Today in 1981 BASS Masters Classic we’re going to conclude our look at the 1981 Bassmaster Trail and see who won the biggest event in bass fishing. In the preceding parts we covered the regular season events and all the confusion with respect to qualifying for the Classic. Then we covered the BASS Champs Fish-Off that qualified 37 pro anglers for the Classic. In the last segment of the series, we covered the Classic Qualifiers, some interesting Bassmaster Statistics, and the angler bios.
Once the dust had settled and the Classic field was set, 42 of the country’s best bass anglers would meet on the shores of Montgomery Lake in Alabama for the 11th BASS Masters Classic. In the home town of the organization, these anglers were faced with a typical southern river system, that could barely be construed as a lake. Most of the field felt as if the event would be won in the creeks, but there were a few outcasts who felt differently.
What was different about this event was it was the first time that the Classic destination had been released months ahead of time, allowing for contestants to pre-practice before the cut-off. Another difference was the addition of one extra day of official practice prior to the start of the event.
The biggest changes to Classic 11, though, was the Classic Outdoor Show and the first ever Arena Weigh-In, both held in the Montgomery Civic Center. Not too long after this event, the Classic Outdoor Show would become the Bassmaster Classic Expo, the biggest tackle and outdoor show in the world. There were no numbers on how many people attended this first show but it was written that there were 50 exhibitors that showed up for the event, or about the same number that would cover one aisle of a current Expo.
As for the weigh-in, the anglers were towed in on their boats to a center stage where they climbed a set of steps and handed their fish off to Harold Sharp, the original Bassmaster Tournament Director. There were a lot of firsts for this event, and they didn’t stop there.
The 11th BASS Masters Classic
Official practice for the event proved to be tough for all the contestants. Bo Dowden, the reigning champion, reported not having caught a fish as did Larry Nixon, Ricky Green, or Paul Elias, on the first day of practice. The second day was much the same. But one competing angler should have been noticed. That was Stanley Mitchell, whose press angler/observer brought in a 3-12 largemouth to capture big fish for the press observers.
Anglers reported that the fish they did catch came from the shallows all the way out into the deeper depths of the main river channel.
If the competition hadn’t noticed Stanley Mitchell on the second day of practice, there was no doubt they knew of him after the first day of competition. Mitchell, along with Alabama pro Jack Chancellor were the only two anglers to bring in 7-fish limits to the scales. Mitchell’s limit weighed 15-05 and was anchored by a 5-09 and put him in the pole position.
Chancellor’s limit didn’t weigh nearly as much as Mitchell’s, coming in at 12-08, and all his fish were the same size. Harold Allen took the third position 10-13, while Rick Clunn and Ken Cook rounded out the Top-5 with 8-05 and 7-02 respectively.
The second day was tougher than the first, with no limits weighed. Allen’s spinnerbait fish had turned off and he had to make repeated casts to cover with a 5-inch Gator Tail worms rigged with a 1/8-ounce slip sinker to get his strikes. He ended up weighing in 8-03 (4 fish). Allen would climb one spot to second with a total of 19-00.
Chancellor didn’t do too much better, bringing in five bass for five pounds. In the process he dropped to third position with 17-08. Rick Clunn brought three bass to the scales, but they were the right kind. His fish weighed 8-11 and increased his total to 17-00, putting him in the fourth spot. He also had big fish for the day, a 5-05 largemouth.
Mitchell didn’t light the field on fire the second day, but he did manage to maintain his lead going into the final round. In the end, he weighed four bass for 6-11, increasing his total to 22-00. In the process, Mitchell lost his only deep diving Bomber Model A crankbait, the bait he was catching most of his fish on.
The final day of competition turned out to be a four-horse race. The rest of the field was too far behind, and stingy Montgomery Lake wasn’t due to hand out any miracle stringers. Day three started out good for Mitchell. On his first spot he boated two fish, a 4- and 2-pounder.
Meanwhile, Chancellor and Allen were catching fish. Chancellor, who had the only limit of the day, was concentrating on the same areas Mitchell was, offshore sand bars, with a bait that would see fame a couple years later, the Do-Nothing Worm. He was fishing it on a Carolina Rig.
Allen kept pounding wood cover in the creeks and eventually would weigh the biggest bag of the day. The weigh-in was going to be interesting.
Mitchell needed a couple more fish to seal the deal. Then, with just under an hour of time remaining, he cast a shallower diving Bomber Model A up into shallow water and before he could get the crankbait to the drop-off, the plug stopped. After a delicate fight with the bass, he got it up to the boat and saw the fish only had one barb from the rear hook in the side of its mouth. Without thinking, he got the fish moving towards the boat and swung it in. Two casts later the hook hanger came out of the bait.
At the weigh-in, Allen put his bag on the scales, and it dropped to 15-03 giving him a 3-day total of 34-03. Mitchell only had four fish in his well, but they were quality fish. It was still too close to call.
Mitchell was in the last flight of the day and as they brought him through the Montgomery Civic Center, the crowd grew silent. Mitchell needed 12-04 to win.
As Mitchell’s boat pulled towards the weigh-in stage, he opened the livewell and grabbed his bag. He reached into his well and grabbed the 4-pounder. The crowd applauded. He then grabbed two smaller fish and placed them in the bag. His last trip to the well produced the big fish he’d caught less than an hour earlier. As he lifted it from the box and held it up, the crowd went wild.
Now Mitchell had to make it up the steps to the scales. He handed the bag of fish to Harold Sharp and watched as the scales dropped to 13-02. Stanley Mitchell’s Mail Mary 6-03 linker had just won him the BASS Masters Classic. His final weight was 35-02.
In doing so, Mitchell became the youngest angler to win the Classic at age 21 years, 5 months, 19 days.
Mitchell reported that most of his fish came on a Bomber Model A crankbait but he did catch key fish each day on a Luhr Jensen Krocodile spoon. He concentrated on fishing main river sand bars that had eddies. It was a pattern he was familiar fishing in his native Georgia.
Jack Chancellor caught his fish the first two days on a jigging spoon fishing the same type of water as Mitchell. Then on the third day, he switched to the Do-Nothing Worm.
Harold Allen was the only angler who bucked the system and concentrated on shallow creeks throwing a spinnerbait and plastic worm at wood.
For the complete list of standings and Box Score, please look at the table below.
|Place||Angler, State||Bass/Alive||Weight, lbs-ozs||Award|
|1||Stanley Mitchell, GA||15/15||35-02||$40,000*|
|2||Harold Allen, TX||15/15||34-03||$12,000*|
|3||Jack Chancellor, AL||17/17||29-02||$6,000*|
|4||Rick Clunn, TX||9/9||21-11||$4,000|
|5||Ray Meredith, IN||10/10||20-06||$2,500|
|6||Greg Ward, MO||9/9||16-06||$1,500|
|7||Paul Elias, MS||8/8||14-15||$1,500|
|8||Bill Ward, MO||7/7||14-09||$1,500|
|9||Jerry Rhyne, NC||7/7||13-07||$1,500|
|10||Larry Nixon, TX||6/6||12-05||$1,000|
|11||Jack Westberry, FL||4/4||12-00||$1,000|
|12||Ken D Cook, OK||6/6||11-07||$1,000|
|13||Blake Honeycutt, NC||6/6||11-06||$1,000|
|14||Renaud Pelletier, WA||8/8||11-02||$1,000|
|15||Jon Hall, TX||4/4||10-15||$1,000|
|16||Tommy Chapman, NC||5/5||10-09||$1,000|
|17||George Cochran, AR||3/3||10-03||$1,000|
|18||Linwood Thornhill, SC||5/5||9-11||$1,000|
|19||Hank Parker, NC||5/5||9-05||$1,000|
|20||Larry Williams, OH||2/2||8-15||$1,000|
|21||Guy Eaker, NC||5/5||8-11||$500|
|22||Bobby Murray, AR||4/4||8-09||$500|
|23||Ricky Green, AR||4/4||8-01||$500|
|24||Don Rank, IN||3/3||8-01||$500|
|25||Villis Bo Dowden, LA||5/5||7-09||$500|
|26||Kenneth Walker, TX||3/3||7-04||$500|
|27||John Torian, TX||4/4||6-08||$500|
|28||Gary Klein, CA||3/3||6-08||$500|
|30||Bruce Cunagin, OH||3/3||5-11||$500|
|31||Ron Shearer, KY||3/3||4-12||$500|
|32||Basil Bacon, AR||3/3||4-11||$500|
|33||Thomas Martin, TX||3/2||4-03||$500|
|34||Randy Behringer, TX||2/2||4-00||$500|
|35||Roland Martin, FL||2/2||3-15||$500|
|36||Bob Moyer, PA||2/2||3-14||$500|
|37||Johnny Adams, FL||1/1||2-12||$500|
|38||Johnny Talley, LA||1/1||2-12||$500|
|39||Jimmy Houston, OK||1/1||2-03||$500|
|40||Scott Pope, NC||1/1||1-14||$500|
|41||Paul Converse, MI||0/0||0-00||$500|
|41||Larry Wright, IN||0/0||0-00||$500|
|George Cochran, AR||6-10||$1,000|
|Stanley Mitchell, GA||5-09||$1,000|
|Rick Clunn, TX||5-05||$1,000|
|Fred David, Syracuse Herald-Journal, NY||3-02||$500|
|Ed Romines, Bass Fishing News, GA||3-12||$500|
|Ben Callaway, Philadelphia Enquirer, PA||3-13||$500|
|Horace Carter, Atlantic Publishing Company, NC||2-08||$500|
|Monroe Campbell, WJCT-TV, FL||3-07||$500|
That concludes this look at the 1981 Bassmaster Trail. We hope you enjoyed looking back at the time when competitive bass fishing was in full swing. If you missed any of the previous parts, please click on the links provided. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Classic Contenders.