This 1971 Bassmaster Classic Boat is Stealing the Show

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama— Doyle Hodgin says he found it near his house. It’s an original boat from the very first Bassmaster Classic in 1971, and it’s stealing the show here at the 2014 Bassmaster Classic Expo.

The vanilla and red colored craft was manufactured by Rebel Lures during a brief stint into the boat building business which began in 1970. One year later, the company had struck a deal to supply boats for the very first Bassmaster Classic at Lake Meade, Nevada.

Back then, the field numbered a humble 24 boats. Today on Lake Guntersville, 55 fishermen are competing for the title of World Champion.

Hodgin says he knew the little Rebel was special when he first saw it. The graphics, from the crooked number 17 hastily slapped over the motor to the original Classic logo are all original.

And those graphics all point to one remarkable discovery—in an original photo from the very first tournament, B.A.S.S founder Ray Scott stands in a Rebel boat holding a bullhorn. The number on that boat? A slightly crooked 17.

“I was blown away,” says Hodgin, “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put it together, but there it is.”

Hodgin has researched the boat extensively. He says it must have traveled to the barn near his Durham, North Carolina home from Atlanta. There, in the barn about 800 yards from the church Hodgin visits every week, it sat for years.

“The guy who owned it tried to sell it, but every time someone would call they would hang up right when he told them it was a ’71,” Hodgin explained. “They would hang up before he could tell them it was an original boat from Lake Meade, and as far as I know it’s the only one known.”

Hodgin says he can’t believe all of the attention the historic watercraft has drawn, and he would he hard-pressed to put a value on it. For now, he hopes to enjoy traveling to more expos and events to showcase its’ history. He’s even tested “Boat 17” out on the water.

Even after all these years, he says, “It’s still fishable.”