Searching for boat-friendly features

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Andy Crawford

A bass boat company should always be looking for ways to improve and build the best boat possible in all areas.

For us at Phoenix, it’s 365-day-a-year process.

We’ve always prided ourselves in our efforts to add angler-friendly features spawned from ideas that come from our employees and customers.

Some come from brainstorming sessions monthly to discuss what we can do to improve next year’s model change. Some during casual conversation over lunch.

It helps that nearly every manager in our company fishes for bass, and we all have a passion for it. Everyone is using and fishing out of our boats, and some of them fish competitively and do quite well.

Some of our ideas come from customers through emails, letters or during conversations at boat shows.

One thing I’ve learned about the boat building business is that just when you think you’ve added all of the features an angler would want in a boat, you discover something else that would be a nice addition.

And sometimes those simple conveniences come from spending time in a boat with a customer.

A few years ago I was fishing with a Josh Bragg, a good friend and customer of ours, when he saw me wedge a water bottle between the center step and the driver’s seat.

“Why don’t you just put a drink holder in there?” he asked. My answer was, “Good question! We should!”

We had other cup holders in the boat, but none on the left side of the driver. It was an easy fix and now it’s a standard feature.

One year I was fishing with a co-angler in a tournament and he asked me if I had a phone charger he could borrow.

I didn’t, but the lightbulb in my head went on and we added USB charging ports to the next year’s boat.

When we first started the company, I was talking to Greg Strahm, our director of engineering, about a longtime problem anglers face: Where to put a landing net. It’s always in the way when you don’t need it, but when you do, you need it now.

He came up with a way to slide it under the floor into the bilge area and under the seats at the floor drain. It is now completely out of sight but quickly accessible. It’s one of our most popular features.

Here’s an idea I came up with: For years, we used to tie our boats to the dock at the driver’s seat with a rope tied to the dock and the steering wheel.

One day while I was doing that, I thought, “this is probably not good for the steering, so why not put pop-up cleat next to the shift throttle?”

We did and it’s become a popular feature.

We’ve had a few dud ideas, too, but we put everything to the test before a customer sees it.

A few years ago we decided to try a seat change. The seat we considered was very attractive and would have made a nice addition to the boat. It seemed to sit very well too. But when we installed it in a demo boat and actually used it, we discovered it was uncomfortable for the boat driver. We made a small change or two and it was fine.

That served as yet another reminder of the importance of trying out products or innovations that a vendor wants to sell us.

Obviously, we can’t implement every idea we get; some just aren’t feasible. But we have learned that every suggestion we get is worth considering, especially when it comes from anglers who share the same passion with bass fishing as we do.