In this installment of Old Bass Boats, we again have to split the piece into multiple parts due to the volume of bass boat manufacturers now placing ads in bass magazines. As stated in the last installment, Old Bass Boats – 1976 Part 1, the 1975 ad campaign saw 24 manufacturers advertising their goods. In 1976 that number jumped up to 27 and this year that number jumped to a staggering 39 companies placing ads in bass magazines. What is truly amazing about that number is that was not all the companies out there who were making bass boats. So let’s delve into Old Bass Boats – 1977 Part 1.
In this year’s magazines, you will not see ads from companies such as Astroglass, Bassmaster Boats (the company, not B.A.S.S.), Chrysler, Fish Master, Loweline, Norris Craft, Ouachita, Raider, Roughneck, Starcraft, X-Calibur, and others that were still in the boat-building business. Adding just the companies mentioned above, that would increase the number of manufacturers to a mind-blowing 50. Compared to today’s 16 major manufacturers, it really gives you an idea of not only the competition there was in the mid- ‘70s but the number of people buying bass boats.
Another interesting piece when looking back on 1977 was the number of organization-specific boats that were being commissioned. For example, B.A.S.S. had the Classic Boat since 1971. Now B.A.S.S. was commissioning aluminum boat builder, DuraCraft to build several boats for their upcoming BASS Champs event which would be held on Percy Priest that summer.
Not to be left out, National Bass, American Bass Fisherman and American Angler all got on the bandwagon and were offering their championship boats to the masses. Not only was there stiff competition in the boat industry, each tournament organization was trying to compete with B.A.S.S. by selling their own boats. The industry was a boomin’.
In this first piece we’re going to cover the first 15 manufacturers. Alumacraft through Glastron. Part Two we’ll look at Holiday through Rhyan Craft and then next week we’ll finish with Sea Nymph through Venture and the tournament organization boats.
So, let’s get on to the boats of 1977.
Alumacraft, Arkadelphia, AR – Here’s a boat company we hadn’t seen in past installments of Old Bass Boats. Alumacraft started in the business of making aluminum boats in 1946 and by 1977 it appears they were dipping their toes into the bass boat market. I’m not sure when they began making bass boats, but prior to this they had a solid canoe, skiff, and Jon boat market. Makes sense with the price of gas reaching record highs during that period.
In all the magazines scoured for this segment – American Angler, American Bass Fisherman, Bass News, Bassmaster, National Bassman and Western Bass – this ad appeared in only 3 of the magazine titles. There were no other Alumacraft ads other than the one shown here, which, is more than likely their first.
The ad is sparse at best only saying they have three new models, they’re made of super strong aluminum they’re lighter than typical bass boats, have more performance per horsepower and priced “so low, you’ll have to see them to believe it.”
Arrow Glass, Memphis, TN – In the past, Arrow Glass had advertised a number of boat models in the print media, primarily sticking to black and white ads that didn’t particularly showcase their goods too well. This year, though, they decided to not only step into the realm of color ads, they decided to go four steps further and shoot an ad with a Gator-esque feel to it.
The ad for their Nova SS II, a 1978 model revealed in early 1977, shows the bright red bass boat flying through the air – most likely after hitting a preplanned wake. The lower unit is completely out of the water and the driver is probably wondering if back surgery is covered by his insurance policy.
In this ad, Arrow Glass states that, “A bass boat should be judged not only on flat-out performance, but complete overall performance.” I don’t know what part of performance this action shot is, but even when I was young and indestructible, I never wanted to be in this position. Personally, what I feel Arrow Glass was trying to accomplish with this particular ad was that their boats could jump “Burt Reynolds Gator Style” as well as Ranger and Glastron could. I wonder how this ad affected their bottom line in the end.
One cool thing to note from this ad, and this is for the folks less than 45 years old or who started bass fishing after 1990, is you know there’s a livewell on the front deck. Standard placement of livewells back at this time was one between the passenger and driver’s seats and one on the bow. It was a convenience thing but ended up killing more fish than it was worth. By the early 90s, most bass boat companies had switched to placing both wells on the back deck.
The second ad was for their Nova LTD MK 2, a boat that had been made for a number of years by 1977. This ad, complete with two older dudes passing a net, was typical of Arrow Glass’ ad campaigns of the past. Just a black and white of a boat in the water, no frills, and no specifics on the boat.
Baretta Boats, Conway, AR – If you recall in the last version of Old Bass Boats, Baretta was showcased with their first known ad – one that probably resulted in their marketing person being burned at the stake. In that ad, a horrible black and white ad, all one could see was the upper cap of the boat at an angle from the bow. In other words, it didn’t show anything and what it did show, wasn’t impressive at all. The crazy thing about the ad was they were claiming to be America’s top high performance bass boat – yet they didn’t give any proof of that nor any other info on the boat other than the shotty picture.
The year 1977 would prove different, though. In this year they placed an all-color ad in three issues of Bass News that not only showed what the hull looked like, they had a picture of the inside of the boat and its specifications. At 17 feet and 900 pounds, the boat was rated for a 115-horse motor.
Read the list of standard features (or look at the deck shot) and something should really catch your eye – the recessed trolling motor pedal space. It’s always been my understanding that Bass Cat was the originator of this much-needed and appreciated design feature and here you have Baretta using it in their designs. Baretta would be long out of business before all the other bass boat manufacturers, except Bass Cat of course, realized how much this feature decreased lower-back fatigue. I’d like to hear from Bass Cat how they dealt with, if they did at all, Baretta using this design feature they developed.
Another thing that caught my eye was the list of optional features that Baretta was offering. First off, there was the option for two 12-gallon gas tanks. This seems a bit backwards for a boat this size, even for the time. The second option, aerators, really makes me think. By 1977 most big bass boat companies were listing aerators as standard equipment due to all the tournament organizations moving to catch-and-release and penalizing competitors for bringing in dead fish. Why Baretta made this an option is beyond me.
It’s the third option, though, that really has me scratching my head – a bilge pump. One of the simplest and easiest safety measures in the entire boating industry is left as an option? Makes you wonder if Baretta boats were certified by the BIA with this oversight.
Bass Cat, Mountain Home, AR – By 1977 Bass Cat had been in business for 6 years and were becoming known around the industry as the boat the winners rode in. In 1974 they had three national winners riding in their boats: 1974 Classic winner Tommy Martin, 1974 PSI TOC winner Basil Bacon, and 1974 BCA Champion of Champions Jerry Crowell.
In the three ads found in the 1977 media, not much was given with respect to the specifics of the boats they offered other than horsepower rating. Also, in one of the ads, they’re addressing three new models for 1978.
Let’s look at each as individually.
The first ad of the trio states “Total Performance Boats.” That seems to be a well-used slogan amongst the manufacturers of the day. In this ad Ron Pierce is also introducing three new boat models for the year.
The second ad is eye-catching without a doubt. The first thing you see is the bright yellow and red Bass Cat logo in the upper right. I love this logo and wish they’d to back to it. In the upper left is Gerry Kennedy, the 1976 BCA Grand National Champion. It’s a great ad visually but lacks any detail with respect to the boats.
The third ad also featured the old logo but front and center is a picture of Ron Pierce and Basil Bacon in a Bass Cat that’s been fully flooded and still afloat. The ad also states the professional anglers fishing their boats: Emmett Chiles, Jerry Crowell, Basil bacon, Tommy Martin, and Joe Verbeck. Nice ad but I still wish there was more information about the boats.
Cajun by Mastercrafters, Winnsboro, LA – 1977 would be the introduction of Mastercrafters Cajun Bass Boat. Although Cajun didn’t have an ad in any of the magazines that were investigated, there was a bass boat review in Bass News that listed some of the bass boats available during this year.
It was a strange piece in that you could see they were trying to copy what Bassmaster had been doing for years, show off all the new boats available. The difference was, Bassmaster always had some verbiage with their pictures describing the boats and usually some specifications. In this Bass News, there was nothing like this. All they offered was the name of the manufacturer, the model and the length. So all we know about this brand new Cajun Mach IV is its length. Sure would be nice to know more about this boat.
We’ll be seeing more and more about Cajun in the coming as they became one of the most sought-after bass boats of the 80s.
Charger, Richland, MO – In 1977 Charger had been in business for roughly one year. By 1977, they had placed four ads in the various magazines showing off six of their models ranging from 15 feet to almost 19 feet in length. Each one of their ads not only provided good pictures but also had the boat specifications with it so the shopper could see what they were getting.
As typical with boats of the period, their boats were light and rated for a pretty hefty motor package hanging off the transom. I recall seeing a couple of these boats in the west back in the day and they were fast.
Charger is still in business today, although you don’t hear much about them at all. Recently MLF angler Luke Clausen and Jame Watson joined their pro-staff but that’s about all I know of Charger these days.
Craft Master Boats, Wausau, WI – Here’s a cool ad that just had to be included in this write-up. Craft Master was offering bass boat kits to those with the energy to put together a fully functional bass boat. What’s missing from the ad is exactly how much assembly is required? Is the cap attached to the hull? Is the wire run? Do you have to attach the seats? Who hangs the motor?
It seems like a good idea for those who want to save money or have that ability to put Christmas toys together without ending up with extra parts. But, for the normal, “I don’t need no stinkin’ directions,” type of guy, this could be an expensive disaster. What if the cap wasn’t attached correctly? What about the motor mounts? Wiring? Naw, it could never start a fire. The list goes on. I look forward to seeing how long these ads appeared in magazines from this point on.
Delta Marine, Sharpsville, IN – For the third year in a row, Delta Marine had placed ads in the magazines of the time. And, as with 1975 and 76, they were still riding on the bass boat world record for speed at 62.9 mph. In this ad, which doesn’t differ from their 1976 ad, they offered two models, a 15-footer and a 17-footer.
The nice thing about the Delta ad is that it offered the reader the stats on their boats and although it’s tough to make out the deck layout from the pictures, you can see some of the boat.
DuraCraft, Monticello, AR – 1977 was DuraCraft’s second year in the bass boat market and from the looks of the ads placed, it was obvious they were going into this venture, full steam ahead. The first ad shown is a typical black-and-white much like their 1976 ads. The second ad, in full color, shows a number of their models and gives a little history of the company. The third ad, though, really piques my interest.
The title of this third ad is “A Star is Born,” and shows what appears to be a high-performance aluminum hulled bass boat. Not much is said about the hull design, only that it can handle the big motors. How big, well, we may have to wait until next year to see if they actually put the stats in their ads. Still, it’s possibly the first attempt for an aluminum boat manufacturer to try and compete with the glass boys.
Ebbtide, White Bluff, TN – Like last year, Ebbtide placed two different ads in the industry magazines in 1977. One of the ads was the same from 1976 and the second was completely new. Let’s start with the old ad.
This ad, the one in color, leaves a little to be desired if you only look at the picture. Read the ad, though, and you get an idea of what Ebbtide stood for. Right off the bat they let you know they’ve been building bass boats since 1964. Also, they only made three different models, two which could handle bigger outboards and the third which sounds like it was more of a smaller-water boat.
They seemed to be proud of the fact they used balsa wood in their construction, a material that no sane bass boat maker today would think about using. They were also proud not to have any professional bass angler on their staff. I guess those are good traits if you think they are.
The second ad, featuring their new Dyna-Trak Total Performance bass boat, isn’t much different from the old color ad. There’s a decent picture of the boat but that’s where the information abruptly stops. Ebbtide seems more intent on telling you why total performance is the most important thing to you as an angler. In my eyes, that could be said in one sentence and then show me the money!
The one thing that bothers me with these ads, and any ad for that matter, is they don’t give any of the boat measurements or stats. It’s not that difficult to design an ad that at least tells us how long your boats are and what size motors they can handle.
Eldocraft, Smackover, AR – I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Eldocraft bass boats. Mostly because the Bellflower Boat Yard near my house sold them and one of my close fishing buddies at the time owned one. At the time, it was the fastest boat I’d ever ridden in, and it was a great platform to fish from.
As with the prior Ebbtide Dyna-Trak ad, Eldocraft is introducing a new model and all they’re saying about it is it’s a total performance boat. No name, model number – nothing. Leaves a lot to be desired.
The second picture isn’t from an ad but another one of the pictures shown in Bass News Magazine about boats for 1977. This picture shows the Eldocraft El Diablo VII. Again, no specifics about the hull, no review of what they thought of the boat, if they ever got in it at all.
Fisher Marine, West Point, MS – We can always count on Fisher Marine for a bevy of ads no matter the year. And, unlike Ebbtide, Fisher Marine was proud of the fact they had three stars of the day fishing from their boats – Bill Dance, John Powell and Billy Phillips.
This year Fisher marine placed six different ads in all the magazines I checked. Although some of them only told why Bill of John fished their boats, you could always rely on them to place a few ads in the magazines that showed a good number of their models with all their stats. Also, in 1977 they added two new ads featuring the construction of their boats – why couldn’t every boat company follow this train of thought?
Glastron, Austin, TX – In 1977 Glastron realized how much proven tournament anglers could boost sales. So, who was the best angler of the time to hire? How about 1976 Classic winner, Rick Clunn. In their 1977 ad campaign, Glastron placed four different ads in the various magazines and two of those ads featured Clunn at the helm.
In their ads they featured two new 17-foot models, the HP-171 a modified tri-hull, and the HPV-170, a v-hull. Also included in their ad campaign was the model HP-154, a 15-foot boat rated for a 100-horse motor.
I don’t know if hiring the pros for your company works but I can tell you one thing, in the West, often thought of as the red-headed stepchild of bass fishing, I saw a lot of Glastron and Fisher Marine bass boats. I don’t recall seeing any Ebbtides.
Later this week we’re going to cover from Holiday to Rhyan Craft. Have you ever heard of those two bookends before? If not, I’m sure you’ll have heard of the boats in between.
Great article, really enjoyed looking through the old bass boats and brings back memories!! I remember a lot of the boat names and manufacturers!
Thanks Wade! This particular year was really amazing. Hard to believe all these companies were around back then!