The National Marine Manufacturers Association Hall of Fame was established in 1988 to recognize and honor individuals who have made or continue to make substantial contributions toward the advancement of the marine industry. It is NMMA’s most prestigious recognition.
HALL OF FAME NOMINATION CRITERIA
To be eligible for the NMMA Hall of Fame Award one must:
Made a substantial and lasting impact on the industry or their particular segment
Known in the industry and is beyond personal or professional reproach
A past (deceased/retired) or current member and supporter of NMMA
Actively involved in the marine industry for a minimum of ten years
Active members in good standing with the NMMA are eligible to nominate a worthy leader. Nominations will be accepted in Spring 2022.
Contact: Rachel Harmon
2019: Earl Bentz, Caymas Boats and Scott Deal, Maverick Boat Group
Although born and raised on his family’s farm in South Carolina, Earl Bentz literally grew up in the marine business. As a teenager, Bentz worked for his uncle, D. F. Jenkins, at his marine dealership in Charleston, South Carolina. Originally hired to rig and service boats, the young Bentz also began working with the pit crew of his uncle’s boat racing team. Boat racing captured his imagination, 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. After recovering from a near-fatal crash during a race at Lake Eufaula, Alabama, 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, a leading boat manufacturer in Nashville, Tennessee. 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 September, 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 May, 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. In 2005, Triton Boat Company was purchased by Brunswick Corporation and Bentz continued to serve as Triton’s Founder and Chief Executive Officer until 2018. In September, 2018, Bentz founded Caymas Boats.
Earl 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 also contributed his time and expertise to the industry by serving on the Board of Directors of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the National Association of Boat Manufacturers, the American Sportfishing Association, the Boating Partnership Council 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.
He and his wife Janet live in Nashville with their three daughters.