In 1978 B.A.S.S. increased the size limit from 12 inches to 14 inches in order to promote fisheries sustainability. The anglers didn't like it. Photo Bassmaster Magazine.

Before the 1978 Bassmaster Trail season ever started, rumors started to propagate from its Montgomery, AL headquarters. Between the end of the ’77 season and the start of the ’78 season, Ray Scott was looking to change the rules of the cast-for-cash sport. By the start of the 1978 season, those rumors were verified.

B.A.S.S. president Ray Scott decided to implement four rule changes for the coming season. The first was to increase the length requirement for legal tournament bass from 12 inches to 14 inches. This new rule threw a wrench into the game that many of the top pros didn’t like. Here’s what some of them had to say:

Billy Westmorland – “We’re programmed to fish for smaller fish and catch numbers. Usually, you don’t catch many tournament bass in the 14-inch class except for an occasional lunker. Now it’s going to be a new ball game.”

Tom Mann – “It’s going to hurt big-time tournament fishing. There are days when you’ll catch 15 to 20 bass that won’t snub up against the 14 – inch mark. But someone can make one lucky cast and catch a big fish.”

The other rule changes that also went into effect in 1978 were:

  • 2) The daily bag limit of 10 bass was reduced to seven
  • 3) Bonus awards for weighing in a live bass was increased from one ounce to two ounces per fish.
  • 4) The previous points system for scoring AOY points would be discarded and anglers would be fishing for combined total weight across the entire season. The angler who caught the most weight for the entire year would be crowned the Angler of the Year.

Ray Scott’s response to the rule changes all focused on the sustainability of the fishery and the fact that interest in bass fishing had skyrocketed. Here’s what he had to say in the May/June 1978 issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

“We’re not trying to handicap the tournament pro. They’re concerned about the rule changes and having to adapt to a new system. But they are professionals and will continue to prove it. What we’re all concerned about is the future of bass fishing.”

“The national B.A.S.S. tournaments are held up as a mirror, and others mimic the pros. There are over 1,600 affiliated B.A.S.S. clubs and many other fishing clubs. In many cases, they pattern club tournament rules after the pros.”

Bobby Murray didn’t like the length limit rule change, but it appears he did understand it. “I’m a junk fisherman. I throw a lot of little baits. The new rules hurt me. But, if it’s necessary for the future of bass fishing – I’ll give it a try.”

On to the 1978 season.

The ’78 season had a total of six qualifying events for the year-end championship, The Bassmaster Classic, along with the second-annual Bass Champs event to be held mid-season. Here’s the schedule:

  • Bassmaster Classic Qualifier 1: Florida Invitational, Kissimmee Chain of Lakes – Jan 25 – 27, 1978
  • Bassmaster Classic Qualifier 2: Florida Invitational, St. Johns River – Feb 22 – 24, 1978
  • Bassmaster Classic Qualifier 3: Virginia Invitational, Lake Gaston – Mar 22 – 24, 1978
  • Mid-year Event: Bass Champs, Atchafalaya River Basin – April 26 – 28, 1978
  • Bassmaster Classic Qualifier 4: Kentucky Invitational, Kentucky Lake May 31 – June 2, 1978
  • Bassmaster Classic Qualifier 5: New York Invitational, St. Lawrence River – June 21 – 23, 1978
  • Bassmaster Classic Qualifier 6: Alabama Invitational, West Point Lake – Sept 20-22, 1978
  • Bassmaster Classic, Ross Barnett – October Oct 25-27, 1978

Starting with this edition of the Season at a Glance, we have a really cool addition to the series. Jeff Haines, who contacted us through the comments, has nearly an entire collection of Bassmaster Tournament Patches. With each tournament report we post, we’ll be including Jeff’s patches to add more historical content to the post. I really want to thank Jeff for his willingness to share his collection with us. 


Kissimmee Chain of Lakes – Gliebe Doesn’t Flip

Dave Gliebe and Harold Sharp after Gliebe’s win on Kissimmee in 1978. Photo Bassmaster Magazine.

This would be the first time since 1973 that B.A.S.S. wouldn’t start the year off at the St. Johns River – hoping that by venturing further south they’d have better luck dodging any weather-related problems. Unfortunately, Mother Nature has a way of finding bass tournaments and still provided a nasty cold front the competitors had to deal with.

The field was comprised of 250 contestants who, over three days of competition, weighed in a total of 493 fish that weighed 1,375-13. Out of that, only four 7-fish limits were weighed. Nothing was reported about how many fish were caught between the 12- and 14-inch slot.

Not much was written about the tournament and how it played out but it seems that Dave Gliebe drew Roland Martin on the second day and Gliebe got a look into how Martin was catching his fish – a small 1/4-ounce spinnerbait. Gliebe had been flipping on the first day.

The report stated, Gliebe, who was sitting in 40th place after day 1, caught a limit with Martin that went 24-12. This put him only a couple pounds out of 1st place as Martin’s combined 2-day weight was 32-03.

On the final day Gliebe took his new-found pattern across the lake and continued to catch fish.

Martin’s problem had been a lack of big fish. Each day he had big fish either wake his spinnerbait or eat and it miss. On the second day, Gliebe’s sack included two fish in the 6- to 8-pound class, either of which would have blown the doors off the event for him.

1978 Bassmaster Florida Invitational Kissimmee Chain Tournament Patch courtesy of Jeff Haines.

At the final weigh-in, Gliebe brought four fish to the scales for 9-06 and a total of 39-12 (12 fish). Unfortunately, Martin could only muster one more bass – his total ended up being 35-05 (14 fish) and fell to the 2nd-place position.

Rounding out the Top 5 was Harold Allen in 3rd place with 33-12 (13 fish), Ed Chancey placed fourth with 27-07 (5 fish) and local Fred Martin finished in 5th place with 27-04 (9 fish).

Chancey also had big fish for the event – a 10-08 largemouth that netted him Ranger boat rigged with a Stop-Master kill switch, Lowrance locator and surface temp unit, a Johnny Reb LectrAnchor system and trailer.

Bass Master Florida Invitational Kissimmee Chain of Lakes Scorecard – January 25-27, 1978
 
Place
Angler, State
Bass/Alive
Weight, lbs-ozs
Award
1
Dave Gliebe, CA
12/12
39-12
$14,000
2
Roland Martin, OK
14/14
35-05
$4,000
3
Harold Allen, TX
13/13
33-12
$3,000
4
Ed Chancey, FL
5/5
27-07
$2,500
5
Fred Martin, FL
9/9
27-04
$1,600
6
Tommy Martin, TX
6/6
25-12
$1,500
7
Jerry Rhyne, NC
8/6
23-15
$1,400
8
Hank Parker, SC
9/9
22-04
$1,300
9
Claude Kennedy, FL
7/7
21-12
$1,200
10
Hubert Greene, NC
7/7
21-03
$1,100
11
James Thomas, AL
8/8
20-15
$1,000
12
David Owens, AR
6/6
20-14
$1,000
13
Marvin Baker, TX
11/11
20-12
$1,000
14
Gene Howard, FL
8/8
18-15
$1,000
15
Rick Clunn, TX
5/5
18-14
$950
16
Jim Dunbar, FL
4/4
18-14
$950
17
Dick Busby, VA
5/5
18-13
$900
18
Jimmy Houston, OK
7/7
18-07
$900
19
Freddie Lester, SC
6/6
18-07
$900
20
Shorty Evans, MO
3/3
17-14
$900
21
O'Neal Mintz, SC
5/5
17-05
$700
22
Bo Dowden, LA
7/7
17-01
$700
23
Doug Gilley, FL
6/6
16-07
$700
24
Bill Stephens, AL
5/5
16-07
$700
25
Garth Golden, IL
4/4
16-02
$700
26
Dick Moore, FL
6/6
15-09
$625
27
Forrest Wood, AR
7/7
15-08
$625
28
Billy Penland, NC
4/4
14-14
$625
29
Bill Ward, MO
5/5
14-12
$625
30
Gerry Bevis, FL
3/3
14-03
$625
31
Estel Nash, IN
4/4
14-01
$525
32
Bobby Lee, FL
3/3
14-00
$525
33
Whitey Ham, FL
2/2
13-11
$525
34
Gary Alverson, GA
6/6
13-08
$525
35
Dave Hilton, TN
5/5
13-08
$525
36
Bobby Murray, TN
5/5
13-03
$425
37
Billy Burns, KY
4/4
13-01
$425
38
Bill Thompson, FL
3/3
13-00
$425
39
Larry Nixon, TX
5/5
12-11
$400
40
John Brister, FL
3/3
12-08
$400
Daily Lunker Leaders
Angler, State
Weight, lbs-ozs
Award
Day 1
Ed Chancey, FL
10-08
$3,775
Day 2
Whitey Ham, FL
10-07
$850
Day 3
Bobby Lee, FL
9-05
$350
The Box Score
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Total
Total Weight, lbs-ozs
507-09
342-00
526-04
1,375-13
Bass Weighed-in
187
116
190
493
7-Bass Limits
2
1
1
4
Bass Alive Weighed-in
180
116
190
486
NOTE:
Two bonus points were awarded for each live fish. Winner Award consisted of $9,000 Cash and a $5,000 Ranger Boat. Overall Big Fish Award was $3,775 Ranger Boat Rigged with trailer, charger, kill switch, lowrance flasher and Surface Fish-n-Temp, and Johnny Reb TectrAnchor.

St. Johns River – Wade Waits Out Rhyne

Jack Wade wins the 1978 Florida Invitational on the St. Johns. Photo Bassmaster Magazine.

The second stop of the season took the anglers a little north to what was normally the season opener, the St. Johns River. Even though the Kissimmee and St Johns tournaments were a month apart, severe weather again hampered the event – this time with three nights where the lows were subfreezing, dropping the water temperatures into the low 50s.

Totals for the event again were dim, most likely because of the weather, but it also makes you wonder how much affect the new 14-inch length regulation played a part. Overall, there were 425 bass weighed for a total of 1,434-10 and one daily limit. Big fish went to Jack Westberry with a toad that weighed 11-12.

As with the tournament report from Kissimmee, there wasn’t much written on the St Johns event, in fact, they only covered the 1st- and 2nd-place anglers.

Bassmaster rookie, 21-year-old Jack Wade ended up winning the event on a two-day total of 33-14. Wade caught the only limit (17-03) of the entire event on the first day and followed that up with five more fish the second day (16-11) for a total of 33-14. He blanked on the final day and almost gave up the lead to Jerry Rhyne – who, if not for a disgruntled canal resident, may have overtaken Wade.

Rhyne had a canal he wanted to try that had warmer water in it than other canals but when he pulled up to start fishing it, an altercation ensued. Here’s how it was written by Bob Cobb in the May/June 1978 issue of Bassmaster.

1978 Bassmaster Florida Invitational St. Johns River Tournament Patch courtesy of Jeff Haines.

“’When I pulled into the canal, there was a mean-looking woman standing there,’ [Rhyne] said.” The woman told him, ‘You can’t fish in my canal. These are my bass in here.’

She then told her husband to go call the sheriff.

Rhyne later said he knew he could have won the event in there with one cast. Instead, he had to settle fishing another canal where he caught five bass that weighed 18-07. That lifted his overall total to 32-12 (9 fish).

The remainder of the Top 5 was 3rd-place local Palatka resident Larry Parker with 30-05 (8 fish), 4th-place went to Ray Tester with 30-03 (8 fish) and overall big-fish winner Jack Westberry took 5th with six bass that went 28-07.

The Top 40 is presented below.

Bass Master Florida Invitational St. Johns River Scorecard – February 22- 24, 1978
Place
Angler, State
Bass/Alive
Weight, lbs-ozs
Award
1
Jack Wade, TX
12/12
33-14
$14,000
2
Jerry Rhyne, NC
9/9
32-11
$4,000
3
Larry Parker, FL
8/8
30-05
$3,000
4
Ray Tester, FL
8/8
30-03
$2,500
5
Jack Westberry, FL
6/6
28-07
$1,600
6
Joe Wagoner, NC
9/9
27-08
$1,500
7
Glenn Crawford, FL
9/9
26-12
$1,400
8
Doug Yarbrough, TN
6/6
23-08
$1,300
9
Paul Hanna, FL
4/4
22-12
$1,200
10
Bill Stephens, AL
5/5
21-05
$1,100
11
Larry Utsler, IN
5/5
21-05
$1,000
12
O'Neal Mintz, SC
3/3
20-14
$1,000
13
Leonard Andrews, VA
4/4
19-14
$1,000
14
Harvey Mastin, TN
7/7
19-10
$1,000
15
Gary Wade, NC
6/6
19-05
$950
16
Hank Parker, SC
4/4
19-01
$950
17
Bill O'Connor, FL
4/4
18-05
$900
18
Paul Chamblee, NC
5/5
18-03
$900
19
Aaron Kelly, FL
3/3
17-13
$900
20
Danny Logan, FL
4/3
17-08
$900
21
Earl Rylee, LA
5/5
17-04
$700
22
Larry Nixon, TX
7/7
16-10
$700
23
Jim Rogers, MO
3/3
16-09
$700
24
Ricky Green, AR
6/6
16-03
$700
25
Bob Upton, GA
5/5
16-02
$700
26
Gene Miller, AR
8/8
15-13
$625
27
Rick Clunn, TX
4/4
15-09
$625
28
Bobby Murray, TN
7/7
15-09
$625
29
Roger Moore, MO
5/5
15-08
$625
30
Jack Chancellor, AL
4/4
14-08
$625
31
Steve Goodwin, NC
6/6
14-08
$525
32
George Hoffman, MI
5/5
13-13
$525
33
Chic Aydelette, NC
5/5
13-06
$525
34
Loyd McEntire, IN
4/4
13-06
$525
35
James Stephens, FL
2/2
13-06
$525
36
John Rohebaugh, FL
2/2
13-02
$425
37
Gary Simon, MN
4/4
13-02
$425
38
Tom Mann, AL
6/6
12-15
$425
39
Gene Howard, FL
3/3
12-13
$400
40
Fred Capriotti, MI
3/3
12-08
$400
Daily Lunker Leaders
Angler, State
Weight, lbs-ozs
Award
1st Big Fish
Jack Westberry, FL
11-12
$3,775
2nd Big Fish
Aaron Kelly, FL
10-15
$850
3rd Big Fish
Bill O'Connor, FL
9-06
$350
The Box Score
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Total
Total Weight, lbs-ozs
548-15
421-07
464-04
1,434-10
Bass Weighed-in
161
127
137
425
7-Bass Limits
1
0
0
1
Bass Alive Weighed-in
160
127
137
424
NOTE:
Two bonus points were awarded for each live fish. Winner Award consisted of $9,000 Cash and a $5,000 Ranger Boat. Overall Big Fish Award was $3,775 Ranger Boat Rigged with trailer, charger, kill switch, lowrance flasher and Surface Fish-n-Temp, and Johnny Reb TectrAnchor.

Lake Gaston – Board Used Slow Speed Shad

Hurley Board won the 1978 Gaston event by fishing a Bomber Speed Shad slow. Photo Bassmaster Magazine.

The winter of ’78 must have been a nasty one as evidenced by the first three events of the ’78 Bassmaster season. One would guess that by mid-March, weather and water temperatures in southern Virginia would be pushing springtime values – such wasn’t the case in ‘78. Water temperatures in the low 50s greeted the 250 Virginia Invitational anglers and this, along with fluctuating water levels, turned the fish and the anglers on their ears.

Although the conditions weren’t optimal, the overall event turned out much better than the previous two with a full field weighing in a total of 982 bass (twice as many as weighed in at both Kissimmee and the St. Johns) for a total of 2,490-04. There was also a total of six limits weighed. Maybe the 14-inch size limit wasn’t so bad after all?

By the end of three competition days, local North Carolina angler Hurley Board had proven he could not only catch fish, but catch fish in the terrible, late winter, conditions. Hurley concentrated on a single, 200-yard rock bank adjacent to deep water.

Board’s first-day catch wasn’t too impressive, he only weighed 6-04, but he knew it could pay off big if the weather changed – and it did. Starting the second round outside the top 20, Board went back to his bank with his trusty Bomber Speed Shad and continued with his game plan. By the end of the day, he’d amassed a 7-fish limit that pushed the scales to 17-11 leaving him in 4th place going into the final round.

On the last day, Board brought in another five bass for 14-12 and a total of 38-11. Board beat runner-up Tom Mann by nearly 4 pounds who weighed in 11 fish for 34-12 over the course of the event.

1978 Bassmaster Virginia Invitational Lake Gaston Tournament Patch courtesy of Jeff Haines.

Rounding out the top 5 was Dave Gliebe (3rd place) with 33-14 (12 fish), Frank Colyer (4th place) with 31-10 (16 fish) and the 5th slot went to Ricky Green with 10 fish that weighed 31-06. Big fish of the event went to Bobby Blankenship who weighed in a 10-14 bruiser.

As stated previously, Board concentrated on a lone rock bank fishing a Bomber Speed Shad, a bait that has become synonymous with Gaston and Kerr over the years. His technique required a 5-foot custom made spinning rod, 8-pound test and a painfully slow retrieve.

Second-place angler Tom Mann also relied on a crankbait, but his bait of choice was a Mann’s Razorback in the new natural baby bass finish. Gliebe, as one would guess, caught his fish flipping.

This event would also mark another interesting benchmark. Bill Dance, who was the prior year’s AOY, had not weighed in a fish over five tournament days until the Gaston event. He finished in 15th place by fishing a Chrome Speed Shad.

Bass Master Virginia Invitational Lake Gaston Scorecard – March 22-24, 1978
Place
Angler, State
Bass/Alive
Weight, lbs-ozs
Award
1
Hurley Board, NC
15/15
38-11
$14,000
2
Tom Mann, AL
11/11
34-12
$4,000
3
Dave Gliebe, CA
12/12
33-14
$3,000
4
Frank Colyer, VA
16/16
31-10
$2,500
5
Ricky Green, AR
10/10
31-06
$1,600
6
David Owens, AR
12/12
30-15
$1,500
7
Bill Ward, MO
12/12
30-14
$1,400
8
Roland Martin, OK
10/10
29-05
$1,300
9
Bobby Blankenship, VA
10/10
28-08
$1,200
10
Larry Nixon, TX
13/13
28-08
$1,100
11
John Pryor, OK
12/12
28-03
$1,000
12
H. J. Stevens, AR
8/8
27-04
$1,000
13
Bobby Murray, TN
12/12
26-01
$1,000
14
Ken Gilbert, VA
10/10
25-15
$1,000
15
Bill Dance, TN
9/9
25-12
$950
16
Bob Layporte, OH
9/9
25-03
$950
17
Ben Cowan, NY
8/7
24-06
$900
18
Ronnie Lemons, VA
9/9
23-06
$900
19
Al Greene, GA
7/7
23-05
$900
20
Rick Abbott, MO
9/9
22-15
$900
21
Cliff Craft, GA
5/5
22-06
$700
22
Paul Dutton, VA
7/7
22-02
$700
23
Benny Cubitt, SC
9/9
22-01
$700
24
James Thomas, AL
10/9
22-00
$700
25
Basil Bacon, MO
7/7
21-01
$700
26
Leonard Andrews, VA
6/6
20-13
$625
27
Bo Dowden, LA
7/7
20-10
$625
28
Jimmy Houston, OK
9/9
20-07
$625
29
Carl Miller, NC
7/7
20-04
$625
30
Rick Clunn, TX
5/5
20-02
$625
31
John Powell, AL
8/8
19-10
$525
32
Tommy Brincefield, NC
7/7
19-08
$525
33
Ron Frier, NC
7/6
19-03
$525
34
Jeff Muller, VA
6/6
18-10
$525
35
Paul Chamblee, NC
8/8
18-09
$525
36
Jack Westberry, FL
10/10
18-09
$425
37
Jerry Rhyne, NC
5/5
18-08
$425
38
Bruce Cunagin, OH
7/7
18-07
$425
39
Paul Kelly, NH
7/7
17-04
$400
40
Buddy Allen, VA
6/
16-09
$400
Daily Lunker Leaders
Angler, State
Weight, lbs-ozs
Award
1st Big Fish
Bobby Blankenship, VA
10-14
$3,775
2nd Big Fish
Cliff Craft, GA
10-03
$850
3rd Big Fish
Glenn Crawford, FL
7-06
$350
The Box Score
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Total
Total Weight, lbs-ozs
716-01
826-04
947-15
2,490-04
Bass Weighed-in
277
310
395
982
7-Bass Limits
2
2
2
6
Bass Alive Weighed-in
276
310
386
972
NOTE:
Two bonus points were awarded for each live fish. Winner Award consisted of $9,000 Cash and a $5,000 Ranger Boat. Overall Big Fish Award was $3,775 Ranger Boat Rigged with trailer, charger, kill switch, lowrance flasher and Surface Fish-n-Temp, and Johnny Reb TectrAnchor.

By the end of the Gaston event, the Angler of the Year race was heating up. With the new “total year-end weight” format, it looked like it would be a two-horse race between Dave Gliebe of California and Jerry Rhyne of North Carolina. Each had over 75 pounds of fish with their closest rival, Roland Martin, with nearly 65 pounds.

The top-24 cutoff weight was set at 40-14, nearly 35 pounds off the lead. This may have seemed insurmountable to overcome for AOY, but the bigger race was to make the top-24 and qualify for the Classic. With only eight pounds separating 40th place, Gene Howard (FL) and 24th place, Cliff Craft (GA), it seemed anyone’s game to make the Classic cut. The Top-40 for the AOY standings are presented in the table below.

1978 Mid-Year Angler of the Year Standings
Place
Angler, State
Weight, lbs-ozs
1
Dave Gliebe, CA
75-12
2
Jerry Rhyne, NC
75-02
3
Roland Martin, OK
64-10
4
David Owens, AR
61-11
5
Larry Nixon, TX
57-13
6
Tom Mann, AL
57-08
7
Bobby Murray, TN
54-13
8
Rick Clunn, TX
54-09
9
Jerry Westberry, FL
54-03
10
James Thomas, AL
53-05
11
Harold Allen, TX
52-08
12
Hank Parker, SC
51-11
13
Ricky Green, AR
50-04
14
Bill Ward, MO
49-02
15
Paul Chamblee, NC
44-12
16
Bill Stephens, AL
44-05
17
Gary Wade, NC
43-06
18
O'Neal Mintz, SC
43-04
19
Jimmy Houston, OK
43-02
20
Glenn Crawford, FL
43-01
21
Leonard Andrews, VA
42-13
22
Bill O'Connor, FL
42-08
23
Bo Dowden, LA
42-03
24
Cliff Craft, GA
40-14
25
Freddie Lester, SC
40-04
26
Roger Moore, MO
40-01
27
Frank Colver, VA
39-12
28
Joe Wagoner, NC
39-06
29
Jack Wade, TX
39-04
30
Marvin Baker, TX
38-15
31
Hurley Board, NC
38-11
32
Tommy Martin, TX
38-06
33
Doug Yarbough, TN
37-15
34
Dick Busby, VA
37-10
35
Dave Hilton, TN
37-07
36
Gene Howard, FL
37-04
37
H. J. Stevens, AR
36-02
38
Forrest Wood, AR
33-04
39
Chic Aydelette, NC
32-12
40
Bill Dance, TN
32-04

In Part Two of this series, we’ll cover the mid-year BASS Champs event held on the Atchafalaya Basin.

Editor’s note: This is Part One of a six-part series on the 1978 Bassmaster Trail. Over the course of the next two weeks we’ll cover the 1978 season, B.A.S.S. Champs, The Federation Championship, the Classic qualifiers and the 1978 Bassmaster Classic.