Stratos Boat History


Senior Fisheman
Jan 10, 2009
Craig, Colorado
Best Catch
Earl Bentz, the founder of Stratos Boats, opened the company September, 1983 in Old Hickory, Tennessee.

Earl grew up in boating, cutting his teeth working for his uncle at a his boating business in South Carolina as an assembly and servicing man. He also assisted in the pits at the boat races his uncle ran. Earl also got caught up in boat racing himself at this time. Tragically Earl broke his back at Lake Eufaula while racing. Once he recovered, he was asked to unite with Mercury Racing in 1973 and worked with them for eight years.

The bass boat craze was at an all time high and in 1975 Earl took a job with Hydra-Sport in Nashville Tennessee. He started in the research and development division and then accepted a position in customer service, finally moving to sales and marketing. Earl advanced to the position of Vice President/General Manager in 1981. That career move spelled the end to Earl’s involvement in Team Mercury racing.

Earl resigned from Hydra-Sport In September of 1983 to form his own boat manufacturing company, Stratos Boats, Inc. Although the move was risky, he said to himself, “What else can be done to make bass boats more user-friendly?” – That thought was his motivation to form the company.

Being inventive, Earl first did away with fuses and substituted circuit breakers. At the time trolling motors were rigged with10 gauge wire. At the time the boats were advancing as well as the trolling motors. Because of Earl’s inventiveness Stratos became the 1st company to usher in a six gauge wire standard. Due to Earl’s creativity and invention, Stratos quickly became a leader in the fiberglass sportfishing boat industry. Earl’s 201 model was the Stratos flagship and dominated tournament competition. Stratos created various models ranging from 16′ to 20′ to suit various fishing needs.

Earl sold the Stratos Company In 1987 to the Outboard Motor Corporation but he stayed as the president of the company and was instrumental in the founding of Javelin Boats under the OMC banner.

At the time, OMC was acquiring boat building businesses in an attempt to dominate out-the-door hull sales in an attempt to gain market share from the much bigger Brunswick (Mercury). At the time, Stratos seemed to dominate the boat building industry with offices then located in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

During the late ‘90s, OMC concentrated on purchasing technology targeting the fuel injection competition. Stratos motor design, known as Fichts, was plagued with difficulties. Most affected were the 150-175 horsepower models. Attempts were made to remedy the situation, however with mixed results.

Due to the burden of oppressing warranty work expenses, OMC reluctantly accepted an offer by George Soros to prop up the Stratos, injecting funds into the faltering company. Consequently, ownership of OMC belonged to Soros. Soros only enjoyed a brief stay of power and made terrible management decisions that only benefited himself and not the company, consequently OMC fell into bankruptcy.

As a result of the Ficht horsepower warranty issues combined with OMC-held boat builders loyalty to OMC,

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