August 08, 2023
Skeeter Boats, in Kilgore, Texas, is distinctive in maintaining a core vision of developing high-performance, trailered fishing boats. Whereas many builders branch into larger or smaller models, generalist or speculative designs, Skeeter has adhered to a successful formula. Skeeter is also unique in having sustained that vision for 75 years.
This builder hasn’t chased trends; it’s created trends.
Skeeter was among the first builders of fiberglass bass boats in the 1950s, and the first to build a U.S. Coast Guard-approved bass boat. Over the years, the company innovated the V-hull pad design; all-composite bass boat; full-length rod boxes; aluminum-reinforced transom/stringer matrix and many other elements. Confidence at the helm of a sleek, 200-plus-horsepower bass boat? Rods close at hand? Livewell pumps humming? That’s Skeeter’s DNA.
The commitment of Skeeter employees speaks to that legacy. Skeeter Boats currently employs 350 individuals, led by Senior Vice President Jeff Stone. Stone began with the company in 1983, working in engineering. Of his colleagues then, he counts more than 15 still with the company.
"We have a very solid core of long-term employees, and that is one of many components of our success," Stone says. "We have a lot of immediate family members working together and several multigenerational teams of employees."
That tradition of excellence and innovation is bolstered by what Stone describes as a deep talent pool in the region.
"There are several manufacturing institutes in the East Texas area; we’re two hours from Dallas, an hour west of Shreveport," says Stone. "It’s an area with a good job base, and the town of Kilgore has supported our growth for the entire 50 years we’ve been here. Everything is located here—engineering, development, manufacturing, marketing, sales. Every process of Skeeter Boats is located in Kilgore."
Skeeter Boats, under Yamaha ownership since 1996, has received the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) Award each of the 22 years the association has granted it. The award is based on a company’s demonstrated outreach and customer feedback.
“It’s a detailed process, seeking input from dealers and consumers,” says Stone. “We also have field sales reps who cover the entire country. We’re always discussing new products and considering ways to raise the bar even higher.”
Skeeter also leans on the input of professional anglers like veteran Bassmaster Elite pro Mark Menendez of Kentucky and recent addition Jason Christie of Oklahoma, winner of the 2022 Bassmaster Classic.
Today, Skeeter boats range from the 18-foot 9-inch Solera “fish and ski” to the ocean-capable SX2550 Fish, a bay boat. Skeeter was among the first builders to recognize the potential of the bay boat in the early 1990s. Around the same time, Skeeter also developed walleye-specific deep-V models.
Bass boats continue to be just as central to the company as the distinctive tumblehome plywood skiff was to founder Holmes Thurmond in 1948. The latest series, the FXR in 20- and 21-foot models, is cutting-edge in every regard, from the CAD-designed, rigorously tested hull to the suite of fishing amenities topside.
“We introduced the FXR in 2020, designed to be the top-line bass boat and providing everything an angler needs,” says Stone. “There are a couple different variations—the Apex edition, which is the pinnacle of that series, plus a limited-edition model with comparable feature equipment. We also have the ZXR, a midrange product with the same Skeeter performance and comparable fishability, priced and equipped for the midrange angler.”
Of note, just about all the equipment on a Skeeter boat is installed at the Kilgore factory. That includes accessories like the Humminbird 15-inch Helix display on the FXR console, as well as the 12-inch Helix mounted at the bow. Even the trailers are custom-built for each model; in 2017 Skeeter added a 43,000-square-foot trailer factory on-site.
"With every category we build—bass boats, Northern deep-V or saltwater—the trailer is a major component," says Stone. “[With] 90 percent of the boats we sell, the angler will be fishing multiple bodies of water. Because we build trailers in-house, we have a very flexible design window to come up with new models or respond to conditions. It’s about durability, functionality and aesthetics"
What's next for Skeeter?
"Not only do we plan to continue supporting anglers with product, conservation and protecting our environment are very important to us," Stone says. "We're a part of Yamaha, with its dedication to preserving natural resources. We're spending capital investments in that respect, whether it's updating our facilities, increasing recycling, exploring alternative energy—and, of course, keeping our waters clean and protecting our fisheries."
- The article was featured in the South edition of the June-July 2023 issue of Game & Fish Magazine. Click to subscribe.