Charlie Bausch: Remembering an Innovator

One Man’s Ingenuity & Hard Work Helped Shape Sportfish Towers Across the Seas

Charlie Bausch was a Renaissance Man of his era—a fellow who could draft a plan in his head, put pen to paper, and flux to torch—and make a hot new idea become a cold, hard reality.

Interestingly, despite a career that led him to rubbing elbows with some of sportfishing’s most influential families over four decades, Charlie never really cared much for boats! Privately he loved building cars, solving mechanical problems, and was a skilled artist and designer. At home, he owned and piloted many pristine airplanes, while driving “beater” cars to work where he custom-designed and installed superstructures for sportfishing’s finest boats.

Over his lifetime, Bausch left his mark on many people across multiple industries. His son, Tim Bausch, helped us form this picture of Charlie’s life, the influences he made, and the legacy he has left behind.

Charlie Bausch

Charlie Bausch
March 1, 1938 – February 1, 2023

Charlie Bausch - 32 Ford

A Tinkerer Travels South

Growing up, Charlie was always into mechanical tinkering, metalworks and fabrication. One of his primary jobs in the 1960s elevated him to running a Mopar dealership that built professional racecars and dragsters. He eventually moved from Binghamton, New York to South Florida, where he began working for the Rybovich family building custom tuna towers and outriggers for their new boats and yacht yard customers.

It was while working at Rybovich that Charlie met Mickey Rupp, who kept his 38-foot Egg Harbor tied up at the marina. With a mutual fondness for fast cars, fabrication and innovation, Mickey and Charlie became close friends. Their surnames, Rupp and Bausch, were soon to become highly regarded authorities in the recreational fishing industry.

Opportunities Arise

‘Drive fast.’ Tim reminisces on one of his dad’s favorite salutations, “When leaving to go home, he would always say that to us and to his friends.” Charlie’s other sayings and mantras included, ‘Work hard’, ‘Never quit’, ‘There’s always options’, and ‘Nothing in this world is free; You gotta work for what you want.’

The hard work started to pay off for Charlie when in 1977, he acquired waterfront property and a marina in Stuart, Florida, and started Salerno Boat Works and Bausch Towers. Not long after, Rupp joined Charlie in Stuart and started Rupp Marine. The two worked together with designs and ideas for outriggers—not as business partners but rather as friends in the marine industry. “My dad came up with the idea for the first set of 4-spreader outriggers and Mickey made it happen.” Tim explains, “Mickey had the money and connections for the production, and my dad had the ideas.”

This dynamic friendship spanned from business to hobbies and from the marine industry into aviation, with Rupp asking Charlie to be a mechanic for his P-51 Mustang airplanes that would run in the annual Reno Air Races. Charlie was also a licensed pilot and owned numerous airplanes of his own over the years.

Salerno Boat Works

Salerno Boat Works

Fishing Warrants Inventions. And Friendships.

The marine industry has benefitted from several innovations introduced by Charlie Bausch aside from the 4-spreader outrigger. “Dad created oval treads in the tuna tower to replace traditional round ones, which added comfort, and he also started the craze for easy-entry towers.” Tim continues, “Dad hated hardtops, so he developed no-lace canvas which allowed him to install a canvas top that looks like a hardtop.”

One of Charlie’s favorite boat projects was the fabrication and installation of one of the tallest tuna towers ever built—designed by Charlie and installed by his team on the 90’ Lydia M/Y “THATS MY HON.” The massive proportions of the tower required a helicopter rental and skilled pilot to aid in its installation onto the boat!

As Charlie innovated and influenced many in the marine industry, others also left their mark on him. Many customers passed through Salerno Boat Works through the years—some being high-profile. “When it came to boats, dad enjoyed the people most of all,” Tim says. “He built countless relationships with the owners and customers and the people he met through the industry.” Charlie and his wife Cindy became good friends with the Leeks, who owned Egg Harbor Yachts at the time, and they would travel together as families.

helicopter lift

A helicopter prepares to lift the massive tower built for THATS MY HON

Growing up, Tim learned a lot from his father. Not only his mechanical, welding and fabrication skills but also Charlie’s passion for people and relationships. “Dad was always very caring. He lived his life the way he wanted, and it wasn’t money driven.” Tim says, “He lived a life many would have paid for.” While in high school, Tim helped his dad build a show truck—just one of many projects they worked on together.

Throughout his time honing his craft and connecting with people in South Florida, Charlie also played a role in the design and construction of an entirely different structure: a large church cathedral in Stuart. “I drive past that church twice a day—once on the way to Bausch Towers and again on the way home.” Tim concludes, “I think of Dad every time I see that cathedral, as well as the times in between as I continue the craft at our service yard, or am out on the water surrounded by his work & influence.”

Moving On and Upward

In 1999, Charlie decided it was time for retirement and that his son Tim was more than capable of leading the family business into the next century. Charlie set his sights set on Norwood, Colorado and sold all of his airplanes before moving from South Florida to the Rockies. However, he was not planning to sit still. “Dad built a homestead on the side of a mountain from a 16 x 16 shed,” Tim says. Charlie’s retirement included home remodels, carpentry work and building custom hot rods and rock crawlers. “He tinkered up to his final days.”

My dad is probably the smartest man I have ever met – not necessarily business wise, but there was nothing he couldn’t do. And, he had such a big heart,” Tim continues. “He loved people, loved his friends and loved his grandkids.”

As Tim proceeds with running the family business, Bausch Towers, his father’s passion and principles live on. “We build a great product at a fair price and continue to maintain and build strong relationships,” Tim explains. “I enjoy the people as well, and I enjoy designing and building towers for the industry’s finest boats.”

A tremendous legacy laid down by an amazing and humble man—Charlie Bausch will be missed greatly, but his impact on the marine industry and his friends and loved ones, will live on. Charlie’s innovative 4-spreader outrigger was later bested by his own son’s development of the 5-spreader outrigger. Tim also overcame his Dad’s distaste for building hardtops, and is now a leading custom composite hardtop fabricator in the industry. Despite all the outside trends and changes, Bausch Towers continues Charlie’s legacy of providing innovative and superior products while building meaningful and lasting relationships from their location in Stuart, Florida.