Michael Ward-- founder and president of Team Ward, makers of the well-known War Eagle Boats-- has been in the boat business since before he could walk. The Ward family has a long-standing tradition of manufacturing high quality aluminum boats, but it was in 1992 that Mike Ward put his first War Eagle Boat in the water.
When Mike was only 24, he founded the company that would grow to become the nations' most versatile aluminum boat manufacturer. At the time, his family was out of the boat business having sold Duracraft, the company founded by his grandfather. Mike realized he missed the manufacturing side of the boat business- walking through the plant, watching the progress and the seeing all the parts coming together. He was young but he knew that he had an advantage, the wealth of knowledge passed on from earlier generations.
Not to say that the road to success would be easy.
The first War Eagle Boat was a 15 foot aluminum jon boat, named the 542F. From that very first boat, War Eagle Boats have had identifying characteristics that set them apart from other aluminum boats. Mike recognized an inadequacy with many aluminum boats: their tendency to slide in tight turns. At the time, several aluminum boat manufacturers were designing hulls that were square and flat with distinct corners. Mike envisioned a transom that curved up and in, like wings. The wings transom gave the boats improved lift and better maneuverability.
After the hull design was set, he needed to add a multi-functional cap rail. In 1992, Mike finished his design for the T-Lock Cap Rail System. He spent a lot of time engineering the cap rail so that it looked clean, but served a very important purpose. His hard work paid off. War Eagle uses their cap rail system to attach a wide variety of removable accessories.
Being an avid duck hunter, he and his friends would hunt in a wide range of environments. On many of these hunts, they would discuss ideas for getting their dog back in the boat, or loading decoys in the boat, or climbing in the boat while wearing waders. Mike Ward didn't just talk about ideas-- he did something about it. He wanted to provide duck hunters and fishermen with commonsense equipment. Equipment that is easy to attach, easy to use and easy to remove. Today War Eagle Boats offers more accessories than any other aluminum boat manufacturer. All accessories easily attach to the cap rail system.
When Mike Ward said he wanted to start camouflaging his boats, everyone told him he was crazy. Many people in the industry did not see how anyone could custom camo paint boats consistently in production. However, Mike saw the potential. War Eagle's first camo job took all day to paint and looked like the camo paint you find on old army trucks. Still Mike kept refining the techniques, determined that it could work. It did work. War Eagle became the first boat company to be licensed by Mossy Oak, RealTree and Advantage camouflage companies.
With camouflage companies on board, it wasn't long after when War Eagle became the official boat of Ducks Unlimited. A member of DU for years, Mike has always been conservation minded. He wanted to give back to the community of waterfowl hunters that supports his product. It has always been a goal of Team Ward, which remains a family oriented business, to put something back for future generations. Ducks Unlimited immediately recognized War Eagle as the strongest waterfowl boat builder. Since becoming the official boat of DU in 1997, War Eagle Boats has raised over $500, 000 for waterfowl habitat conservation.
If you visit War Eagle, you aren't likely to find Mike Ward in his office. He is often found working in the research and development department in the plant. His main goal is product engineering, always looking for a way to improve on his product. When asked what he is most proud of, he responds, "I feel very fortunate to be blessed with the ability to put a team of people together, all working towards one goal-- to build the best product for our customers."
What does the future hold for War Eagle Boats? Now in their fourth manufacturing facility, War Eagle continues to grow. Their new Tomahawk bass series is making waves throughout the aluminum boating business. War Eagle is broadening its market to include tournament bass fishermen with the Tomahawk series. Following in the tradition of all War Eagle Boats, the Tomahawk is loaded with features you won't find anywhere else.
At the end of the day, the most rewarding part of building boats is using your product. Mike spends many afternoons testing boats at the lake, and there isn't anywhere he would rather be.
"The wings transom design is one of the best features allowing the boat to turn and handle better. Also, the T-Lock Cap Rail which allows for easily attached accessories."