| General NMMA News
The NMMA announced today the induction of two industry pioneers into the NMMA Hall of Fame, its most prestigious honor. Earl Bentz, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Caymas Boats, and Scott Deal, Founder and CEO of Maverick Boat Group, will be presented with the 2019 NMMA Hall of Fame Award during the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference (IBEX) at the show’s annual Industry Breakfast on Tuesday, October 1 from 7:30-9:30am at the Tampa Waterside Marriott Hotel.
“It’s a privilege to honor my longtime friend, Earl Bentz, with the 2019 NMMA Hall of Fame Award,” 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.”
Earl Bentz grew up in the marine business. 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.
Racing quickly became Bentz’s passion and he began competing on the national circuit, while continuing to work at his uncle’s dealership. 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. His initial assignment was in research and development and consequently, he became the first person 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, and retired from boat racing.
In 1983, Bentz resigned from Hydra-Sports to become President and founder of his first boat manufacturing company, Stratos Boats. Under Bentz’s direction, Stratos quickly became a leader in the fiberglass fishing boat industry. Bentz sold Stratos to Outboard Marine Corporation (OMC) in 1987. He remained as President and founded Javelin Boats later that year. Under his leadership, the OMC Fishing Boat Group became the world’s largest producer of fiberglass fishing boats, employing more than 850 people in Middle Tennessee.
In 1996, Bentz founded Triton Boats, a premium line of saltwater and freshwater fishing boats. In July, 1997 Triton opened a 280,000 square foot plant and office complex in Ashland City, Tennessee. In early 2001, Triton opened an aluminum plant in Aberdeen, Mississippi. And in 2005, Triton Boat Company was purchased by Brunswick Corporation, where Bentz continued to serve as Triton’s Founder and Chief Executive Officer until 2018. In September, 2018, Bentz founded Caymas Boats.
“With his experience founding Stratos, Javelin and Triton 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 and his team have been credited with developing many of the designs and system standards on today’s bass boats. Among them: 6-gauge trolling motor wiring as standard equipment; automatic circuit breaker electronics; wood-free boat construction; retractable passenger grab handles and the retractable boarding ladder that received the “Award of Excellence” for lifesaving innovations by the National Safe Boating Council.
Over the course of his more-than-fifty-year-career in the marine industry, Bentz has contributed his time and expertise to the industry by serving on the Board of Directors of the NMMA, the National Association of Boat Manufacturers, American Boatbuilder Association, American Sportfishing Association, Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. As an avid outdoorsman, in 1995 Bentz was appointed by the Governor of Tennessee to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission, and he founded the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation. Bentz’s accolades include inductions into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame and Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame. He and his wife Janet live in Nashville with their three daughters.
The NMMA Hall of Fame was established in 1988 and recognizes individuals who have made, or continue to generate, substantial and lasting contributions toward the advancement of the marine industry. It honors individuals whose names and deeds are synonymous with the pursuit of quality, innovation, and perfection within their respective spheres of expertise.