1980 BASS Master Tournament Trail headline.

Ray Scott had a way of changing things up on the tournament trail with one-off events, mystery lakes, and the mandatory release of bass.  So, who would think that the 1980 season would be any different.  Today in 1980 BASS Master Trail – Part One we’re going to look at the changes Scott put forth for the 1979/80 season.  Yes, that’s right.  Scott started the tournament year off in late 1979 and continued it through 1980.  But that wasn’t the only change, he also decided to divide the trail into two different divisions and change up the way in which to qualify for the BASS Masters Classic.

In today’s article we’re going to spend a bit of time going over the new rules, payouts, as well as Classic qualifying rules.  It’s a bit complicated to say the least.

In the September/October 1979 issue of BASSMaster Magazine, B.A.S.S. announced in an insert the new Divisional format of the 1980 tournament season.  Two divisions, East and West, would be formed with three Classic qualifying events in each division.  The fourth qualifying event would be the 1980 BASS Champs tournament that had to be fished if you wanted to make the Classic.  So, an angler only needed to fish one division and the BASS Champs event, and finish in the Top 20 in one division to qualify for the BASS Masters Classic.  This automatically means that the 1980 BASS Master Classic would host 40 anglers from the pro ranks.

It’s interesting that BASS brought back BASS Champs after a year’s hiatus.  But what’s even more interesting is that BASS doesn’t give any other information on the event, which historically pitted the Top-10 from the prior year’s Classic against the Top-10 from the Federation Championship.  What it looks like here is they’re going to pit East vs. West Divisions against each other for BASS Champs.

The other confusing thing was, was the event an invitation only or could anyone enter?  Was it limited to a certain number of anglers from each division?  Another search was needed.

Looking at the September/October 1980 issue of BASSMaster Magazine I found the BASS Champs tournament report.  In that report it stated that 180 anglers fished the event.  That leads me to believe that maybe the Top 90 in each division were invited.

The next search conducted was in the 1979 BASS Masters Classic Press Guide.  On the back three pages there was another writeup.  Still no real layout of the BASS Champs event other than you better fish it if you wanted to qualify for the 1980 BASS Masters Classic.

1979 BASS Masters Classic Press Guide featuring the new rules for the 1980 BASS Master Tour Trail.

One caveat about the information in the Press Guide was that BASS chose to restructure due to the double digit inflation and the price of fuel.  This opened up the trail to the more regional anglers who weren’t touring pros.  The split divisions would have no effect on the touring pros who counted on tournament winnings and sponsor responsibilities as they would fish them all anyway.

The final place I found information was in the February 1980 issue.  Here are the words as they were printed in the February 1980 issue:

“This year, as you’ve read. we’re offering two circuits.”

“The cleaving of the B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail into the East and West Divisions offers several benefits to fishermen:

“To qualify for THE Classic, they need only finish in the top 20 after the four tournaments in their division, including the BASS Champs tournament on Lake Guntersville, Alabama, a contest in which both divisions will compete.

“For most of those who choose to fish only one division, all four tournaments, probably, will be within a day’s drive of their homes. And they won’t have to take six weeks off from their regular jobs.

“The full-time pros will have a shot at winning prize money ($70,000 in each tournament) in seven events, instead of six. (They can qualify in only one division, however.)”

“While the BASS Masters Classic® has gotten bigger and better over the years. the B.A.S.S. pro fishing circuit has developed right along with it. Four qualifying tournaments led to the 1971 Classic, and bass anglers had to scrap through six events last year.

“This September (24-26), 40 of the country’s best bass catchers will fish for $70.000 in the world finals, including $30,000 for the winner and at least $1,000 for the top 20 finishers.

“For those reasons and more, we are experiencing unprecedented interest in B.A.S.S. tournaments. By the time you read this, the “early bird” tournament for 1980, the Alabama Invitational on Lake Eufaula, will have been held.  The field was full before THE Classic got under way.

“At this writing, all six of the remaining contests for 1980 have more than 100 entries, and some are expected to be full by the time this hits your mailbox.

The 1980 Tournament Trail Schedule

    • ALABAMA INVITATIONAL East Division – Lake Eufaula, Alabama, Lakepoint Marina, November 14-16, 1979.
    • FLORIDA INVITATIONAL East Division – Lake Toho, Kissimmee Florida, Big Toho Marina Kissimmee, February 27-29, 1980.
    • MISSISSIPPI INVITATIONAL West Division -Sardis Lake, Mississippi, Gulf Trail Lodge Sardis, March 26-28, 1980.
    • MISSOURI INVITATIONAL West Division – Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, Osage House Resort, Osage Beach, Apr 23-25, 1980.
    • NORTH CAROLINA INVITATIONAL East Division – Albermarle Sound, North Carolina, Elizabeth City Yacht Yard and Marina, May 21-23, 1980.
    • TEXAS INVITATIONAL West Division – Toledo Bend Reservoir, Texas, Frontier Park, Hemphill, June 25-27, 1980.
    • BASS Champs Tournament – Lake Guntersville, Alabama, North Sauty Marina, Scottsboro, July 23-25, 1980.
    • CHAPTER CHAMPIONSHIP – August 20-22, 1980, Site to be announced, August 4, 1980.
    • BASS Masters CLASSIC – September 24-26, 1980, Site to be announced.

Rules that hadn’t changed were the 14-inch minimum length as well as the top angler on the winning Federation team would gain a berth into the Classic.

Let’s get on to the first event of the season.

Alabama Invitational – Lake Eufaula Eastern Division

1979 Bassmaster Alabama Invitational Lake Eufaula. Photo courtesy of Jeff Hains.

Man, how times changed between the 1968, 1969 and the 1980 events on Lake Eufaula.  The same lake that gave up two consecutive 3-day event records of 132-00 in 1968 and then 138-06 in 1969 was a shadow of her old self when the BASS Master Trail went in the fall of 1979 to kick off the 1980 season.

Higher-than-normal lake levels, a bad cold front, high winds, and bluebird skies seemed to have killed the bite.  Or at least those were the excuses flying around at the time.  Still some anglers were able to find enough bass to make a competition out of it.

John Rogers was able to piece together enough fish at the 1979/80 Lake Eufaula Alabama Invitational to Secure the win. Photo March-April 1980 issue of BASMaster Magazine.

Jon Hall was able to bring in 14-12 the first day to secure the lead.  Columbus, GA angler, John Rogers was able to bring in 11-01 to the scales, placing him in 9th.

The second day of the event saw Hall’s fish leave his area but Roger’s fish continued to bite.  Rogers brought in 6-08 to the scales which lifted him up to the sixth position behind leader Larry Nixon of Texas.

The final day of the event, Nixon was only able to wrangle two fish for 4-00 while Rogers brought in a limit (7 fish) that weighed 11-15.  His total of 29-08 (including live fish bonus points) netted him the win.

Bill Ward of Missouri was able accumulate a 3-day weight of 27-06 placing him in the second spot while Nixon fell to third with 26-04.

Both Rogers and Nixon found their fish in drains and utilized a Rebel Deep Mini-R to catch their fish.  Ward, on the other hand, utilized his Bass Buster Jig with a piece of Uncle Josh pork frogs for his fish.  Ward was flipping and pitching his jig to wood along the shoreline.

Rounding out the Top 5 were first-day leader John Hall (9 fish for 24-11), and John Hughes of Alabama with 10 fish for 23-07.  The event was so tough that 63 of the 250-angler field blanked and another 58 weighed only one fish in three days.

Below is the top-40 standings and Box Score.

Bass Master Alabama Invitational Lake Eufaula Scorecard – November 14-16, 1979
Angler, State
Weight, lbs-ozs
1John Rogers, GA16/1629-08$10,500*
2Bill Ward, MO9/927-06$4,000
3Larry Nixon, TX12/1226-04$3,000
4Jon Hall, VA9/924-11$2,500
5John Hughes, AL10/1023-07$1,700
6Paul Chapple, AL9/922-11$1,600
7Randy Fite, TX7/720-06$1,500
8Dave Gliebe, CA6/620-01$1,400
9Hank Gary, AL10/1019-01$1,300
10Bobby Ditto, FL5/519-00$1,200
11Rick Clunn, TX6/618-15$1,100
12Larry Columbo, AL8/818-12$1,100
13Randall Gay. KY6/618-08$1,100
14Tommy Chapman, NC8/817-06$1,100
15Bobby Murray, TN9/916-13$1,100
16Jack Westberry, FL4/416-11$1,000
17Guy Eaker, NC7/716-06$1,000
18Steve Mitchell, GA6/616-02$1,000
19Tommy Martin, TX5/515-00$1,000
20James Marsh, AL4/414-14$1,000
21Tom Mann, AL7/714-09$900
22Jerry Brown, LA4/414-08$900
23Glen Doyle, SC5/514-06$900
24Jack Chancellor, AL6/614-04$900
25Roland Martin, OK6/614-03$900
26Mitch Herring, AL6/614-00$800
27Frank Cheeseborough, GA4/413-11$800
28Forrest Wood, AR8/813-09$800
29John Powell, AL5/512-15$750
30Freddie Lester, SC4/412-09$750
31Joe Chaffin, MO4/412-08$600
32Benny Meadows, AL3/312-08$600
33Richard Stocks, AL4/412-08$600
34William Thompson, FL4/412-06$600
35Tommy Mike, JR, GA3/312-04$600
36Stanley Mitchell, GA3/311-13$550
37J. B. Warren, AR7/711-13$550
38Larry Allard, MA3/311-08$500
39Hubert Greene, NC5/511-06$500
40Gary Klein, CA5/511-05$500
Daily Lunker Leaders
Angler, State
Weight, lbs-ozs
Jack Westberry, FL10-04$5,000*
Ron Frier, NC8-07$425
Dave Hilton, TN8-07$425
Bill Ward, MO7-12$350
The Box Score
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Total Weight, lbs-ozs
Bass Weighed-in
7-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.


Florida Invitational – Lake Toho Eastern Division

1980 Florida Invitational Lake Toho. Photo courtesy of Jeff Hains.

Another tough set of conditions faced anglers at the second Eastern Division event held on Lake Toho, Florida.  But two senior anglers would figure out just enough to put them ahead of the pack.

Practice for the Toho Invitational was done under overcast skies and biting bass.  Then, as always seems to happen, a cold front swept through the area and knocked the fish on their noses.  Missouri angler Shorty Evans reported that on the first day of practice he could have weighed in eight fish that would have gone over 42 pounds.  Of course, he wasn’t able to find those fish during the event.

Horace Phipps squeaked by Shorty Evans at the Florida Invitational for the win. Photo May-June 1980 issue of BASSMaster Magazine.

The anglers who did well in the event used stubbornness to eek out their fish.  Staying on their best spots for three days and waiting the fish out.  Rick Clunn took the early lead by fishing a black weedless spoon in the grass and brought 18-02 to the scales.  Horace E. Phipps of Florida weighed in 16-06 for second.

On day 2, Clunn wasn’t able to reproduce his success of the prior day but Shorty Evans found a shell bed with cooperative fish.  It was enough to lift him up into the second spot, behind leader Phipps going into the final day.  Phipps had 33-11 where Evans had 27-13.

On the final day Phipps blanked but Evans was only able to bring in two bass for 5-13, bringing his 3-day total to 33-10, one ounce behind Phipps.  Claude Kennedy of Florida came in third with 33-07, Roland Martin came in fourth with 31-01, and Jimmy Rogers (FL) came in fifth place with 30-09.

There were a lot of similarities between Phipps and Evans.  Both were fishing shell beds, both were in their mid-60s, both were small men with big personalities, and Phipps owned a cemetery where Evans was an undertaker.

Below is the top-40 standings and the Box Score.

Bass Master Alabama Invitational Lake Eufaula Scorecard – November 14-16, 1979
Angler, State
Weight, lbs-ozs
1Horace Phipps, FL10/1033-11$10,500*
2Shorty Evans, MO12/1233-10$4,000
3Claude Kennedy, FL14/1433-07$3,000
4Roland Martin, OK12/1231-01$2,500
5Jimmy Rogers, FL9/930-09$1,700
6John Powell, AL9/929-03$1,600
7Bruce Cunnigan, OH13/1329-01$1,500
8Rick Clunn, TX`9/928-11$1,400
9Neal Parker, KY9/926-09$1,300
10Glenn Crawford, FL9/926-05$1,200
11Terry Smith, FL9/924-12$1,100
12Stephen Goodwin, NC10/1024-07$1,100
13Jim Towns, FL10/1024-04$1,100
14Marvin baker, TX10/1023-09$1,100
15Larry Nixon, TX7/722-14$1,100
16Bill O'Connor, FL9/922-12$1,000
17Tommy Martin, TX9/822-07$1,000
18Bo Dowden, LA7/722-06$1,000
19Gary Utt, TN5/521-07$1,000
20Don Kraft, OH7/720-09$1,000
21Robert B. Fowler, GA5/520-08$1,000
22Bill Dance, TN9/920-05$900
23Bobby Murray, TN6/620-04$900
24Jerry Brown, LA6/619-00$900
25Bill Mickler, FL6/618-12$850
26Steven L. Mitchell, GA8/818-12$850
27Danny Stewart, FL8/818-04$800
28Richard Stocks, AL6/617-02$800
29Clyde Dyson, GA4/416-12$750
30Paul Elias, KY4/416-11$750
31John McLain, TN6/616-05$600
32Linwood Thornhill, SC8/816-04$600
33Jerry Rhyne, NC6/616-00$600
34Jimmy Connatser, FL5/515-10$600
35Zell Rowland, TX5/515-10$600
36Bill Thompson, FL5/515-10$600
37Gary Klein, CA6/615-06$500
38Rayo Breckenridge, AR4/415-05$500
39Robert Sickafoose, OH4/415-05$500
40Paul Chamblee, NC3/315-03$500
Daily Lunker Leaders
Angler, State
Weight, lbs-ozs
Jack Westberry, FL10-04$5,000*
Ron Frier, NC8-07$425
Dave Hilton, TN8-07$425
Bill Ward, MO7-12$350
The Box Score
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Total Weight, lbs-ozs
Bass Weighed-in
7-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.


I would like to thank longtime Bass Fishing Archives supporter and corrector of all mistakes and typos, Andy Williamson for helping me find the rule changes for the 1980 season.  They were right under my nose and Andy helped to see them.  Thanks Andy!

This was part one of a five-part series on the 1979/80 BASS Master Tournament Trail.  Next time we’ll bring the second half of divisional competition leading into the BASS Champs event.