Bass Cat Boats founder Ron Pierce died Sunday of natural causes. He was 81.
Pierce and his wife, Jan, started Bass Cat in their two-car garage in 1971.
During his 44-year career Pierce took Bass Cat from its humble beginnings and transformed it to become the industry’s highest-quality bass fishing boat manufacturer, according to an obituary by the company.
Pierce, who had several strokes in recent years, leaves behind a legacy of innovation and a devoted legion of Bass Cat owners that he lovingly referred to as family, according to Bass Fan.
“Dad was a great man who cared about people more than most anything. He believed in fairness among all and was proud of his ongoing opposition [to] special interest in any civil, community or state project,” said Rick Pierce, Ron’s son and Bass Cat and Yar-Craft president. “Most importantly, he was a great father and grandfather.”
The years 1978-82 brought a recession that made survival difficult, when the company was advised several times to file for bankruptcy, says Rick Pierce in a video on the company’s website.
In 1982 the company built 32 boats “crawling out,” more than 100 the following year and more than doubled that number in 1984. In the late 2000s, when JD Power broke into the boating industry, Bass Cat consistently won the Customer Satisfaction Index award, beating out companies that included Grady-White, Cobalt, Malibu and Sea Ray.
Here is a video detailing the company’s history:
In addition to Pierce’s legacy at Bass Cat, he had a successful career in the plastics industry, was mayor of Mountain Home, Ark., from 1976 to 1986 and had an Oval Office meeting with President Ronald Reagan.
“It was always such a pleasure to visit with Ron Pierce; I am truly saddened by this news,” said Bill Yeargin, CEO of parent company Correct Craft.
Correct Craft bought Bass Cat and Yar-Craft in 2015.
“Ron was not only an important leader in the bass industry, but also a dear friend to all at Bass Cat and Yar-Craft, and he will be missed by many,” Yeargin added.
Memorial services will be held at 2 p.m. CST on Sunday at First Baptist Church in Mountain Home, Ark.