For the past week or so we’ve been taking a trip down memory lane with respect to the main tool in any bass angler’s arsenal – the bass boat. Over the year we’ve covered bass boats from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Today we’re going to finish with Old Bass Boats – 1978 Part 4.
So far we’ve covered everything from the 1978 list of bass boats from aluminum rigs such as Alumacraft, Dura Craft and Fisher Marine along with their glass counterparts, manufacturers like Bass Cat, Champion, Eldocraft, Hydra-Sport and MonArk. Today we finish with upstarts such as Omni and industry leader Ranger. In fact, the number of Ranger ads placed in 1978 is mind boggling.
If you missed any of the other pieces we’ve done on the bass boats of 1978, you can find them by clicking the following links: Old Bass Boats – 1978 Part 1, Old Bass Boats – 1978 Part 2 and Old Bass Boats – 1978 Part 3. If you’re interested in looking at boats before 1978, just use the “search” feature on the right sidebar and type in “Old Bass Boats” as your search. You’ll be surprised what you find.
So, now on to the Old Bass Boats – 1978 Part 4.
Omni, Alexandria, LA – The first ad I’ve been able to find in a mainstream bass magazine from Omni Bass Boats was from 1977. In that ad campaign they were touting a couple of anglers caught 77 pounds out of the boat. So, within reason, if you fish out of an Omni, you can expect the same results. Yeah, it may not have said that exactly, but you get the picture.
As I’ve stated time and time again on Old Bass Boats, nothing sells a boat better than laying out all the details. I mean prospective buyers want to see what the specs of the boats are – what length they are, horsepower rating, weight, beam, etc. To not provide this information only makes the buyer feel like you’re hiding something and, in the end, they’ll go with what is most popular or what they know.
Omni didn’t follow this creed. Instead they provided a black and white rendering of a bass boat and wrote some hoop-la about a couple of dudes that weighed a big bag. To top that off, it was the same ad they used in 1978 – no changes made at all. It would have been nice to know how many models they offered, what their lengths were and other, seemingly innocuous tidbits of info. It would make my job here now, a heck of a lot easier too. Instead, all we have is what you see here to the right.
Polar Kraft, Olive Branch, MS – Polar Kraft was an aluminum bass boat manufacturer who’d been building bass boats for some time. And, like other manufacturers they enlisted professional anglers to pimp their products. Polar Kraft’s pro was Bassmaster pro and 4-time Classic contender Roger Moore. For those of you who don’t know of Moore, he was a big deal in the ‘70s. He qualified for 4 straight Classics and out of the 35 Bassmaster events he fished, he finished in the money 15 times – which was a top-20 finish in those days.
Now I’m sure Moore didn’t fish the tin rig in big events – I believe he was sponsored by a glass company too – but to have him back Polar Kraft at the time was akin to having someone like Alton Jones back you today. He was a good stick, had tons of credibility and was always near the top at the end of an event.
Polar Kraft made good boats and not only that, they had good ads. They gave the prospective buyer an idea of what they sold and had a big name backing them. In 1978 they had two different ads and frankly, they were pretty good comparatively speaking.
Procraft, Murfreesboro, TN – By 1978 Procraft had been around for a couple years – part of the growing number of bass boat companies headquartered out of the state of Tennessee. Procraft made a good product, sold a good share of boats and was one of the companies you could actually rely on back in the day. You knew they’d be around five years down the road if you needed a repair or part.
Their ads were placed in every bass magazine in print at the time – but those ads really neglected anything other than pictures of the boat and maybe an introduction of a new model – minus the specs. This may have been fine in places like the south where one could actually go to a boat shop and see a boat but it hurt other markets such as the west, where we’d have to rely on an ad and then drive a few thousand miles to see a real boat.
Still, Procraft was big enough to last the test of time – until the unfortunate crash of the mid-2000s. Procraft eventually went out of business in the mid-oughts – like so many other companies. Now, all we have to live is their memory and these ads.
Ranger, Flippin, AR – How the heck does one give enough credit when it comes to Ranger. I’ve personally never owned one, never liked them, but I have to give credit to Forrest Wood (and Ray Scott) for building an industry from essentially nothing. Yes, there were other companies that developed amazing new concepts for bass boats, such as the Pierce family, but Ranger has and might possibly be the all-time leading seller of bass boats.
I mentioned Ray Scott in the past paragraph for a reason. Scott and Wood have been lifelong friends from the earliest days of B.A.S.S. It was Scott who chose to use Ranger as the Bassmaster Classic boat and up through the early 2000s and Ranger would have been the only Classic boat if not for an unfortunate fire in 1971.
But let’s get on to what Ranger had to offer in 1978. In 1978 Ranger placed eight different ads in the bass magazines – four which were double-page ads. Not only that, they’d reached a milestone of 500 dealers throughout the country – they were the bass boat manufacture of the day.
In 1978 they rolled out four new models – the 158V, 178V, 198V and the Aztec 1750 Fish-n-Ski – to go with their other models. The thing I liked about Ranger ads was Forrest was always in them, cowboy hat and all. There was no doubt he stood behind (and in) his boats – whether they were fully functioning or had massive holes cut in them to prove they’d float no matter what damage was inflicted upon them. They did function as presented and will always be the name in the sport. My problem with them was their ride and the fact they were slow. But, then again, Cadillacs are slow and get the job done.
Rhyan Craft, El Dorado, AR – I have no idea how long Rhyan Craft had been in business prior to 1978 but this year marked their second year advertising in the major bass magazines. Rhyan Craft manufactured aluminum rigs that were built on some of the thickest aluminum offered during the day – 0.100-inch thickness. Although they provided dimensions of their 16-foot boat in the ad presented, they offered nothing on other models they built – maybe this is the only one they offered.
Sebring, Cullman, AL – For the second year in a row Sebring decided to advertise their products – albeit in only one bass magazine – National Bassman. In this ad, Sebring showcases three of their models, the Mark IV, Mark V and the Cyclone. Although they don’t list the overall specs of the boats, they do at least give their horsepower ratings.
The other thing that you’ll notice, and this was prevalent on most boats of the time, was the mention of the front livewell. If you had a boat back at this time, you’re very familiar with this feature. Having the livewell at the front may seem like a good thought but if you ever had to put fish in it and rely on it keeping them alive for a day of tournament fishing, you know that wasn’t the best choice for its placement. In fact, most boaters would opt to take the rear well and make their non-boaters place their fish in the well up front.
Skeeter, Kilgore, TX – Arguably the first bass boat manufacturer in the world, Skeeter wasn’t new to advertising. The first ad we came across was placed in a 1964 edition of Don Fuelsch’s Southern Anger and Hunters Guide. Well, 14 years later Skeeter bass boats had evolved into some of the best performing bass boats of all time. They weren’t your grandfather’s Skeeter anymore.
In 1978 Skeeter put forth two ads featuring three boats – the Skeeter Wrangler, Wrangler II and the SS-7. The Wrangler was touted as the only 16-foot boat rated for a 150-horse motor (a 1977 ad that was obviously out of date). The Wrangler II was a 15-foot version rated for a 120-hp motor and the SS-7 was a 17-foot model with no horsepower rating.
Back in the day, if you wanted a Caddy, you went with Ranger. If you wanted a Porche, you bought a Skeeter.
Stryker, Madison, AL – Stryker wasn’t a big name in the west, in fact, it wasn’t a name at all except for a hair band from the ‘80s. But, evidently it was a decent boat from the south, namely Madison, AL that made an impression. The first time I’d ever heard of the name was when we did the 1975 edition of Old Bass Boats and then again when we did the multi-part series on Green Boat and Motor. Evidently they made a solid product and sold a bunch of pieces to southern anglers. I just wish I had more to offer with respect to how long they were around and what their claim to fame was.
Terry, Delhi, LA – Terry bass boats can be found all the way back into the ‘60s and were the preferred boat for anglers such as Grits Gresham, Stan Fagerstrom and other notables of the day. They made solid fishing platforms and were one of the first manufacturers to address the fuel crunch of the mid-‘70s.
In the west, anglers looked for the Terry name and you’d always find a number of the small 420, 430 and 460cm glass boats on the San Diego lakes at the time. If not for bad management and poor marketing, the brand would still be here today. Unfortunately, they left the market in the mid to late ‘80s along with Datsun and Lead Zeppelin.
Venture, Winchester, TN – 1975 was the first year Venture placed an ad in any of the mainstream bass magazines I’ve seen – and that ad was pretty pitiful. I guess they got the message and in 1977 their ad talked about four of their models and the trailer that got them from the house to the lake and back.
Unfortunately, their 1978 ad, was the same as the 1977 ad and again featured a picture of an unknown model streaking down the lake. From the looks if it, it’s a John-Rude 115, and, therefore a 15-footer. Still it looks impressive for the day and a boat I’d have been interested in if I’d ever heard of it.
VIP, Vivian, LA – Here’s another boat company that decided 1978 was a good time to start spreading the word they too manufactured bass boats. This was the one ad I’d found in the 50-plus magazines I went through for this piece. But, is the center of attention the boat, or the UMCO Possum Belly box on the deck? Seriously, the dude in the front of the boat is as stiff as 10-pound Garcia Royal Bonyl line while he has a bikini-clad blond in the back seat. Really?
I have no experience with the VIP brand of boats but if I’d seen this ad in 1978 as a 14-year-old, I would have pleaded with my father to buy one – what would have been better than to be bass fishing with a with an UMCO Possum belly and a blond bombshell?
I have a couple of VIP catalogs from this era that I need to scan and present here at some point. In the ad presented here, VIP, which stands for Vivian Industrial Plastics, claims to have 30 models for 1978. What they don’t clarify, is they’re 30 boat models overall, not just bass boats. I’ll get the brochure scanned an put up in the next couple days for all to see.
This is the end of the look at old bass boats of 1978. If you see we’ve missed something please write us and if you have any info, that’s all the better. Stay ready for the next version when we cover 1979.
Those aluminum rigs reading 16 feet in length rated for 85 horses is crazy. I have a 17.5 footer today, probably much wider and heavier than those and it’s only rated for 75! I bet those were some squirrely rides for sure. Back in those days we weren’t too concerned with safety, we just wanted to get there fast!
LOL Tim. Yeah, boats were a bit racy back then. Prior to the USCG rating, you could stick almost anything on a boat.