Earl Bentz literally grew up in the marine business. As a teenager, Bentz worked for his uncle, D. F. Jenkins, at his marine dealership, Jenk’s Outboard, in Charleston, South Carolina. Although originally hired to set up and service boats, the young Bentz also helped out in the pits at the boat races in which his uncle participated. Boat racing captured his imagination and at age 16, Bentz drove his first race, piloting the ABlue Goose@in a V-bottom event at Lake Murray, South Carolina.
Racing captivated Bentz, and soon he was competing on the circuit while continuing to work on boats and outboards at his uncle’s dealership. After recovering from near-fatal crash during a race at Lake Eufala, Alabama, Bentz was invited to join the Mercury Racing Team in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1973. He raced for Team Mercury for eight years, during which time he was 9-time national and 2-time world champion.
The bass boat boom of the Seventies was in full swing, and in 1975, Bentz accepted a job with Hydra-Sports, a leading boat manufacturer in Nashville, Tennessee. His initial assignment was research and development; it was during this phase of his career that he became the first human to drive a bass boat powered by a V-6 outboard motor.
While at Hydra-Sports, Bentz moved to customer service, then to sales and marketing. He was promoted to Vice President/General Manager in March 1981, whereupon he retired from boat racing. In September 1983, Bentz resigned to become President and founder of his own boat manufacturing company, Stratos Boats, Inc.
Under Earl’s leadership Stratos quickly became a leader in the fiberglass fishing boat industry. After Bentz sold Stratos Boats to Outboard Marine Corporation in January 1987, he remained as President, then founded Javelin Boats later in 1987. Under his leadership the OMC Fishing Boat Group became the world’s largest producer of fiberglass fishing boats, employing 850 people in Middle Tennessee.
In May 1996, Bentz founded Triton Boats, a premium line of saltwater and freshwater fishing boats. In July 1997, the Triton Boats opened a 280,000 sq. ft. plant and office complex in Ashland City, Tennessee. In early 2001, Triton Boats opened an aluminum plant in Aberdeen, Mississippi. In 2005, Triton Boat Company was purchased by Brunswick Corporation and Bentz continued to serve as its Founder and Chief Executive Officer until 2018.
In September 2018, Bentz founded Caymas Boats.
During this period, Bentz also contributed his skills to the Marine industry serving on the Board of Directors of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the National Association of Boat Manufacturers, the U.S. Sportfishing, the Boating Partnership Council and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. In 1995, Bentz was appointed by the Governor of Tennessee to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission.
Bentz lives in Nashville with his family