Left, the 1977 American Angler Pro-Bass Tour, Okiebug Oklahoma National Bass Tournament patch. Right, the standard Okiebug chest patch of the day. Photo Terry Battisti.

Today’s post, 1977 American Angler Oklahoma National, is about an old tournament circuit as well as a couple of patches.  I’ve been a collector of patches for as long as I can remember.  Back in the day they came with mail order tackle offers, magazine subscriptions, and they were given away at tackle shows.  You may not have started out as a patch collector, but over time you became one by proxy.

Two of the most prized patches I have are from Don Butler’s company, Okiebug.  One is the standard Okiebug patch that everyone wore in the day and then there’s another patch that has always intrigued me.  The patch in question was from an American Angler Pro-Bass Tour tournament held in 1977 at Lake Eufaula, Oklahoma. The event, dubbed as the Oklahoma National, was sponsored by Okiebug.

What got my attention first was Don Butler, who was close friends with Ray Scott, was the title sponsor of the event.  Butler was the first life member of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society and also the guy who sent Scott $10,000 in order for him to pay for a direct mailing campaign he was trying to get rolling.  I thought it was interesting that Butler would sponsor an event held by a competing tournament organization.

To the end of Butler’s life, he and Scott remained close friends so I guess this event didn’t have any impact on their relationship. To learn more about the relationship between Butler and Scott, read the memorial written by Scott in July 2008, shortly after Butler’s death.

So, I have the patch and that got me thinking whether or not I had the American Angler issue the tournament report might be in.  I dug through my magazines and low-and-behold I had the Fall 1977 issue of American Angler.  I looked at the contents page, turned to page 64 and was happy to see the tournament report that goes with the patch.

The tournament report is pretty scant compared to others but it’s full of great history.  For example, check out the final tournament standings presented.  Look at the top 7. If that isn’t a list of who’s who in bass fishing I don’t know how to impress. Jack Wade, Roland Martin, Rick Clunn, Ricky Green, Tommy Martin, Dave Gliebe and Jim[my] Houston round out that list of anglers.

If you go a little further down the list you see Emmett Chiles (12th place), Don Butler (13th place), Jack Hains (15th place), Marvin Baker (21st place), Randy Dearman (27th place) and Roger Moore (34th place). All these guys made an impact on the Bassmaster Trail at some point in their careers. What’s impressive to me is they dominated this event and it also shows that the thought of a two-tour (or more) angler was alive and well back in the early days of competitive bass fishing.

The cover of the Fall 1977 issue of American Angler magazine. Photo Terry Battisti.

Moving from the standings to the writeup gives you even more of an idea of the event as well as the era.  For example, Jack Wade, who was in third place after day one, was only 21 years old.  There’s a ton of talk these days about how the “young guns” are controlling the tournament scene.  Not so.  The “young guns” have always ruled competitive bass fishing. At this time all of the competitive anglers were in their 30s or younger.

Tournament report for the 1977 American Angler Pro-Bass Tour event held on Lake Eufaula, OK. Page 1.
Tournament report for the 1977 American Angler Pro-Bass Tour event held on Lake Eufaula, OK. Page 2.

The last paragraph of the report also sheds some light on the competition of this era.

Jack Wade told the weighmaster he was positive he could catch fish on the final day, “If my partner will go where I want and fish my way.”  This was the day of the Pro-on-Pro draw.  Evidently Wade either didn’t bring a boat to the event or he and his partner had already flipped a coin and Wade had lost the coin toss.  In any event, Wade’s partner was Don Butler and Butler relinquished to fishing Wade’s area. Unfortunately, Wade had pounded his spot the prior two days and each angler could only muster three fish that final day.

Wade ended up winning the event on a Bagley’s Kill’r B II fishing a fence line in three feet of water.  He weighed 56-02 over the course of three days.  On the last day, Butler caught his fish using a modified 1/2-ounce Okiebug spinnerbait.

For his efforts, Wade ended up winning 1977 Skeeter Wrangler boat with a Roadmaster trailer worth $4,000 as well as $1,000 cash.  Butler ended up in 13th place with 32-14 and received $450 in cash.

As we’ve talked about in the past here on the Bass Fishing Archives, American Angler wasn’t the only organization that was making a run at Ray Scott and Bassmaster.  There was American Bass Fisherman, National Bass, Project Sports INC., and Bass Casters Association, to name a few.  All of the anglers who built the sport as we know it today fished multiple circuits at the time.  I’m not sure how many scheduling conflicts there were between the groups, but as I dig more into the old magazines of the day, you see the same big names popping up in the standings.

In time I’ll be posting more about these other circuits as well as the related tournament standings so you can see who was fishing what circuits and how they fared.

On another front, let’s look at the cover of this magazine.  It has to be one of the nicest covers I have ever seen grace the face of a fishing magazine.  All of American Angler’s covers during this period were of this quality.  Prints of the covers were available at the time by writing into the publisher and paying the cost of the print.  I wish I had known of this magazine back in the day but being I was only 13 years old at the time, I probably wouldn’t have been able to afford the print.  If anyone reading this has any knowledge of these prints, please leave a comment below.