Somewhere between 1976 and 1977, the name of the B.A.S.S. Chapter had become the B.A.S.S. Federation. What didn’t change between those two years was the fact that the leader of the winning Federation team would again be invited to the Bassmaster Classic to compete against seasoned professionals and a chance at winning what was then called the “Super Bowl of Bass Fishing.”
1977 would also mark the fifth year for the Federation State Team Championship and the record-setting turnout of 35 states proved the championship had legs. As with the past, each state held qualifying events in order to put together a 6-man team to send to the Championship. In the past, the southerners had won every event – Tennessee (1973), Missouri (1974), Louisiana (1975) and Tennessee (1976) – and in the 1977 November/December issue of Bassmaster Magazine, B.A.S.S. poked a little fun at the teams outside of the South by saying:
“A Yankee team has yet to win this five-year old bass bash. Some folks are quick to opine the Mason-Dixon line also divides bass fishing tradition. Anything worth bragging about is located below the Bass Belt.”
As you guessed, 1977 would end up being no different.
This year’s Championship would lead the 210 anglers to Kentucky Lake. Pretournament favorites included teams such as Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri while a good bit of money was being placed on Billy Phillips (TN) to take it all.
Alabama Wins by 2 ounces
Information on the 1977 Federation Championship was slim other than the final standings and the individual winners. What was mostly covered was how Virginia almost came from behind to win by the heroics from their star angler Jerry Elder. Elder took the top honors for the event with final total of 32-13 – 19-06 of which came on the final day.
Top seeded Billy Phillips didn’t disappoint anyone but himself. Phillips, who fished with Elder on the first day, showed Elder the spot that would eventually beat him. “I just didn’t think the fish were there.” Phillip said. Phillips ended up weighing 29-06 – good enough for second place in the individual standings. As a side note, it was reported that Elder had permission from Phillips to fish the spot since Philips wasn’t planning on going back.
In the team part of the Championship, it was Alabama that secured first place – keeping the trophy in the south. Their team weighed in a total of 97-05 (46 bass) while Elder’s last day heroics anchored the Virginia team with 97-03 (46 bass) and second place. Two-time champions, Tennessee, took home third place with 93-05 and Team Arkansas placed fourth with 83-05. Rounding out the top 5 was North Carolina who weighed a total of 82-08.
First place in the team event would have been great as would first place in the individual standings but the spot everyone wanted was the coveted first place spot on the winning team – a place that would secure an invitation to the Bassmaster Classic. With Alabama’s win, it would be their top angler, Bill Stephens, who would take that crown.
Not much was written about how the anglers caught their fish, except for Stephens and his last day’s efforts. Throwing a spinnerbait, Stephens’ first fish of the morning was a 5-10 that anchored his total of 14-10.
Big fish for the event was caught by Ed Braley (WV) on a purple Flip Tail worm. The largemouth weighed 6-13 and earned him a Fisher Marine bass boat. Elder’s final day string of eight bass all came on a single bladed Scorpion spinnerbait. Two of his eight fish weighed over 5 3/4 pounds each. For first place in the individual standings, he won a Ranger boat outfitted with Silvertrail trailer, Lowrance electronics and Johnny Reb electric anchor.
The top 3 teams each took home boats by Hydra Sports, Glastron and Terry respectively while the top 10 teams split $8,200 donated by B.A.S.S.
The individual leaders from each team – 2nd place to 11th place – earned berths into the 1978 BASS Champs event to be held in April, 1978. This would mark the second year of the Bass Champs event. I find it interesting that B.A.S.S. didn’t take the 1st through 10th anglers – maybe because the individual from the winning team was already going to the Classic? Maybe someone who knows a little more about this will speak up and fill us in.
Below are the final team standings followed by the final top 20 individual standings.
|Jerry Elder, VA|
|Billy Phillips, TN|
|Bill Stephens, AL|
|Doug Odom, SC|
|Jim Hunziker, VA|
|George Polosky, OH|
|Russ Bringer, FL|
|James Heath, TX|
|Jerry Carlson, IN|
|Pete Pilkey, WA|
|Roger Collins, TN|
|Don Wilson, MD|
|Tom Kaufman, IL|
|Don Pepper, WV|
|Jimmy Bell, GA|
|Bill Horne, NC|
|Doc Brooks, OK|
|Tim Stein, IN|
|Richard Stocks, AL|
|Dennis Buisett, VA|