Simply the Best

Nowadays, it seems that every business has a keen slogan or catchy brand tagline. The intent of this marketing technique is to convey a complex emotional concept, such as quality and value, in as few words as possible.

Examples of well-known slogans are many.  Nike shoes and athletic apparel says, “Just do it” while Procter and Gamble states that Bounty paper towels are “The Quicker Picker Upper”, De Beers adds “A Diamond is Forever” and BMW unequivocally claims to be “The Ultimate Driving Machine”.

In the boating world, Willie Boats Inc. has its own catchy slogan, confidently claiming to be “Simply the Best”.  Willie Boats is a small, custom aluminum boat manufacturer located in Southern Oregon, whose founder Willie Illingworth began building drift boats out of his garage in the late ‘60s.  Since then, Willie Boats has created a new standard of quality in the whitewater industry, through their product line of all-welded aluminum drift and power boats.

However, a little research reveals that “Simply the Best” is more than just a catchy slogan.  These powerful words are actually backed by a company producing for professional fishing guides, whitewater enthusiasts, and recreational boaters with high-standards who insist a Willie Boat is the ultimate custom-built aluminum boat.

Here’s the difference…

Quality of Craftsmanship

One only has to see the picture-perfect welds on a Willie Boat to realize these custom boats are meticulously built by skilled craftsman who truly care.

Don’t stop there; look at every small detail of these boats such as custom paint schemes, polished diamond plate, wiring, rigging and finish work, and it is clearly evident that the quality of craftsmanship in a Willie Boat is far superior to the bigger boat builders that stamp out their boats in the fastest fashion possible.

But the quality of craftsmanship doesn’t stop on the exterior. Unlike other boat builders who often cut corners where it can’t be seen, a Willie Boat is precision crafted through and through.

Take their sub-floor bracing, for example. Under that polished diamond plate deck is a fully welded sub-floor that provides a solid platform and a rigid hull design unlike any other. And hidden under the wraparound cowling of a new Willie Boat is complex bracing that strengthens the cowling, stiffens the sides, and eliminates annoying vibration.

At Willie Boats, it’s the attention to detail that makes a big difference.

Quality of Materials

Corners are never cut at Willie Boats. They use only the highest-grade aluminum available in the industry on every boat they build.

Longevity of the craft is guaranteed with a “hell for stout” bottom comprised of aluminum gauges from .190 to .250, depending on boat length and width.

The highest grade automotive paints and clear coats available are meticulously applied in Willie Boats’ new “state of the art” paint booth, ensuring the finish on every new craft is as beautiful as it is durable.


With quality of materials and craftsmanship at the forefront of every boat build, you can rest assured that Willie Boats stands behind their product with a no-nonsense warranty.

Willie Boat hulls are guaranteed to be free from defects in material and workmanship under normal consumer use and service while the property of the original purchaser. In layman’s terms, that translates to a “lifetime warranty” for the buyer.

In addition, Willie Boats’ paint and finish are warranted for one (1) year from the date of purchase, if the boat receives normal non-commercial use, is stored according to manufacturer’s recommendations, and is NOT moored for an extended period of time.


Willie Boats offers many specialized hull designs individually tailored to different waters and conditions.

In addition, they build drift boats from 12’ to 20’ and powerboats from 20’ to 28’ in length with numerous bottom width options, so the customer doesn’t have to settle for a boat design that’s not quite right for their water conditions.

While equipping a Willie, the customer pleasantly discovers many options are available, such as flooring, seating, splash wells, side trays, cabinet boxes, fuel tanks, fish boxes, power plants and trailers, and takes pride in knowing that a truly one-of-a-kind custom boat will be the end result. This means that the consumer gets EXACTLY the boat they want, not a standard-issue compromise that might, or might not, fit their needs and desires.


When one hears the word “performance”, they automatically think of speed.

A Willie power boat indeed makes the most out of every bit of available horsepower, just watch a 21’ Classic jump on step on Alaska’s Kenai River, where the legal limit is 50 h.p., and see that performance isn’t limited to top-end speed. A serious salmon angler knows that nothing plants, sticks, or tracks truer while back trolling in a swirly river than a Willie power boat.

In similar fashion, seasoned oarsmen from California to New York will tell you that Willie drift boats row easier and smoother than their competitors, continuing the reputation of superior performance that put Willie Illingworth on the map nearly five decades ago!

Resale value

Due to their high manufacturing standards and quality materials and components, Willie Boats can literally last a lifetime. Couple this with legendary “on water” performance and your Willie Boat becomes a highly coveted watercraft that holds its value for a long, long time.

While you’ll likely part with your prized Willie Boat only to order a new one with different dimensions or upgraded options, it’s reassuring to know that few boats hold their resale value like a Willie.

Customer Service and Commitment to the Community

Willie Boat founder Willie Illingworth passed away in 2007, but he’d be proud of the way good friend and long-time employee Jim Bittle continues his legacy.

Presently the managing owner and Willie Boat president, Jim not only oversees the day-to-day production of these high-quality watercrafts, he has raised the bar on customer service and satisfaction with a personal commitment of honesty, integrity and “make it right” excellence.

In addition, Jim ensures that Willie Boats gives back to the boating and fishing community that treats him and his employee-family so well, generously donating to organizations and causes that reflect Willie Boat core values and high standards such as Kenai River Professional Guide Association, Wounded Hero’s Project, Fish For The Future, Rowdy Creek Hatchery and countless others.

Supporting the community and donating to conservation organizations are a few of those small intangibles that might not directly affect an individual customer, but they speak volumes about a company’s overall philosophy.

At Willie Boats, you know they care, they take pride in what they produce, and they will be at it for a long time, standing behind custom-built aluminum boats that might indeed be “Simply the Best”.

Greg Brush is an outdoor writer and professional fishing guide at EZ Limit Guide Service in Alaska.