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 7:30-9:30 a.m. 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.
Kris Carroll, president of Grady-White Boats, said of this year’s next Hall of Fame recipient, Scott Deal, “I have had the privilege and honor of working with Scott Deal for many years and am proud to present him with the NMMA Hall of Fame Award. 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. The epitome of a successful entrepreneur and dedicated advocate for our industry, Scott is a true ‘maverick’.”
As the founder, owner and CEO of Maverick Boat Company, Scott Deal has been a driving force for innovation, enterprise, and advocacy in the marine industry.
Deal launched his career 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.
Under Deal’s direction, the Maverick Boat Group has enjoyed steady growth and been a model of innovation in boatbuilding. When Scott purchased the Hewes brand from Bob Hewes in 1989, inventor of the flats boat, the company became (and remains to this day) the country’s biggest builder of flats boats.
An avid angler, Deal won the Don Hawley Fly Tarpon and Islamorada Fly Bonefish Tournaments and was a three-peat Champion of the Redbone Celebrity Series, among many more. In 1991, inspired by his successful tournament fishing experience, Deal built the first skiff designed for silent, shallow water poling, the Maverick Mirage. In the process, he created the ‘technical poling skiff’ flats boat category. To meet anglers’ need for a versatile boat that could fish shallow and also run comfortably in larger, open bodies of water, Deal developed the Pathfinder brand in 1998—and launched the bay boat revolution. The proprietary VARIS (Vacuum Assisted Resin Infusion System) introduced in 2001, offers the highest strength to weight ratio possible in fiberglass construction and is used on 13 models across the company’s Cobia, Maverick and Pathfinder lines. After purchasing the Cobia brand from Yamaha Motor Corp., Deal completely revamped the model lineup with new fishing-focused models for the family, growing it into the one of the top-selling center console brands in the country.
A leading advocate for the nation’s fisheries, Deal is active on a number of 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 and was also honored with the Ted Forsgren Conservation Award in 2014. He has also worked extensively with the Everglades Foundation to lobby for water policy improvement and funding for the Foundation’s 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. “Congratulations to Scott and his family on this well-deserved honor.”
An assertive and articulate advocate for boaters and anglers, Scott has testified at the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, met with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilber Ross regarding fishery management in the Gulf states and authored an opinion piece for Washington D.C.’s The Hill urging Congress to pass the Modern Fish Act. He’s also made his mark as Co-Chair for the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management and co-author of “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries,” which helped set the groundwork or passage of the Modern Fish Act in 2018.
Committed to industry leadership, Scott serves on several marine industry boards. Deal joined NMMA’s Boat Manufacturer’s Division (BMD) in 2005 and served as Divisional Chair for the BMD Board. He’s 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 Scott with the inaugural Hammond Marine Industry Leadership Award, recognizing extraordinary service and commitment to advocacy on behalf of the recreational boating industry. He sits on the Board of Directors 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. (IBBI) Board of Directors and served as its Chairman twice.