Bass Cat Puma or Cougar in a 203 Hybrid Model… the story why and what.
Back in the mid 2000’s we began searching for a good used Champion model to start a project with. A few former Bass Cat Owners had become a dealers for Champion at that time some were in an area where Bass Cat was not available. Over time it was what they had to sell and the ride characteristics were well known on the old hull. We had several conversations regarding what the company went through, its challenges and why. We go back through time and a small book could be written on what went wrong numbers of times with that company, and why as well. It seems the company was always in jeopardy from a variety of dragons. Still there was an Ora’ around the relationship that some Champion owners have to that older Skeeter Wrangler style hull. We’ve had many conversations on why why they liked that particular hull and were willing to sacrifice top end performance other companies chase to enjoy a simple point and drive boat.
It is much like the old 201 Stratos hull that morphed off a Javelin by Alan Stinson. Today there are 5 different brands we know of relying on that extremely similar hull, if not nearly identical, and more when it’s looked at over time. As many have used that template Stinson tweaked into what it became. There are simply loyalist to products the way their old 1969 Mustang, 1970 Chevelle or a 1968 Camero felt. The power, torque, tire squealing and motor pump through shifting give us that adrenaline rush hat maybe a Tesla on 3-4 second 0-60 launches doesn’t. That simply explains why people love a product and for example we had a few that felt our 1600 or 1800 Vee was the best shallow fishing boat ever.
When Irwin and Stratos grabbed the brand in the early 2000’s and moved it to Tennessee, many Champion consumers were mortified that their MH brand was not going to be what it was. They followed it skeptically and eventually newer hulls had to change as the weights, widths, engines and all were changing. That meant the same above hull designer was tasked to bring more to the game. When he did that with the newer Champion hulls, those loyalist felt they were changing, and the lines became drawn as the new TN 210 was not in their minds what the MH versions were. The 210 designer (Stinson) had reached for more performance and a viable compromise to reach more market share. The hull moved up a few ticks in speed and those familiar with it just did not like the way the new hull turned, rode or way it drove. No matter the other opinion or the bump in performance, some simply turned their backs on the TN version and kept their beloved MH hulls.
Even through today the Champion forum on Bass Boat Central is extremely active with postings now 5 to 7 years after the brand was discarded. Which also led to us sponsoring the newer variation of the Tournament of Champions, out of Cape Fair, Mo. which was the home of Kenzie Prop Shop, one time a strong retailer of Champion Boats when Pat Duncan Owned the business last in the 1990’s. Pat bought Kenzie Props, from Sam and Ada Kenzie as a propeller shop and turned it into a marine dealership at Cape Fair. The #1 Champion dealership at the time. Which eventually rotated from the Pontiac, MO owners event (Bull Shoals) to Cape Fair after it was sidelined, and eventually Fred Ulrich took up that flag as the area Champion dealership and ran the event out of Cape Fair. Fred also remains a friend of mine and I have known Fred since he was a Mercury mechanic, wrenching out of Saint Louis. That’s another story though…
Eventually a former mid to later 1990’s Champion sales rep, prior to the bankruptcy of 2000, convinced a smaller competitor to achieve what we had already been working on. As a result the Charger 210 came out from a splash of another model, and we do know the origin of that actual individual Champion boat splashed (copied) and what it’s build was. Charger has a market it has grown through our mutual distributor SDG in Japan. That market is approximately the same size as the USA market, which registrations on Charger models are now around 30-40 boats in the USA. Their offering gave those Champion owners an option and in no way were we trying to steal those 30-40 boat sales from Charger. Joe and Jim Doris (Charger) I consider friends and we have casually visited as recently as last week. We wish them the best and they already had a nice little niche with the old variation of this hull they have in Charger.
As time went on, prior to Correct Craft, we had invested a lot of money on this project and we were hung mid string swinging on a decision. The time was coming to either end this project or move it the last 20% over the line. Obviously we made the decision to bring the boat forward and complete the design.
The project we undertook was at the urging of others as they were seeking the performance they once had. While this boat is a start to address that, we don’t expect it to launch a whole new series. Times are different and today the needs are also, which means we will sit back after this launches and see where the hull takes us. We don’t expect earth shattering numbers on sales and dealer performance. Though we did this as a nice offering to some who continue to rebuild their old boats desiring what they have.
We hope those Champion owners who desire a variation of that original 202 and 203 series ride take a good look at this model and we know there never will be a new 1968 Camaro show up on dealership lots. Though this hull should offer them something they want, while the compromise in today’s technology takes over what they had.
Here is a altered message string I wrote covering this topic with another Champion aficionado discussing what we have done as he heard a rumor.
Sorry for the length, though on this one there is no other way to explain it.
RQ 5:55 AM
I do not want to bother you because I know you are a busy man, but I heard a rumor that you had partnered with XYZ Boats and are building a Bass Cat/Champion model. Being the (XYZ) River is my home water and former Pro Staff for Champion it sparked my interest . As you know
the (XYZ River) can be brutal to run with its tendency to get rough, and if you have combined the superior workmanship of Bass Cat with a
Champion hull I can only think you have a winner. Thanks Rick for taking a moment to review.
Rick Pierce sent the following message at 8:15 AM
RQ, we are not partnered to anyone and I first built this hull in 2014(’13). There is a whole lot to this conversation. Matt was told he could have the prototype when it was done as his father was a former Production Manager in the 80’s and 90’s for Champion. He grew up in MH and was a fan as a youth.
His Uncle and Grandfather both got in the business through Champion. His Grandfather worked for several of us and his longest term was with Champion in sales, he also worked for others, Skeeter, Viper/Cobra and our company briefly. It started long ago working on a variation of the 203 hull.
We have a Mountain Home 1997 Champion 203 and a MH Champion 181 hull. The hulls were a challenge as they were 86”, they were narrower, less wind drag, lots lighter than today. The smaller 30’ish gallon tanks, lots smaller livewells and limited rear storages moved weight forward and lightened the back of boats from today’s needs. MH Champion never caught onto the trend we started with the Pantera II and Sabre in 1988 (92”) with big fuel tanks, larger livewells and rear storages. The newer outboards in weight and torque variations also limited hole shot, let alone today’s trolling motors.
Just as the old 1990’s boats could run an old chopper propeller, the new engines and boats can not. We had many challenges getting the hull dialed in and it was a secondary focus we moved in and out because the market was limited. We could sell a lot more of our hull products because of its performance limitations.
The boat I bought was purchased from a bank repo in SLC, Utah. It was bone dry with no water intrusion and had a newer 250 XS from racing. This original MH 203 boat ran 74 MPH at best with a fresh power head. The first runs in 2014 on our heavier hull with a 220 to 285 LB driver and fuel (54) and 250 Pro XS ran 75 on top. Though hole shot suffered still and we shelved the production the week we were planning on introducing it because it did not come out well.
In order to get hole shot with the wider 94” beam and lots more rear weight we had to redesign the hull more than we anticipated. That is now done and the hole shot is similar to our other models. matt chose a 300 Pro XS and I tried to get the 250 for comparison reasons. (Comment on 300 deleted) I made the decision to let Matt organically take this to market through his efforts and social media, using the TOC event to intro the hull. We have sent a brief memo to our reps, and there is absolutely nothing yet presented to our dealership base. We are letting this grow organically through those who have an affinity to the Champion style and are accepting where they are on top end for the ride. The ride it drier than the old hull as we kept our air rams in the hull to blow water away instead of chasing up the bow and blowing back. The bottom running surface and a section wedged to the Vee bow is the 203 hull.
The rest of the boat is Bass Cat and you can select either the Cougar FTD or the Puma FTD top decks. We are calling it a Puma/Cougar 203 Hybrid and we have the logo at the printers now. The hull mold is stitched and tweaked and we will finish it by mid December ready for production. (NAME) at (BCB Dealer) can price it and the National MSRP promotion in the SP offerings are available in this series. Remaining Owners of Champion hulls can get a Loyalty Rebate from our dealerships and we offered that to all Champion Owners when the brand was no longer available.
We know the market is not large, though there is still a following of those older style Champion owners and we are going to entice with this. It won’t set the world on fire, though it will definitely meet the expectations of some. I’m taking some on the chin with that as the performance drop of this hull will have some not knowing what they are and when they outrun one with Brand X they will think they are outrunning a Bass Cat, which they are. Though not one of our hulls I’ve worked tirelessly to improve top end performance on our core products with today’s weights.
This one (203 Hybrid) runs to the wall and quits. Unless we loose hole shot we can not improve performance. It’s a trade off when you trim to the top and use the throttle for top end, where a BCB model you press the throttle to the bottom and the 25 MPH past that is all in the trim.
Thanks for asking and this is one reason more is not on the web yet. I’m giving it time to tell the story in bits. It takes a long time to say this every time the question pops up.
Once again, Rick Pierce and Co set the bar for all others. No other boat manufacturer has someone with the care, knowledge and expertise that Rick has. In a small market, where ROI is probably limited anyway….Rick and BassCat have opted to offer a derivative to make people smile. This is a prime example of what BassCat is all about. It’s about commitment, dedication and customer satisfaction. Not about board room graphs and #’s…but just purely excelling at everything because there’s a passion behind it. Thank you Rick & BassCat !!!!
Good read! I bet Matt is really enjoying having his dream boat and currently one of a kind. I bet it moves good with that 300.
Also I have heard you will be offering it with a puma, or cougar top cap / hybrid hull. Very nice! Hope to ride in one some day.
It’s the real deal folks. I’m currently still testing props and breaking the engine in. I’ll have a detailed write up in a few weeks with my humble opinion on it. It’s gonna make a heck of a cross over boat for the Champ faithful like myself. I’ve been running a Mt. Home 202 for 10 years and rundarned near all the old Champ hulls at one time or another. The Hybrid is the best of the lot, that says a lot coming from one of the most die hardChamp guys you’ll ever meet. Everyone keeps asking “Why’d ya go with the 300?” Well, because I wanted it, I had the money, this is my first new rig in many years and last one for many more to come. Yes, Rick tried talking me out of it but I wasn’t having it. 😉
Thanks Rick and BCB for making this happen.
The more I read and learn about Bass Cat and all that goes into the product design and manufacture, the more I appreciate what I have in my 2017 Cougar FTD.
Very nice job on behalf of the owners for both the strategy and the implementation of this project, as well as the above explanation.
Kudos to you all. Wish you best of success for the efforts.
Just when I had decided to purchase a used Caracal after the first of the year, you had to go and announce this. Loved my MH Champion 191, guess I’ll be looking at a new boat.
Very interesting read Rick. I really enjoy hearing about bass boat history and how you develop different products. Thank you for the information.
Tailwater Marine in TN and Fredricks Marine in AL both have Hybrid 203 models either in stock or in the works. We have a few others in process and these are out now.
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