KILGORE, Texas — East Texas is home to some of the best fishing lakes in the country. So it made sense, a half a century ago when a boat manufacturer relocated to the Piney Woods.
Today, Skeeter Boats in Kilgore in celebrating its 75th anniversary. We got a sneak peek inside the factory with Skeeter Vice President and General Manager Jeff Stone.
As we walked through the factory, Stone described the process of how boats are built from the outside in.
First, the hull is built from a pre-fabricated mold. Layers of paint are added. While this is going on, the decking is being built out of high tech fiberglass and polyester resins. The finished project is a work of art finished off with gel coat and metal flake paint. The boats may look like a piece of art but there is a lot of science that goes into the making of a Skeeter boat. But to stay in business for 75 years, it takes employee dedication said Stone.
“There is a certain amount of science but there’s a lot of art, so the employee’s dedication over the many years is definitely brought Skeeter to where it is today," Stone said.
And today Skeeter’s been in business 75 years, Holmes Thurmond built the first skeeter like this one in 1948 in Shreveport. The company’s name comes from the boats signature mosquito shaped nose. Yamaha, is the parent company today but Skeeter has called Kilgore home since the 70s.
What it takes to be one of the leading bass boat manufactures in the country? Skeeter Vice President and GM Jeff Stone credits the East Texas company’s ability to sell emotion.
“There’s so many that they enjoy pulling up to the gas station filling up with gas to show others their boat or driving down the highway," Stone said. "There’s as much pride in that as being out on the water.”
Skeeter’s factory is about the size of eight football fields. Roughly 300 workers crank out about a dozen boats a day. They will crank out nearly 26 hundred boats this year. The original plywood boats are now high-tech fiberglass, polyester resin, but there’s a lot of science on board. How about sonar technology, better than any World War 2 battleship ever had.
Stone reminded us of something that a lot of anglers say, “So true, so true, and the joke is when you have one of these top-level fish finders, you have no excuse not to catch a fish”.
We all know East Texas is home to some of the best bass lakes in the country, so research and development is done in the company’s backyard. That R & D is leading to cleaner, more efficient motors and today, anglers’ attitudes are hooked on conservation.
“So many anglers today are so protective of that, and it take it serious. Not only protecting the fish but protecting the lake or body of water they’re fishing," Stone said.
The environment is key, and in the future, more focus will be placed on keeping the natural resource cleaner. New technologies will be added, and new cleaner engines may be developed.
“Obviously on the power side, will we have electric engines? There’s a belief that will happen at some point, okay, I don’t think it’s around the corner okay," Stone cautioned.
So for now, Skeeter banks on its heritage, brand, and customer emotion that identifies with the boat’s sharp stern.
“Yeah, that basic profile is still there that represents the sharp nose of a skeeter.” Skeeter offers free tours of its factory on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But you have to call ahead to make an appointment. The tour lasts roughly an hour.
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