9th Annual Bass Masters Classic Press Guide and Souvenir Program. Photo Terry Battisti.

With the BASS Masters Classic qualifying tournaments completed and the Chapter Championship done, the field of 25 anglers was set for the September 24-26, 1979 BASS Masters Classic.  In this installment of Season at a Glance: 1979 BASS Masters Classic Contenders, we’ll look at those who qualified as well as look at some of those who maybe should have.

In this season, the rules stated that if an angler fished all six events AND won one of the events, they would qualify through their win.  This would obviously help anyone who fished all six events but missed the cut for the Classic based on their Angler of the Year standings.

But what about those who double qualified?  Anglers that not only won an event but also qualified through the AOY standings.  Looking at the standings, each angler who won an event qualified in the top-24.  The question is, should B.A.S.S. have looked at those event winners as qualifiers and added six more to the Classic roster below the 24th spot?

Here are the six anglers that finished just below the cut line.

In this list you have Bo Dowden, a 5-time qualifier, Jimmy Houston, a 3-time qualifier, and Shorty Evans, a 2-time qualifier.  The rest of the six anglers would have been rookie Classic Contenders.

I can’t find anywhere the rules regarding double qualification.  They must have been if you double qualified by making the top-24 and you won an event, your main qualifier is the AOY standings.  This would answer the question why 26th through 30th weren’t given an invite to the Big Show.

The next topic to discuss is how stacked this event was.  Out of the field of 24 anglers, 18 were repeat offenders.  Of the six that were Classic rookies, all of them were in their rookie year on the Bassmaster Trail.  Here are the stats showing multiple qualifiers.

1979 Bass Masters Classic Qualifying Field and Their Records
Number of Times Qualifying
Angler(s)
8-Time Qualifier
Roland Martin, Bill Dance*, Ricky Green*
7-Time Qualifier
Bobby Murray
6-Time Qualifier
Rick Clunn*, Rayo Breckenridge, Paul Chamblee*
5-Time Qualifier
Tommy Martin
4-Time Qualifier
Greg Ward
3-Time Qualifier
Larry Nixon*, Woo Daves
2-Time Qualifier
Hank Parker*, Sonny Viola, Basil Bacon, J. B. Warren, Forrest Wood, Randy Fite*
Rookie
Gary Klein, Gary Alverson, Fred Ward, Jake Crutchfield, Paul Elias, David Wharton
NOTE: * Denotes consecutive Classic Qualifications without missing a year.

Normally in the bio section of this series I read the background of each qualifier and write up my own short bio on each of them individually.  Today what I’m doing is giving the bios presented in the 1979 BASS Masters Classic Press Guide and Souvenir Program.  They are lengthy descriptions, I believe written by Bob Cobb, but give some really good insight into each angler.  I hope you enjoy.


 

ROLAND MARTIN, 1979 Bass Angler-of-the-Year, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

Age: 39

Born: March 14, 1940

Height: 5-10

Weight: 180

Family: Wife (Mary Ann), one child.

AOY Ranking: 1st

Occupation: Bass pro, producer-host of “Fishing With Roland Martin” television show.

College Attended: University of Maryland

Largest Bass: 13-3. (Feb. 1977, Ocala Forest, Fla., on golden shiner).

Bass Fishing Frequency: 200 days a year.

Favorite Lures (in order): Plastic worms, spinnerbaits, Fat Rap, 1/2-ounce jig, No. 11 Rapala.

Roland Martin, 1979 Classic Qualifier and 1979 Angler of the Year.

Sponsor(s): Roland Martin Enterprises.

Success Along B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: Roland Martin has qualified for eight of the nine Classics, and he’s been the highest-ranking qualifier (Bass Angler-of-the-Year) in six of them, including 1979. He’s the all-time money winner, with $100,971.84, and winner of most B.A.S.S. tournaments, 10. He has placed in the money in 57 of the 69 B.A.S.S. tournaments he’s entered.

Winnings In 1979: $7,511.70

Martin’s Advice To Would-Be Bass Pros: “Get a job as a bass guide. Stick with it for a full year, to see if you can cut the mustard.”

A Little About Roland

There’s a parallel between Roland Martin of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and the race horse, Spectacular Bid.

Good judges of fishermen and horse flesh have considered both unbeatable, yet each has been unable to pluck the last jewel of the Triple Crown.

No one has won more Bass Anglers Sportsman Society tournaments than Roland Martin, the all-time leading check endorser on the big-money circuit, with $100,971.84 in the bank. Martin has won an incredible 10 national qualifying events with B.A.S.S. And, he’s been downright hoggish about the prestigious Bass Angler-of-the-Year title, outfishing, or outpointing every other contender six of the nine years the crown has been offered.

But in the seven BASS Masters Classic® events Martin has fished to date, the title has always eluded him.

On Lake Texoma, September 26-28, Roland Martin, 39, will try once again to put together the “Grand Slam of Bass Fishing” – winning Bass Angler-of-the-Year AND the BASS Masters Classic®. But, if history repeats itself, Roland Martin doesn’t have a prayer.

His strategy for competitive bass fishing works against him in a break-neck event like the Classic.

“The Classic, with only one day of practice, doesn’t allow enough time to eliminate all the alternatives, and put it all together, like in a regular tournament,” he explains.

Anyone who’s ever witnessed Martin’s machine-gun rate of cast-and-retrieve, when he’s frequently chunking out marker buoys while casting out his favorite Rapala, wouldn’t believe the champion angler is plodding.

Deliberate might be a better description.

If luck is not to play a role in the contest, Martin believes the winning angler must have at least five reliable, viable “patterns” to tide him through a three-day contest.  (He claims to have coined the word, “pattern,” to describe the “exact set of water and cover conditions that hold fish on that spot, and similar spots all over the lake.”)

It takes time, precious time, to establish five fish-holding patterns. Especially the methodical way in which Martin does it.

“I fish randomly, until I catch a bass, and then I note its exact depth, relation to the structure and other water conditions,” he notes. “Next, I consult a contour map and sonar locator to find similar spots of cover in other areas. Before giving up on a pattern, I fish at least five similar spots, to see whether bass will hit under similar conditions in other areas.

“If the pattern fails to prove reliable, I go to the extreme opposite set of conditions, the opposite in depth, structure and cover, and try to catch a bass. Then it takes four or five additional, similar spots before I can eliminate that as a pattern.”

Martin’s process of elimination is especially time-devouring because he needs those five different patterns to give him confidence.

“But you need more than one successful pattern,” he declares. “You really need more than five, to compensate for a falling lake level, changes in barometric pressure and sunlight levels that might change at any time during a tournament.”

Of course, Martin, who fishes more than 200 days a year, including filming sessions for his “Fishing with Roland Martin” television programs, can uncover bass patterns faster than the average angler can switch lures.

There aren’t many major bass lakes in North America Martin hasn’t fished, and there aren’t any seasons, conditions or quirks of fishing that he hasn’t encountered and overcome.

He’s a threat when bass are hiding at any depth. “I fish shallow water most of the time, but I fish deep water best,” he says.

And he’s a present master at manipulating his five favorite lures: the plastic worm, a spinnerbait, a “Fat Rap” crank bait, a 1/2-ounce hair jig and a No. 11 Rapala.

Learn to use those lures, and use them well, he says, and you’ll be able to catch bass practically anywhere, any time. But Martin recommends a year-long “apprenticeship” for aspiring tournament pros who would copy him.

To follow the Roland Martin blueprint to success, “get a job as a bass guide and work full time for a year, to see if you can cut the mustard.”

That’s what Martin did on Santee-Cooper in South Carolina, before attaining almost instant success on the B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail.

And that’s also the route followed by a top young mustard-cutter this year, 21-year-old Gary Klein of Oroville, California. Klein came within two pounds of becoming only the third person to beat Martin out of the BASS Angler-of-the­Year honor. It was a down-to-the-wire, photo-finish, the closest winning race Martin has run.

One more “race” remains this year, the short-haul sprint to glory called the BASS Masters Classic. Already, Martin is looking ahead to the 1980 Classic. When the 1980 Press Guide is compiled, he wants to be moved to the front of the book … as “defending champion.”


 

GARY KLEIN, Oroville, California

Age: 21

Born: October 11, 1957

Height: 6-0

Weight: 165

Family: Single

AOY Ranking: 2nd

BASS Club Member: Yuba City Bass Busters

Occupation: Bass pro (former marina manager)

College Attended: Butte Junior College, California.

Largest Bass: 9-3 (Feb. 1979, St. Johns River, Fla., on black Mister Twister Lizard).

Bass Fishing Frequency: Five to seven days a week.

Gary Klein, Rookie season and ranked second in the AOY Race.

Favorite Lures (in order): Homemade flippin’ jigs, plastic worms and lizards, crank baits, spinnerbaits, surface lures.

Success Along B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: Although Klein has been fishing bass tournaments out West since he was 15, this is his first outing on the B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail. He placed in the money in all six tournaments, winning the Arizona Invitational on Lake Powell, and finishing sixth in Virginia, seventh in Arkansas and 10th in Florida.

Winnings In 1979: $15,383.50

Mistakes Of Non-Pro Bass Anglers: “A frequent mistake is always looking for that magic lure – when there is none. Learn different techniques and styles of fishing that you can use in all types of water.”

A Little About Gary Klein

Lake Powell, on the Arizona-Utah border, was the closest thing to “home” for Gary Klein on the 1979 B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail.

But Klein, who grew up in Oroville, California, almost passed up the tournament. Fortunately for him – and unfortunately for 190 other professional bass fishermen – he didn’t.

“I didn’t think I could afford to travel so far to fish it,” said the 21-year-old rookie bass pro, who gave up his job as a marina manager in California, collected his life savings and set out on the heretofore southern-oriented B.A.S.S. circuit.

Living out of the back of his van and competing in bass fishing contests in Florida, Louisiana and other parts of the Deep South, Gary Klein barely had enough money in March to make the trek to Page, Arizona. If he didn’t earn a sizeable paycheck from the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, his hopes of becoming a self-supporting bass tournament pro would fade.

Don’t take up a collection yet. Gary Klein became one of the youngest fisherman (21) ever to win a B.A.S.S. qualifying event in the Arizona Invitational after he turned in three huge catches of “desert bass” totaling 58-pounds. His winnings, $10,598, including a Ranger bass boat that he sorely needed, turned his dreams of fishing for a living into a reality.

Four months later, Klein had cashed tournament prize checks worth $15,383.50 from B.A.S.S. which, with booty earned on other tournament circuits, places him among the top money-winning pro anglers for 1979.

That should make Klein’s parents, Albert and Barbara Klein of Oroville, California, happy. Since he began competing in cast-for-cash clashes at age 15, Klein’s parents have put up his entry fees, with the stipulation that he would pay them back from his winnings.

In six years and more than 50 bass tournaments, he has failed to win back his entry charges only twice. Klein earned money in all six B.A.S.S. contests he’s fished this year, a feat matched only by two other anglers, both tournament veterans: Roland Martin of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and Tommy Martin of Hemphill, Texas.

Consistency is the name of Klein’s game. He was consistent enough to give Roland Martin a breath-holding race for 1979 Bass Angler-of-the-Year honors.

At the wire, Martin had accumulated 206-pounds 14- ounces, to Klein’s yearly total of 204-pounds 15-ounces. Just 1-pound 15-ounces separated the young angler from his all­consuming goal of winning the Bass Angler-of-the-Year and the BASS Masters Classic® championship in the same year – his rookie year. No one’s ever taken both crowns -the “Grand Slam of Bass Fishing.”

“I guess there’s always next year to be Bass Angler-of-the­Year,” said Klein, gracefully bowing to Martin’s victory. “And there’s still the Classic.”

Klein is one contender who isn’t overly concerned about the designation of the Classic lake. He’s confident in his abilities to find fish and catch them in any lake, wherever they’re hiding. “As a general rule, do you consider yourself a shallow­water, or a deep-water bass fisherman?” Klein was asked.

“From zero to 14-feet, and from 14-feet to 90-feet” was his answer. And that doesn’t leave much bassin’ water uncovered.

“I do love to flip,” said Klein at the first of the circuit, but he hasn’t been able to practice the West Coast technique of swinging homemade jigs on 7 1/2-foot Fenwick Flippin’ Stiks into heavy cover very often during the just-ended B.A.S.S. Trail.

He has confidence that his bassin’ skills will serve him in any water, under any handicap. He knows fishing and he understands bass to a degree his youth shouldn’t make possible.

“Learn that fish,” he emphasizes. “Study the largemouth as much as possible.

“When I get on a strange lake, my main concern is the bass. The fish, not the lake. I try to think what the bass should be doing at that time of the year, and under those weather and water conditions. To answer those questions, I start eliminating water until I start catching fish. Then, I look for the same type of water and the same fish in other places.”

Gary Klein is the prototype of a new breed of bass fishermen. Most of the current stars of the tournament fishing circuits were excellent anglers when bassin’-for-bucks was born. By contrast, Klein was born into the role.

He taught himself to fish, by reading every book and magazine on bass fishing he could find. “When I’d learn about a new lure, or a new technique, I’d go out and use only that lure or that technique, until I had mastered it,” he says.

Despite all his book-learned bassin’, Klein has decided to forego college (except for courses in public speaking and creative writing).

He might change his mind when universities begin to offer degrees in tournament bass fishing.


 

TOMMY MARTIN, Hemphill, Texas

Age: 38

Born: Nov. 24, 1940

Height: 5-11

Weight: 170

Family: Single

AOY Ranking: 3rd

Occupation: Pro bass fisherman, fishing guide on Toledo Bend, LA/TX

Largest Bass: 9-12. (Feb. 1971, Sam Rayburn Lake, TX on black twin spin).

Bass Fishing Frequency: 200 days a year.

Favorite Lures (in order): Rebel Ringworm or Ring Lizard, spinnerbait, Rebel Shallow-R, Lunker Lure, jig-and­-eel.

Tommy Martin, ranked third in the AOY Race.

Sponsor(s): Skeeter Boats, Berkley Trilene, Rebel Lures, Lowrance Electronics and Ram Glide.

Success Along B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: Martin has qualified for five BASS Masters Classics®, and he won the 1974 Classic on Wheeler Lake, Alabama. He was first in the 1974 Arkansas Invitational on Beaver Lake. His best efforts in 1979 were third place finishes in Kentucky and New York.

Winnings In 1979: $ 6,894.10

Mistakes Novices Make: “Staying with one pattern too long and giving up too easily. Fish different depths of water and different types of cover until you start catching fish.”

A Little About Tommy Martin

Every year, Tommy Martin keeps proving his angling genius.

Martin, a 38-year-old bass fishing guide on Toledo Bend Reservoir in Texas and Louisiana, won the 1974 BASS Masters Classic® on Alabama’s Wheeler Lake; since then, he has failed to qualify for the prestigious event only once, in 1977.

Call Tommy Martin consistent. Call him one of the favorites to cop the king of fishermen title this year on Lake Texoma. Be glad you don’t have to fish against him. Be sorry for those who do.

Third this year among Classic finalists, Martin’s B.A.S.S. ranking is his best yet -far better than his 24th place showing in ’78, when he barely edged out Alabamian James Thomas for the final spot on the list of Classic contenders.

“There’s no question about it, I’m fishing a whole lot more effectively this year,” says Martin. “I’m catching more bass, bigger bass. So, my confidence at the moment is sky high. Things have fallen in place nicely.”

His angling prowess has improved, he says, because of “Flippin’.” Similar in practice to cane pole fishing for crappie or bluegill, Flippin’ for bass is a long rod (7 1/2 to nine feet) technique that involves swinging a plastic worm or eel into a spot not readily accessible by conventional casting. Requiring a deft touch, the method is at times amazingly productive.

“Until this year, I hadn’t done any Flippin’,” notes Martin. “Now, though, it’s part of my regular routine; it’s a dynamite way to catch bass. It lets you fish places you otherwise might pass up because they were so thick, places that probably have bass in ’em.”

Places like many of the Classic anglers will find when they visit Lake Texoma. “On Texoma, there’s an abundance of timber-type debris that’s backed up against the banks; that’s where knowing Flippin’ techniques will pay off,” says Martin.

And when he isn’t Flippin’, Martin probably will be tossing spinnerbaits at visible, heavy cover in shallow water.

“I’ve fished Texoma several times, and spinnerbaits have always worked well for me,” he says. “So, based on past experiences, I’m going to spend most of my time in creeks and at the backs of coves, rather than on the main lake. I’ll be looking for thick cover in six to seven-foot depths, near water that’s 15- to 20-feet deep. Fishing anywhere else, I think, would be a waste of time in Texoma.”

But Martin won’t be chunking just any spinnerbait in Texoma’s shallows. He’s partial to those with big blades – numbers six, seven, or eight.

“The bigger blades create more vibration and flash during retrieve, so bass are more likely to spot and strike these kinds of spinnerbaits,” he theorizes. “Too, the larger blades seem to attract bigger fish while also discouraging smaller, non-keepers from hitting. I’ve been catching a lot of four and five-pounders recently on Toledo Bend while using the large blades, so I’m going to stick with ’em in the Classic. I have no reason to believe they won’t be just as good on Texoma as they are on Toledo Bend.”

The chief problem confronting Martin at the Classic will be deciding exactly where to devote most of his fishing hours on the big Texas-Oklahoma impoundment.

“The lake is full of good-lookin’ fishing water; it’s packed with rocks, stumps, logs – everything bass like,” he says. “And real good, colored water is plentiful back in the creeks. You couldn’t ask for prettier fishing water. In fact, it’s dingy enough so that a fisherman ought to be able to catch fish all day, not just in the morning or late afternoon. But finding the best water is a different story. Yet that’s what this year’s Classic champ is going to have to do.

“On most lakes, eliminating the productive water from the not-so-productive water is fairly easy,” Martin continues. “But it’s not that way on Texoma. This year’s Classic will be a real test of an angler’s skills, that’s for sure.”

Given his preference, Martin wants bright days for the Classic competition. Clouds, he says, could foil angling success.

“If the sun’s out, the bass will hold tight on cover; so if you find one, you’ll probably find a bunch,” he explains. “On overcast days, though, the fish will scatter, making locating them a heck of a lot more difficult.”

But whether the sun shines or not at this year’s Classic, it’s a good bet that Tommy Martin will. He usually does.


 

BOBBY MURRAY, 1978 Classic Champion, Nashville, Tennessee

Age: 33

Born: December 8, 1945

Height: 5-9

Weight: 170

Family: Wife (Mildred), two children

AOY Ranking: 4th

Occupation: Vice president, Hydra-Sports Boat Co.

College Attended: Henderson State University.

Largest Bass: 10-14 (May 1970, Santee-Cooper, S.C., on black and yellow Zorro Aggravator).

Bass Fishing Frequency: Weekly

Favorite Lures (in order): Three-inch smoke grub, six-inch worm, tandem spinnerbait, buzz bait, Red Fin minnow­type plug.

Sponsor(s): Hydra-Sports, Inc. and Daiwa Corp.

Bobby Murray, the reigning Classic Champion and ranked fourth in the 1979 AOY Race.

Success Along B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: Murray is the defending Classic champion, having won last year on Ross Barnett, Mississippi. He also won the first BASS Masters Classic® in 1971 on Lake Mead, Nevada. Murray has won two other B.A.S.S. events, first, as high angler on the Eufaula Team Tournament in 1969, and a solo victory in the 1972 Arkansas Invitational at Lake Ouachita. He finished second by less than a pound in the New York Invitational at Thousand Islands this year and earned money in four of the five other qualifying contests.

Winnings In 1979: $6,455.20

Murray’s Comments on Naturalized Colors: “They don’t turn me on that much. In some of the patterns we’re seeing, the baits almost look unnatural. Fish don’t look for scale patterns. But in the past month or so, I’ve noticed a few companies coming out with naturalized baits that look much better.”

A Little About Bobby

Bobby Murray approaches bass lakes the way he befriends people. “He’s never met a stranger,” the saying goes.

So, how does he find fish on a “strange lake”?

“I don’t fish a strange lake,” Murray fires back. “An efficient angler never puts himself in a situation where he’s on strange water.”

And the Nashville, Tennessee pro angler is, in a word, efficient.

He was efficient enough in October 1978, to weigh-in the winning catch of 37-pounds 9-ounces, to capture his second BASS Masters Classic®!! crown and enrich himself by $25,000.

But that’s history. Not history so “ancient,” perhaps, as Murray’s victory in the 1971 BASS Masters Classic® – the first-ever – on Lake Mead, Nevada. That clear, Colorado River chasm wasn’t “strange” to Murray, either. He simply churned the shallows with the same white spinnerbait he normally used on more familiar reservoirs in his then-home state of Arkansas and caught enough fish to claim the winner-take-all prize of $10,000.

Those were the days of “mystery lakes,” when B.A.S.S. President Ray Scott wouldn’t disclose the Classic site until contenders and press/anglers were on a high-altitude path toward the site. Now, with the announcement of the Classic location being made weeks in advance, Murray has plenty of time to do what he does best: map his strategy.

“There are so many good maps available, and so much in­formation a person can gather, even though he’s never seen the water, he can familiarize himself with it,” Murray believes.

The 33-year-old vice president of Hydra-Sports, Inc. boat company heads for the study of his suburban Nashville home as soon as he learns the destination of the test-of-the-best bass fishermen, the Classic site. File cabinets are chock-full of dossiers on practically every lake worthy of hosting THE bass tournament.

Like a TV crime fighter, he pieces together clues that will help him find the “suspect” bass once he climbs aboard a Classic rig. He tries to guess what the bass will hit, and why (the motive). And he circles likely hideouts on the topographical maps, hideouts that might be used at various times of the day.

“On most reservoirs, I establish the shallow-water pattern first, since deep-water patterns are very slow to discover,” he has learned. “And then, I’ll look for patterns to be used at different times of the day. Usually, I’ll be fishing three different patterns in one day.

“I’II fish two or three hours in the morning to find the shallow, early-morning pattern, then I’ll look for places the bass will be in the middle of the day, and then I’II hunt for afternoon patterns.”

In the one practice day allotted on Lake Texoma in September, Murray will carefully document every strike, swirl and bump. “I calculate how much time it will take me to catch a fish, figuring out which fish I can catch in the morning, which ones at noon, and which ones in the afternoon,” Murray says.

Murray might let slip the lure on which he’s catching fish – as he did during the 1978 Classic – but don’t expect him to give you the time of day they’re hitting.

His master bassin’ plan is geared to providing the wisest and best use of his time on the water. There’s no time for wasted motions or moments.

“The most common mistake the average angler makes, especially in the spring, is he fishes much too slow,” Murray ad­vises. “Shallow-water fishing is target fishing because the fish are scattered and they’re staying close to cover.

“The guy who puts his trolling motor on high and covers the most territory is usually the guy who catches the most fish.”

Although the Classic is in the fall, as always, Lake Texoma should offer plenty of shallow-water action for the “chosen few” who have qualified to compete.

It doesn’t matter a bit to Murray whether fishing is better shallow, deep or in between at the Classic kick-off.

“I’m basically a deep, clear-water fisherman, but I’m comfortable fishing at any depth,” he says, a fact which he proved by winning on Ross Barnett in the most recent Classic, when all his fish came from 10 feet of water or less.

“There’s only one condition that bothers me,” he admits. “And that’s when we go to Florida.” And that’s the only sure thing about this year’s Classic. It won’t be in Florida.


 

LARRY NIXON, Hemphill, Texas

Age: 29

Born: Sept. 3, 1950

Height: 5-11

Weight: 175

Family: Wife (Raylene), one child.

AOY Ranking: 5th

Occupation: Bass pro and fishing guide on Toledo Bend.

College Attended: Arkansas State University.

Largest Bass: 8-5 (May 1974, Toledo Bend, TX/LA, on Mann’s grape Jelly Worm).

Bass Fishing Frequency: 250 days a year.

Favorite Lures (in order): Plastic worms, Rebel Wee-R, Rebel Minnow, spinnerbait, Lunker Lure.

Larry Nixon, ranked fifth in the 1979 AOY Race.

Sponsor(s): Skeeter Boats, Rebel Lures.

Success Along B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: Nixon has fished the two previous Classics, finishing runner-up to Rick Clunn in the 1977 event on Lake Toho, Florida. He won the 1978 B.A. S.S. Champs tournament on the Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana. Nixon won the 1979 Arkansas Invitational on Millwood Reservoir.

Winnings In 1979: $13,639.30

How To Find Bass On A Strange Lake: “Pick one area and work it thoroughly to find the depth and the type of cover bass are holding in. Look at lots of water before settling down on one possible pattern. Something will usually stand out.”

A Little About Larry Nixon

“I tried working once. I had a job for three months and couldn’t stand it, so I quit,” says Larry Nixon.

Don’t mistake Nixon for a vagrant, though. He is gainfully employed in fishing, but that’s not work.

“Fishing is my life,” says the 29-year-old bass fishing guide from Hemphill, Texas. “It’s all I’ve ever done, and all I ever care about doing.”

You won’t find Larry Nixon’s name on the welfare rolls. In his relatively short (three years) career, he has climbed to ninth among the all-time, B.A.S.S. pro money winners, with $37,680.24 on his side of the ledger.

For a young man who desired to make fishing his business it was predestined that he “go pro.” What wasn’t expected was that Larry Nixon would set the B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail afire in his rookie year.

After ranking seventh in the Bass Angler-of-the-Year standings in 1977, Nixon came within 1-pound 12-ounces, of claiming the $25,000 first prize in the Classic finals. He settled for second-place booty of $10,000 when fellow Texan Rick Clunn, the defending Classic champion at that time, was able to turn back Nixon’s come-from-behind bid on Lake Toho.

Nixon would get revenge at the next B.A.S.S. showdown, the 1978 B.A.S.S. Champs tournament on the Atchafalaya Basin of Louisiana. The modishly long-haired Toledo Bend bass guide outfished 19 other qualifiers in the pro-am event to claim the $6,000 winner’s purse.

On the regular circuit in 1978, Nixon placed among the top 40 money winners every time, for a cumulative point total that placed him eighth in the standings.

After a slow start this year (163rd in the Florida Invitational), Larry Nixon began an ascending march up the tournament ladder, until he was able to climb into the “victory boat,” a $5,000 Ranger, at the conclusion of the Arkansas Invitational B.A.S.S. Tournament on Millwood Reservoir.

Again, it was Nixon versus Clunn, but with a different ending. Clunn was the runner-up, and Nixon was richer by $11,391.

That’s not a bad paycheck for someone who shuns “work.” But Nixon feels he earned it. Fishing has been a full-time job for Nixon, who enjoys being his own boss. And “full-time” doesn’t mean 40 hours a week.

“I do nothing 24 hours a day but work on tackle, and fish,” he says. And sleep, perhaps. “When I’m not on the water, I spend my time straightening out my tacklebox, or working on my boat.” He doesn’t have to live, eat, and breathe bass fishing, but he does.

And any who would try to make a living bass fishing would do well to emulate him.

“They’d better really enjoy it and love it, ’cause it’s not easy getting up at 4 a.m. and going to bed at 11 at night,” he warns. “It’s no piece of cake.”

Nixon fishes at least 250 days a year, either in tournaments or with his regular, hand-picked clients on Toledo Bend. That steady schedule of chasing bass is one of the keys to his success.

Concentrating on one lake, Toledo Bend, doesn’t put Nixon at a serious disadvantage against the globe-trotting television stars of the Tournament Trail, such as Roland Martin, Jimmy Houston, Bill Dance or Greg Ward. True, they fish many more different lakes in their filming forays, but they don’t fish much different water,” he believes.

“Toledo Bend has got just about everything. “It’s got moss, it’s got milfoil, it’s got rivers and creeks,” he says about the Texas-Louisiana border impoundment.

“It’s like fishing three different types of lakes rolled into one. Fish the upper end, and you’ve got a wooded, shallow lake like Millwood in Arkansas. Fish the center, and you’ve got a variety of shallow and deep structure like Sam Rayburn in Texas. And, fish the lower end and you’ve got deep-lake features like Greers Ferry in Arkansas,” says Nixon.

There must be some truth in his analysis, for Larry Nixon, who has been in the top 10 Classic qualifiers every year he’s competed, had only fished two different lakes by 1977, Toledo Bend and Greers Ferry.

One place his experiences on Toledo Bend won’t help Nixon find fish is Lake Texoma.

“There’s no similarity,” he says. “There’s not a whole lot of timber, and it doesn’t have any moss as far as I know – of course I’ve never seen it, so I can’t say for sure.

“It’s more like Greers Ferry, the lake I grew up on.”


 

GREGORY WARD, Amsterdam, Missouri

Age: 22

Born: Oct. 18, 1956

Height: 5-11

Weight: 160

Family: Wife (Joanne), one child.

AOY Ranking: 6th

Occupation: Co-host, “Championship Fishing” television show.

Largest Bass: 10-pounds (Dec., 1967, Kissimmee, Fla., on plastic worm).

Bass Fishing Frequency: 10 weeks a year.

Favorite Lures (in order): Scorpion spinnerbait, Slinky worm, Shimmy Shad, crank baits, spoons.

Greg Ward, ranked sixth in the 1979 AOY Race.

Sponsor(s): Bass Buster Lures, Lewis Johnson Company.

Success Along B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: The 1979 event is Gregory Ward’s fourth Classic. He also qualified in 1975, 1976 and 1978. Ward won the 1979 Kentucky Invitational B.A.S.S. Tournament on Kentucky Lake and placed in the top 40, five of the six B.A.S.S. events this year.

Winnings In 1979: $12,598.78.

Mistakes Non-Pro Anglers Make: “They give up too quickly. If fish aren’t biting the lure they’re throwing, they decide that fish just are not biting, period. If fish aren’t hitting shallow, they’re deep. You’ve got to find them.”

A Little About Greg Ward

If super-confidence is a prerequisite for success in professional bass fishing, Gregory Ward of Amsterdam, Missouri, is an anomaly among tournament fishermen.

Modest. The word was coined for him. Listen to him:

“I can’t believe I ever finished as well as I did in the tournaments,” says the 22-year-old angler, who is competing in his fourth BASS Masters Classic® this year, after winning the Kentucky Invitational B.A.S.S. Tournament.

“It’s a good thing I started when I did, that I qualified for the Classic when I did, back in 1975,” he says. “Every year, it’s gotten harder and harder to qualify.”

It was even easier, Ward laughs, to place “in the money” in the first tournament he fished, the Carolina Invitational on Lake Keowee, South Carolina, in 1973.

“It was kind of an accident that I fished that tournament,” says Ward, who was a mere 16-years-old at the time. “I didn’t know what I was doing, and I only caught two fish.

“But I placed 20th that time.” His two fish added up to 10-pounds 4-ounces, though, and ranked him well above some of the hardened professionals of the time. But the Keowee tournament was a record low-catch contest for a time in the history of B.A.S.S.

Ward began to compete seriously in 1975, and he earned enough points on the B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail to qualify for Classic V. He had celebrated his 19th birthday only 11 days before the Classic. (David Brind, of Geneva, New York, the qualifier this year from the B.A.S.S. Chapter ranks, will be a month older than Ward was, when Brind climbs into his $11,400 BASS Masters Classic ® rig, September 26.)

Gregory Ward certainly can’t attribute his victory this year (his first) in the Kentucky Invitational B.A.S.S. Tournament to luck, but he tries.

“I’ve always said, if I could just happen to get three good days in a row, I might win one of these tournaments,” he says. “At Kentucky, I did. But it’s a mistake to say, I’m going to win a bass tournament this season. You can’t do that.

“Look at Bill Dance and Ricky Green and Jimmy Houston. These guys are all real good fishermen, but Dance hasn’t won a tournament since 1976. Green hasn’t won since ’74. And Jimmy Houston’s only won one B.A.S.S. tournament.”

It was natural that Gregory Ward would fish for a living, but he wasn’t pushed into it by his family. His family, it must be noted, includes an angling dynasty led by Virgil Ward, Greg’s grandfather, who hosts the “Championship Fishing” syndicated television show.

And Greg’s father, Bill Ward of Bass Buster Lures, is a regular on the B.A.S.S. cast-for-cash circuit, although he’s sitting out the Classic this year for the first time since 1974. It was small wonder, then, that Gregory caught his first bass at age four, and went fishing with plastic worms every day from the time he was able to walk out to the family’s fish pond ‘by himself. His all-time big bass, a 10-pounder, was caught on a plastic worm on Lake Kissimmee, Florida, when Ward was 11 years old.

“I was going to get the 10-pounder mounted, but didn’t. And I haven’t been able to top it since,” says Ward. He doesn’t get many chances to break his personal lunker bass standard.

True, Gregory Ward fishes practically every day of the year, including “vacations,” but not, usually, for bass. Bassmasters probably aren’t aware of it, but there are, according to Ward, other species than largemouths, smallmouths and striped bass. To suit the variable tastes of the Wards’ armchair anglers, the TV show has to fancy salmon, trout, steelhead and muskie fishing trips, too.

“I only fish for bass three times a year, perhaps, outside of the B.A.S.S. tournaments,” Ward says. “But it all helps, whether you’re fishing for bass or some other fish. Just as long as you fish.”

While he began to receive his initial instruction in fishing before grade school age, it wasn’t until recently that Ward began to benefit from advanced training. On-the-job training, you might say.

“I’ve learned more these last five years in tournament competition than I learned in all the other times I fished before then,” he notes. “I’ve become a much better fisherman. But, heck, everybody’s getting better.

“When I first started, it only took 95 points (awarded on the basis of placement in tournament standings and participation in B.A.S.S. contests) to make the Classic. The last time we were on the point system, it took almost 300 points to qualify. It’s getting harder all the time, which is why we’ve got 11 guys in there this year who didn’t fish the Classic last year.”

Not only are newcomers to professional fishing showing advanced skills in the sport, the old-timers are getting tougher to beat.

“Everybody seems to have gotten good together,” believes Ward. “And everybody’s getting better.”


 

DAVID GLIEBE, Stockton, California

Age: 36

Born: Oct. 24, 1942

Height: 6-0

Weight: 168

Family: Two children.

AOY Ranking: 7th

BASS Club Member: East Bay Sportsman.

Occupation: Pro bass fisherman. (Former civil engineer draftsman).

Largest Bass: 10-9 (Nov. 1972, Camanche Lake, Calif., black Brawley Bass Bug jig).

Bass Fishing Frequency: 300 days a year.

Favorite Lures (in order): Jigs, worms, spinnerbaits, diving plugs and spoons.

Sponsor(s): Fenwick-Woodstream, Skeeter Boats, Mercury Outboards, Roadmaster Trailers, Lowrance Electronics, Shakespeare.

Success Along B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: Gliebe has qualified for his third consecutive Classic. He has competed in 26 B.A.S.S. tournaments, winning the 1977 Louisiana Invitational and the 1978 Kissimmee Florida Invitational. He placed 13th in Florida and 14th in Virginia in 1979.

Dave Gliebe ranked seventh in the 1979 AOY Race.

Winnings In 1979: $3,251.

How To Find Bass On A Strange Lake: “Familiarize yourself with the layout of the lake by reviewing topographical maps. Then, once on the water, look for off-colored water that offers bass some kind of cover. I look for unusual features (structure) that might hold concentrations of fish.”

A Little About Dave Gliebe

David Gliebe, it is said, has done for the art of Flippin’ what Colonel Sanders has done for greasy fried chicken.

Gliebe, 36, of Stockton, California, hit the B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail in 1976 with an introverted demeanor and an extroverted bass rod -a 7 1/2-foot Fenwick Flippin’ Stik -with which he set out to win cast-for-cash contests along southern tournament circuits. And, he did!

Not only has Gliebe won two B.A.S.S. events -the 1977 Louisiana Invitational and the 1978 Kissimmee Florida Invitational -he has consistently been a leader in the other tournament groups in which he competes.

He’s the only man to pick up a rod and reel who ever impressed me,” glows Basil Bacon of Rolla, Missouri, a Classic contender who is judicious about handing out compliments.

Bacon is among several current bass tournament professionals who have been stung by the Flippin’ jig, and have added king-size graphite rods to their quivers.

It’s “news” now, when Dave Gliebe doesn’t use Flippin’ to win a bass tournament. To watch the thin, six-foot Bassmaster stand on the bow of his bass boat and swing a heavy black jig toward a target – the very center of a thick bush, for example – is poetry in motion.

Yet, in some respects, Gliebe’s Flippin’ style more closely resembles a crane and wrecking ball, chipping away at an old building. It’s devasting to bass!

It’s no wonder that David A. Gliebe’s favorite lure is a black jig – a lure on which he caught his all-time best bass, a 10-9 out of Camanche Lake, California. But it’s not the only lure, and Flippin’ is not the only style in which he’s an expert.

“Learn to use all types of bass lures proficiently,” Gliebe advises newcomers to his all-consuming sport. In the same vein, the most common mistake novices make is “fishing with one type lure, and not being versatile with all types.”

To be an all-round BASSer requires more than a casual relationship with jigs, worms, spinnerbaits, diving plugs and spoons, says this well-rounded Bassmaster. And, since bass are caught at practically any depth, Gliebe has taught himself to be comfortable fishing all waters “between six inches and 100 feet.”

He’s a self-taught fisherman and a self-made bass pro, having picked up the sport at the advanced age of 27.

And, he’s still learning. “While I use the same techniques and styles of fishing in tournaments as I do when fishing for fun, competition has been the most beneficial part of fishing to me,” he says.

“Because there’s something at stake in a tournament – winning – I’ve had to work harder to improve my skills. And fishing with a partner who’s out to beat me, and who usually has some fishing skills or knowledge I haven’t seen before, teaches me new things about bass fishing every time I go out,” adds Gliebe.

His rivals on the B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail, which will pay out more than $600,000 in 1980, hope he doesn’t learn too much more about fooling bass.

Fat chance that he won’t.

Gliebe, who fishes 300 days out of every 365, finished in the top 10 among Classic qualifiers this year, as usual, after pocketing $3,251 in prize money. Which is unusually low.

But, he was consistent in 1979, ranking 13th in Florida, 14th in Virginia and 16th in New York. He hauled in 165-pounds 11-ounces of bass during the six qualifying events.

His game plan for fish-catching consistency is simple and easy to follow:

“Start by familiarizing yourself with the layout of the lake, using topo maps and charts. Then, look for off-colored water that has some kind of color, or unusual features,” he says. After zeroing in on likely looking areas, try fishing different types of bottom make-up, such as gravel, mud, clay, sand and the like, until you connect with a fish.

“Then, take into account the cover, bottom make-up, speed of retrieve, type of lure, time and condition of the day, location of the cover in relation to the shoreline or underwater structure.”

Not finding fish is almost as important as finding them, according to Gliebe’s strategy. “Most of the practice fishing I do is spent in eliminating ‘dead water’ – ruling out places where I won’t find fish. Then, I can concentrate all my time and activities on the places that will produce the best catches of bass.”

That’s logical enough for a regular-season B.A.S.S. contest, when three days of practice fishing are permitted. But you only go around once for warm-up in the BASS Masters Classic®, before bass fishing becomes deadly serious.

And on a sprawling reservoir like Lake Texoma, where the bass could be almost anywhere, and hitting almost anything, Gliebe will have to work quickly to eliminate all the “dead water” in a day.

And with over 500 miles of shoreline, that’s a lot of water to cover in a day.


 

GARY ALVERSON Rossville, Georgia

Age: 39

Born: December 26, 1939

Height: 6-3

Weight: 225

Family: Wife (Lois), three children.

AOY Ranking: 8th.

BASS Club Member: Chattanooga Bass Club, Tennessee.

Occupation: Mechanical Contractor.

College Attended: Austin Peay.

Largest Bass: 8-4 (June 1960, Chickamauga, Tenn., on grape fire-tail worm).

Bass Fishing Frequency: 100 days a year.

Favorite Lures (in order): Spinnerbait, worm, buzz bait, crank bait.

Sponsor(s): Searcy’s Tackle Center, Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Gary Alverson ranked eighth in the 1979 AOY Race.

Success Along B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: Alverson fished his first full B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail this year (although he had competed in three B.A.S.S. contests previously), and started it off by winning the Florida Invitational on the St. Johns River. He also finished eighth in Virginia, and is the leading B.A.S.S. money winner thus far in 1979.

Winnings In 1979: $15,594.00.

Best Lake For 1980: Kissimmee, in Florida, because “the drawdown has permitted new vegetation to grow up and support more baitfish.” In Kissimmee, fish the small creeks and lakes that run into the river, Alverson advises.

A Little About Gary Alverson

Gary Alverson is the kind of gambler who wins – a confident and cautious one who “invests” less than he plans to get in return.

En route between his home in Rossville, Georgia, and Page, Arizona for the 1979 Arizona Invitational B.A.S.S. Tournament on Lake Powell, Alverson struck up a profitable relationship with a “one-armed bandit” in the Las Vegas airport.

He risked a quarter in the machine, which promptly refunded his coin and 199 identical ones.

The odds against hitting the jackpot with one quarter are not much higher than those against a newcomer to the B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail earning one of the top positions in the $50,000 BASS Masters Classic®.

But Alverson did it. He knew he would.

I figured I’d qualify this first year,” said the soft-speaking mechanical contractor. “If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have tried.” That’s confidence.

Gary Alverson has a reason not to be modest. He stormed away with the $14,000 first prize in the kick-off event of the 1979 Tournament Trail, the Florida Invitational on the St. Johns River.

The 39-year-old Chattanooga, Tennessee, Bass Club member had only competed in three B.A.S.S. events before, yet he knew exactly what to do to out fish the other 249 contestants in Florida.

He headed for a spot – Crescent Lake – along the St. Johns River system that he guessed would be empty of tournament anglers. And, he used a bait, a white-and-yellow Snagless Sally that no one else would be using. That’s part of the Alverson strategy.

“To find bass on a ‘strange’ lake, stay away from the traffic of other boaters and fishermen, and look at as many different places as possible, that are suitable for the time of year you’re fishing,” he says.

“When I catch a couple of fish in the same type of cover, I look for similar cover elsewhere in the lake. If I get bites on the same lures at the other places, I assume that I’ve found a pattern,” explains Alverson. “Then, I try different lures to see which are the most productive, and which catch the biggest bass.”

Following that simple process, Alverson was able to move into the lead on the second day of the Florida Invitational. He had found bass in sufficient numbers over the eelgrass beds in Crescent Lake. But, as “insurance,” Alverson searched for other types of cover in the lake which might pay off if the grass beds failed him.

“I always try to find at least three patterns on any given lake, because you never know when one group of fish might quit feeding, or might move on you,” he says.

Alverson had a reliable “back-up” spot all picked out. And, on the final day in Florida, with no fish in his livewell by noon, the 6-foot, 3-inch former Peay College football player dropped back from the eelgrass beds and chunked a desperation pass toward some fallen logs in deeper water. His 14-pounds 1-ounce of bass the last afternoon cinched his victory, and his right to compete in the “Test-of-the-Best” bass tournament at Lake Texoma. Just as he knew he would.

Suffering from an ailing back, and unable to tow his newly acquired Ranger bass boat (part of his prize for the Florida victory) to Arizona, Alverson competed without having practiced on the lake.

He weighed-in 37-pounds 6-ounces despite his handicap and finished a respectable 44th in the standings in Arizona. Hefty catches in Virginia (where he was 8th), and Kentucky (when he finished 33rd), boosted Alverson into 8th in the Classic points standings, the highest position earned this year by a “rookie” next to Californian Gary Klein’s runner-up post.

Having fished for bass the last 15 years, now at the rate of 100-days-a-year, Alverson has developed the fish-finding talents a tournament pro must have. But, he has more going for him than skill and experience.

Confidence is his not-so-secret weapon.

“You have to have confidence in the lake you’re fishing, and the lures you have,” he says. Would-be tournament anglers might benefit from other advice from Alverson:

“Spend as much time on the water as possible and check out as many different areas and types of water as you have time to,” he says. “Use your own judgement, and don’t depend on someone to show you where the fish are. Don’t fish too fast – but fish hard.”

Gary Alverson is as wise a gambler as he is a fisherman. He knows when to quit. After the $50 pay-off, Alverson said good­bye to Las Vegas’ one-armed bandits. But, he intends to ride out his string of good fortune in B.A.S.S. tournament fishing. He’s not quitting, even though he’s ahead.


 

HANK PARKER Clover, South Carolina

Age: 26

Born: March 26, 1953

Height: 6-3

Weight: 220

Family: Wife (Angie), three children

AOY Ranking: 9th

Occupation: Bass pro (former tackle shop operator).

Largest Bass: 10-12 (Feb. 1978, St. Johns River, Fla. eight-inch purple worm).

Bass Fishing Frequency: Three to four days a week.

Favorite Lures (in order): Worm, spinnerbait, buzz bait, crank bait, topwater.

Sponsor(s): Ranger Boats, Bill Norman Lures, Tamco Trailers.

Success Along B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: Parker has qualified for the Classic both years (1978-79) he’s competed on the B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail. He finished ninth in the 1978 Classic on Ross Barnett Reservoir, Mississippi. His best effort in 1979 was fourth in the Kentucky Invitational, but he won the Iunker prize in Florida and tied for first place big fish honors in Arizona

Hank Parker ranked ninth in the 1979 AOY Race.

Winnings In 1979: $10,604.

How To Find Bass On A Strange Lake: “I usually start out near the headwaters, if possible. Then, depending on the water temperature and the season, I work the creek piece-by­piece, checking all the likely spots until I find one depth and type of cover holding bass.”

A Little About Hank Parker

Hank Parker of Clover, South Carolina, the “Gentle Ben” of the B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail, thinks big.

At 6-3 and an acknowledged weight of 220 pounds, Parker is big and burly enough to hoist trophy marlin into the boat. He handles huge bass the way a youngster jerks up punkinseed bream. When Hank Parker puts a lip-lock grip on a lunker largemouth, it’s all over. And, he’s met his share of lunkers.

Midway through the six-event B.A.S.S. circuit this year, Ranger Boats officials were considering sending the $3,775 bass boat that serves as the lunker award for each tournament directly to Parker’s home in South Carolina, without displaying it at the tournament site. It seemed destined to go to Parker, the 26-year-old big-bass specialist.

Parker’s 10-pound 7-ounce, “hawg” was biggest and best of the Florida Invitational on the St. Johns River. And it gave him exactly half the weight needed (20-pounds 14-ounces) to achieve 28th-place prize money of $625.

A month later, at the Arizona Invitational on Lake Powell, Parker tied into a seven-pound canyon lake lunker that tied with an identical largemouth boated by Natchitoches, Louisiana, pro Bo Dowden. After threatening to break the tie through a foot-race between Parker and Dowden (who’s approximately as big, but a few years older than Parker), B.A.S.S. President Ray Scott decided to divide first and second lunker prize money, giving each $2,312.50.

Parker slipped a couple of notches in the big bass chase in the third contest of the year, managing only third place with his 8-pound 4-ounce lunker. It was a sign of his switch from quality to quantity.

With two years on the professional B.A.S.S. circuit, Hank Parker has proved that consistency is the key to qualifying for the “Super Bowl of Bass Fishing,” the BASS Masters Classic.”· In 1978 and 1979, he attained one of the top 30 slots in five of the six contests, including his best showing this year of fourth in the Kentucky Invitational.

Thanks mainly to his lunker awards, Parker earned more money in the play-for-pay outings in 1979 than any other non-tournament B.A.S.S. winner, $10,604. His payout, added to winnings in other fishing circuits on which he excels, proves that a young bass angler really can earn a decent living doing what he likes to do best, fishin’.

If there’s any place he’d rather be than in the “ooze-off’ line at the start of tournament competition, it’s on Lake Murray, near Columbia, South Carolina, the hottest lake in Parker’s home state.

“Lake Murray is a good, medium-depth lake with a lot of big bass (he emphasizes “big”) that can be caught deep or shallow with almost any bait you would want to use.” Sounds like “hawg heaven.”

It’s best to visit Murray in March and April, he suggests, with an ample supply of white or chartreuse spinnerbaits, and shad-like crank baits.

“Fish the flats that border creek channels,” advises Parker. “Bass could also be stacked up in brush of any type, along the primary and secondary points, and in the backs of creeks and bays at that time of the year.”

The lake must be good. Parker, who is as well-traveled as any of the tournament professionals, for his years, ranks Lake Murray as better than the consensus favorites: Toledo Bend, Louisiana-Texas; Thousand Islands, New York; and Lake Powell, Arizona-Utah.

Before visiting a tournament site, Parker inspects topographical maps for signs of creek channels with apparent migration routes along flats bordering the channels, pronounced bends in rivers and creeks and backwater ponds.

In practice, he prefers to start shallow and work deep, visiting the headwaters of the creeks first.

“I pick out the largest creek near the headwaters, with dingy or muddy water, if possible. Then, depending on the weather and the water temperature and the season, I’ll work that one creek, piece-by-piece, until I begin to catch fish and can establish some sort of pattern,” he explains.

“Always establish a pattern,” he advises non-pro anglers. “And be willing to try things out of the ordinary and be versatile.”

There’s more behind Parker’s success than that. It wouldn’t hurt to fish four days a week, as he does. Or, to copy another Parker specialty – catch BIG BASS. It’s as simple as that.


 

RICK CLUNN Montgomery, Texas

Age: 33

Born: July 24, 1946

Height: 6-0

Weight: 160

Family: Wife (Gerri), two children.

AOY Ranking: 10th

Occupation: Bass pro; boat and tackle company consultant.

College Attended: University of Texas.

Largest Bass: 8-15. (Feb. 1978 on St. Johns River on black Slider worm.)

Bass Fishing Frequency: 90 days a year.

Rick Clunn ranked tenth in the 1979 AOY Race.

Favorite Lures (in order): Three-inch balsa crank baits, Lunker Lure, 3/8 & 1/2-ounce spinnerbaits; plastic worm; Johnson spoon and jigging spoon.

Sponsor(s): Glastron, Garcia, Bagley, Stren.

Success’ Along B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: Clunn won back-to-back Classics in 1976 and 1977, and was runner-up in the 1978 Classic. He also won the 1977 BASS Champs tournament. He has never won a national qualifying tournament, but he placed second in the 1979 Arkansas Invitational. He is second in all-time money winnings, with $91,617.56.

Winnings In 1979: $5,148.80

Mistakes Non-Pro Anglers Make: “They lack confidence and concentration. It’s too easy to blame the wind, the cold and the heat, for our lack of success, rather than realizing our own inadequacies and working to overcome them.”

A Little About Rick Clunn

Most fishermen try to get “up” for a bass tournament. Not Rick Clunn.

“I’ve got to get down before I get motivated,” says the 33-year-old Montgomery, Texas pro. “I do much better when the fishing’s tough.”

The cliche was written with Clunn in mind: “When the fishing gets tough, the tough get fishing.” The bigger the goal; the more formidable the obstacle, the better Clunn likes it.

He has a way of winning the BIG ONES.

In a two-year-period, Rick Clunn won consecutive BASS Masters Classic Championships (1976 and 1977), the BASS Champs Tournament in 1977, and placed second behind Bobby Murray of Nashville in the 1978 Classic.

But, if cream rises to the top, Rick Clunn usually settles down to less-than-overwhelming performances in the national qualifying events on the B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail. Clunn has never won a B.A.S.S. qualifying tournament.

He nearly broke that string in the final event of 1979, the Arkansas Invitational B.A.S.S. Tournament on Millwood Reservoir. After leading on the second day, Clunn finished second behind fellow Texan Larry Nixon of Hemphill.

Clunn freely admits that he does well mainly when the stakes are highest. And they were astronomical in Arkansas. Because of motor trouble in the penultimate stop on the Tournament Trail, the New York Invitational, Clunn fell two slots and five pounds out of the Classic qualifying cut-off. The two-time Classic champion was about to miss the last boat. He had some catching up to do.

The Millwood tournament was a midsummer nightmare for many of the contestants, who had to scramble to keep from being “skunked” in the tournament. But Clunn, probing flooded river banks with shad-like crank baits, put together impressive strings, adding up to 38-pounds 2-ounces, and surged into 10th in Classic standings.

Clunn, the second all-time prize earner in BASS fishing (behind 1979 Bass Angler-of-the-year Roland Martin of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma), with $91,617.56 to account to the IRS for, did something at Millwood he’d never resorted to before. He practiced. He scouted the Arkansas reservoir in advance – and he almost won.

“I fish every tournament as if it were the Classic,” Clunn likes to say. While other pros are searching out lunker lairs and learning lakes in advance of the two-week off-limits period just before the qualifying events, Clunn pretends he’s fishing a Classic “mystery lake.”

Doing his homework, studying topo maps and reading articles about the tournament site, Clunn plots his strategy long-distance. And, when the world finals rolls around, and none of the other contenders has had a chance to scout the lake, Clunn’s talents for finding bass on a “cold” lake quickly come into play.

It’s a system that could only be developed by the former “systems” and computer specialist for Exxon Oil Co. But then, he’s systematic in all his facets of bass fishing. He’s analytical. He’s calculating. He’s a thinking man’s bass fisherman.

If you want to catch bass consistently, anywhere, anytime, pay attention to Rick Clunn’s “program” for finding fish.

“Organize your fishing trips thoroughly, and learn to utilize your fishing time efficiently,” he says. No cast is wasted, even if it fails to yield a strike. Unless you’re extremely lucky, Clunn believes, you have to eliminate the areas where fish are not before you can find where they are.

Pay attention to seasonal patterns, he emphasizes. Keep a logbook to help recall types of spots bass are likely to be at certain seasons of the year and times of the day. Fish to learn and learn to fish.

More important to Clunn than his technical know­how of bassin’, though, is his frame of mind. He has the patent on positive thinking.

“Too many people find excuses not to catch fish,” he declares. “They blame the weather, or the water, or the time of day. Instead, they should be looking for reasons why they can catch fish!


 

BILL DANCE, Memphis, Tennessee

Age: 37

Born: October 7, 1941

Height: 6-2

Weight: 210

Family: Wife (Dianne), four children.

AOY Ranking: 11th

BASS Club Member: Memphis Bass Club.

Occupation: Host, “Bill Dance Outdoors” television show.

College Attended: University of Tennessee.

Largest Bass: 12-4 (Jan. I 965on St. Johns River, Fla., live bait).

Bass Fishing Frequency: Four days a week.

Favorite Lures (in order): Worm, jig and eel, crank bait, spinnerbait, spoon.

Sponsor(s): Telesport Television Productions.

Bill Dance ranked eleventh in the 1979 AOY Race.

Success Along B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: This is Dance’s eighth consecutive Classic. He earned the Bass Angler-of-the-Year title in 1970, 1974 and 1977, and he is fourth in all-time money winnings with $55,217.75. He has won seven B.A.S.S. tournaments, and his best showings in 1979 were second in the Arizona Invitational and third in the Arkansas Invitational.

Winnings In 1979: $4,618.60

Tips For Novice Bass Fishermen: “Mental attitude is half the battle. Have confidence in your ability and your equipment. Join a bass club and fish with as many different fishermen as possible. Never think you know it all.”

A Little About Bill Dance

If Bill Dance beats Roland Martin out of the money in the 1979 BASS Masters Classic®, Martin will know who to blame: his own wife.

Mary Ann Martin became a motherly muse to Dance this year at a critical point in his lengthy and illustrious professional fishing career.

“This is probably the worst year I’ve had since I began fishing professionally,” says Dance, the 37-year-old Memphis, Tennessee pro who has qualified for the Classic every year he’s competed.

“I was standing by the scoreboard at the end of the New York Invitational, figuring up how far out of the Classic I was,” he recalls. He was five pounds and two notches away from qualifying for his eighth straight Classic, and only one tournament remained, the Arkansas Invitational on Millwood Reservoir.

Mary Ann Martin, an outstanding pro angler on the women’s fishing circuit, recognized Dance’s despondence. “I honestly and truthfully know how you feel,” she told him.

“Maybe something is trying to tell me I’ve run my course.” Dance paused, “Maybe it’s time I gave up tournament fishing.”

Whereupon, Mrs. Martin collared the 6-foot, 2-inch, Dance and shook him. “Don’t you ever let me hear you say that again, Bill Dance,” she admonished him. “You go back home and get ready to go to Millwood. And you practice. And you think about nothing but Millwood.”

It was a touching moment, a “This Is Your Life” vignette.

Following her advice to the letter, Bill Dance scouted Millwood, and he pondered his plan for the tournament through almost every waking moment.

Dance finished third in the contest, just two ounces behind Rick Clunn of Montgomery, Texas, with 38-pounds of bass. But, more importantly, he moved from a tie (with Clunn) for 26th place in the Classic running, to 11th.

The problem, Bill Dance will tell you, is that he has become too successful. During his 72-tournament B.A.S.S. career, Dance’s seven victories, eight seconds and six thirds, plus top 10 finishes in 21 other contests, have led to lucrative but demanding obligations in the fishing industry.

“Everything I’m doing now is a result of the tournaments I’ve fished, but because of my outside interests, I can no longer apply the thought and planning it takes to win like I once, did,” he explains.

“I’m working right up until each tournament. And, while I’m fishing, I’m thinking about the work I’ve got to do once it’s over. I’m not mentally prepared, and that’s 90 percent of it,” he says.

Meet the new Dance:

“I’ve started working real hard to get ready, like I used to do in the early tournaments,” says Dance, referring to his halcyon days, when he claimed seven victories in a two-year period, ending in 1970.

“One of these days, I’m going to get it all together, and win the way I used to.”

Dance nearly pulled it off in the Arizona Invitational on Lake Powell in March. He amassed 57 pounds of bass over three days of fishing, but a 21-year-old rookie, Gary Klein of Oroville, Calif., was a pound better.

The skill Dance has accrued in 20 years of bass fishing, plus an ample portion of luck, helped him to his second-place finish.

“I stumbled onto the right thing on Powell,” he explains. “Everybody was talking about driving way up the lake, so I thought I’d just stick around the marina.”

In three days, Dance burned 11 gallons of gas, and never was out of sight of Wahweap Marina. And, he caught more than a third of the 158-pounds 13-ounces, he was to register for the B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail.

While Dance relies heavily on his extensive fishing experience in locating bass, he claims to do better on lakes he’s never fished, such as Powell and Millwood.

“I don’t know why that is,” he says. “Perhaps, I get psyched up, and am willing to try more different things on a new lake. On lakes that I’ve fished before, I keep falling back on the things that worked there before.” The “nostalgia factor,” fishermen call it.

Perhaps it’s the reason Dance finished next-to-last in the 1978 BASS Masters Classic® on Ross Barnett – the lake on which he won the Rebel Invitational B.A.S.S. Tournament in 1970 with 75-pounds 12-ounces of bass.

Dance has fished Lake Texoma before, too. But he’s trying not to let nostalgia get in his way for the 1979 Classic.

“A guy has got to be mighty lucky to establish a pattern, and find other areas with the same pattern – all in one day of practice,” cautions Dance. But, he adds, he’s been feeling “mighty lucky” lately.


 

WOO DAVES, Chester, Virginia

Age: 33

Born: April 25, 1946

Height: 5-10

Weight: 200

Family: Wife (Betty), two children.

AOY Ranking: 12th

BASS Club Member: Pelican Bass Club.

Occupation: Truck company dock worker.

Largest Bass: 9-4 (Feb. 1974 on Buggs Island, Va., on Norman’s Little N crank bait).

Bass Fishing Frequency: Twice a week.

Favorite Lures (in order): Deep Little N crank bait, six­inch Phenom worm, 1/4-ounce Redman and 1/2-ounce Bush Hog spinnerbaits, Bush Hog Buzz Hawg, Sentipede Twister.

Woo Daves ranked twelfth in the 1979 AOY Race.

Success Along B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: Daves has qualified for three Classics, and he has competed in 30 B.A.S.S. tournaments, including the 1975 Virginia Invitational, which he won. His best showings in 1979 were 11th in Kentucky and New York tournaments.

Winnings In 1979: $3,060.30

Best Bass Lakes In The Country: They’re all in Virginia, according to Daves: Buggs Island (ideal for spinner baits, worms and crank baits), Back Bay, Chickahominy and James River.

A Little About Woo Daves

Woo Daves, 33, doesn’t have to travel far to reach the best bass fishing in the country. The very best bassin’ waters, he says, are in his home state of Virginia.

They are, in order of his preference, Buggs Island Lake, Back Bay and the Chickahominy and James Rivers.

There’s more than home-state pride involved in Daves’ selection of Buggs Island (Kerr Reservoir) as home of great bass fishing. After five years and 30 B.A.S.S. clashes, Daves has seen his share of American waters. He should know where fishing is finest.

“Buggs Island has lots and lots of three to six-pound bass in it,” claims Daves. “This lake has produced for some 20 years, and we’re still getting good catches there.”

Daves can’t really be considered an “impartial observer” when it comes to discussing Buggs Island, though. (On the south side of the Virginia-North Carolina border, Buggs Island is known as Kerr Reservoir.) He won the 1975 Virginia Invitational B.A.S.S. Tournament there. And, if only B.A.S.S. would return to Buggs Island, Daves would know exactly what to do to win again.

“If we fished it in the months of April through June, I’d throw a blue-back chrome Deep Little N crank bait,” he figures. “And probably a blue Buzz Hawg buzzer bait, and if those didn’t work, a blue Phenom worm.”

If colors sponsored tournament fishermen, the way lure manufacturers do, Daves would be the blue hue’s number one promoter. He’s wild about it.

It’s hardly surprising then, that the Chester, Virginia, dock worker’s best all-time bass, a 9-pound 4-ounce, “hawg,” attacked a blue Little N crank bait. That was in February 1974 on (where else?) Buggs Island.

“Buggs is full of willows and buck brush,” he points out. “And it’s ideal for a good crank bait or spinnerbait fisherman.”

Daves should be right at home on Texoma this September, then. Because of its fluctuating lake level, Texoma has become dotted with stands of young willows in the shallow-water portions of the lake. So, the Texas-Oklahoma border lake should be a home-away-from-home for Woo Daves.

His techniques for locating bass on Buggs Island are universal enough to be effective on the Classic lake, too.

“I’d start by fishing a blue Little N off the points and around the creek channels. If those didn’t work, I would move into the brush with worms and buzz baits or spinnerbaits,” he says.

”If you can determine the best general area fish are biting, then it’s best to concentrate on the creek channels and the main points in that area,” he advises. “Fish a variety of lures until something works.

“Establishing a pattern is easy – if you can catch fish,” he says.

Daves would make a good newspaper reporter. The “Five W’s,” minus the “who,” are critical to his success in establishing a pattern.

“All you have to do is catch a couple of bass,” he explains. “Then, you think: why? where? when? what on? And then you apply this information in other areas, on similar structure.”

The hard part, he knows, is catching those all-important first two bass. Especially since the “patterns” may change throughout the day.

“If you don’t change with them, you’re in trouble,” he warns.

Daves, who has been fishing 25 of his 33 years, has some sage advice for newcomers to bass fishing. “Use top-notch equipment, the best you can afford,” he says. A good boat, motor and trolling motor, with excellent electronic equipment, has made a tremendous improvement in my fishing. You just can’t fish effectively and concentrate on what you’re doing unless you have good equipment and know how to use it.”


 

SONNY VIOLA, Natchitoches, Louisiana

Age: 35

Born: Jan. 16, 1944

Height: 6-0

Weight: 205

Family: Wife (Sue), three children.

AOY Ranking: 13th

BASS Club Member: Natchitoches Bass Club.

Occupation: Bass pro, steel and pipe fabrication shop operator.

College Attended: Northwestern State University, Louisiana.

Largest Bass: 9-11 (April 1976, Sibley Lake, LA, on Fliptail worm).

Bass Fishing Frequency: Weekly.

Sonny Viola ranked thirteenth in the 1979 AOY Race.

Favorite Lures (in order): Spinnerbaits, crank baits, worms, jig and eel, spoons.

Sponsor(s): Ranger Boats, Lowrance Electronics, Silvertroll, Skyline, Strike King, Knight Tube Worms.

Success Along B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: This is Viola’s second Classic. He finished ninth in the 1977 world finals and competed in the B.A.S.S. Champs tournament in 1978. His best showing in 1979 was ninth in the Kentucky Invitational.

Winnings In 1979: $2,120.60

Tips For Novice Bass Fishermen: “Use the drag on your reel – it’s there for a purpose. Be ready and able to change to meet the seasonal and weather conditions. Switch to lighter lines and lures if water clarity and other conditions require it. Have confidence in your fishing plan. Don’t get shook-up and run to another spot before giving it a chance to produce fish. You may be leaving the best hole.”

A Little About Sonny Viola

Sonny Viola of Natchitoches, Louisiana, can claim a rare distinction among B.A.S.S. pros.

Viola, 35, caught a limit of seven bass every day he fished for money on the B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail this season, he claims.

Trouble is, they didn’t count.

“In 1979, I could have weighed a limit of 12-inch fish every day of every tournament,” declares Viola, who is fishing his second BASS Masters Classic®. But not all of them would measure up to the iron-clad 14-inch minimum rule that has been in effect the last two years of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society’s circuits.

An inch may as well be a foot, he’s been chagrined to learn. Viola isn’t alone in deploring the 14-inch standard, which was devised as a conservation measure, to take fishing pressure off “junior” bass that will soon grow to bigger and better dimensions. Tom Mann, the Eufaula, Alabama, lure-making magnate, thinks 14 is an unlucky number. Mann is missing only his second Classic in nine years.

But Viola caught enough “keeper” bass this year to land a respectable 13th in the standings, with 156-pounds 6-ounces for the six tournaments he fished.

He’s elated about making the Classic, but he blames the elongated size limit for costing him cash prizes in the tournaments. Viola was second in the Kentucky Invitational B.A.S.S. Tournament on Kentucky Lake in May, going into the final day of competition. Although several bass hit his black plastic worms the last day, Viola had to make a sheepish, empty-handed appearance on the weigh-in stage.

Instead of climbing to first, he fell to ninth, a victim of his “short-fish syndrome.”

It’s understandable, then, that Viola picks Lake Gaston, Virginia, as the top bass lake in the country for 1980 … because it’s loaded with lunkers.

“I think Gaston has more big fish per acre than any lake in the country,” says Viola, “and they will hit your lure!” But Gaston’s Junker largemouths weren’t so hot after Viola’s baits on his last visit to the North Carolina-Virginia impoundment, during the Virginia Invitational in April. Viola was 43rd in the contest, just a couple of “12-inch bass” out of the money.

Viola says the biggest mistake novice bass fishermen make is “getting in a hurry. They don’t work a productive area thoroughly enough. As a result, they overlook fish they could have caught, and they are unable to establish a good pattern.”

Viola does not make haste, or waste, in searching out fish­holding patterns. By the time he establishes a pattern, he’s well on his way to achieving the B.A.S.S.-imposed seven-fish limit.

“If I can catch three or more fish in the same area, off the same type of structure, I consider this a pattern, and will usually stick with it for the rest of a tournament,” he says.

Catching those first three fish is the hard part, he readily admits. “When I go to a new lake, I study all the topo maps I can get my hands on, then try to get information on the current conditions of the lake, the depths fish are caught at most often, and their seasonal habits.

“You can eliminate a whole lot of water without ever fishing it, if you can get some help from the local fishermen in advance,” he says.

On Sibley Lake, just outside Viola’s home town of Natchitoches, Louisiana, Viola is the “local” in the know. While his fellow Natchitoches pro, Bo Dowden, despises Sibley, Viola has the fond memory of having caught his all-time biggest bass there: a 9-pound 11-ounce “hawg” that hit a grape fire-tail worm about three springs back.

Viola likes Toledo Bend Reservoir, too, as does practically every contender in the 1979 Classic.

The Texas-Louisiana border lake will be the best in his home state next year, when the B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail’s Western Division stops there for the Texas Invitational in June.

January through March would be better times, he believes, when big bass usually take deep-diving crank baits, or dark­colored plastic worms or jig-and-eel combinations. “Look for ridges with six to 10 feet of water over them, or deeper sloughs crossing open water,” he advises.

Toledo Bend is one lake Viola doesn’t anticipate having problems in fooling 14-inch bass, even during the early summer tournament.

Unlike many other contenders in Classic IX, Viola doesn’t make his sole living by fishing. There is little relationship between his tournament activities and his business as co-owner of a steel and pipe fabrication concern. And it’s a good thing.

Viola is fortunate he doesn’t have as many problems with pipe “fittings” as he says he does finding bass that fit the keeper rule.


 

BASIL BACON, Rolla, Missouri

Age: 42

Born: March 2, 1937

Height: 5-11

Weight: 190

Family: Wife (Phyllis), two children.

AOY Ranking: 14th

Occupation: Pro bass fisherman (former furniture merchant).

Largest Bass: 8-12 (a pair of them: April, 1967, Table Rock Lake, Mo.-Ark. on white Bomber; May, 1972; Bull Shoals, Ark., white spinnerbait).

Bass Fishing Frequency: “Constantly.”

Basil Bacon ranked fourteenth in the 1979 AOY Race.

Favorite Lures (in order): Jig-and-eel, spinnerbait, worm, Zara Spook, crank bait.

Sponsor(s): Ranger Boats.

Success Along B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: Bacon qualified for the 1976 Classic at Guntersville Lake, Alabama, where he finished 13th. His best finish in 1979 was sixth in the Arizona Invitational. He placed in the money in three other contests this year.

Winnings In 1979: $3,296.50.

How Bacon Fishes A Strange Lake: “Study topographical maps, and find creeks, roadbeds, tree lines, fence rows, points and drop-offs; anything that’s different from its surroundings. Those are the most likely places to find fish on any lake.”

A Little About Basil Bacon

It was one of those meteoric careers – a flash in the pan of professional fishing.

After his bread-and-butter tournament circuit’s sponsors folded in 1976 (PSI), Basil Bacon of Rolla, Missouri, climbed aboard the B.A.S.S. bandwagon. Somewhat reluctantly, and some­what late, he climbed aboard.

Basil (it’s pronounced “Base-ill”) Bacon only fished five of the six qualifying events that year, yet he accomplished a rare feat, claiming a berth in the “Test-of-the-Best” bass tournament without fishing the full circuit.

Bacon didn’t miss a B.A.S.S. tournament the following two years, yet he never seemed quite able to pull it all together the way he had during his debut on the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society’s circuit. His B.A.S.S. career seemed to have peaked.

“There were problems at home, some things that took my mind off fishing, made it hard for me to concentrate,” remembers the 42-year-old tournament pro. “But I got rid of my business (a furniture store), straightened out my other problems, and I’m back in gear.”

To be sure. Despite the fact – or maybe because of it – that Bacon spends three weeks a month driving to or competing in bass fishing events, he was able to claim 14th in the Classic point standings this year. He placed sixth in the Arizona Invitational on Lake Powell and ninth in the Kentucky Invitational on Kentucky Lake.

“I should have done much better at Kentucky,” he believes, “because I’ve won tournaments there each of the last two years, fishing other organization’s events.”

There was more involved in the Basil Bacon comeback this year than the restoring of domestic tranquility, he acknowledges.

One change for the better is his job as a public relations man for Ranger Boats of Flippin, Arkansas, which permits him unfettered fishing time. The other change is his technique of fishing.

Bacon has flipped over “Flippin’.”

“The one, single thing that’s helped me more than anything else, as far as catching fish is concerned, is that Fenwick Flippin’ Stik. It’s doubled my fishing efficiency,” he says, referring to both the 7 1/2-foot Fenwick fishing rod and the technique for which it’s designed.

Flippin’ – the method popularized by West Coast bass anglers of swinging jigs and plastic trailers into heavy cover – has also doubled Bacon’s confidence, it seems.

“I’ll tell you one thing,” he asserts, “if we go back to Thousand Islands (on the St. Lawrence River in New York), I guarantee I’ll win the tournament.”

He didn’t win this year, he says, because he didn’t happen onto the fish-catching Flippin’ pattern until the tournament was nearly over. “I won’t say anything about it, because we might go back there some time,” he says, “but I’ve found out how to make my own fishing – I can call fish to me.”

He will say that he’s using 5/8-ounce jigs made by Jim Rogers of Missouri, with either a Ringworm lizard or a Sportsman Superfloater worm. But he’ll say no more.

The technique – whatever it is – won’t help Bacon on Lake Texoma, site of the 1979 BASS Masters Classic®. “There won’t be any secrets there,” he says cryptically.

“But I’ve got all the confidence in the world on Texoma,” he adds. “I fished that lake three or four times, including a week during the black-out period prior to that All-American tournament in 1975. Caught a ‘ton’ of fish.

“And I know now right what to do. I’ve got one deep-water pattern I should be able to go to, and catch fish. And I’ve got one shallow pattern to go to,” confides Bacon.

Which place, then, will he most likely catch bass?

“Texoma is one of those lakes in which the fish could be doing darned near anything,” opines Bacon. “But I think they’ll be on both patterns.”

If he’s right, then Basil Bacon will be the envy of the other 1979 Classic contenders, having already established the tournament-winning patterns before the first minute of practice fishing begins.

Bacon knows, though, that bass tournaments aren’t settled in advance. Especially the “Super Bowl of Bass Fishing,” the BASS Masters Classic®.

At best, the odds on any one of them winning are 25-to-l.


 

FRED WARD, Phoenix, Arizona

Age: 38.

Born: July 16, 1941.

Height: 6-0

Weight: 208

Family: Wife (Lana), three children.

AOY Ranking: 15th

BASS Club Member: Arizona Bass Club

Occupation: Home builder.

Largest Bass: 7-12 (May 1978 on Lake Powell, Ariz., on Bass Buster Spider).

Bass Fishing Frequency: 100 days a year.

Fred Ward ranked fifteenth in the 1979 AOY Race.

Favorite Lures (in order): Worm, spinnerbait, Spider jig, Rapala.

Sponsor(s): Phenix Boron Rods.

Success Along B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: Although a seasoned and successful angler on western bass fishing circuits, this is Ward’s first B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail -and his first Classic. Ward finished in the money in three tournaments this season, including seventh in the Arizona Invitational on Lake Powell.

Winnings In 1979: $2,060. 78.

Tips For Novices: “Learn to use topographical maps to find underwater structure that might hold bass. It’s important to learn to use a depthfinder in conjunction with the topo map. Pay attention, also, to the temperature of the water, and learn that fish like to stay in the shade on bright days.”

A Little About Fred Ward

Back in March of this year, Fred Ward of Glendale (a suburb of Phoenix), Arizona, didn’t think he’d qualify for the BASS Masters Classic®. He knew it.

Ward, 38, a seasoned competitor on the Western Bass cir­cuit, was confident, early in the game, that he’d be among the top 24 pros at the end of the B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail. His goals were higher.

“I think I’ll be in the run for the Bass Angler-of-the-Year,” Ward was saying, “unless something happens that I can’t make one of the tournaments.”

The question then was, could a westerner break Roland Martin’s hammerlock on the Bass Angler-of-the-Year title, which the Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, pro had claimed five of the previous eight years?

A westerner almost did take the title away from Martin, but it wasn’t Fred Ward. It was Gary Klein of Oroville, California, who fell a measly two pounds shy of Martin’s total catch for the B.A.S.S. season of 206-pounds 14-ounces. Ward finished an admirable 15th among one of the toughest corps of professional bass battlers in BASS Masters Classic® history.

It’s natural, even advisable, to set your goals as high as you can see, so you can’t blame Fred Ward for wanting to claim the most prized honor in bassin’ – next to the Classic crown.

But he should have been more cautious in his pronouncements, so early on the circuit – especially after placing only 41st (one notch out of the prize money) in the lid-lifter, the Florida Invitational on the St. Johns River.

To the contrary, “I was proud of having found fish on a southern lake the first time I’d seen it,” he said.

More to the point, it’s no easy feat to place 41st among 250 veteran fishermen on a lake that was completely alien to Ward.

“It’s tough to fish southern-style fishing, and never to have done it before,” he says. For example, Ward had not been formerly introduced, at that stage, to buzz-type spinnerbaits – lures that are about as popular in the South as grits, biscuits and cream gravy. “I didn’t even know to put a trailer hook on it,” he says.

It’s a whole different world out there in the western shadow of the Continental Divide. The water is clear enough to see bottom at 40 feet, and deep-water bass structure is so deep some depthfinders won’t read it.

Bass out there in the deep Colorado River canyon lakes are as fickle and unpredictable as spring weather in the desert. It’s Fred Ward’s kind of bassin’.

He was sure to win the second qualifying test of the year, the Arizona Invitational on Lake Powell, western fishermen familiar with Ward’s winning ways were saying.

“Bass on Lake Powell don’t stay bunched up like they do in the southern lakes. There’ll be one in this spot, and one in the next one, but only one fish. I know a hundred places to stop, where there’s only one fish, and that’s all there’ll be the whole tournament,” Ward explained before the kick-off of Bass Anglers Sportsman Society’s first qualifying event in the West.

Ward did catch 51-pounds 4-ounces, in the three-day affair, but in the Arizona Invitational, the most productive B.A.S.S. fish-off of the year, that was six-pounds-plus off the pace and Ward was seventh.

But his whopping stringer on Lake Powell, along with his 13th place catch of 38 1/2 pounds in the New York Invitational at Thousand Islands, New York, shored up his chances of making the championship fish-off on Texoma.

Ward should be happy to settle for the relatively high standing (15th) among the 750 different anglers who competed this season on the six-event B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail.

The home builder, turned tournament pro, has only been bass fishing for the past 10 years. And he’s a newcomer to southern lakes. After all, he didn’t claim the point title in Western Bass’ tournament circuit the first year he competed in it, either.

He garnered that award in 1976 and, three years later, Ward decided he had “gone as far as I can go” with the regional circuit.

There is a distinction he can claim all his own, however. Fred Ward is the only pro from Arizona ever to qualify for the BASS Masters Classic®. That’s something to hang your Stetson on.


 

JAKE CRUTCHFIELD, Inola, Oklahoma

Age: 29

Born: Jan. 11, 1950

Height: 6-0

Weight: 175

Family: Wife (Darlene).

AOY Ranking: 16th

BASS Club Member: Wagoner Bass Club, Oklahoma.

Occupation: Bass pro, construction subcontractor.

College Attended: Northeastern State University, Oklahoma.

Largest Bass: 9-12 (Feb. 1979, St. Johns River, FL, Red­man spinnerbait).

Bass Fishing Frequency: 150 days a year.

Favorite Lures (in order): Jig, spinnerbait, worm, crank bait, topwater.

Jake Crutchfield ranked sixteenth in the 1979 AOY Race.

Success Along The B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: This is Crutchfield’s second year on the circuit, and his first Classic. His highest finish in 1979 was seventh in the Virginia Invitational on Lake Gaston.

Winnings In 1979: $2,172.60

Tips For Novices: “Be observant, watch for areas where bass might be holding. Look for locals fishing the lake to de­termine the most popular depths and cover. Listen to other fishermen. And, don’t be afraid to share your own information with someone else.”

A Little About Jake Crutchfield

The young chemistry teacher settled into his classroom desk one morning, prepared to start class, as he had every school day morning for the previous five years.

“It dawned on me that one day, I was going to get up behind that desk, and I was going to be 44-years-old. If I kept waiting until next year to start professional fishing, sooner or later, it was going to be too late,” he thought.

At that point, Jake Crutchfield of Inola, Oklahoma, decided to give up teaching, the profession in which he had invested 10 years of his life, and become a professional bass fisherman.

A year and a half later, Crutchfield, now 29, has finally achieved one of his goals: to qualify as one of the top two dozen pro bass fishermen in the “Challenge-of-the-Year,” the BASS Masters Classic®.

It was not an easy decision, and it has not been an easy time.

Although Crutchfield has cashed more than $10,000 in tournament winnings, including proceeds from other tournament circuits, he has yet to realize his goal of supporting his wife, Darlene, and himself solely on capital from the cast-for­cash circuit.

He still has to work long hours as a drywall subcontractor in Oklahoma, six days a week, in order to fish the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society’s professional fishing events.

No, sir, Jake Crutchfield will tell you, life as a professional angler is anything but easy.

“If you get serious about becoming a professional fisherman, talk to me,” he warns those who would trace his footsteps. “I can tell you what to expect – and what not to expect.”

Two other Oklahoma anglers from the Tulsa region could have served as models for Crutchfield: Bass Angler-of-the­Year Roland Martin of Broken Arrow, and former Bass Angler-of-the-Year Jimmy Houston of Cookson.

“They’ve been on the good end so long, they’ve forgotten what a fisherman has to go through before he can break in,” says Crutchfield.

Crutchfield knows what it’s like. He knows from the hardening, ulcer-spawning experience of missing money by ounces, and of having his fish desert him at the worst possible times.

“I probably picked the worst possible time to fish all six B.A.S.S. tournaments,” recalls Crutchfield, who climbed onto the circuit in 1978 after winning another organization’s national fish-off the fall before. “The first two tournaments were in Florida.”

So, what’s wrong with fishing in the “Lunker State”? “There’s no such thing as an ‘upper end’ of the lake in Florida,” he gripes. “Those lakes go on forever, and I don’t know where to begin to fish.”

There began a string of near-hits in 1978 tournaments, up to the final qualifying event on West Point Reservoir, Alabama, and including a seventh-place showing in the New York Invita­tional.

Crutchfield had a shot at making THE Classic, and he had the fish corralled in the Chattahoochee River above West Point to ensure his goal. That was during practice. During competition, reservoir operations began drawing down water so fast, “a 24-volt trollmotor wouldn’t hold me in the current.” Crutchfield finished 40th in the standings.

“But I came so close that I thought I’d fish a couple of tournaments this year, before giving up and going back to teaching, or whatever,” he says.

In each contest after the opener this year in Florida, Crutchfield fared just well enough to entice him to fish the next one. He was like a poker player, winning just enough small pots to keep playing and hoping for a big pay-off.

The pay-off nearly came in the Virginia Invitational, when Crutchfield was a close second behind the second-day leader. “But the last day was different from the previous five days on Lake Gaston. My fish moved on me, and I didn’t have a back­up spot,” he recalls.

“I learned from that experience not to put all my eggs in one basket, because it can fall in on you,” says Crutchfield, who’s suffered more than his share of cave-ins on pro circuits. He’s become a pessimist.

“I try to visualize the worst happening, and I try to figure out what I would do if everything goes wrong,” he says. “It so often does.”

“I’d only fished one-day tournaments before joining B.A.S.S.,” he says, “so the hardest thing I had to learn was what to do with my three days of practice. They’re more critical than the three days of the tournament.”

Crutchfield ought to be at an advantage in the BASS Masters Classic® on Lake Texoma, then, where the qualifiers are allowed only one day of practice “to put it all together.” But he’s not overjoyed with the site selection, even though it’s on his home state’s border.

“Believe it or not, I’ve never fished Texoma. I was going down there several times, but something always came up,” he explains.

Crutchfield won’t miss this all-expense paid fishing trip on Texoma, though. “They’re the best in the world,” he says of his opponents in the championship fish-off.

And Crutchfield is among them.


 

RAYO BRECKENRIDGE, Paragould, Arkansas

Age: 49

Born: Nov. 3, 1929.

Height: 5-10

Weight: 170.

Family: Wife (Marilyn), one child.

AOY Ranking: 17th

BASS Club Member: Norfork Bass Club

Occupation: Bass pro, TV host of “Rayo Breckenridge Fishing Show.”

Largest Bass: 10-8 (March 1974, Greers Ferry, Ark., on crawdad Deep Jim).

Bass Fishing Frequency: Weekly.

Favorite Lures (in order): Worms, spinnerbaits, crank baits, topwaters, Little George.

Sponsor(s): Ranger Boats.

Rayo Breckenridge ranked seventeenth in the 1979 AOY Race.

Success Along B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: This is Breckenridge’s sixth Classic. He won the Miller-BASS Classic in 1973 on Clark Hill, South Carolina-Georgia, but hasn’t finished in the money in a Classic since then. He earned money in four qualifying events in 1979, including second place in the Virginia Invitational.

Winnings In 1979: $5,910.70

Tips For Novices: “Concentrate on everything you do in fishing. Master both casting and spinning equipment, and learn to fish in different water conditions. The quickest way to learn is to observe experienced fishermen and adopt their techniques and style.”

A Little About Rayo Breckenridge

There’s more at stake than the $25,000 winner’s prize in the 1979 BASS Masters Classic® for contender Rayo Brecken­ridge, 49, of Paragould, Arkansas.

For one thing, Breckenridge would like to shake his image as a genteel farmer, a grower of soybeans and cotton.

Ever since Breckenridge’s home town of Paragould erected a sign in his honor: “Home of the World’s Best Cotton Pickin’ Bass Angler,” after his victory in the 1973 Miller-BASS Classic, Breckenridge has been trying to shift the emphasis from farming to fishing.

For the record, Rayo Breckenridge is a professional bass fisherman, and host of the “Rayo Breckenridge Fishing Show” on television. And, he’s a former farmer.

A veteran of five past Classics, Breckenridge is the oldest pro in Classic IX. And, he’s still a top contender.

He is 17th in the Classic points standings this year, thanks largely to his second-place performance in the Virginia Invitational B.A.S.S. Tournament on Lake Gaston, Virginia.

Breckenridge would have won the contest, but for the astounding, 11th-hour charge of a rookie named Paul Elias of Kentucky, who caught 26-pounds 4-ounces of bass the final day to claim the $14,000 top prize.

The Arkansas BASSer earned money in three other B.A.S.S. qualifying events in 1979, too, including 15th in the Arkansas Invitational on Millwood Reservoir near Ashdown, Arkansas. And it was there that Breckenridge earned the ever­lasting adoration of top tournament pro Bill Dance of Memphis, Tennessee.

After five of six qualifying events, Breckenridge ranked 24th in the standings, or the bottom berth in the Classic. Dance was tied for 26th with Rick Clunn of Montgomery, Texas, and scrambling to keep alive his record string of eight straight Classic appearances.

“It floored me,” says Dance, “but Rayo and Sonny Viola (of Natchitoches, Louisiana, also a Classic qualifier) tried to help me in Arkansas. If I did better in the tournament than they (which he did), I stood a chance of knocking them out of the Classic. It really touched me.”

Dance, who finished third in Arkansas, didn’t need help, but the encouragement meant the world to him at a time when he was striving to recover from a fishing slump. “They really showed what kind of guys they are,” Bill Dance says.

Breckenridge, though, was confident he would make the Classic. Versatility is the key to his, or anyone else’s success, he says.

“To catch fish consistently, you have to be a versatile fisherman,” he opines. “That means mastering fishing with different lures, and under different weather and water conditions. A good bass fisherman should be skilled in using both casting and spinning equipment.

“It requires practice and many hours on the water at all times of the day and during all the seasons,” he adds.

For a short-cut to a degree in bass fishing, Breckenridge recommends competing in bass fishing tournaments, where anglers are exposed to fishermen who are knowledgeable in several different styles and techniques of angling.

Although he taught himself to bass fish almost a quarter of a century ago, Breckenridge says he’s still learning – and he’s learning from the other tournament fishermen he’s meeting.

Some fishing partners he’s encountered share a common problem, however.

“They get hung up on a favorite lure that may have caught fish for them a few times, under certain conditions, and they won’t change when that lure isn’t working,” he says.

“To establish a pattern for finding fish, I always study my topographical maps, and try to pick out areas with ‘something different’ on the bottom – something that stands out from the rest, such as creeks, bends and drop-offs,” he says. One such spot on Millwood Reservoir, not bigger than 60 feet across, produced six bass weighing 17-pounds 6-ounces, during the Arkansas Invitational.

But to locate the spot, and find what lures fish prefer, Breckenridge follows his formula of “fishing different depths with different lures at different speeds and different techniques until something works.”


 

J.B. WARREN, Knoxville, Arkansas

Age: 42

Born: April 13, 1937.

Height: 6-0

Weight: 190

Family: Wife (Annie Mae), three children

AOY Ranking: 18th

Occupation: Pipeline construction.

Largest Bass: 10 pounds (March 1977, Toledo Bend, LA/TX on white spinnerbait).

Bass Fishing Frequency: Three to four days a week.

Favorite Lures (in order): Spinnerbaits, Mann’s Jelly Worms, Norman’s Little-N crank baits, Johnson spoons, jigs.

Sponsor(s): Skeeter Boat Company.

Success Along B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: This is Warren’s second Classic. He finished eighth in the Miller High Life BASS Masters Classic in 1973 on Clark Hill, South Carolina-Georgia. Warren finished in the money in five of the six tournaments of 1979, including 16th in the Florida Invitational.

J. B. Warren ranked eighteenth in the 1979 AOY Race.

Winnings In 1979: $2,460.20

Mistakes Non-Pro Anglers Make: “They don’t realize it when they find a good concentration of fish. If they don’t catch a second one right away, they move to another spot and often leave a bunch of bass in the same hole the first one came from.”

A Little About J. B. Warren

J.B. Warren, 18th among the 1979 BASS Masters Classic® finalists, has never fished Lake Texoma. But that doesn’t bother him.

For one thing, Warren isn’t intimidated by “strange” waters. “Southern lakes, no matter where they’re located, are pretty much the same,” he says. “If you can catch bass in one lake, you can catch ’em in any.”

And besides, he figures that the law of averages ought to start working to his advantage during this year’s Classic.

“At the Florida Invitational (St. Johns River), I lost three bass that each would have weighed 10 pounds,” recalls Warren. “I saw every one of ’em, and they were huge – the kind that look like they’d swamp your boat if you got ’em aboard. Two busted off, and one shook the hook not six inches from the net.

“Then at the Arkansas Invitational (Millwood), I dropped 10 or 12 places in the standings when a five-pound bass that I had caught jumped out of my livewell and into the water.

“Incidents like those haunted me all year,” he continues. “It was like I was jinxed or something. But now maybe that black cloud has passed over, and maybe I’m in for a run of good luck. I couldn’t think of a better place for my fortune to change than at the Classic.”

If that does happen to the 42-year-old Warren, he’s going to switch careers: he’ll give up working on pipelines and concentrate entirely on bass fishing. It’s something he has wanted to do for years.

“I had about decided to become a pro after the ’73 Classic at Clark Hill,” he says. “But in 1974 I got the chance to go help build the Alaskan pipeline, and I just couldn’t pass up a S3,000 a week job, bass or no.”

After three years in Alaska, Warren returned to his Knoxville, Arkansas, home and – not surprisingly – resumed his bass tournament participation. Until the 1977 B.A.S.S. New York Invitational on the St. Lawrence River, Warren was in 16th place in Classic point standings; his qualifying for the prestigious tournament was almost cinched.

Almost. For some reason, Warren had trouble tempting Yankee bass. “I couldn’t do anything right in that tournament; nothing worked,” he says. It was a brief, but costly, slump. And because of it, Warren missed the ’78 Classic. “I still have nightmares about the New York tournament,” he notes.

This year, though, was different. Warren, despite “not having fished up to my potential,” made the Classic. Now, his goal is placing within the top five finishers. Should he do that, he’ll turn pro. He’ll forget the pipelines, and he’ll forgo any S3,000-a-week construction work offers. J.B. Warren wants to be a full-time bass fisherman in the worst way.

His game plan for the ’79 Classic is uncomplicated: “I’m going to be looking for the migration routes the bass are using while going from their summer holes into their fall feeding areas,” he explains. “This has been an especially effective fall pattern for me on Eufaula (Oklahoma), and I think it’ll work equally well on Texoma, too.”

In this year’s Classic, Warren says he’ll fish for fall bass about the same way he fishes for spring bass.

“The fish most likely will be ganged up, getting ready to move back into shallow water,” he speculates. “So, my preferred fishing spots on Texoma will be where deep creeks run into flats and big coves. What I’ll be looking for are five to 10-foot drop-offs near depths of five to 15 feet. That’s where the bass will be – I hope.”

Early, Warren plans to rely chiefly on topwater plugs, then change to crank baits and plastic worms later on. “I used to be just a spinnerbait angler,” he explains, “but after I started fishing in tournaments, I discovered that the successful guys were the ones who could skillfully fish a variety of baits, not merely one or two. So that’s what I learned to do. And that’s one major reason, I think, why I’m in the Classic this year.”

Another reason for his success, Warren says, is because he seldom uses line with a strength test rating beyond 14 pounds. “You get a lot better lure action with lighter line, even when you’re fishing a worm,” he stresses. “During this year’s Classic I’m going to stay with six to 14-pound-test monofilament, and I’ll bet I get more strikes than anyone who fishes with heavier line.”

Will J.B. Warren be the 1979 Classic winner?

“I think so – if I can find where the fish are ganged up, and if I can figure out how to catch 60 pounds worth of bass; that’s the weight it’ll take to win,” he says.

If so, then that’s also the weight it’ll take to get Warren away from the pipelines and on the lakes – for good.


 

FORREST WOOD, Flippin, Arkansas

Age: 47

Born: June 9, 1932

Height: 6-0

Weight: 175

Family: Wife (Nina), four children.

AOY Ranking: 19th

BASS Club Member: Bull Shoals Bassmasters

Occupation: President, Wood Manufacturing Co., Inc.

Largest Bass: 8-12 (Nov. 1969, Lake Eufaula, Ala., on green Spider Spin).

Bass Fishing Frequency: Varies.

Favorite Lures (in order): Spinnerbait, jig, Jelly Worm, minnow-like crank bait, Zara Spook.

Sponsor(s): Ranger Boats.

Forrest Wood ranked nineteenth in the 1979 AOY Race.

Success Along B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: Wood qualified for the 1972 BASS Masters Classic® tournament. He was a member of the winning four-angler team in the Eufaula Team Tournament in 1969 with Bobby Murray, Bill Dance and Bob Ponds. His first single-handed victory was in the 1979 New York Invitational at Thousand Islands, New York.

Winnings In 1979: $13,977.50

Tips For Novice Bass Fishermen: “Fish with knowl­egeable bass fishermen. Joining a bass club is the best way to learn from some of the best fishermen on the lake. The how-to fishing shows are instructive, too, and you can learn a lot from reading fishing magazines like BASSMASTER, and by attending seminars and clinics.”

A Little About Forrest Wood

In his 47 years, Forrest L. Wood of Flippin, Arkansas, has done it all.

General contractor, fishing guide, boat dock operator, rancher, aircraft worker, construction worker and cotton picker. For the last 11 years, he’s enjoyed a niche in the bass fishing industries.

Two niches, really. In 1968, Wood founded, and now runs, Wood Manufacturing Co., Inc., which everyone, except Forrest Wood, insists on calling Ranger Boat Company, one of the most successful in bass boating history. Now enters Forrest Wood, the bass pro.

Despite his victory in 1969, as a member of the four-angler squad that took the first-and-only B.A.S.S. Team Tournament on Lake Eufaula, and despite his qualifying for the 1972 BASS Masters Classic®, there were some who didn’t take Forrest Wood-the-tournament-pro seriously.

“I thought he just fished these things to sell bass boats,” said the astonished observer, after Wood emerged as the second-day leader in the 1979 Kentucky Invitational BA.S.S. Tournament on Kentucky Lake.

If that were his sole motive, Wood missed an excellent opportunity to show the stuff of which his fishing machines are made.

On the third and final day of competition in Kentucky, Wood rode a tailwind into Barkley Reservoir, the other half of the “Twin Lakes,” from which he had hoisted 25-pounds 6-ounces worth of largemouths in two days of hard-blown fishing.

Like a minnow trap, though, the stiff north wind let Wood into Barkley, and down the lake, but wouldn’t let him come back up. Nor would it permit him to “flip” his jig-and-eel into the buck brush lining his favorite exposed bays.

With only a couple of hours of fishing remaining, Wood hadn’t boated a keeper, 14-inch bass. While other Ranger operators were singing the praises of their boats’ ability to take the pounding of slicing through eight-foot waves, Wood recognized that discretion is the better part of valor, parked his craft and hitch-hiked back to the tournament headquarters.

Wood finished sixth – about five notches below where he thought he should have ended up. But his time would come. It would come a month later, at the New York Invitational on the St. Lawrence River at Thousand Islands, New York.

Wood survived a head-to-head battle with Bobby Murray of Nashville, Tennessee, when the two veteran bass fishing professionals were matching each other’s three-pound small­mouths, 30 to 40 a day, in some of the hottest “bronzeback” fishing either had ever enjoyed.

In the end it was Wood, with an impressive catch of 47-pounds 3-ounces, the victor over Murray, with 46-pounds 6-ounces, for three days of five-fish limits.

Wood’s prize was more than $8,000 cash and one of his own bass boat rigs. (Better that he should win it than Murray, for what would Murray, who is vice president of Hydra-Sports Boats, do with a Ranger?).

It was a long, hard row for the one-time cotton picker, Forrest Wood.

His victory in New York, along with his sixth-place showing in Kentucky, have reestablished the bass boat builder as a contender.

In his lone previous venture in the BASS Masters Classic®, the 1972 world finals on Percy Priest Reservoir, Tennessee, Wood “rode drag” behind the posse of 23 of America’s best bass fishermen, finishing a dismal 24th with 2-pounds 3- ounces.

Wood, whose cowboy-hatted head is a permanent fixture on the B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail these days, won’t be so likely to take such a drumming on Texoma, during Classic IX.

He’s been there before. And now, he’s tasted the wine of success, and he likes it.

Back in Flippin, Arkansas, the employees of Ranger Boats started celebrating when Wood almost won the Kentucky Invitational.

“They just sort of continued celebrating after I won in New York, and it’s still going on,” Wood said a month later.

His company is keeping up its production despite the euphoria in Flippin. But, to be safe, if you want a bass boat any time before, say, Christmas, you’d better order now … just in case Wood wins the Classic.


 

PAUL ELIAS, Corbin, Kentucky

Age: 28

Born: May 19, 1951.

Height: 5-10

Weight: 150.

Family: Wife (Renee), one child.

AOY Ranking: 20th

BASS Club Member: Tri-County Bass Club

Occupation: Contractor.

College Attended: University of Southern Mississippi.

Largest Bass: 10-8 (Jan. 1972, Rodman Pool, Fla., Mann’s blue Jelly Worm).

Favorite Lures (in order): Martin’s Buzz Doctor, Martin’s worms, spinnerbaits, Rapala, crank baits.

Sponsor(s): Bass Hawk Boats.

Paul Elias ranked twentieth in the 1979 AOY Race.

Success Along B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: Elias qualified for the 1979 BASS Masters Classic® in his rookie outing. He won the 1979 Virginia Invitational B.A.S.S. Tournament on Lake Gaston.

Winnings In 1979: $14,294.

Tactics For Finding Bass On A New Lake: “I usually pick a creek off the main lake and try to catch fish on or near the surface, along the shoreline. If that fails, I move over the creek channel itself and work the drop-offs with a worm or crank bait. A fast-moving bait is better for finding fish.”

A Little About Paul Elias

Remember Joe Bzmpflt, the Al Capp cartoon character who could never shake the ominous black cloud that pursued him everywhere, raining misfortune upon him? Well, that’s Paul Elias of Corbin, Kentucky – right down to the full, curly beard.

Correction: That was Paul Elias, until April 27, 1979.

Meet the new Paul Elias. Bass catcher, tournament winner and qualifier for the ninth running of the BASS Masters Classic® on Lake Texoma.

Elias, 28, seemed destined for an aborted career as a tournament bass fisherman, until the third test of the year, the Virginia Invitational B.A.S.S. Tournament on Lake Gaston, Gasburg, Virginia.

If he were to achieve immortality in the annals of angling, it would be, it seemed, as founder of Elias’ Law: “If anything can happen to prevent you from placing in a bass tournament, it will.”

Elias, a building contractor and Christmas tree salesman from Corbin, Kentucky, says he lost enough bass to win the Florida Invitational on the St. Johns River, yet he finished 44th.

On Lake Powell, site of the Arizona Invitational the following month, March, Elias couldn’t draw a partner willing to run far enough to fish for the bass he had located up the Colorado River from tournament headquarters. He finished 46th.

“I know I could have done well in the Arizona tournament,” Elias says. “That’s the best bass lake in the country right now. Lake Powell is a bass fishing wonder. Fish can be caught from one foot to 50, on the same lure. It’s a place where the bass fishing can only be exceeded by the natural beauty of the surroundings.”

On Lake Gaston Elias suffered from a near-terminal case of “the dropsies,” a fisherman’s disease that causes him to lose well-hooked bass at the boat, for no apparent reason. He would have been a cinch to win the Virginia Invitational, had he been able to catch all the bass he hooked the first two days of competition. Yet, he was stuck out of the running – barring some miracle – for the $14,000 first prize.

Miracles do happen, especially in bass tournaments.

After all those fish he should have caught, but didn’t, Elias finally landed one that he shouldn’t have. A five pounder struck the Martin’s Buzzer and Elias fought it to the boat. When Elias’ partner stabbed with the net, and missed, the Kentucky angler resigned himself to another day of misfortune. He had, the night before, decided to give up his plan of fishing the rest of what would be his first full B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail.

But, when Elias’ partner snagged the buzzer’s hook with the net and was able to flop the fish into the bass boat. “I knew right then my luck had changed,” Elias recalls. For the better, of course. It could hardly get worse.

Elias weighed-in a total of 26-pounds 4-ounces, that day, but it was the five pounder he shouldn’t have caught that made the $10,000 difference between first place and second -and, as it happened – between qualifying as Contender No. 20 in the BASS Masters Classic® and pining away at home as the alternate to the world finals.

He has the knowledge of bass fishing to do better. To establish a fish-catching pattern, for example:

“I pick an area of the lake to fish, and begin casting a fairly fast-moving bait. If I’m lucky enough to catch a fish or two, I note the areas they have come from – whether it’s a stumpy, grassy, rocky area or whatever – and search for similar structure on another area of the lake which is as close as possible to where I’m fishing. If I can catch fish in a couple of similar areas, doing the same thing, then I feel that I have established a dependable pattern.

“It’s best to pick a creek off the main lake when searching for a pattern. I try to catch fish on or near the surface and shorelines, if I can, or go looking for ‘worm territory’ along creek channels and drop-offs. Those would be my second choices.”

Above all, says Paul Elias, “Maintain your confidence and concentration at all times, from the take-off to the check-in. Never give up until the last cast of the last day is completed.”

But isn’t it hard to maintain confidence and concentration when nothing seems to be going right? You bet it is. Ask the pros who couldn’t attend this year’s Classic.

For that matter, ask Paul Elias. Elias hasn’t been a threat to the top money-winners since the Virginia Invitational. His 35th ranking in Kentucky the month following Virginia, followed by 67th in New York and 126th in Arkansas, haven’t been impressive.

Maybe it’s time again for good fortune to visit Elias. Maybe Lake Texoma is the place. If it is, Classic contenders, beware.

Because Lady Luck owes Elias a jackpot.


 

RANDY FITE, Conroe, Texas

Age: 26

Born: Sept. 9, 1953

Height: 6-0

Weight: 185

Family: Wife (Kathy).

AOY Ranking: 21st

Occupation: Pro bass fisherman and guide on Lake Conroe, Texas.

College Attended: San Jacinto Junior College.

Largest Bass: 8-4 (Nov. 1977, Lake Conroe, Tex., pearl Mann-O-Lure).

Bass Fishing Frequency : 300 days a year.

Favorite Lures (in order): Worms, spinnerbaits, crank baits, buzz baits, spoons and grubs.

Sponsor(s): Glastron Boat Company.

Randy Fite ranked twenty-first in the 1979 AOY Race.

Success long B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: Randy Fite has qualified for the Classic in both years he’s competed on the B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail, 1978 and 1979. He holds the record for the highest winning weight under the daily seven­bass limit, 69-pounds, 11-ounces for 21 fish in winning the 1978 Alabama Invitational B.A.S.S. Tournament on West Point Reservoir. Fite finished second in the Kentucky Invitational in 1979.

Winnings In 1979: $3,682.50

Best Bass Lake: Toledo Bend, because it “is large enough to accommodate fishing pressure, and has every type of fishing conditions one could ever want. In March, use spinnerbaits around mossbeds. June, fish worms on main lake in 15 to 25-foot drops. November, fish buzz baits on edges of creek channels along mossbeds.”

A Little About Randy Fite

Randy Fite suffers from an affliction that might be called “shallow-hydrophobia.” That is, he’s afraid of shallow water.

A glance at the 26-year-old Conroe, Texas, bass fishing guide’s performance on the 1979 B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail illustrates the point: when and where the bass were deep, Randy Fite was high on the scoreboard.

He was 158th in Florida, 45th in Virginia and 105th in Arkansas, all tournaments where the biggest catches came from less than 10 feet of water. But the deep-water reservoirs yielded a different result.

Fite was eighth at Lake Powell, Arizona, 23rd on New York’s St. Lawrence River, and second at Kentucky Lake, Kentucky, clear and deep-water fishing holes all.

Where will Fite wind up in the 1979 BASS Masters Classic®?

Certainly better than he fared last year on the shallow, weedy Ross Barnett Reservoir in Mississippi, where Fite finished 20th among the 25 contenders. Texoma has an abundance of “fishy” water at Fite’s favorite depths, 15-40 feet.

And, if bass are occupying deep structure between Wednesday morning, September 26, and Friday afternoon, September 28, Randy Fite could be the one to beat. And, he could be unbeatable, as he was during the 1978 Alabama Invitational on West Point Reservoir.

That’s when Fite spotted two “honey holes” 25 to 35-feet deep, on his Lowrance chart recorder. He moved over them, alternately dropped six-inch plastic worms and 1/2-ounce Mann-O-Lure jigging spoons into the structure, and began to hoist up huge largemouths.

It was Fite’s finest hour. To qualify for the 1978 Classic in his debut year on the Tournament Trail, Fite had to accomplish one of two fantastic feats: catch more than 60 pounds of bass, or win. And, he did both, on his way to establishing a record of 69-pounds -ounces, for the heaviest winning stringer under the seven-fish limit rule.

That coup established Randy Fite’s reputation as one of the finest deep-water specialists in bass fishing today. If you don’t believe it, ask his “brother,” Rick Clunn of Montgomery, Texas.

Although they are actually first cousins, Clunn and Fite were reared together, and Rick’s father, Holmes Clunn, taught them both to fish. Piscatorial prowess must run in the family.

Fite could not have inherited, however, his uncanny ability to interpret the stylus scratchings of a chart recorder. “He reads a depthfinder like you read a book,” says one awe-struck partner of Fite’s after the Alabama tournament.

Fite will be pleased to know that for the first time, chart recorders are provided on the BASS Masters Classic® rigs each contender will be using. With the device, which etches the outline of the lake bottom, and any structure such as trees and boulders, onto graph paper, Fite has the ability to “spot” bass at 40-foot depths – and determine whether they’ll hit his bait.

“If the bass are positioned right on the structure, they are most likely to be feeding fish,” he says. “But if they are suspended out over the edge of the drop-off, or off the bottom, then they are going to be harder to catch.”

It’s a good deal more complicated than that simplistic explanation would indicate.

Before he starts looking for the inverted vees that represent bass on the charts, Fite must locate likely hideouts. Fortunately, he’s earned high marks in that category, too.

“Get the best maps available,” advises Fite, who reads topo maps the way Terry Bradshaw reads defensive secondaries. “Look for major creek channels and migration routes bass might use to and from the channels.

“Find out all the conditions – the water temperature, oxygen level, water clarity, existing and expected weather conditions – on the lake. And then, fish the pattern the conditions call for.”

Which pattern?

Fite would like that kept a secret until the awards banquet at the Tanglewood on Texoma resort September 28. But, if the fish are deep, in “Fite territory,” don’t go looking for Randy in the shallows.


 

DAVID WHARTON, Broaddus, Texas

Age: 29

Born: Feb. 10, 1950

Height: 6-0

Weight: 180

Family: Wife (Anne).

AOY Ranking: 22nd.

Occupation:  Bass Pro, fishing guide on Sam Rayburn Lake, Texas.

College Attended: Stephen F. Austin University, Texas.

Largest Bass: 8-12 (Feb. 1973, Sam Rayburn, TX, on chartreuse McCallum’s spinnerbait).

Bass Fishing Frequency: 300 days a year.

David Wharton ranked twenty-second in the 1979 AOY Race.

Favorite Lures:  (in order) Plastic worm, spinnerbait, deep-diving crankbait, Hopkins jigging spoon, plastic grub.

Sponsor(s): Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Sumners, Aurora, Missouri.

Success Along B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: This is Wharton’s first Classic, and his first B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail. He finished in the Top 40 in four of the six qualifying events this year, including an 11th place showing in the Florida Invitational.

Wharton’s Views On Bass Tournaments: “When people are critical of our bass tournaments, I explain that we release our fish alive so that many of them can be caught again. Any damage we might do to the overall bass population is easily offset by the information obtained for bass research done by conservation officers during the tournaments.”

A Little About David Wharton

If you want to find the best fishing guide on a bass lake, the surest way is to ask the guides themselves. Ask them:

“Who are the best two guides around?”

They’ll answer, “Me and So-and-so.” If the same so-and­so is mentioned several times, hire him.

Around Sam Rayburn Lake in Deep East Texas, the name you’ll hear mentioned most often is David Wharton, a 29-year­old bass fishing specialist.

Wharton’s appearance in the BASS Masters Classic® is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  For his years as a bass guide, he’s been hearing his neighbors say, “You’re a better fisherman than some of the pros on the money circuit.”  Wharton had no choice but to sign up for the six-contest B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail this year.

To be sure, Wharton is better than some of the tournament pros.  He finished 22nd among the 750 who participated this year, on far-ranging circuit that touched on no lake that remotely resembles the kind of deep, woody reservoir on which he’s most at home, Sam Rayburn. In fact, Lake Texoma, the site of the Classic shootout, is the closest thing – in construction and proximity – to Sam Rayburn, Wharton will have seen in 1979.

“I’m basically a deep-water structure fisherman, 15 to 25 feet,” he says. “I look for concentrations of fish, usually on the outside bends of main creek channels.

“I’ve learned that most tournaments are won by those who fish shallow for scattered fish, covering considerable amounts of water and picking up a fish here and a fish there,” adds Wharton. “So, yes, tournaments this year have changed my style of fishing.”

He’s had to adapt. He’s adapted so well that his best score for the year was on the St. Johns River in Florida, where fish were fairly shallow in the natural waterway. Wharton finished 11th in the Florida Invitational, which was won from weed beds in a shallow lake off the river system.

Wharton was 14th in the Kentucky Invitational on Kentucky Lake, when most fish were hitting spinnerbaits and worms in brushy coves.

The only tournament of the year in which fish were cooperative in deep water, the Arizona Invitational on Lake Powell, found Wharton able to muster only 50th place.

Wharton – who worked his way through college by guiding fishing parties, then, after graduation, decided he liked guiding better than anything else – is proof that persistence and consistency pay off.

He never placed in the top 10 during his debut on the Tournament Trail, but only twice was he out of the top 40. Respectable showings in each of the tournaments rewarded the young bass guide with a trip to Texoma, and a chance to put his deep-water Wharton bassin’ savvy to work.

Wharton says his main attribute is his awareness of things happening around him.

“The most common mistake novice fishermen make is failing to be observant,” he explains. “You have to look for bass moving in the shallows, or for frightened baitfish. A heron sitting in one area, or gulls diving into the water – all are indications of feeding bass that can be caught, whether you’re a pro or a beginner.”

To find likely hideouts for feeding fish, Wharton studies topographical maps the way he used to cram for college exams. “Get as much information about the lake as you can before you go fishing on it.

“Look for areas that are similar in depth and cover on which you’ve caught fish before, under the same seasonal and weather and water conditions. Creek channels, or flats close to creek channels are usually good places to begin,” he says.

Once he’s on the water, Wharton is methodical in establishing a fish-producing pattern.

“I fish until that first one is in the boat, then take a mental note of the water color, type of structure, lure, presentation and depth,” he says. “If I can find other places with a similar situation, and fish are there, then I’ll consider that a workable pattern. I think you have to repeat these steps to develop at least three patterns to combat lake level changes, weather changes and fishing pressure, if you’re going to be successful in national tournaments.”

David Wharton is the biggest thing to happen to Broaddus, Texas, since the ’77 high school basketball team. Or, perhaps even further back than that, since Marvin Baker, another top Sam Rayburn guide, who almost won the world finals back in 1975.

But now, Wharton faces the big test of his fledgling professional career, the BASS Masters Classic® in which any one of the 25 contenders could win – and ONLY ONE will.


 

PAUL CHAMBLEE, Raleigh, North Carolina

Age: 45

Born: January 5, 1934.

Height: 6-0

Weight: 175.

Family: Wife (Norma), three children.

AOY Ranking: 23rd

BASS Club Member: Wake County Bassmasters.

Occupation: Independent insurance agent.

Largest Bass: 12-4 (Feb. 1975, St. Johns River FL on Peck’s Silver Doctor).

Paul Chamblee ranked twenty-third in the 1979 AOY Race.

Bass Fishing Frequency: Weekends in spring and summer.

Favorite Lures (in order): Worms, spinnerbaits ‘ crank baits, spoons and grubs.

Sponsor(s): Skeeter boats, Daiwa reels Lowrance Electronics, Mercury Outboards, Roadmaster Trailers.

Success Along B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: This will be Chamblee’s sixth consecutive Classic. He was third in the 1975 Classic, and third in the 1977 BASS Champs Tournament. His best showing in 1979 was sixth in the Arkansas Invitational on Millwood Reservoir.

Winnings In 1979: $2,740.90

How To Find Bass On A Strange Lake: “Get the best topo map available, and spend most of your first day riding over the lake, making notes on the map of the different types of cover. Then, fish some of each type of cover, until you find which is holding fish. After that, you can refer to your map to find similar cover in other spots.”

A Little About Paul Chamblee

If Lloyd’s of London were in the business of insuring anglers’ chances of getting into the BASS Masters Classic®, Paul Chamblee would be a “preferred risk.”

The 45-year-old Raleigh, North Carolina, independent insurance agent has been fishing the professional B.A.S.S. circuit for six consecutive years – and he’s not missed a single Classic.

Six-for-six. Not a bad record for a confessed weekend angler who stows away his bass fishing “sticks” come fall, and heads for the woods and fields in pursuit of land-locked quarry.

Chamblee probably spends less time on the water each year than any other Classic contender. But the time he does spend fishing, he spends well.

Except during the six qualifying tournaments on the B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail, Chamblee shares his weekends with friends and fellow members of the Wake County Bassmasters, his local bass club.

Chamblee nearly “blew it” in 1979. With only one qualifying tournament remaining on the circuit, the 6-foot, 175- pound angler languished in 31st place in the Classic points roster. If he were to “bump” one of the 24 top-ranked contenders from a Classic berth, Chamblee knew he had to catch 12 pounds more of bass than the others in the Arkansas Invitational in July.

The New York Yankees faced no greater odds in their 1978 pennant race. The Yankees had hotshot pitcher Ron Guidry, and Chamblee knew he had to have a special weapon, too. Correctly predicting that Millwood Reservoir’s bass would be cooperative in shallow water and thick vegetation, Chamblee solicited some special spoons from Strike King.

His favorite is the new Timber Spin surface spoon that’s been issued since Bobby Murray won the $25,000 prize in the 1978 Classic with a Timber King spoon adorned with a Hildebrandt spinner. Just to make sure he could offer something Millwood’s largemouth hadn’t seen before, Chamblee had the Timber Spins painted in a deep purple pattern.

“A spoon is the best lure you can use through thick lily pads and moss like I was fishing,” he points out, “and I think they could see the purple better than other colors.”

Whatever, it worked. As the spoon sputtered through the thickest parts of the pad field, bass after bass ambushed it. By the end of the three competition days, Chamblee had checked in 14 bass weighing 32-pounds 3-ounces, and he claimed sixth­place money.

Significantly, though, Chamblee pulled into 23rd place in the 1979 Classic standings, and earned a special invitation from B.A.S.S. President Ray Scott to attend yet another world finals.

With his addiction to hunting, you’d think Chamblee wouldn’t know where to begin to find bass during mid­autumn, when the “Grand Finale” rolls around.

Think again. Chamblee very nearly won THE BIG ONE in October, 1975, the BASS Masters Classic® at Currituck Sound, North Carolina.

Chamblee had a four-pound lead over Eufaula, Alabama’s Tom Mann, and appeared destined to steam-roll his way to the championship in Classic V. But then, Currituck Sound – familiar stomping grounds of Chamblee’s – served up a double dose of inhospitable weather.

Gale-force winds left Chamblee awash and empty-handed, and he fell to third after the final day, seven pounds behind the winner, Jack Hains of Louisiana. Chamblee was sixth the following year, but he hasn’t shared in the Classic purse since then.

Perhaps this year’s Classic will be better to him. Paul Chamblee says he’s comfortable fishing any water depth, but his best assets are “the ability to read and understand lake maps,” and a knack for deciphering the flashes and etchings of electronic depth sounders and chart recorders.

Both electronic aids are invaluable for finding bass on structure, Chamblee says, particularly on a lake like Texoma.

“I would almost rather leave my rods at home than tackle a lake without a reliable depth recorder,” Chamblee has said.

Of course, Chamblee will be able to pack his quiver of bassin’ rods for the 1979 Classic, and he won’t have to sacrifice sonar equipment, either. The new BASS Masters Classic® rig features three new Humminbirds – two flashers and a chart recorder – to aid contenders in finding the best bassin’ holes.

If it’s important for Chamblee to “see” the bottom, he can do so – from anywhere in the boat.


 

RICKY GREEN, Arkadelphia, Arkansas

Age: 34

Born: Oct. 18, 1944

Height: 5-9

Weight: 170

Family: Wife (Bettye), two children.

AOY Ranking: 24th

Occupation: Bass pro (former chemical analyst).

College Attended: Henderson University, Arkansas.

Largest Bass: 8-12 (May 1975, Santee-Cooper, S.C., on nine-inch black Fleck worm).

Bass Fishing Frequency: 160 days a year.

Favorite Lures (in order): Mr. Mean spinnerbait, Rebel Shallow-R, Rebel Maxi-R, Rebel Ringworm, jig.

Sponsor(s): Berkley Trilene, Rebel Lures, Skeeter Boats, Silvertrol, Silvertrail trailers.

Success Along B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: Green is tied with Bill Dance for having qualified for the most consecutive Classics, eight. He is fifth in all-time B.A.S.S. winnings behind Dance, with $44,336.68, having taken first place in the 1974 Texas Invitational and the 1972 Rebel Invitational in Mississippi. Green’s highest finish in 1979 was 12th in the New York Invitational.

Ricky Green ranked twenty-fourth in the 1979 AOY Race.

Winnings In 1979: S2,576.50

Advice To Novices: “Be versatile. Learn to use all types of lures under all types of conditions. Learn to fish shallow and deep. Switch lure colors frequently. Learn to cast accurately, and master lure presentation. Position the boat close enough to the target to hit the spot you’re aiming for, but not so close that you spook the fish.”

A Little About Ricky Green

Not since Ricky Green of Arkadelphia, Arkansas, gave up security and a regular paycheck as a chemical analyst for Reynolds Aluminum, has the 34-year-old veteran pro had a frightful time on the Tournament Trail.

This is Ricky Green’s eighth consecutive BASS Masters Classic®, which is a brag-worthy accomplishment only one other angler, Bill Dance of Memphis, Tennessee, can claim.

But Green squeaked into Classic IX, only a hair and six ounces above former Bass Angler-of-the-Year Jimmy Houston of Cookson, Oklahoma.

A backward glance at his incredible bassin’ career shows Green to be a pillar in play-for-pay tournament circuits, a permanent fixture at the top of the Classic standings.

Beginning in 1972, Green was midway in the Classic­qualifying pack at No. 11. From his debut on the B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail that year, Green was 10th in 1973, 2nd in points behind Dance in 1974, 4th in 1975, 6th in 1976, 21st in 1977 and 3rd behind Roland Martin of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and Bobby Murray of Nashville, Tennessee, in last year’s Bass Angler-of-the-Year points race.

He’s won two tournaments, the 1974 Texas Invitational on Sam Rayburn Lake, Texas, and the 1972 Rebel Invitational on Ross Barnett Reservoir, Mississippi. And, he’s earned money in 41 of the 50 B.A.S.S. sponsored events he’s entered, including five of the six qualifying events for 1979.

So, why was it so close for the perennial point-earner this season? Why was Green only six ounces away from missing the Classic for the first time in eight years?

Green was wiped out “at home.” The end-of-the-trail Arkansas Invitational on Millwood Reservoir was nearly Green’s Waterloo.

Of 194 paid entrants in the July fish-off, Green finished 136, a performance he would like to forget.

“I haven’t fished this lake in years,” he said after a particularly poor competition day on Millwood. “I don’t like to fish it.”

Green was 13th in the point standings at that point, with 138-pounds 15-ounces. Millwood was not the lake on which he wanted to stake his bass fishing fortunes – not with hard­fishing pros like Dance, Rick C!unn of Montgomery, Texas, and Paul Chamblee of Raleigh, North Carolina, who were scrambling to climb aboard the last boat to Classic IX.

His 4-pounds 15-ounces, on Millwood were good enough – just barely – to keep him in the running.

But Green’s got one thing going for him. He’s a spinnerbait fisherman’s fisherman. And Lake Texoma, the ’79 Classic site, is a spinnerbait fisherman’s lake. At least it was a “safety pin” chunker’s heaven on September 24-26, 1975, the All-American Invitational on Lake Texoma.

John Pryor of Ardmore, Oklahoma, a school teacher who chunked a homemade, single-blade spinnerbait in the All­American, strung up three daily, 10-fish limits sagging the scales to 66-pounds 4-ounces.

Four years, to the day, from Pryor’s winning weigh-in, Green will be looking for “spinnerbait territory” on Texoma.

“Give Ricky Green a spinner bait and shallow-water structure, and he’s dynamite,” cautions one of his regular rivals.

If Green were turned loose on a strange lake and allowed to choose only one lure to take with him, it would be a “Mr. Mean” spinnerbait, blue and chartreuse, most likely.

Green, who likes to confine his fishing to five feet of water or less, says consistency in bass fishing depends on three factors: “how well you know the lake, your ability to eliminate fishless water, and your skill with a spinnerbait.”

John Pryor won the Texoma contest fishing the same type of cover Green says he prefers: “bends in the rivers, five to seven-feet deep, and flats, fallen logs and brush in two to three ­feet of water.”

What a difference four years can make, though. Green won’t know whether Texoma’s bass are in his favorite “patterns,” or hitting his favorite spinnerbait, until the end of the one-and-only practice round, September 25.

But, he’ll have a good idea. Ricky Green finished 18th in the 1975 All-American with a respectable 27-pounds 9-ounces.

The Arkansas BASSer won’t be the only Classic contender capitalizing on déjà vu, benefiting from having done well on Texoma before. Six of the other 24 Classic qualifiers placed in the money the last time B.A.S.S. visited the Texas-Oklahoma border impoundment.


 

JIMMY HOUSTON, Cookson, Oklahoma (1979 BASS Masters Classic Alternate)

Age: 35

Born: July 28, 1944.

Height: 5-9

Weight: 165.

Family: Wife (Chris), two children.

AOY Ranking: 25th (Alternate).

Occupation: Bass pro, host of “Bass Fishing America” television show.

College Attended: Northeastern University.

Largest Bass: Three over 10 pounds, released immediately.

Bass Fishing Frequency: 130 days a year.

Favorite Lures (in order): Strike King spinnerbait Natural Big-O, Red Fin, Timber King spoon, worm.

Sponsor(s): MonArk boats, Berkley Trilene, Strike King lures, Cordell lures.

Jimmy Houston ranked twenty-fifth in the 1979 AOY Race and was the Alternate.

Success Along B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: Jimmy Houston has qualified for three BASS Masters Classic® tournaments. (As the 25th ranked pro, Houston will attend the Classic only if some qualifier drops out.) Houston is one of only three B.A.S.S. pros to win Bass Angler-of-the-Year in the last nine years. He captured the title in 1976, when he finished eighth in the Classic. He was seventh in the 1978 Classic.

A Little About Jimmy Houston

Jimmy Houston is not a big bass fisherman.

And that’s the reason, he says, he wasn’t able to qualify for the BASS Masters Classic@ this year.

A point of clarification: the size of the angler isn’t im­portant. The size of the fish he catches is.

At 5-feet, 9-inches tall and 165 pounds, Jimmy Houston, 35, of Cookson, Oklahoma, has just as much chance of reaching THE BASS tournament of the year as anyone else, even towering Hank Parker (6-3, 220-pounds).

But the game of the hour isn’t BASSketball. It’s bass fishing. It’s fishing where happiness is a 14-incher.

“The new 14-inch minimum size limit has killed me,” complains Houston. “It has destroyed pattern fishing. Now, a guy has to try to catch as many fish as he can and hope for luck – luck is more important now than ever.”

Strong words. Especially for a former Bass Angler-of-the­Year.

But that’s his point. Since B.A.S.S. expanded the minimum size limit for weigh-in-worthy tournament fish from 12 to 14-inches in I 978, Houston’s fortunes have faded. He was a whirlwind on the 1975 and 1976 B.A.S.S. Tournament Trails, finishing third in Classic points standings in ’75, and first in ’76, when he became only the third person to win the prestigious title, Bass Angler-of-the-Year.

After the size limit was increased as a conservation measure, Houston fell to 22nd in the 1978 Classic points race. And this year, he is the 25th-ranked angler, the alternate pro qualifier for the 1979 Classic.

He finished only five ounces behind the 24th-place fisherman, Ricky Green of Arkadelphia, Arkansas. But those five ounces might as well have been a “ton.” Only twice in B.A.S.S. history has the alternate been able to attend the “Test-of-the­Best.” And, with $50,000 riding on this year’s Classic affair, there aren’t likely to be any dropouts.

Jimmy Houston is a shallow-water fisherman, which was a profitable thing to be when tournaments were won by those who were most adept at scouring shorelines and sacking up tournament limits of small-to-medium largemouths.

They called him “Fast Jimmy,” because of his ability to machine-gun a lake shore, twirling a spinnerbait past the noses of so many waiting bass.

The tournament cast-for-cash game changed, though, and Jimmy Houston, to this date, hasn’t. To win a B.A.S.S. contest now, the pro anglers must outwit numbers of harder-to-fool big bass. And, much of the time, that means fishing in deeper water.

Houston, perhaps, ought to resort to the game plan that served him well years ago, in the 1968 Eufaula, Alabama tournament.

“The first day, I found the fish bunched up on a brushy creek channel, about 22-feet deep,” he recalls. “There, I caught a 9-3, 10-8 and 8-4 on back-to-back casts. At the end of the first round, I was leading the tournament with 11 bass that weighed 52-pounds 6-ounces.

“On the second day, I didn’t do so well, then I really bombed out on the third day, and I finished sixth. That convinced me that deep water is no place to try to win a tournament,” he declares.

Perhaps he’s right. You have to pay attention when a professional of Jimmy Houston’s stature says something.

His past performances prove that you don’t have to think “deep” to be a stalwart on the Tournament Trail. But he should start thinking “big.”


 

DAVID BRIND, Geneva, New York

Age: 19

Born: August 13, 1960

Height: 5-11

Weight: 150

Family: Single

AOY Ranking: B.A.S.S. Club qualifier.

BASS Club Member: Barge Canal Bassmasters. Occupation: College student.

College Attended: Union College, Schenectady, New York.

Largest Bass: 5-8 (July 1979 on Cayuga Lake, N.Y., on Johnson spoon).

Bass Fishing Frequency: Daily, during season.

David Brind, age 19, qualified for the 1979 BASS Masters Classic through the B.A.S.S. Federation.

Favorite Lures (in order): Bush Hog spinnerbait, Rebel Ringworm, crank baits, Johnson spoons, grubs.

Success Along B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail: Brind qualified for his first Classic as the top angler on the winning team (New York) in the 1979 Bassmaster Chapter Championship Tournament on Lake of the Woods, Ontario. He has competed in the three New York Invitational B.A.S.S. Tournaments, placing 42nd in 1977 and 1978.

Common Mistakes Non-Pro Anglers Make: “They don’t think about what they’re doing. They don’t really analyze what all has happened when they’ve caught a fish. A fish can tell you where to find other fish, if you think about how, where and why you caught it.”

A Little About David Brind

Although he has qualified for the “Test-of-the-Best” bass fishermen, David Brind won’t “go pro” for at least another six years.

“First, I’ve got to think about school,” he says, admitting that the idea intrigues him. “I want to get my law degree first – something that’s a little more consistent than tournament bass fishing.

“It’s easier to win law suits than bass tournaments,” said the 19-year-old pre-law student at Union College in Schenectady, New York.

About 750 anglers who have competed on the professional B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail will attest to the fact that cast-for­cash contests are far from open and shut “cases.”

But after his six-year education program is completed, watch out for the “barrister basser.”

David Brind of Geneva, New York, who qualified for the 25th berth in the BASS Masters Classic® by catching the most pounds of bass on the New York Federation team in the just-ended Bassmaster Chapter Championship on Lake of the Woods, is awed, but not overwhelmed by the prospects of competing against the country’s top two dozen B.A.S.S. pros.

He’s done it before, each time B.A.S.S. has held a pro tournament in his state’s Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence River.

Brind had just celebrated his 17th birthday when he entered the New York Invitational at Alexandria Bay on the St. Lawrence River. It was to be an enriching experience.

“I fished with Loyd McEntire (of Indiana, a veteran pro) the first day, and caught 19-pounds 7-ounces, compared to his 13 pounds,” recalls Brind. But then, I drew Ricky Green and Bill Dance the next two days, and I just sat back and kind of watched those guys. They were incredible.”

And, helpful. He credits Green of Arkadelphia, Arkansas, and Dance of Memphis, Tennessee – who share the honor of having qualified for the most consecutive Classics (eight), including the 1979 fish-off – with teaching him how-to fish the plastic worm.

“Ricky Green told me I was using too large hooks. And Bill Dance kept saying to slow down and fish with confidence, says Brind. “That meant so much to me, because I sure have confidence now.”

Since that day three years ago, Brind has been a dedicated plastic worm fisherman, and a confident one.

Although he was, by a generation, the youngest to qualify for the New York “top six” B.A.S.S. Federation team, Brind moved quickly into the lead in the Bassmaster Team Championship on Lake of the Woods. His 17-pound 13-ounce, first­ day creel stood out among the “amateurs'” catches like a trophy muskie among two-pound bass. In fact, Brind had a trophy muskellunge – a 24 pounder that he caught on a 1/4-ounce spinnerbait and 12-pound monofilament that day.

A bitter cold front whipped through Sioux Narrows, up north, where Canadian air masses are born, and caused the Canadian bass to play a winning game of hide-and-seek – mostly hide.

But, Brind held on, catching 7-pounds – 10 ounces, the second day and 5-pounds 2-ounces, the final day of competition. He fell short, by a pound, of claiming the high individual angler title and the $5,000 Ranger bass boat, but, as Bnnd said when he first learned his total catch was second among the 204 B.A.S.S. Federation fishermen: “I don’t care about that. How did my team do?”

David Brind comes from a family of fishing fanatics.

“My mother taught me to bass fish initially, when I was five or six-years-old, then my father took over,” he remembers.

His parents continue to support his bassin’ habit.

After that first New York B.A.S.S. Tournament, when Brind placed only two slots out of the money, his folks decided he would need a good boat. So they bought what he considers “the best,” the $5,000 Ranger bass boat rig that was the prize Jim Rogers of Lamar, Missouri earned for winning the 1977 New York Invitational.

Most fishermen with a bass boat, Brind has learned, use it too much.

“People I see fishing sometimes fish only the shorelines, then they’re always running around, looking for fish. When they have a boat, they like to run it. That’s a mistake,” he advises.

“Scattered fish give me the most trouble on a lake,” Brind says. “I don’t like running around. If I think I can get a limit of fish in one area, I’ll stay there all day – even if it takes all day.

“I’ve been in the money almost every tournament I’ve fished this year, including a first and a second,” he adds. In both those tournaments, I won by staying right outside the weigh-in site. Everybody else went flying out, and I put my motor in reverse.”

That’s an old Bassmaster trick Bill Dance could have taught Brind: to fish the path of least competition. But Brind will be up against a slew of tricky old BASSers including Dance, in the world finals at Texoma.


 

In the next part of the series we’ll be looking at the 1979 BASS Masters Classic and how it ended up.  To read the prior parts of this series click here for Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.