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'71 Classic boat headed to Expo

'71 Classic boat headed to Expo

A Rebel Fastback boat that was used in the inaugural Bassmaster Classic in 1971 will be displayed in the Carlisle Tire booth at this year's Classic Expo in Birmingham, Ala. The fully restored boat, powered by a 90-hp Mercury MerCruiser inboard/outboard engine and originally equipped with a Lowrance Fish-n-Temp electronics unit and bow-mounted MotorGuide electric motor, will be at booth No. 1936.

B.AS.S. founder Ray Scott ordered 24 identical boats built for anglers selected to fish the first Classic.

“Secrecy was essential,” he said. “I shopped around to find the least conspicuous boat manufacturer that would build a designated number of identical bass boats all equipped with the same components, and do it in such a way that no one had a clue that the boats were even being built. Rebel was a brand new company in northern Arkansas. Not many people knew about them. The company was sworn to secrecy and the movement of the boats was done in such a way as to keep everyone completely off guard.

"Even the drivers were only provided limited information and set out from the factory on mysterious routings. They had to stop at given locations along the way and get further instructions for their destination.”

In 1971, the then state-of-the-art bass boats cost approximately $4,000 each, and reached a top speed of 37 mph. After the Classic, the boats were sold – including one to golf great Sam Snead. Another, boat No. 17, sat in North Carolina for decades under good care until Doyle Hodgin happened to discover it.

“In June 2011, I was driving on a road that I hardly ever go on and happened to look to my left,” Hodgin said. “I saw a boat there with the word ‘Classic’ and a big ‘17’ on it. I didn’t know what that meant, but it was for sale so I pulled in to look. I went home and did some homework. Then I realized that this boat was used in the first Bassmaster Classic in 1971.”

“The boat had been sitting in a building for years, so it was in amazing shape. I’ve taken it out on the lake and fished from it. Everything original on it runs like new.”

The Classic Expo runs Feb. 21-23 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. Doors open at noon Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

To learn more about Hodgin's boat, watch the YouTube video embedded below.

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