The 1980 BASS Champs Boat was manufactured by SKEETER Boats and aptly named the BASS Champ. These boats were used in the BASS Champs event and sold after the event, much like the BASS Master Classic boats of the time. Photo September/October 1980 issue of Bassmaster magazine.

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.

1980 BASS Master Eastern and Western Divisions Standings After Three Events
PlaceAngler, StateWeight, lbs-ozAngler, StateWeight, lbs-oz
1Larry Nixon, TX100.4375Larry Nixon, TX91.875
2Rick Clunn, TX89.1875Kevin Johnson, KS89.6875
3Bobby Murray, TN85.75Ricky Green, AR81.5625
4Randy Fite, TX83.625Villis Dowden, LA75.0625
5Tommy Chapman, NC82.4375Bill O'Connor, FL73.875
6Jon Hall, VA75.0625Harold Allen, TX73.6875
7Roland Martin, OK73Roland Martin, OK71.25
8Corbin Dyer, KY72.4375H J Stevens, AR68.4375
9Stephen Goodwin, NC68.75J W Cheatham, AR66.125
10John Powell, AL68.25Kenneth Walker, TX65.25
11Bill Ward, MO68.0625Guido Hibdon, MO63.5625
12Jack Westberry, FL65.8125Marvin Baker, TX62.0625
13Thomas Martin, TX65.625Robert Hale, LA59.5625
14Paul Chapple, AL65.4375Hank Parker, NC58.625
15Marvin Baker, TX65.25Jimmy Houston, OK56.8125
16Neal Parker, KY63.75David Wharton, TX55.5625
17David Gliebe, LA62.875Ron Shearer, KY55.25
18Guy Eaker, NC62.3125Chet Douthit, MO54.5625
19John Rogers, GA61.125Ron Williams, MO54.0625
20Zell Rowland, TX60.75Bob Laroux, LA51.6875
21Steven Mitchell, GA60.125William Vanover, MO50.6875
22Bobby Ditto, FL59.75Charles Campbell, MO49.625
23Basil Bacon, MO59.6875J B Warren, AR49.25
24Glenn Crawford, FL58.9375Rayborn Waits, TX48.375
25Greg Ward, MO58.125Harold Micek, IN48.3125
26Joe Wagoner, NC57.5625David Johnson, KS48
27Bill Dance, TN57.3125Carl Whitten, AR46.875
28Tom Mann, AL57.3125Orlando Wilson, GA46.25
29Rayo Breckenridge, AR56.8125Dave Hill, KY46.125
30Donald Forman, VA56.3125Kenneth Pine, IN44.875
31Villis Dowden, LA55.5625George Bowman, AR44.0625
32Jerry Brown, LA55.1875Gary Klein, CA43.9375
33Charles Campbell, MO55Milton Wiley, MS43.6875
34Jimmy Rogers, FL54.9375Donald Ham, MO43.5
35Gary Klein, CA54.6875Randy Behringer, TX43.5
36Shorty Evans, MO53.6875Cliff Craft, GA41.6875
37Jimmy Houston, OK51.9375Joe Henderson, MO41.3125
38Gary Wade, NC51.25Bobby Murray, TN41.1875
39Claude Kennedy, FL51Don Doty, CA40.5625
40William Thompson, FL50.625Basil Bacon, MO39.875
41Paul Elias, KY49.6875Richard Crouch, MO39.5625
42Stanley Mitchell, AL49.375Tommy Batterton, MO38.5625
43Donald Hilderbrand, VA49.125Jon Hall, VA38.4375
44James Marsh, AL49Charles Howser,37.625
45Roy Armstrong, NC48.4375Erwin Cole, TN37.375
46Thurston Hall, GA48.3125Sherman Shelby,36.75
47Morris Freeman,47.625Greg Ward, MO36.4375
48Richard Stocks, AL47.125Charlie Conkle, IN36.1875
49Hank Parker, NC46.9375John Dean36
50Jerry Rhyne, NC46.875Denny Brauer, NE35.875

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.

1980 BASS Champs Tournament Patch courtesy of Jeff Haines.

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.

Bass Master BASS Champs Lake Guntersville Scorecard – July 23-25, 1980
Angler, State
Weight, lbs-ozs
1Basil Bacon, MO14/1253-10$10,500*
2Richard Stocks, AL15/453-09$2,026
3James Bryant, AL18/945-06$1,530
4Cliff Craft, GA15/1345-02$1,282
5Jimmy Rogers, FL9/644-14$860
6Ron Shearer, KY11/943-14$823
7George Bowman, AR10/1043-11$765
8Jimmy Houston, OK12/1139-01$707
9Dick Gregory, VA10/435-00$670
10Rick Clunn, TX10/734-12$612
11Don Doty, CA7/631-03$554
12Forrest Wood, AR8/829-10$554
13Jerry Brown, LA10/929-07$554
14Woo daves, VA7/728-09$554
15Don Snider, AL10/1027-03$554
16Paul Chamblee, NC11/627-00$517
17Chet Douthit6/526-01$517
18Marvin Baker, TX9/825-11$517
19Randy Fite, TX6/425-10$517
20Tommy Martin, TX7/725-09$517
21Hank Parker, NC8/724-03$459
22David Johnson, KS6/523-03$459
23David Wharton, TX8/822-15$459
24Charlie Campbell, MO7/722-11$459
25Gary Wade, NC8/822-00$459
26Bo Dowden, LA6/521-13$401
27Guy Eaker, NC7/621-07$401
28H. J. Stevens, AR8/821-03$401
29O. B. Wilborn, AL4/219-09$372
30Vondell Farmer, AL6/618-11$372
31Gary Alverson, GA5/218-09$306
32Robert Hale, LA4/318-00$306
33Zell Rowland, TX7/617-12$306
34J. W. Lynn, AL5/317-04$306
35Rayburn Waits, TX4/316-05$306
36Tony Sampson, AL7/716-03$306
37Gary Klein, CA6/615-15$248
38Bob Holmes, AL5/315-14$248
39Bill O'Connor, FL5/515-12$248
40Gary Utt, TN4/215-11$248
Daily Lunker Leaders
Angler, State
Weight, lbs-ozs
Jimmy Rogers, FL8-14$5,000*
Chet Douthit, MO8-06$850
Ron Shearer, KY7-08$350
The Box Score
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Total Weight, lbs-ozs
Bass Weighed-in
5-Bass Limits
Bass Alive Weighed-in
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.



1980 BASS Master Eastern and Western Divisions Standings After BASS Champs
PlaceAngler, StateWeight, lbsPlaceAngler, StateWeight, lbs
1Rick Clunn, TX123.93751Kevin Johnson, KS102.5
2Basil Bacon, MO113.31252Ron Shearer, KY99.125
3Randy Fite, TX109.253Larry Nixon, TX98.625
(Larry Nixon, TX - Qualified Through West)107.18754Villis Dowden, LA96.875
4Richard Stocks, AL100.68755Jimmy Houston, OK95.875
5Jimmy Rogers, FL99.8125(Basil Bacon, MO - Qualified Through East)93.5
6Bobby Murray, TN97.1256Ricky Green, AR91.3125
7Thomas Martin, TX91.18757Bill O'Connor, FL89.625
(Jimmy Houston, OK - Qualified Through West)918H J Stevens, AR89.625
8Marvin Baker, TX90.93759Harold Allen, TX89.3125
9Tommy Chapman, NC87.5625(Richard Stocks, AL - Qualified Through East)87.875
10Cliff Craft, GA86.12510George Bowman, AR87.75
11Jerry Brown, LA84.625(Marvin Baker, TX - Qualified Through east)87.75
(Ron Shearer, KY - Qualified Through West)83.9375(Cliff Craft, GA - Qualified Through East)86.8125
12Jon Hall, VA83.87511Hank Parker, NC82.8125
13Guy Eaker, NC83.7512Chet Douthit, MO80.625
14Corbin Dyer, KY81.312513David Wharton, TX78.5
15Paul Chapple, AL79.187514Kenneth Walker, TX78.125
16Zell Rowland, TX78.515Robert Hale, LA77.5625
17Charles Campbell, MO77.687516J W Cheatham, AR75.5
(Villis Dowden, LA - Qualified Through West)77.37517Roland Martin, OK75.4375
(Roland Martin, OK - Qualified Through West)77.1875(Charles Campbell, MO - Qualified Through East)72.3125
18John Powell, AL76.187518Don Doty, CA71.75
(Don Doty, CA - Qualified Through West)74.87519David Johnson, KS71.1875
19Bill Ward, MO74.62520Guido Hibdon, MO70.3125
20Jack Westberry, FL74(Rick Clunn, TX - Qualified Through East)67.81
21John Rogers, GA ALTERNATE73.812521Dick Gregory, VA ALTERNATE66.4375

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.

1980 BASS Master Angler of the Year Final Standings
PlaceAnglerWeight, lbs.
1Larry Nixon199.0625
2Rick Clunn156.75
3Basil Bacon153.1875
4Marvin Baker153
5Villis Dowden152.4375
6Roland Martin148.4375
7Jimmy Houston147.8125
8Randy Fite143.9375
9Ron Shearer139.1875
10Bobby Murray138.3125
11Richard Stocks135
12Bill O'connor130.3125
13Hank Parker129.75
14Cliff Craft127.8125
15Charles Campbell127.3125
16Ricky Green126.75
17Jon Hall122.3125
18Don Doty115.4375
19Gary Klein114.5625
20Jerry Brown112.0625
21Thomas Martin111.9375
22John Powell109.3125
23Bill Ward105.75
24Kevin Johnson102.5
25Greg Ward101.6875
26Harold Allen100.9375
27David Gliebe100
28Rayo Breckenridge95.8125
29Orlando Wilson95.5625
30Shorty Evans95.125
31Bill Dance93.875
32Paul Elias92.8125
33Corbin Dyer88.3125
34Tom Mann87.5625
35Forrest Wood85.8125
36Zell Rowland85.125
37Gary Alverson84.3125
38David Wharton80.6875
39Jerry Rhyne80.5625
40Erwin Cole78.9375


That’s about it for this segment of the 1980 BASS Master Trail.  Next time we’ll be talking about the Federation Championship and the last qualifier for the 1980 BASS Masters Classic.  To read the other parts to this story, click on Part One and Part Two.