Letting the Cat out of the boathouse
Mountain Home's Bass Cat is in its prime, with many more lives left to live.
By Maynard Lee
It'd be cooler saying the name came from a fabled feline, a tomcat that could run full stride across a field of pads and take down a bullfrog and a dragonfly in one pounce. Truth is, though, the iconic Arkansas boat builder got its moniker when a weensy housecat ambled down the aisles of a fishing shop. More mundane, but historically important nonetheless. Paul Lingle, owner of Midway Wholesale Tackle, was chewing the fat with few a locals–including watercraft visionary Ron Pierce–and trying to come up with a name for Pierce's new brainchild bass boat. Along came the kitty. Lingle asked, ìHow about Bass Cat?î And some four decades later the name still represents better-than-sliced-bread bass boats.
Pierce's passion–more like out-and-out obsession–with boat design really started taking shape in high school when he cobbled together kit boats. From there, Pierce went on to a career in plastics engineering, which ultimately led to a fusion of his education, technical know how and love for fishing. And in 1971, a kitty named Bass Cat was born in Mountain Home.
Today, the Bass Cat legacy is championed by Ron's son, Rick Pierce–trust that the boat molds are in good paws. One senses his father's pride surfacing when Rick talks about the brand and what makes Bass Cat king of the pride.
"Our number one goal is consistency," Rick Pierce says. Every boat that leaves the building is as faultless as the one before it. And when core construction elements are administered by hand, maintaining consistency is both an art and discipline.
The components, the Bass Cat ingredients, also set the boats on their own higher plane. Pierce points to the industry-best resins, carpeting and gel coats that make up every boat. To that end, it's Bass Cat's undeniable performance attributes that have laid their legend among bass anglers. "Bass Cat bottoms are wider by eight inches than the competition. That gives us more stability," Pierce says. Bass Cat's other hallmarks, according to Pierce, include exceptional fuel mileage and the driest ride on the water.
It shouldn't be a surprise when Pierce says that 80 percent of Bass Cat's sales are fiberglass bass boats. But don't think the boat builder is one dimensional. Four years ago Bass Cat got bullish and acquired Wisconsin's Yar-Craft, a maker of premium, V-hull fiberglass walleye boats. (Don't expect a name change to Walleye Cat anytime soon, though.)
Yar-Craft production has been moved to a building across the street from Bass Cat headquarters in Mountain Home. 2015 marks the fourth generation of Yar-Craft offerings under the leadership of Bass Cat. And Pierce says to watch for an "out of the box" design change to the Yar-Craft fleet, which will be unveiled next fall.
Pierce sums it up best in a quote from the history section on the Bass Cat website: "We said it before, in any industry, you either lead, evolve or die. Leading is all we know how to do and we continue to do so."