In this installment of Season at a Glance: 1979 BASS Masters Classic, we’re going to look into the actual event and see how it all went down. This event would become known as the event that would firmly cement the flipping concept into the annals of bass fishing. Prior to this event, there were a number of pros doing it on tour, but for the weekend angler, even some of the tour pros, it was just some western technique that no one paid much attention to.
Lake Texoma and the 1979 Bass Masters Classic would change that forever.
Texoma is an 89,000-acre impoundment on the Texas/Oklahoma border created by damming the Red and Washita rivers. The lake was known to be a tough nut to crack, but none of the 25 anglers who qualified for the 9th BASS Masters Classic thought it would be this tough.
One of those anglers was J. B. Warren of Arkansas, who after the practice day said he could have weighed in 20 pounds. Gary Klein, the rookie Classic contender also felt confident in what he’d found. But the rest of the 23 anglers weren’t so sure. In fact, many of them hadn’t even gotten a tap in eight hours of practice.
Not only is Texoma a huge lake, but its shoreline is also concentrated with brush and the water is clear. The lake was also known to receive a ton of angling pressure, which contributed to its tough bite.
During the tournament week, the water was dropping and coupled with the clear water, this put the fish in an even bigger state of lockjaw. Anglers who thought they could just pick up a spinnerbait and cover water would be in for a big surprise.
As the anglers began to roll into weigh-in at Loes Highport Marina, it became apparent to all that Texoma was winning the competition. Nine of the 25 anglers blanked including 1973 and 1974 BASS Masters Classic winners Rayo Breckenridge and Tommy Martin. Other stalwarts on the Trail who blanked were Basil Bacon, Greg Ward, and J.B. Warren, who just the day before said he could have weighed in 20 pounds. David Brind, who won the B.A.S.S. Federation Championship only weeks before also blanked.
But, as usually happens in any event, no matter how tough it is, someone finds the key to the treasure chest. This time it was Forrest Wood. Unfortunately, Wood gave the key away before he realized he even had it.
In the morning of the first day of competition, Hank Parker ran into Forrest Wood. They compared notes and Wood told Parker he’d caught a couple fish flipping the brush. Parker hadn’t caught anything slinging his favorite white spinnerbait and put the information in the back of his mind.
Parker then “fished an incredible area and didn’t get a bite on the blade. I thought to myself, ‘they had to be there.’ I went back and flipped the same area I’d just gone through and caught three fish on four flips. I had 11 or 12 pounds which was amazing for Texoma at the time.
“By 10:30 in the morning I had 16 pounds and left it alone. In the process I’d also broken my only flipping stick, a prototype that I was testing and had to switch to a 6-foot pistol-grip rod. I caught a couple fish using that rod but it was by no means the right equipment.
“After the weigh-in, I went to Harold Sharp and asked him if I could get another rod. Back in those days, you were given a weight limit on tackle and a limit on the number of rods you could use. Because I had brought a flipping stick with me, Harold decided it would be okay if I went out and got another rod. Back then, though, you couldn’t find a flipping stick at most tackle shops.”
Parker went to one of the only guys he knew at the Classic who would have extra Flippin’ Stiks, Gary Klein. Klein loaned him what would turn out to be the second key to the treasure chest.
This is where the story takes a turn.
In the February 1980 issue of Bassmaster Magazine, Steve Price wrote two pieces on the Texoma Classic. The first was the tournament coverage and the second more about the Flippin’ technique. In the tournament report, Price wrote that Parker hadn’t come with a Flippin Stik because it wouldn’t fit in his rod tube. The story above, which I got in an interview with Parker in 2012, is completely different.
In any event, Parker brought in 16-10 to the scales the first day and was in the lead. Gary Klein, who again loaned Parker the Flippin’ Stik, weighed in five bass for 10-11 and the second spot. Forrest Wood caught 9-02 worth of bass for the third position and Roland Martin and Rick Clunn finished out the top-5 with 8-10 and 8-06 respectively.
Klein, who didn’t fish his practice water at all the first day, still felt he could win the event with what he’d found in both practice and on the first day.
Big fish for the day went to Ricky Green who caught a 6-09. That fish helped put him in the 7th place spot at the end of day one. Rick Clunn also caught a 6-05 on a Lunker Lure. Imagine that.
Day Two was just as tough, if not tougher than the first day. Parker was able to bring another five fish to the weigh-in for 11-15, which gave him a two-day weight of 28-09. Roland Martin jumped from fourth place on day one to second place on day two with three more fish for 8-10, which gave him 17-04 total.
Gary Klein was able to bring in 5-13, giving him a total of 16-08 for third spot, while Rick Clunn and Forrest Wood brough in 8-01 and 6-12 to increase their bags to 16-07 and 15-14 respectively.
But it was Basil Bacon was the star of the second day. Bacon, who blanked the first day, brought in five bass for 13-14 and took up the 6th place spot in the standings. Bacon said he was flippin and that he was on a solid pattern. He also said he’d lost just as many big fish as he’d weighed.
At the end of weigh-in at any Classic, there is always a press conference. It’s a necessary evil each top angler must participate in, so the press is able to write their columns for their respective papers or magazines. The conferences are much like an FBI interrogation with writers firing off pointed questions and anglers trying to deflect them. The Day Two press conference was nothing like that.
To start off, Parker essentially spilled his whole plan. He was flipping in Big Mineral Creek with a 6-inch Mann’s Motor Oil Jelly worm along brushy banks. With that, the flood gates opened.
Roland Martin confirmed he too was flipping as did Klein, Bacon and Wood.
The final day of Classic IX would be a stomach-turning, nail-biting affair for not only the anglers, but the fans in general. Would Parker be able to hold on to his 10-pound lead or would he relinquish it to any of the anglers behind him.
As it turned out, Parker only weighed one fish on the final day. But Basil Bacon, as he stated was on a solid pattern, one he’d picked up on day two after blanking the first day. Bacon wooed the crowd with his 14-02 sack, bringing his total to 28-00.
Roland Martin, who was in second place going into the final day was only able to boat one fish the last day and it brough his total to 19-09. Rick Clunn brought three to the scales and added 7-05 to his eight for a total of 23-12.
Gary Klein brought in four bass for 7-03 bringing his total to 23-11.
Although Parker was only able to boat one keeper, a 2-07, it and his 10-pound lead were enough to hold off all comers for the win. Parker ended up weighing 12 fish over three days for 31-00.
Tommy Martin ended up weighing the day’s big bag with six fish that almost went 15 pounds. If not for his day one blank, he may have had a shot. Tommy Martin ended up in the 7th spot after the scales cleared.
When I talked with Parker back in 2012 about his win, he had this to say about Gary Klein and the rod that eventually won him his first Classic.
“I knew Gary [Klein] had a few so I went and asked him if I could borrow one of his. He said yes and that’s what helped me win. Gary really came to my rescue. I really doubt I could have won it if I had to fish that 6-foot rod.”
Big fish for the event went to Bill Dance, who weighed in a 6-12 brute on the last day. That one fish accounted for nearly 40% of his total weight over three days and he went from 13th place to 8th place.
Below is the final Box Score from Classic IX. It’s a bit shorter than previous Box Scores in that Daily Big Fish winners were not reported.
|Hank Parker, SC|
|Basil Bacon, MO|
|Rick Clunn, TX|
|Gary Klein, CA|
|Ricky Green, AR|
|Roland Martin, OK|
|Tommy Martin, TX|
|Bill Dance, TN|
|Forrest Wood, AR|
|Dave Gliebe, CA|
|Sonny Viola, LA|
|David Wharton, TX|
|J. B. Warren, AR|
|Fred Ward, AZ|
|Paul Elias, KY|
|Larry Nixon, TX|
|Gary Alverson, GA|
|Rayo Breckenridge, AR|
|Paul Chamblee, NC|
|Bobby Murray, TN|
|Jake Crutchfield, OK|
|Randy Fite, TX|
|Greg Ward, MO|
|David Brind, NY|
|Woo Daves, VA|
|Bill Dance, TN|
This is the final Season at a Glance for the 1979 Bassmaster Trail season. If you’d like to read the earlier reports, Here are the links: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four.