Don Butler watches as his Classic-winning fish are weighed. Photo Bassmaster Magazine.

In Parts One and Two of this series, we covered the first and second half of the 1972 Bassmaster Trail. In this part, Season at a Glance: 1972 Bassmaster Trail – Part Three, we’re going to look at the results from the 1972 Bass Masters Classic.

The 1972 season ended with Roland Martin placing fourth or higher in all six events of the season and walking away with the ’72 AOY award. All that was left for him to accomplish was to win the 2nd-annual Bass Masters Classic.

Again the World Championship of bass fishing would be held at a “mystery lake” somewhere in the country and anglers would only be allowed 10 pounds of tackle.

The previous year’s event at Lake Mead, NV had provided a long flight from Atlanta, GA to the tournament locale for anglers to get in the mindset of fishing the Nevada desert’s stingy waters. This year, though, the anglers would only have a 30-minute flight to get a grasp on the location.

Here are some words, as written by Bob Cobb, from the Jan/Feb, 1973 issue of Bass Master Magazine regarding the atmosphere on the plane.

“The announcement aboard a ‘mystery flight’ on American Airlines out of Memphis, was greeted with SHOCK! The fizz in the bubbly being served made a louder noise than the two dozen fishermen, who had dreams of a much longer fight than 30 minutes.”

Most anglers thought the event would again be held at some deep, clear western reservoir or maybe even a shallow Florida lake. Instead, Tennessee’s Percy Priest Reservoir was chosen and the five Tennessee locals present were instantly given top billing amongst their competitors.

Don Butler 1972 Bass Master Classic. Photo courtesy of Bill Rice.

Ray Scott remarked on why Percy Priest was chosen as the venue and here are his comments.

“We brought the Classic here because Nashville is here. This is the center of the bass fishing universe. More champions have been spawned on Tennessee waters (11 in 32 events) than any state. Last year, we held the Classic in the West. It was only natural that it be returned to this area this year.”

The Tournament

At the time of the second Bassmaster Classic, Percy Priest was only five years old and considered amongst the locals as a tough fishery. To top that off, the weather wasn’t cooperating as the daily temperatures never got above 51 degrees during the event and “buckets” of rain fell the last day.

Still, Don Butler of Tulsa, Oklahoma found the right combination – although it took him nearly two days to do so. Butler, of Okiebig fame and the first Life Member of B.A.S.S., could only muster two fish the first day and by noon on the second he didn’t have a fish in the well. Thinking, “any move we made had to be an improvement,” he headed into a cove in the Fate Sanders area of the lake. When he got back there, his spirits were lifted.

“As I got in the back of the cove, I saw some fallen brush and stick-ups, He said. “This was too much, it looked just like Eufaula Oklahoma, ‘Spinnerbait Heaven.’ Without any hesitation, I picked up the S.O.B. (Small Okiebug) and for the next two hours had a ball.”

Butler would go on that day to weigh a limit of fish. He duplicated that result the next day in the final round. His winning weight of 38-11 was 13 pounds heavier than second-place angler Ricky Green (15 fish, 25-04) of Arkansas. Green weighed the only other limit (15-02) and was the first-round leader.

Tom Mann (AL) ended the event in third place with 14 fish for 21-02, while Jim Finley (MO) brought 16 to the scales for 21-10, good enough for fourth place. Joe Wilson (AR) rounded out the Top 5 with 15 fish that weighed 19-02.

Although Butler relied primarily on his 1/4-ounce Okiebug spinnerbait, he also reported catching some fish on a Big O and Buck-Eye Shad. Green caught his fish on blades and a Cordell Spot.

Big fish for the event was caught by Stan Sloan on, you guessed it, a Zorro Aggravator spinnerbait. His big fish netted him $600.

Roland Martin had his streak of cashing in 17 events broken in the winner-take-all event. He finished in 14th place with 6 fish that weighed 11-01.

Also of note is this was the second Classic that was won on a spinnerbait. How long has it been since the spinnerbait made a difference in any tournament? It’s been a while.

In all, 208 fish were weighed for 303-11 with a 93-percent release rate. The final results are shown in the table below.

Ricky Green and writer Dave Bowring at the ’72 Classic. Photo Bassmaster Magazine Jen/Feb 1973 issue.
Stan Sloan with the ’72 Classic’s big fish. Photo Bassmaster Magazine Jan/Feb 1973 issue.

Bass Master Classic II Scorecard - Percy Priest, TN - October 25-27, 1972
Total Weight, lbs-ozs
Don Butler
Ricky Green
Tom Mann
Jim Finley
Joe Wilson
Doug Howard
Stan Sloan
B. J. Woods
Bill Dance
Billy Westmorland
George Oates
Bobby Murray
John Powell
Roland Martin
Glin Wells
Johnny Morris
Blake Honeycutt
Pete Nosser
Ernest Neil
Dwight Keefer
Ed Todtenbier
Gerald Blanchard
Carlos Mayo
Forrest Wood

This is Part Three of a three-part series on the 1972 Bass Master Tournament Trail. To read Part One, click here and to read Part Two, click here.



Past Reader Comments:

Harold Sharp:  I still remember Stan Sloan’s remarks when Ray announced the BASS Classic would be on Percy Priest Lake in Nashville. Stan, who lived in Nashville said , ” I can’t believe you flew me from Nashville to Memphis for a 30 minute flight back to Nashville”.

Terry to Harold Sharp:  LOL. That’s good stuff Harold! I bet the other TN guys were a little surprised too!