In the last edition of Season at a Glance we looked at the second half of the 1980 BASS Master Trail finishing up with the first year where divisions were implemented in the series. Today, in 1980 BASS Champs, we’re going to take a look at the event that would decide the BASS Masters Classic field as well as the 1980 Angler of the year.
As discussed in the previous two parts of this story, lots of changes took place between the end of the 1979 season and the start of the 1980 season. First, the entire trail was broken into two divisions, East and West.
Second, divisional competition would decide the Classic qualifiers, allowing anglers to only fish one division to have a shot at the Big Show.
Third was the end of year BASS Champs event, which in the past had been a Pro vs. Federation event. This year Ray Scott changed it up completely and made it the last event for the season and pitted the Top 90 in the East and the Top 90 in the West against each other. Weights from this event would be added to the total weight over the regular-season divisional events and the Top-20 Classic qualifiers would be decided.
Fourth was the increase of the Classic Field from 24 anglers, as in the past, to 40 anglers. At the start it seems like there is a better chance to make the Classic, but we’ll leave that analysis for later.
Lastly, as in all prior years, the Angler of the year would be decided based on the angler who caught the most weight over all seven events. The Top-40 from the Angler of the Year race was NOT how the Classic field was chosen. This is going to be a stickler.
Before we get into the tournament report, let’s take a quick look at the standings going into the BASS Champs event. I have compiled the Top-50 in each Division for you to compare.
|Place||Angler, State||Weight, lbs-oz||Angler, State||Weight, lbs-oz|
|1||Larry Nixon, TX||100.4375||Larry Nixon, TX||91.875|
|2||Rick Clunn, TX||89.1875||Kevin Johnson, KS||89.6875|
|3||Bobby Murray, TN||85.75||Ricky Green, AR||81.5625|
|4||Randy Fite, TX||83.625||Villis Dowden, LA||75.0625|
|5||Tommy Chapman, NC||82.4375||Bill O'Connor, FL||73.875|
|6||Jon Hall, VA||75.0625||Harold Allen, TX||73.6875|
|7||Roland Martin, OK||73||Roland Martin, OK||71.25|
|8||Corbin Dyer, KY||72.4375||H J Stevens, AR||68.4375|
|9||Stephen Goodwin, NC||68.75||J W Cheatham, AR||66.125|
|10||John Powell, AL||68.25||Kenneth Walker, TX||65.25|
|11||Bill Ward, MO||68.0625||Guido Hibdon, MO||63.5625|
|12||Jack Westberry, FL||65.8125||Marvin Baker, TX||62.0625|
|13||Thomas Martin, TX||65.625||Robert Hale, LA||59.5625|
|14||Paul Chapple, AL||65.4375||Hank Parker, NC||58.625|
|15||Marvin Baker, TX||65.25||Jimmy Houston, OK||56.8125|
|16||Neal Parker, KY||63.75||David Wharton, TX||55.5625|
|17||David Gliebe, LA||62.875||Ron Shearer, KY||55.25|
|18||Guy Eaker, NC||62.3125||Chet Douthit, MO||54.5625|
|19||John Rogers, GA||61.125||Ron Williams, MO||54.0625|
|20||Zell Rowland, TX||60.75||Bob Laroux, LA||51.6875|
|21||Steven Mitchell, GA||60.125||William Vanover, MO||50.6875|
|22||Bobby Ditto, FL||59.75||Charles Campbell, MO||49.625|
|23||Basil Bacon, MO||59.6875||J B Warren, AR||49.25|
|24||Glenn Crawford, FL||58.9375||Rayborn Waits, TX||48.375|
|25||Greg Ward, MO||58.125||Harold Micek, IN||48.3125|
|26||Joe Wagoner, NC||57.5625||David Johnson, KS||48|
|27||Bill Dance, TN||57.3125||Carl Whitten, AR||46.875|
|28||Tom Mann, AL||57.3125||Orlando Wilson, GA||46.25|
|29||Rayo Breckenridge, AR||56.8125||Dave Hill, KY||46.125|
|30||Donald Forman, VA||56.3125||Kenneth Pine, IN||44.875|
|31||Villis Dowden, LA||55.5625||George Bowman, AR||44.0625|
|32||Jerry Brown, LA||55.1875||Gary Klein, CA||43.9375|
|33||Charles Campbell, MO||55||Milton Wiley, MS||43.6875|
|34||Jimmy Rogers, FL||54.9375||Donald Ham, MO||43.5|
|35||Gary Klein, CA||54.6875||Randy Behringer, TX||43.5|
|36||Shorty Evans, MO||53.6875||Cliff Craft, GA||41.6875|
|37||Jimmy Houston, OK||51.9375||Joe Henderson, MO||41.3125|
|38||Gary Wade, NC||51.25||Bobby Murray, TN||41.1875|
|39||Claude Kennedy, FL||51||Don Doty, CA||40.5625|
|40||William Thompson, FL||50.625||Basil Bacon, MO||39.875|
|41||Paul Elias, KY||49.6875||Richard Crouch, MO||39.5625|
|42||Stanley Mitchell, AL||49.375||Tommy Batterton, MO||38.5625|
|43||Donald Hilderbrand, VA||49.125||Jon Hall, VA||38.4375|
|44||James Marsh, AL||49||Charles Howser,||37.625|
|45||Roy Armstrong, NC||48.4375||Erwin Cole, TN||37.375|
|46||Thurston Hall, GA||48.3125||Sherman Shelby,||36.75|
|47||Morris Freeman,||47.625||Greg Ward, MO||36.4375|
|48||Richard Stocks, AL||47.125||Charlie Conkle, IN||36.1875|
|49||Hank Parker, NC||46.9375||John Dean||36|
|50||Jerry Rhyne, NC||46.875||Denny Brauer, NE||35.875|
Looking at the table a couple things stand out. First off, Larry Nixon, who is going back to the Elites this year, was killing it in both divisions. Looking at it from an Angler of the year point of view, Nixon had an almost merciless lead on Roland Martin, 192-05 to Martin’s 144-04, or 48-pounds, 1-ounce. Nixon could have probably stayed home for the event except for the fact BASS Champs was going to be held on Guntersville.
Looking at the standings from a who’s who, we can see that a lot of the typical names were still at the top, with a few newcomers. But some of the names not in the Top-20 may surprise you. Names like Basil Bacon, Greg Ward, Bill Dance, Gary Klein, Jimmy Houston, and even Rick Clunn were not in the top of both lists. In fact, Bill Dance was in the 106th spot in the Western Division and 27th in the East.
To be a contender for the 1980 Classic, it looked as if you had to be in the Top-25 going into this event or have an exceptional tournament.
Let’s get to the tournament report.
BASS CHAMPS – Guntersville Grass
This event had all the hallmarks of being a blowout for all the field. By 1980, anglers had figured out the flipping technique and anyone with the long rod in their hand was loading the boat with five-pounders. But, as with any tournament, things change between practice and the competition days.
This time, though, it wasn’t mother nature who threw the wrench – it was the state of Alabama and their weed eradicating practices that killed half the competition.
Milfoil was the pattern of choice for anglers seeking the bigger fish. The thickest milfoil they could find. Ron Shearer took advantage of the grass and put up the biggest 7-bass limit of the year on the first day, a 30-15 bag. Behind Shearer was basil bacon and rounding out the top three was Randy Fite with 25-10. But these big bags didn’t come for all anglers the first day and it just got worst as the event went on.
The state continued pounding the weed beds with aerial spraying and what was a hot area that morning became a ghost town by afternoon or the next day. Fite, who weighed a big bag the first day couldn’t find a keep the second or third day. Shearer, who had the 30-pound sack on day one could only muster 12-15 in the final two rounds.
But the chemicals didn’t just shut the bite down. Anglers who caught fish in the contaminated water had a heck of a time keeping them alive for weigh-in.
An unfortunate example of this was played out in Richard Stocks boat. Stocks brought a limit back to the scales on the last day that weighed 23-11. Unfortunately every one of them succumbed to the chemicals and died. The 14-ounce penalty would rob him of the 1st-place finish and over $8,000 in cash and prizes.
Basil Bacon, on the other hand, had found an area that hadn’t been targeted by the state weed killers. Over the course of three days, Bacon amassed 14 fish that pulled the scales down to 53-10, good enough for 1st place. In second place was Richard Stocks with 53-09 (15 fish), one ounce shy of Bacon. In third place was James Bryant with 45-06 (18 fish), Cliff Craft weighed in 45-02 (15 fish) for fourth place, and Jimmy Rogers rounded out the Top-5 with 44-14 (9 fish).
Bacon’s win was serendipitous due to the fact that the last time he’d fished Guntersville, the 1976 BASS Masters Classic, he decided then and there he’d have to learn to flip. Bacon started picking Dave Gliebe’s ear on the technique and went on to win a number of lower-tier events in the Midwest and came in second place at the 1979 BASS Master Classic on Lake Texoma using the technique.
A curiosity of this event was the mention of an angler from Zimbabwe. No name was given but in recounting the number of contestants, there appears that 182 anglers fish the event, not 180 as reported in the tournament report.
I have been going under the assumption that this event was held to pit the Top-90 anglers from each division against each other in order to decide the Classic qualifiers. This throws a bit of a twist into that thought. Were two anglers invited to fish from Africa? It’s about the time Ray Scott was going down there to help set up the Federation. If you have any idea, please let me know.
Below is the Top-40 from the event as well as the complete Box Score.
|1||Basil Bacon, MO||14/12||53-10||$10,500*|
|2||Richard Stocks, AL||15/4||53-09||$2,026|
|3||James Bryant, AL||18/9||45-06||$1,530|
|4||Cliff Craft, GA||15/13||45-02||$1,282|
|5||Jimmy Rogers, FL||9/6||44-14||$860|
|6||Ron Shearer, KY||11/9||43-14||$823|
|7||George Bowman, AR||10/10||43-11||$765|
|8||Jimmy Houston, OK||12/11||39-01||$707|
|9||Dick Gregory, VA||10/4||35-00||$670|
|10||Rick Clunn, TX||10/7||34-12||$612|
|11||Don Doty, CA||7/6||31-03||$554|
|12||Forrest Wood, AR||8/8||29-10||$554|
|13||Jerry Brown, LA||10/9||29-07||$554|
|14||Woo daves, VA||7/7||28-09||$554|
|15||Don Snider, AL||10/10||27-03||$554|
|16||Paul Chamblee, NC||11/6||27-00||$517|
|18||Marvin Baker, TX||9/8||25-11||$517|
|19||Randy Fite, TX||6/4||25-10||$517|
|20||Tommy Martin, TX||7/7||25-09||$517|
|21||Hank Parker, NC||8/7||24-03||$459|
|22||David Johnson, KS||6/5||23-03||$459|
|23||David Wharton, TX||8/8||22-15||$459|
|24||Charlie Campbell, MO||7/7||22-11||$459|
|25||Gary Wade, NC||8/8||22-00||$459|
|26||Bo Dowden, LA||6/5||21-13||$401|
|27||Guy Eaker, NC||7/6||21-07||$401|
|28||H. J. Stevens, AR||8/8||21-03||$401|
|29||O. B. Wilborn, AL||4/2||19-09||$372|
|30||Vondell Farmer, AL||6/6||18-11||$372|
|31||Gary Alverson, GA||5/2||18-09||$306|
|32||Robert Hale, LA||4/3||18-00||$306|
|33||Zell Rowland, TX||7/6||17-12||$306|
|34||J. W. Lynn, AL||5/3||17-04||$306|
|35||Rayburn Waits, TX||4/3||16-05||$306|
|36||Tony Sampson, AL||7/7||16-03||$306|
|37||Gary Klein, CA||6/6||15-15||$248|
|38||Bob Holmes, AL||5/3||15-14||$248|
|39||Bill O'Connor, FL||5/5||15-12||$248|
|40||Gary Utt, TN||4/2||15-11||$248|
|Jimmy Rogers, FL||8-14||$5,000*|
|Chet Douthit, MO||8-06||$850|
|Ron Shearer, KY||7-08||$350|
Two bonus points were awarded for each live fish. Winner Award consisted of $5,000 Cash and a $5,500 Ranger Boat. Overall Big Fish Award was $5,000 Ranger Boat Rigged with trailer, Humminbird Super Sixty flasher, and Motor-Guide trolling motor.
Looking at the standings for East and West Divisions after the event, the standings shifted quite a bit. Larry Nixon is no longer leading each division, Clunn ended up in the lead of the East and newcomer Kevin Johnson took the Western Division. See the table below.
|Place||Angler, State||Weight, lbs||Place||Angler, State||Weight, lbs|
|1||Rick Clunn, TX||123.9375||1||Kevin Johnson, KS||102.5|
|2||Basil Bacon, MO||113.3125||2||Ron Shearer, KY||99.125|
|3||Randy Fite, TX||109.25||3||Larry Nixon, TX||98.625|
|(Larry Nixon, TX - Qualified Through West)||107.1875||4||Villis Dowden, LA||96.875|
|4||Richard Stocks, AL||100.6875||5||Jimmy Houston, OK||95.875|
|5||Jimmy Rogers, FL||99.8125||(Basil Bacon, MO - Qualified Through East)||93.5|
|6||Bobby Murray, TN||97.125||6||Ricky Green, AR||91.3125|
|7||Thomas Martin, TX||91.1875||7||Bill O'Connor, FL||89.625|
|(Jimmy Houston, OK - Qualified Through West)||91||8||H J Stevens, AR||89.625|
|8||Marvin Baker, TX||90.9375||9||Harold Allen, TX||89.3125|
|9||Tommy Chapman, NC||87.5625||(Richard Stocks, AL - Qualified Through East)||87.875|
|10||Cliff Craft, GA||86.125||10||George Bowman, AR||87.75|
|11||Jerry Brown, LA||84.625||(Marvin Baker, TX - Qualified Through east)||87.75|
|(Ron Shearer, KY - Qualified Through West)||83.9375||(Cliff Craft, GA - Qualified Through East)||86.8125|
|12||Jon Hall, VA||83.875||11||Hank Parker, NC||82.8125|
|13||Guy Eaker, NC||83.75||12||Chet Douthit, MO||80.625|
|14||Corbin Dyer, KY||81.3125||13||David Wharton, TX||78.5|
|15||Paul Chapple, AL||79.1875||14||Kenneth Walker, TX||78.125|
|16||Zell Rowland, TX||78.5||15||Robert Hale, LA||77.5625|
|17||Charles Campbell, MO||77.6875||16||J W Cheatham, AR||75.5|
|(Villis Dowden, LA - Qualified Through West)||77.375||17||Roland Martin, OK||75.4375|
|(Roland Martin, OK - Qualified Through West)||77.1875||(Charles Campbell, MO - Qualified Through East)||72.3125|
|18||John Powell, AL||76.1875||18||Don Doty, CA||71.75|
|(Don Doty, CA - Qualified Through West)||74.875||19||David Johnson, KS||71.1875|
|19||Bill Ward, MO||74.625||20||Guido Hibdon, MO||70.3125|
|20||Jack Westberry, FL||74||(Rick Clunn, TX - Qualified Through East)||67.81|
|21||John Rogers, GA ALTERNATE||73.8125||21||Dick Gregory, VA ALTERNATE||66.4375|
Among the newcomers is a name I bet no one knows, that of Don Doty. Doty hailed from Santa Ana, CA and was a pretty big deal on the western trails. He would also come into the tackle store I worked at frequently to buy tackle and shoot the breeze. In this year, Doty’s first and only year on the BASS Master Trail, he qualified for the Classic in both Divisions. That may seem plausible, but the deal is he did this as a non-boater the entire season. He would leave California on a plane in time to make practice, hook up with someone to practice with, and then fish the event. He is the only angler I or Harold Sharp ever knew to do this.
Doty would go on to buy Western Bass Fishing Association a year later and then hold the first U.S. Open in 1981.
The angler of the year race had some sad anglers after all was said and done. The race was a blowout by Nixon, who won by more than 42 pounds, but that wasn’t the problem. In years past the Classic qualifiers were chosen by the overall AOY standings for all events combined. This year that wasn’t the case. To look at who missed the Classic I’ve included the Top-50 in the AOY race. Look at the names who didn’t make the Classic. Gary Klein, Greg Ward, Dave Gliebe, Rayo Breckenridge, Bill Dance, Paul Elias, Tom Mann, Forrest Wood, Zell Rowland, and Jerry Rhyne. That’s a list of superstars. Se the table presented below.