Today we have the final piece in our look back at some of the old bass boat companies and the products a lot of us fished out of in the 1970s and ‘80s. The company we’re looking at today is one we’ve featured in the past, Tide Craft, but this catalog is from 1979 as opposed to 1984 in the prior iteration. A lot had happened in five years and I think if you compare the two catalogs, you’ll see the changes. So. without further ado, today we feature the Tide Craft Catalog 1979.
Tide Craft was a Minden, LA company that started in 1959 according to this catalog. They produced a wide range of both aluminum and fiberglass boats for fishing and boating through the 1980s. Their bass boats were highly popular in the Louisiana/Texas area and also had a following out west.
Today’s catalog has a good spread of the various watercraft they produced but we’re solely going to concentrate on the bass boats. The entire catalog will be placed in a gallery below in the event you’d like to see some of those other boats.
Page 2 of the catalog is a letter from the vice president of the company giving the reader a little history of the company as well as their goals. Then the next five pages go into some of their basic family-style boats. It isn’t until you get to page seven where the fun, in my eyes, starts.
Tide Craft starts off their bass boat section with what they called their “Fishabouts.” From the floor plan, these boats were what I’d call a fish and ski boat of the day. Each model has padded lounge seats that served as rod and/or ski lockers on both sides of the boat, casting platforms fore and aft and side-by-side seating for the driver and passenger.
The Fishabouts came in four different sizes, ranging from 15-feet, 1-inch to 17-feet, 8-inches. Horsepower rating were from 90 to 150. Each model was a dual console with livewells on the front and back decks. Each boat also had dry storage in the back.
Looking at the image, it also appears that there was storage on the front deck on each side of the seat. Most boat companies at this time didn’t offer any dry storage on the front deck so this is an anomaly in the industry.
There is no discussion as to what type of a hull was used but from the model numbers VFA, I assume it was some sort of modified v-hull.
I’d also like to point out the area between the two lounge seats and how it’s open. Again, this is about 10 years prior to the full flipping deck with under-deck storage. Most anglers put their tackle boxes in that open area, using the rod or ski lockers only if their boxes would fit. Another thing the open area was used for was bladder gas tanks, since these boat rarely could hold more than 24 gallon of fuel.
Next in the lineup has to be one of the ugliest boats I’ve ever laid eyes on, the Tide Craft Fish & Ski. This boat does have front and rear fishing decks but there isn’t much room for rods, tackle, or an angler. There is dry storage on the front deck, but again, there isn’t much room to get into them.
All the room in this boat was squandered by the four-person seating in the cockpit area. At 16-feet, 3-inches long with an 80-inch beam, the boat was rated for a 115-horse motor. I just can’t think they sold many of these when they had the perfect Fish & Ski in the Fishabout series.
On Page 8, Tide Craft featured their full-on boat for the serious bass angler. Built off the same hull as the Fishabout series, these boats came sized from 15-feet, 1-inch to 17-feet, 10-inches in length. The difference between these and the Fishabouts was the single console and no lounge-type benches. The rod locker was even recessed into the port side of the boat, a feature that was common in the day.
These boats really provide a good look into the standard bass boat layout of the 1970s through the mid-1980s. The wide open floor was for tackle boxes, there was generally a cooler in front of the driver’s console, and a small rod locker that would barely fit five rods and reels. There were livewells placed on the front deck and rear deck between the driver and passenger’s seats, dry storage generally below the seats as well as on the back deck.
Looking at the standard equipment you see most everything listed on boats today but in order to get a built-in gas tank, you had to order it off the optional equipment list. There is nothing that states how big these tanks were, but they couldn’t have been more than 24 gallons.
The next boat they were offering this year was a 15-footer called the Snapper. This looks like a neat little boat, even for today. I wish we could see the floor plan but based on what we are able to see, it looks to have an elevated front deck, console steering and the backseat angler is relegated to fishing off the lower deck. The boat is full of nice standard options from the time and with a horsepower rating of 65, I bet this boat would scoot. Being a tri-hull, it was also most likely stable as a fishing platform.
Tide Craft’s next boat, the Scout, was another small boat that doesn’t look like anything I’ve seen before. A small, 14-foot, 4-inch v-hull rated for a 30-horse motor with console steering. There are no elevated casting decks, but this boat just looks like it would fish well. It had a narrow beam which would allow an angler to hug the port or starboard gunwale and make a roll cast outside the boat. I question the room on the bow for a bow mount trolling motor but back then those mounts were a lot smaller so maybe it would work.
The standard features that came with the boat were all one would need from a boat of this caliber. There is no talk about rod lockers or dry storage. Another plus was the boat only weighed in at 420 pounds and could be towed by any vehicle you could think of.
The final page of bass boats takes you back to the early 1970s with the Bayou. The bathtub hull was hugely popular in the early days of bass fishing, and I believe that Tide Craft may have been the only company at this time to produce a boat with this type of hull and layout. There are no extras, no gimmicks with this boat. It is just a boat with two fishing seats, a driver’s console and steering wheel, and a place to hang a motor. Two models of the Bayou were offered, one was 14-feet, 2-inches and the other 15-feet, 1-inch rated for 30- and 65-horse motors respectively.
Slap a couple 12-volt batteries in the back along with six gallons of fuel and you had yourself the means with which to go catch some fish on the cheap.
Again, with there being no casting decks and the hull configuration, these were stable fishing platforms that saw a lot of use in the early days. It’d be cool to see some company come out with something like this today in the 13- to 15-foot range. The Tiny Boat community is proving there is a market for this type of boat not to mention the kayak crowd.
The final pages of the catalog feature Tide Craft’s trailers and warranty. Then on the back cover is a picture of the factory. According to some research I did on the interwebs, Tide Craft went out of business in the early 90s and was resurrected in 1995 and moved to Marshal, Texas. The company was in business another five years and folded in 2000.
Although this concludes this week’s look into some of the old bass boat companies we may have grown up with, it is by no means that last of the old boat companies. I have more boat catalogs to share as well as more old ads. If any of you have any old boat catalogs you’d like to share, please comment below and we’ll contact you. In the meantime, if you’d like to see the entire catalog, please check out the gallery below.
Smiths Marines in Minden Louisiana, Melvin Smith Founder of Tidecraft, still there, still selling and working on boats.