The NMMA has named Earl Bentz and Scott Deal to the NMMA Hall of Fame. Bentz and Deal will be honored at the 2019 NMMA Hall of Fame Award during the IBEX Industry Breakfast on Oct. 1 at the Tampa Waterside Marriott Hotel.
The NMMA said in today’s Currents that this is its most prestigious honor.
“It’s a privilege to honor my longtime friend, Earl Bentz,” said Bill Watters, president of Syntec Industries. “He’s a pioneer in the freshwater fishing industry, and his innovation and dedication to boating will having a lasting impact for generations to come.”
As a teenager, Bentz worked for his uncle at his marine dealership in Charleston, South Carolina. He also began working with the pit crew of his uncle’s boat racing team, and at age 16, Bentz drove in his first race, piloting the Blue Goose in an event on Lake Murray. Bentz was invited to join the Mercury Racing Team in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1973. He raced for Team Mercury for eight years, capturing nine National titles and two World Championships.
In 1975, the bass-boat-boom of the seventies was in full-swing, and Bentz accepted a position with Hydra-Sports. After being promoted to Vice President/General Manager in March, 1981, he retired from boat racing.
In 1983, Bentz founded Stratos Boats, which became a leader in the fiberglass fishing boat industry. He sold the brand to Outboard Marine Corporation in 1987, staying as president. He also founded Javelin Boats later that year. The OMC Fishing Boat Group became the world’s largest producer of fiberglass fishing boats, employing more than 850 people in Tennessee.
In 1996, Bentz founded Triton Boats and opened a 280,000-square-foot facility in Ashland City, Tennessee. Five years later, Triton opened an aluminum plant in Mississippi. In 2005, Triton Boat Company was purchased by Brunswick Corp. Bentz continued as Triton’s CEO until last year. In September 2018, Bentz founded Caymas Boats.
Bentz and his team have been credited with developing many of the designs and system standards on today’s bass boats.
“Earl perfected bass boats, and in turn grew the sport of bass fishing. Now, he’s taking bass boats to the next level with his new venture, Caymas Boats,” said Joe Miller, former owner and CEO of William F. Miller & Associates. “He is a sportsman personified and a pioneer in the field and on the water, and our industry has profited from having Earl among the ranks.”
Bentz has contributed expertise to the industry by serving on the Board of Directors of the NMMA, the National Association of Boat Manufacturers, American Boatbuilders Association, American Sportfishing Association, Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. In 1995, he was appointed by the governor of Tennessee to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission. He later founded the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation. Bentz has been inducted into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame and Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame. He and his wife, Janet, live in Nashville with three daughters.
The NMMA said that Maverick Boat Group founder and CEO Scott Deal has been a driving force for innovation, enterprise, and advocacy in the marine industry.
Deal started in the marine industry in 1984, when he and his brother paid $12,000 for the 18-foot Maverick boat molds. More than 30 years later the company, now named Maverick Boat Group, manufactures four boat brands—Hewes, Pathfinder, Maverick and Cobia—and 25 models.
After Deal purchased the Hewes brand from Bob Hewes in 1989, inventor of the flats boat, the company became the largest builder of flats boats.
Deal has won the Don Hawley Fly Tarpon and Islamorada Fly Bonefish Tournaments and was a “three-peat” Champion of the Redbone Celebrity Series.
In 1991, Deal built the first skiff designed for silent, shallow-water poling, the Maverick Mirage. Deal also developed the Pathfinder brand in 1998—and launched the bay-boat revolution. After buying the Cobia brand, Deal revamped the model lineup with fishing-focused models, growing it into the one of the leader center-console brands in the country.
Deal is conservation boards, including the Coastal Conservation Association, and the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. In 2006, he was the first recipient of the Coastal Conservation Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He was also honored with the Ted Forsgren Conservation Award in 2014. He has also worked with the Everglades Foundation to lobby for water-policy improvement and funding for its restoration projects.
“Scott has played an integral role in recreational fishing and boating’s ascent in the national spotlight, and his advocacy efforts for the recreational boating industry and the future of recreational fishing will have a lasting impact for generations, not only in Florida, but across the country,” noted Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy.
Deal has testified at the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and met with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilber Ross regarding fishery management in the Gulf states. He also authored an opinion piece for Washington D.C.’s The Hill urging Congress to pass the Modern Fish Act. As Co-Chair for the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management, Deal co-authored of “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries,” which helped set the groundwork or passage of the Modern Fish Act in 2018.
Deal joined NMMA’s Boat Manufacturer’s Division (BMD) in 2005. He has been a member of NMMA’s Board of Directors since 2007, an Executive Committee Member since 2011, and was the initial chairman for Grow Boating. In 2017, NMMA presented Deal with the inaugural Hammond Marine Industry Leadership Award, recognizing extraordinary commitment to advocacy on behalf of the recreational boating industry. He sits on the boards of the Center for Sportfishing Policy, which presented him with the Eddie Smith Manufacturer of the Year Conservation Award in 2014. He serves on the Independent Boat Builders, Inc. board of directors.
“Scott has passionately offered his time, opinions, counsel and ideas to help move our industry to success through his professional and personal outreach in public and private settings,” said Kris Carroll, president of Grady-White Boats. “The epitome of a successful entrepreneur and dedicated advocate for our industry, Scott is a true ‘maverick’.”