actually got an idea of what the boats looked like and how they were laid out. Why did they wait until the end of the year for this ad is beyond me.
Mackie – Here’s an evolution for you. In 1975 the Mackie Boat ad displayed a bass boat not much different than the tub boats of the prior years. This 1976 ad, though, was nothing about tubs – it was all about a current pad boat and high performance. But the Mackie boat offered something new, from what I can tell. They designed a rounded transom. This design, used by nearly all bass boat manufacturers today, offered more transom strength and decreased weight.
Their new 18-foot model was rated for a 150-horse motor and was also built out of Kevlar. The ad came out of the November/December 1976 Bassmaster and was a ’77 model. In the September/October issue of Bassmaster, Dave Ellis wrote an article on what to expect for 1977. Mackie and three other manufacturers talked about moving to the Kevlar material. I guess Mackie had already designed their boat when Ellis was writing his piece.
So, is this a 1977 ad or is it a 1976 ad? I may have to rethink how I do these reports from here on out.
MFG –Here’s another boat I know little to nothing about. The MFG Boat Company. I’m not sure when MFG came into the market but this ad suggests they’d been in it for 21 years making glass boats. In this ad they reveal three new models to their lineup – the Super Bass series. This series covered the 14- to 17-foot market, where they could accommodate the entry-level angler along with the guy who wanted to be a pro.
One thing this ad really provides is the overhead shot of the deck. In these shots it really reveals the lack of below deck storage that was available back in the mid-1970s. And this isn’t a knock on MFG as this was standard with all bass boats of the day. Under deck storage wouldn’t make a debut until the mid-1980s. If you were wondering how we were able to use those UMCO Possum Belly tackle boxes back in the day, folks, this is how. We had a huge amount of area in the bottom of the boat to place big boxes.
Unfortunately, MFG didn’t offer much more than that in their ad. It would be nice to see hull stats and other specs and features. Maybe my buddy Bee Jaints can fill us in on some of the details.
MonArk – In years past, MonArk had had as many as five different ads in magazines. In 1976, though, they only went with one that I could find, and it was a sad ad at that. What they concentrated on with that ad was the fact that three of five national tournaments were won in their boat – impressive even if it was in black and white.
In this ad they were also introducing their new McFast 5 – a new 15-footer for ’76. In typical MonArk fashion, they gave some good specs on the outfit. What I found kind of crazy about the ad was the addition of the float plane. If they were trying to make it look fast, I think there are better ways of doing it. For all I know, the float plane was getting ready to land and was only flying at 25 mph.
PolarKraft – It had been a couple of years since PolarKraft had placed an ad in a national bass magazine and in typical fashion, they placed another “want for more” ad in 1976. Although they give all the specifications of their BF-44, the black and white advertisement could use a lot of makeup. A bare bones stick steer aluminum boat that probably was a cool little ride would have a hard time competing against the likes of Fisher Marine.
Raider – Another one for the list of “I’ve never seen this before.” Raider claimed to be one of the newest bass boat manufacturers in the industry and were trying to use that to their advantage. Based out of Charleston, MO, Raider offered 5 models including outboard and I/Os. They show two of their models in the ad, one for a 16’-4” boat and another that was 17 feet. Due to the fact that this was the only ad that I could find, I’m hoping we see more in 1977 to uncover the questions I have.
That’s it for Part Two of this series Old Bass Boats – 1976. Later this week we’ll finish up with Old Bass Boats – 1976 Part 3. Click on the link if you’d like to read Old Bass Boats – 1976 Part 1. If you want to see more old bass boats, just use the search function at the top right of the main page and type in old bass boats. You’ll bring up hours worth of content to read.
There were a few Holiday bass boats in the bass club I was a member of in 1976. They were made in Yellville Ar a few miles from Ranger and Basscat. It was a very solid boat. I bought one of the kevlar Hydra Sports in 1976.
What about Lowes boats of Lebon ,MO? I just recently fully restored one of their first built boats a 1971 model. It has a 10 gallon welded in ” live well ” and petstial style seats. It came painted camo. It is built of .188 aircraft quality aluminum. 16 foot long double wide. Would have been a great bass boat. It was rated for up to a 50 horse engine. Can provide pics ,if you wish. Sin. Keith Loris
Hi Keith, Lowes Boats are the same as Loweline. They don’t show up in this article because I didn’t find any of their ads from any of the magazines I looked at. If you’re interested in looking at an old Loweline catalog, here’s a link to an old 1978 catalog I have https://bass-archives.com/1978-lowe-line-boat-catalog/. We appreciate the comment and if you have any old catalogs you’d like to share, let me know!