The 1975 Bassmaster Trail season ended as it had three other times in the recent past. Roland Martin won the AOY award. In the top 10 were also the now-household names of Bill Dance (2), Jimmy Houston (3), Ricky Green (4), Rick Clunn (7) and Tom Mann (9).
1975 was also an interesting year with respect to a couple of rookies – namely Jimmy Houston and the new guy from Louisiana named Jack Hains. Houston finished the year in 3rd place while Hains finished in 5th.
Houston had actually already made a name for himself in the OK/LA/TX areas as a guide and top-notch tournament angler. But he wasn’t a true rookie in the sense that he’d cherry picked a number of B.A.S.S. events since 1968, placing in the top 20 in five out of seven tournaments entered with 2nd- and 6th-place finishes to boot.
Hains, on the other hand, was a true rookie. He’d never before fished a B.A.S.S. event yet by mid-season he had a commanding lead in the AOY race – a 22-point lead to be exact. In those first three events he finished no lower than 10th place. If not for the fact that he missed Kerr and a 39th-place finish at Santee Cooper, he could have given Roland Martin a run for his money.
So, with the year over, there was only one event left – the 5th Bassmaster Classic, again to be held on a mystery lake.
Where is it This Year Ray?
As you well know from previous Season at a Glance pieces that covered the Classics, Ray Scott and Harold Sharp went to extreme lengths to make the Classic a mystery to all except a few insiders. This event may have taken that extreme even further.
Scott and crew along with Vice President of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, Charles Shaw, had chosen the Currituck Sound as the Classic V destination. Now the chore would be to keep it secret until the anglers showed up to fish the event – no easy task.
Here are some of the shenanigans the crew pulled in order to keep Classic V under raps, written in the words of Bob Cobb.
“For Charlie Shaw, his undercover activities in bringing the mystery Classic to North Carolina almost headed him into a possible divorce.
“On several occasions prior to the Classic – including Mrs. Shaw’s birthday and their anniversary – Charles Shaw suddenly announced that he had to leave town on business. That’s not unusual in his job as executive vice president of the N.C. Wildlife Federation. However, what began to puzzle his wife and make her wonder if Shaw was ‘foolin[g] around’ or had fallen into a clandestine plot was that he refused to discuss the frequent sojourns.
“‘I couldn’t have blamed her if she had taken me to divorce court,’ Shaw conceded.
“The ‘Classic Cover-Up’ is as intriguing as a CIA operation. Shaw in his role as operation officer had to concoct a super con job.
“‘For example, when I leased the Carolina Hotel in its entirety for the week, I did so under the name of the National Travel Trailer Manufacturer’s Association,’
“Shaw also ‘flim-flammed’ a friend into helping make arrangements for the charter flight to the tournament. ‘Baxter Tours of Raleigh, NC’ was also concocted from out of thin air to bring a group of Male Hairstylists of America, Inc to the state. The Delta Airlines charter was surprised when a ‘group of hairy legged fishermen showed up rather than some folks with limp wrists.’
“Dragging some 30 special and identical rigged Ranger bass boats across the country without tipping the Nags Head, NC destination wasn’t any dime-store assignment.
“B.A.S.S. tournament director Harold Sharp relayed messages to the 15-vehicle convoy enroute. Not even wagon-master Mickey Wood knew the eventual destination.
Those are just some of the stories associated with what Ray, Harold and Charles did to keep Classic V a secret.
There was only one angler in the ’75 Classic who had ever heard of the Currituck Sound let alone fished it. That angler was Raleigh, NC resident Paul Chamblee. Chamblee had not only fished the Sound a number of times, he’d fished it with his grandfather who was known as “the grand old man of Currituck.”
After a day of practice, Chamblee had located fish in a small canal nearby the ramp. His bait of choice was a black 1/4-ounce spinnerbait with a #3 Colorado blade fished over the milfoil. Within a matter of an hour of the first day, he’d filled his 8-bass limit – all on the blade.
Once he had his 8th fish in the well, he left the canal and headed for a duck blind near the Hwy 158 bridge. It was here that he switched from the spinnerbait to a black/yellow-striped plastic worm, pitching it to the blind. The result was a 4-pound green fish.
Over the remainder of the day, Chamblee caught three other fish in the 4-pound class which brought his total day-1 weight to 26-01 – a new Bassmaster Classic 1-day weight record and a commanding lead over the rest of the 30-man field.
The first day of the event would prove to be the best day with 25 of 30 anglers bringing in 8-fish limits to the scales. The second day would prove to be a complete and utter disaster.
Unlike the previous day where the anglers were greeted by warm air and water temperatures, the second day was wrought with high winds and cold air. Water temperatures had dropped from 70 the day before to 64 and the north winds had blown the water out of the northern portion of the sound, dropping levels by a foot or more in areas.
Chamblee, with a comfortable lead, decided to head back to his semi-protected canal and by the end of the day had brought seven fish to the scales for 12-06 (38-07 total, 16 fish).
Jack Hains, who was tied for 10th place the day before, only brought in 4 fish on day 2 but they all counted in a big way. His four fish tipped the scales at 16-10 (32-08 total, 12 fish) – elevating him to 2nd place, 6 pounds behind Chamblee.
Still, no one in the field nor the group of experts felt that Chamblee could lose.
Through the night and into the morning the wind didn’t subside nor did the temperatures rise. By morning the winds were blowing 40 mph and had dropped the water temperature down to 54 degrees. Not only that, the wind had lowered the water level even more – up to 2 feet in some areas.
The wind was blowing so hard that Ray Scott placed restrictions on the field to only fish safe waters.
Hains, who had been fishing wood pilings with milfoil in the North River area, couldn’t get to his water so he opted for some other wood/milfoil closer to the ramp. By midmorning he had four small keepers in the boat. Better yet, the wind had subsided to the point he could make the run to his water in the North River.
In practice and the first two days of the event Hains had found his fish on the shallower pilings in 2-feet of water. His baits of choice were a modified white 1/4-ounce Fleck spinnerbait, a Johnson Silver Minnow with a white pork chunk trailer. Attached to both baits he used a Fleck trailer hook.
On the third day, though, the water had been blown out of the shallows and the fish were no longer around. During practice he’d made one run out to the deeper pilings and broke off a fish on a worm. This one lost fish would become his savior.
He worked his way to the deeper pilings, casting a purple and yellow Fleck worm, and caught two fish in the final hour of the event. His 6 fish would tip the scales at 12-12 giving him 45-04 for 3 days.
The wait for Chamblee to get to the scales was a dramatic one. Hains’ 45-04 was only 6-13 more than Chamblee’s day-2 score. One or two solid fish could give Chamblee the win – a limit ensured a Hains’ loss.
Then the rumors started to run rampant as Chamblee started up the docks – he’d blanked. No one in the crowd could believe it, including Hains. Then, when Chamblee came up with an empty bag, it was for certain. Jack Hains was the 1975 Bassmaster Classic Champion and first rookie to with the Bass Masters Classic.
Even though Jack Hains, the crop duster from Rayne, LA, had never even heard of the Currituck Sound, once he looked at the topographical map and December issue of Bassmaster Magazine (which offered a full description of the Sound) provided the night before the practice day, he knew the water would lean towards his liking.
From reading the Bassmaster issue, he determined that all the areas mentioned in the article would be heavy hit by the contestants and therefore he eliminated them right off the bat. Instead, he utilized his map and found a number of old bridge pilings in the North River area that went far out into the Sound.
His experience fishing at Toledo bend and the swamps near his home, had taught him that fish in grassy lakes (like the Currituck) liked something solid to hold on in the grass. Also, grass fish, in the event of a weather front, tend to become more difficult to catch – unless they have something solid to hold on to.
His educated guess would pay off for him.
We already discussed his baits of choice for the grass-filled Sound, but I’d like to mention what his spinnerbait modifications were that led him to his win. You rarely hear of modifications or explanations of this sort anymore.
His choice of the 1/4-ounce bait is obvious due to the heavy weedcover. In practice he started with a tandem bladed bait fitted with two Colorado blades. Once he found the grass was fouling the blades, he switched out the rear blade to a willowleaf and bent the upper wire closer to the hook for a more streamlined bait. He then fit the blade with a trailer hook. He also used the trailer hook on his Silver Minnow.
Chamblee also modified his spinnerbait to fish better in the grass. His modifications involved taking a 1/4-ounce Bush Hog spinnerbait and cutting the upper arm such that when he pinched down on the arm, it barely touched the hook point. Instead of placing a willowleaf blade on the bait he utilized a #3 Colorado blade that he felt “knocked the grass off the hook as it rotated.” He also trimmed down the black vinyl skirt so it would be less likely to foul in the grass.
Below is the final scorecard of the 5th Bassmaster Classic.
|Jack Hains, LA|
|Marvin baker, TX|
|Paul Chamblee, NC|
|Tommy Martin, TX|
|Tom Mann, AL|
|Bo Dowden, LA|
|Loyd McEntire, IN|
|Rick Clunn, TX|
|Dee Thomas, CA|
|Ricky Green, AR|
|Jimmy Houston, OK|
|Roland Martin, OK|
|Woo Daves, VA|
|Roger Moore, MO|
|Billy Westmorland, TN|
|Johnny Morris, MO|
|Phil Greene, LA|
|Stan Sloan, TN|
|Bill Dance, TN|
|Elroy Krueger, TX|
|Rayo Breckenridge, AR|
|Don Mann, AL|
|Al Lindner, MN|
|Nash Roberts, LA|
|Russell Cook, MO|
|Greg Ward, MO|
|John Hall, VA|
|Bill Ward, MO|
|John Powell, AL|
|Jon Pryor, OK|
[Editor’s Note: This was part five of a five-part series on the 1975 Bassmaster Trail season. To read part 1 click here, to read part 2 click here. To read about the 1975 federation Chapter Championship, click here and to read about the Classic contenders, click here.]