Today in 1981 Bassmaster Trail – Part 1, we’re going to get back into some fishing. With the success of the biggest trail purse ever in competitive bass fishing, held in 1980, Ray Scott and company decided to keep things the same, sort of. As in the 1980 season, the Trail would be split into two different divisions, East and West. And, from the initial set of entry rules provided in the September/October issue of Bassmaster Magazine, it appeared that nothing else had changed.
In those initial rules, shown below, the Top-20 anglers from each division would qualify for the BASS Masters Classic and one angler from the Federation Championship. B.A.S.S. would also hold the BASS Champs events again, which would pit the top anglers in each Division against each other to fill out the Top-20 from each Division.
This set of rules also stated that the Classic would be announced prior to the event but listed the venue as TBD, to be held September 16-18, 1981.
The Angler of the Year (AOY) race would be determined by total weight accumulated throughout both Divisions through the season. The AOY was only for the full-time professional anglers – as it should be.
But what we saw from the results of the 1980 season was several major names didn’t qualify for the Classic. If you compared the AOY race to the Top-20 in each Division, there were some stars that didn’t make the cut under the new format. Anglers such as Gary Klein, Greg Ward, Dave Gliebe, Rayo Breckenridge, Bill Dance, and Tom Mann, to name a few. Instead, this new format was supposed to allow for more regional anglers to fish and get a shot at the Super Bowl of bass fishing.
I’m sure the full-time pros who didn’t make the Classic under this new format but would have based on prior years were a little miffed at the results.
Just when you think you have the rules figured out, B.A.S.S. changed them again, as seen in the March/April 1981 issue of Bassmaster Magazine.
Two tournaments into the season, on page 134, was an article penned by Mark McDonald, titled: The Road to the ’81 Classic. In this article, McDonald provides a new set of qualifying rules.
This set of rules stated that only the Top-14 anglers from each Division would qualify for the Classic. There would then be a Classic Fish-off event for the anglers who had placed high in the AOY race but hadn’t qualified through Divisional competition. The Top-7 from this field would qualify for the Classic. As McDonald wrote, it was essentially a Wild Card event. The article doesn’t say the Fish-Off would be the BASS Champs event, but that’s what it implies.
Using this format, 35 anglers from the Divisionals and Fish-Off would qualify for the Classic, leaving five slots to fill the Classic limit at 40 anglers. Those five anglers would come from the newly reconfigured Bassmaster Chapter (Federation).
Like the Trail itself, Scott broke the Chapter into Divisions, five of them, with each Division responsible for holding their own Divisional Championship. The top angler from the winning team would get the Classic birth from each Division.
Entry fees for the Invitational events were $300 and the field was capped at 250 anglers. The Trail boasted more than $645,000 in cash and merchandise through the year with a $75,000 purse for each event. The Chapter Championships would see $50,000 split between the five divisions.
As in the year prior, the season would kick off in November 1980 and end in July 1981. In the new set of rules, the schedule on Invitational events hadn’t changed but the Classic Date had gone from September to October 15-17, 1981 and the venue was announced, Lake Montgomery, Montgomery, Alabama.
The other significant change Scott and company took on was the first Classic Outdoor Tackle and Boat Show, the precursor for the Classic expo. This event over the years has become the biggest fishing show in the world, even bigger than ICAST.
These were some significant changes to the rules compared to the entry form released in September 1980. It makes me wonder when these rule changes took place and whether Scott called all the full-time pros to let them know. I’m sure there were some upset anglers.
Let’s get on with the schedule.
- Florida Invitational, Lake Okeechobee, Florida, November 19-21, 1980
- Alabama Invitational, Lake Eufaula, Alabama, March 18-20, 1981
- North Carolina Invitational, Albemarle Sound, North Carolina June 24-26, 1981
- Louisiana Invitational, Toledo Bend Reservoir, Louisiana, February 18-20, 1981
- Missouri Invitational, Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, April 15-17, 1981
- Arkansas Invitational, Lake Ouachita, Arkansas, May 20-22, 1981
- BASS Champs Invitational, Cherokee Lake, Tennessee, July 22-24, 1981
- BASSMaster Chapter Championships, To Be Determined by each Division
BASS Masters Classic, Montgomery Lake, Alabama, September 16-18, 1981
Now let’s get on with the 1981 season.
Florida Invitational East Division – Roland Martin Wins 12th Bassmaster Event
The 1980/81 season started out in November with the opening event at Lake Okeechobee. Florida had always been a standard stop on the BASS Master Trail, but this was the first time the 720-acre lake in southern Florida had been chosen.
Based on the standings, this was a tough event, with only 22 seven-fish limits brought to the scales. The first-day leader of the event was Larry Wright (IN) with Roland Martin trailing. On the second day, the lead changed to George Smith (FL), again Martin trailed in the second spot.
On the final day of competition, it looked as if Martin wouldn’t be able to make up the difference heading into the final minutes of the event. That’s when he pulled off some “typical” Roland Martin magic.
With 15 minutes to go before he had to head in, Martin knew he needed more than the 9 or 10 pounds of fish he had in the well. He pulled the trolling motor and went to a weedline he had caught fish off of before.
Within those scant 15 minutes, Martin boated two more fish and brought his daily bag up to 14-06. With no time to spare, he cranked the big motor and headed to the weigh-in.
At this point, Roland Martin was the last person to weigh his fish. Guy Eaker (NC) was the current leader with 42-08 (17 fish) and had been biding his time waiting for Martin wo weigh. Once the fish were placed on the scales, it became evident that Martin had worried himself for no reason. He finished the event with 48-02 (18 fish) beating Eaker by 5-10. He didn’t need the last two fish.
Eaker ended up in the second spot while second-day leader George Smith finished in the third spot with 37-13 (10 fish). Larry Wright, the first-day leader took fourth place with 37-10 (12 fish), and Neal Parker (KY), finished out the Top-5 with 37-02 (13 fish).
Big fish of the event went to George Smith with a 9-12. Overall, 1,349 bass were weighed over the three days for a total weight of 3,457 pounds. It was reported in Bassmaster Magazine that 249 anglers fished the event but the list of anglers on Bassmaster.com reflects 275 anglers.
The Top-40 in the final standings as well as the Box Score are presented in the table below.
|Roland Martin||48 - 2|
|Guy Eaker||42 - 8|
|George Smith||37 - 13|
|Larry Wright||37 - 10|
|Neal Parker||37 - 2|
|Sam Griffin||37 - 1|
|Kim Carver||36 - 6|
|Cliff Craft||36 - 3|
|Robert Roland||35 - 15|
|Thurston Hall||35 - 4|
|Terry Lacoss||34 - 9|
|Linwood Thornhill||34 - 3|
|Richard Hale||33 - 12|
|Larry Williams||29 - 11|
|Jack Chancellor||29 - 6|
|Bruce Cunagin||28 - 8|
|Villis Dowden||27 - 11|
|Fred Capriotti||27 - 2|
|Marty Butler||26 - 13|
|J D Skinner||26 - 10|
|Johnny Grice||26 - 10|
|Richard Koert||25 - 15|
|Johnny Adams||25 - 12|
|Arthur Clark||25 - 10|
|Ricky Green||25 - 10|
|Jimmy Houston||25 - 3|
|Gene Harp||24 - 15|
|Scott Pope||24 - 11|
|John Powell||24 - 7|
|Tom Jurkewicz||24 - 5|
|William Thompson||24 - 5|
|Ray Tester||23 - 14|
|Randy Fite||23 - 12|
|Stanley Mitchell||23 - 8|
|Robert Fowler||23 - 5|
|Tommy Chapman||23 - 3|
|Gene Cunagin||23 - 2|
|Harold Allen||22 - 14|
|Julius Fulwider||22 - 9|
|Thomas Martin||22 - 3|
|George Smith, FL|
|Jim Shannon, FL|
|Neal Parker, KY|
A Penalty of two ounces is subtracted for each dead fish. Winner Award consisted of $5,000 Cash and a $6,700 Ranger Boat and Trailer rigged with a Motor-Guide Trolling Motor and Humminbird Depth Finder. Overall Big Fish Award was $6,300 Ranger Boat Rigged with trailer, Humminbird Depth Sounder and Motor-Guide Trolling Motor
Louisiana Invitational West Division – It’s Martin Again!
The second stop on the Bassmaster Trail would find the anglers at an old standby, Toledo Bend Reservoir. At 14 years of age, Toledo Bend was said to be past its prime. The Bassmasters proved otherwise bringing in a total of 2,082 bass weighing in at 5,315-02.
The Bend didn’t just produce quality fish, it produced numbers for the 250 anglers (May/June 1981 issue of Bassmaster Magazine) fishing the event with a total of 71 seven-fish limits weighed. Bassmaster.com reports 271 anglers fished the event.
For the second event in a row, Roland Martin ran away with the tournament with a total of 84-11 (21 fish). Martin beat the reigning Toledo bend champion, Larry Nixon, who weighed in three limits of fish for 74-01. Third place fell to the 1980 BASS Masters Classic champion, Bo Dowden, who weighed in 65-15 (21 fish). Rounding out the Top-5 were George Cochran with 62-13 (21 fish) and John Torian with 58-14 (20 fish).
This event broke several B.A.S.S. records as well as personal records. Starting off, Roland Martin broke his own record by winning his 13th tournament with B.A.S.S. He also weighed the heaviest weight for a 3-day tournament in the 7-fish limit days. He also caught a 30-13 bag one day, his heaviest 7-fish limit to date in a tournament.
Larry Nixon broke his personal 3-day weight record, a record he’d set the year before with his 74-01 3-day limit. Tommy Martin smashed his personal best 7-fish limit record while setting a new mark for B.A.S.S. with a 33-03 bag.
Anglers at the top of the board reported catching most of their fish on jigs tipped with a trailer as well as a few fish caught on minnow lures and spinnerbaits.
For the Top-40 in the final standings and the Box Score, please look at the table below.
|Roland Martin, OK||21/21||84 - 11||$11,700*|
|Larry Nixon, TX||21/21||74 - 1||$4,000|
|Villis Dowden, LA||21/21||65 - 15||$3,000|
|George Cochran, AR||21/21||62 - 13||$2,500|
|John Torian, TX||20/17||58 - 14||$1,700|
|Greg Ward, MO||16/16||57 - 4||$1,600|
|Thomas Martin, TX||14/14||56 - 9||$1,500|
|Harold Allen, TX||16/16||54 - 15||$1,400|
|Bobby Murray, AR||18/18||54 - 2||$1,250|
|Jon Hall, VA||14/14||54 - 2||$1,250|
|Gary Klein, CA||19/19||53 - 9||$1,100|
|Tommy Chapman, NC||17/17||50 - 12||$1,100|
|Mike Bono, LA||18/18||49 - 10||$1,100|
|Paul Elias, MS||21/21||47 - 12||$1,100|
|Rick Clunn, TX||21/21||47 - 9||$1,100|
|Basil Bacon, AR||15/15||45 - 13||$1,000|
|Randy Dearman, TX||11/11||43 - 7||$1,000|
|Marvin Baker, TX||18/18||42 - 8||$1,000|
|Kenneth Walker, TX||16/16||42 - 0||$1,000|
|James Joy, KS||16/16||41 - 9||$1,000|
|Hank Parker, NC||14/14||41 - 6||$900|
|Mark Stevenson, TX||14/14||41 - 0||$900|
|Shorty Evans, MO||15/15||40 - 13||$900|
|Ken D Cook, OK||21/21||40 - 4||$900|
|William Sparks, OK||15/15||39 - 3||$900|
|Jimmy Houston, OK||17/17||39 - 2||$800|
|Randy Behringer, TX||14/14||38 - 5||$800|
|Jim Nolan, AR||11/11||36 - 3||$800|
|Mel Howard, IL||14/14||36 - 0||$750|
|Carl Blair, LA||13/13||35 - 15||$750|
|Gordon Dean Gilbert, TX||13/13||35 - 13||$600|
|J Ward, TX||14/14||35 - 9||$600|
|Ray Meredith, KY||11/11||35 - 8||$600|
|Ray Lloyd, LA||11/11||35 - 7||$600|
|Ron Shearer, KY||11/11||34 - 15||$600|
|William Taylor, KY||14/14||34 - 10||$600|
|Tracy Everhart, AR||12/12||34 - 8||$500|
|Don Kylberg, TX||10/10||34 - 7||$500|
|Lynn Dennis, MI||15/15||34 - 3||$500|
|Robert Williams, KS||11/11||34 - 1||$500|
|Johnnie Davis, TX|
|Porter Everett, AR|
|Shirley Gardenhire, TN|
A Penalty of two ounces was subtracted for each dead fish. Winner Award consisted of $5,000 Cash and a $6,700 Ranger Boat and Trailer rigged with a Motor-Guide Trolling Motor and Himminbird Depth Finder. Overall Big Fish Award was $6,300 Ranger Boat Rigged with trailer, Humminbird Depth Finder and Motor-Guide Trolling Motor.
At this time, the AOY race was a blowout by Roland Martin. Martin had accumulated 132-13 in just two events and was ahead of Larry Nixon (96-03) by 36-10. To give you a better idea, Ricky Green was in the 25th spot with 50-03, over 80 pounds behind Martin.
The Top-40 in the AOY race are shown below in the table.
|Roland Martin, OK||132-13|
|Larry Nixon, TX||96-03|
|Villis Dowden, LA||93-10|
|Thomas Martin, TX||78-12|
|Harold Allen, TX||77-13|
|Jon Hall, VA||75-13|
|Guy Eaker, NC||75-00|
|Tommy Chapman, NC||73-15|
|Gary Klein, CA||73-06|
|Bobby Murray, AR||70-12|
|Basil Bacon, AR||66-11|
|Jimmy Houston, OK||64-05|
|George Cochran, AR||62 - 13|
|Hank Parker, NC||58-15|
|John Torian, TX||58 - 14|
|Rick Clunn, TX||58-13|
|Cliff Craft, GA||58-02|
|Greg Ward, MO||57 - 4|
|Ron Shearer, KY||56-12|
|Paul Elias, MS||55-14|
|Shirley Gardenhire, TN||53-14|
|Neal Parker, KY||53-01|
|Jerry Rhyne, NC||50-07|
|Ricky Green, AR||50-03|
|Marty Butler, GA||49-10|
|Mike Bono, LA||49 - 10|
|Kenneth Walker, TX||48-11|
|Randy Fite, TX||47-04|
|Shorty Evans, MO||47-03|
|Gary Van Nostrand,||45-10|
|Randy Dearman, TX||43 - 7|
|Marvin Baker, TX||42 - 8|
|Zell Rowland, TX||41-10|
|James Joy, KS||41 - 9|
|Tom Jurkewicz, FL||41-02|
|Robert Stevenson,||41 - 0|
|J D Skinner, AL||40-15|
|Ken D Cook, OK||40 - 4|
|William Sparks, OK||39 - 3|
Next time in Season at a Glance: 1981 BASSMaster Trail Part 2 we’ll cover the second half of the tournament year.