With summer quickly approaching, boaters will see more boats and trucks decorated with the American flag or other colorful designs. It may look like a paint job, but it's probably a wrap made of high-density vinyl and bonded to the vehicle or boat surface.
Bass pros popularized wrapped boats and towing vehicles as advertising for their sponsors. Pros get new rigs nearly every year, so wraps can be fine-tuned to include new sponsors and exclude those who've dropped out. The medium works like a rolling billboard, said Wally Marshall, a Dallas-Fort Worth pro angler known as Mr. Crappie. He's driven a wrapped truck since 2000.
"According to a marketing study, when I'm driving down the highway in my Ford F-250, my truck wrap attracts 103 direct eye contacts per mile," said Marshall, who gets a new rig every year. "If I'm pulling a boat, the number of eye contacts rises to over 130 per mile."
Furthermore, Marshall said, when he's ready to trade in his current F-250 for a new one, he has the wrap peeled off. Despite high mileage, paint on the year-old Ford looks brand-new. The vinyl coating protects the vehicle from minor road dings and fading caused by the sun. You can wrap an expensive new vehicle in clear vinyl or change the color of an old one.
The protection is not cheap, said Scott Bechtel, who started Car Wrap City as Texoma Wraps in 2004. Bechtel had a background in printing and signs and became intrigued with vehicle wraps. He saw what other businesses were doing and thought he could do it better.
Car Wrap City became one of the nation's first companies dedicated only to seamless wraps. Bechtel labored along at first, doing two or three wraps a month, but he was right about the concept. It caught on. He now has 25 employees working at locations in Carrollton and Sherman, and a total of 80,000 square feet of space with more in the works.
"Nobody likes this answer, but the price of a wrap depends on a lot of variables," said Bechtel. "Accent stripes start around $800. A 21-foot bass boat with a print wrap would be about $1,800, and a crew cab pickup ranges from $2,900 to $3,300. We price wraps based on the amount of square footage and the type of vinyl we use."
He'll wrap anything, including airplanes, wakeboards and motorcycle helmets. His favorite projects have been an American flag-wrapped boat and a snow camouflage pattern on a hunting truck.
"Flag wraps are very popular," Bechtel said. "What's more red-blooded American than a boat or truck with the stars and stripes on it? American pride is alive and well in the men and women who love their boats and trucks."
It takes about three days to wrap an SUV or pickup, Bechtel said. One day is devoted to cleaning and prep work. The wrap is applied on the second day. On the third day, Bechtel said, the installation technician watches the vinyl as it acclimates, making sure it adheres properly.
It's not as easy as putting decals on a model car. The large sheets of vinyl must fit precisely and seamlessly. An apprentice must first be certified to install.
"It then takes one to two years before they are given the green light to wrap a vehicle on their own," said Bechtel. "We also have industry trainers visit the shops regularly to make sure our guys are up on the latest technologies. With the industry moving so quickly, there are new material advancements and tools coming out each month."
Bechtel said a wrap will last about seven years if properly cared for. He tells clients to treat the wrap like a high-quality paint job.
"Don't let grime or dirt stay on the surface for months at a time and don't let it bake in the hot Texas sun," he said. "The average wraps have a lifespan of about five years; garaged boats and vehicles last much longer."
Wraps are printed in-house on a giant printer. Car Wrap City has artists who can work with a customer to create a unique pattern. It costs more, of course, and about 2 percent of customers take that route. You can see examples of wrapped vehicles and boats at www.carwrapcity.com.
Saturday -- Free Fishing Day in Texas to celebrate National Fishing Day. All fishing license requirements are suspended for this day only.
July 7-9 -- First weekend of DFW Boat Expo at Market Hall, 2200 Interstate 35E in Dallas.
Aug. 11-13 -- Texas Trophy Hunters Association's Hunters Extravaganza at the Fort Worth Convention Center. Visit www.ttha.com.
Aug. 15 -- New hunting and fishing licenses for 2017-18 become available.
Aug. 31 -- Most hunting and fishing license for 2016-17 expire.
Sept. 1 -- Dove season begins in the North and Central zones.
RAY SASSER is a special contributor to the Denton Record-Chronicle. If you have an area outdoors event or big-catch picture, e-mail email@example.com.