(Dec 7, 2016 - Mountain Home, AR)
Ron Pierce, the founder of Bass Cat Boats, died Sunday, of natural causes. He was 81.
Pierce, who'd suffered 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.
A native of Nowata, Okla., Pierce is survived by his wife of 59 years, Jan, and their three children – Rick, Holly Scott and Dee Ezell. He is also survived by eight grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
Pierce was many things – a pilot, a skilled carpenter, a champion archer, a public servant, a baseball fan and an avid outdoorsman – in addition to the founder of Bass Cat and a pioneer in the fishing industry.
He served as mayor of Mountain Home, Ark., from 1976-85 before serving as an Arkansas Game & Fish Commissioner for seven years, rising to chairman in his final year. He competed in 130 B.A.S.S. tournaments between 1974-2008.
Pierce had a successful career in the plastics industry – he helped Phillips 66 Petroleum open its first PVC production plant in the U.S. – before relocating to north-central Arkansas in the early 1970s. He and wife Jan purchased a drive-in restaurant in Mountain Home, but the enterprise wasn’t what he’d hoped it would be.
Pierce got his start in the boat-building business in 1971 when he and Jan launched Bass Cat out of their two-car garage in Mountain Home, not far from Bull Shoals Lake and Norfork Lake. It wasn’t long before operations were moved to a small Quonset hut, where the first boat was built. In 1972, the Pierces moved the company to a larger space in Mountain Home, where the company continues to operate today.
The first Bass Cats sold for less than $1,000 and a fully-equipped package could be had for about $2,500. Obviously, prices have risen over time, but Bass Cat has always maintained a commitment to customer service and satisfaction. The company received five consecutive JD Power awards for "Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Fiberglass Bass Boats" between 2005-09.
Bass Cat was the first company to incorporate a recessed trolling-motor pedal near the bow and was responsible for introducing several other manufacturing techniques that are now common across the industry.
For more than three decades, Bass Cat operated as an independent, family-run business and went head to head with other boat manufacturers which were held by larger, well-financed conglomerates. In 2011, Bass Cat purchased Yar-Craft Boats, which caters to walleye anglers.
In March 2015, Correct Craft purchased both Bass Cat and Yar-Craft, but the management team at Bass Cat, headed by Rick Pierce, remained intact.
A memorial service will be held Sunday (Dec. 11) at First Baptist Church in Mountain Home at 2 p.m. CDT.