Some Companies fly under the radar for a lot longer than you realize. One such company that has recently become more visible as a result of their sponsorship of the FLW T-H Marine Bass Fishing League series across the country. T-H has been serving the recreational boating industry since 1975. During this 39 years, T-H Marine has been a leader in designing and manufacturing quality boat parts and accessories. Like a lot of companies, T-H started small and has grown from three employees to a 200+ employee combination of three companies, manufacturing thousands of products. So why the TH? Simple, their first product was a TRIM HANDLE that came to market in April of 1975. Bill Huntley was the leader of the three man team that had developed a product they felt could have great market potential. The product was a Trim Handle switch, which put the outboard engine trim control on the throttle handle for the first time – a huge innovation in boating safety. At this time, Bill Huntley’s other company, Bumble Bee Bait Company, was going strong, selling the top spinner bait in the country. If they had patented the Trim Handle, they could have retired on the royalties every outboard manufacturer would have paid them for every motor built when the throttle arm trim switch which is an industry standard.
T-H continued making innovations in trim control and push button switches for boats. They put the first ever trim control switches on the steering wheel and they also introduced the first ever foot control switch for trolling motors. Before this, all actuation of trolling motors was done by the hand reaching to the trolling motor head. This innovation was the first step toward complete foot controlled trolling motors that are commonplace today. T-H Marine introduced the HOT FOOT™ throttle in 1977, the first commercially available foot throttle for boats. The HOT FOOT™ allows people to drive a boat like they do their car and also returns the engine to idle if the foot is removed. It is standard on most bass boats today. This early success resulted in the need for a new 10,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility which came on line in 1979 in Madison Alabama.
In 1980, T-H added two major innovations that have forever changed bass boats. First, T-H Marine introduced the HI-JACKER™ transom jack plate and it became the first commercially available, off-the-shelf jack plate. Before this, jack plates were custom made frames, made in machine shops. T-H Marine adapted that concept, designed a universal jack plate, and offered it to the boating public. The jack plate allows the outboard to be moved back and up from transom so that the prop runs in cleaner water, allowing the boat to run faster and handle better. That same year, T-H Marine introduced the first ever remote livewell drain valve, allowing a boater to activate a valve with a control cable to open or close the drain of a livewell or baitwell. This innovation allowed the angler to drain a live well without sticking his arm down into the water to pull the plug. Safety has always been the top consideration for T-H designs, and in 1980 they introduced a standalone, ignition “kill switch” to shut off the engine if the driver was thrown from the driver’s seat, another innovation that is now standard equipment on most bass boats. Along the way Huntley sold Bumble Bess to devote his full attention to T-H.
Many more innovation and “firsts” have followed. In the mid-90’s Jeff Huntley undertook a leveraged buyout of Bill’s partners, making T-H Marine a single-family owned company. With ownership consolidated, a new sales management team began aggressive efforts to grow T-H Marine market share. T-H Marine began offering its products for export, allowing boaters around the world to find their product line. More growth brought more change, and in 1997 the Company moved to a new headquarters in Huntsville, Alabama, and expanded its manufacturing footprint by another 35,000 square feet. As companies grow, so does their appetite for more growth. So in 1999 T-H decided to increase their injection molding capacity and capabilities with the acquisition of Innovative Plastics. This acquisition provided immediate growth and diversification in the custom injection molding market. One of the outgrowths of this acquisition was the creation of a new market niche for customized rod storage tube systems for boat compartments, which have now been adopted throughout the industry. In 2002 T-H Marine’s President, Jeff Huntley was awarded the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s Robert Hammond Leadership Award for his leadership contributions to the industry.
This was followed in 2004 by the Stratos/Champion Supplier Innovation Award and the Ranger Boats Supplier of the Year Award. In March of 2008, T-H solidified their position in Jack Plates with the acquisition of Cook Manufacturing Corporations assets in Duncan, Oklahoma. Cook was one of three major players in the hydraulic jack plate market and they held a very large market share. This acquisition placed T-H Marine as the clear leader and largest manufacturer of manual jack plates, hydraulic jack plates, and hydraulic tilt & trims in the world. T-H also added the assets of Integrated Power Technologies, a strong performing contract manufacturer in Huntsville, Alabama, providing our plastics subsidiary further diversification into electronics. Their hold on the industry became so significant that by the 2014 BASSMASTER Classic, T-H equipment was on 91% of the boats in the competition. They have released their G-Force™ line of accessories featuring the G-Force Handle™, and brought on B.A.S.S. Elite Series pro Gerald “G-Man” Swindle to be the official spokesman of the G-Force™ line. Maybe you did not know exactly who T-H was but you definitely know their products.