In the last installment of the 1981 Bassmaster Trail, we covered the first six events of the season. All that was left was the Tennessee Invitational AKA BASS Champs, AKA The Fish-Off. What was strange about this event, as was strange the entire year, was this event was billed initially as a Fish-Off for the top anglers in the two Divisions, East and West. But it appears to have turned out to be just another Invitational that anyone with $300 could enter.
This was by far the strangest season of all with rules seeming to change every issue of Bassmaster Magazine and anglers not knowing if they’d qualify for the BASS Masters Classic when it was all said and done. The only angler who had any sort of confidence he’d make it was Roland Martin, who’d won the first three events and had a commanding lead going into the final event. As it turned out, he could have stayed home at his new place on Okeechobee and maybe caught some fish.
Let’s get on with the final event of the season.
Tennessee Invitational BASS Champs – Fish-off at the Fish-Off
Overall, the event only saw 237 bass brought to the scales over three days of competition with a total weight of 576-00. There were no limits caught and in order to determine the winner, a fish-off for the Fish-Off had to be conducted.
Jerry Knicely and Alex Fancher, both Cherokee locals, finished tied with 19-01. To determine the winner, Harold Sharp decided to send the anglers back out on the lake for the first official fish-off in Bassmaster history, and the first person to catch a keeper won. Neither Knicely nor Fancher were too excited about that, joking that they’d report in every week or so with an update.
In the end, it didn’t take but six minutes for Knicely to catch a 14-inch keeper and stick a fork in this event. Both anglers were relieved not to have to suffer any longer. Knicely would end up beating Roland Martin’s record for the lowest winning weight in Bassmaster History, a record that had stood since the 1974 Tennessee Invitational at Watts Bar. Tennessee was proving to be a tough state to catch fish in.
For the full standings and Box Score, please refer to the table below.
|Jerry Knicely, TN||20 - 14||$11,700*|
|Alex Fancher, TN||19 - 1||$2,590|
|Jimmy Connatser, FL||14 - 1||$1,950|
|Randy Behringer, TX||13 - 13||$1,630|
|Jack Chancellor, AL||12-10||$1,100|
|Don Solt, MA||12-09||$1,045|
|Hank Parker, NC||12-07||$975|
|Ray Meredith, KY||12-05||$905|
|Roger Collins, TN||12-04||$850|
|Rick Clunn, TX||11-08||$780|
|Jimmy Asbury, TN||10-14||$710|
|C Johnston, VA||10-08||$710|
|Larry Wright, IN||10-03||$710|
|Joby Buckingham, TN||10-02||$710|
|Ricky Green, AR||9-14||$710|
|Jack Pressey, TN||9-13||$655|
|Jon Hall, TX||9-13||$655|
|Edward Steffey, TN||9-05||$655|
|Guido Hibdon, MO||9-01||$655|
|Thomas Martin, TX||8-15||$655|
|Forrest Wood, AR||8-12||$585|
|Guy Eaker, NC||8-08||$585|
|H J Stevens, AR||8-02||$585|
|Roy Hall, IN||7-12||$585|
|Johnny Hays, TN||7-07||$585|
|Kelous Kizer, IN||7-05||$515|
|Kenneth Walker, TX||7-03||$515|
|Charlie Ingram, TN||7-00||$515|
|Bill Gibson, TN||6-15||$480|
|Don Rank, IN||6-10||$480|
|Allen Van Patterson, VA||6-07||$390|
|Tom Mann, AL||6-04||$390|
|Bill Ward, MO||6-03||$390|
|Al Greene, GA||6-03||$390|
|Harold Allen, TX||6-01||$390|
|Ron Shearer, KY||6-00||$390|
|Shorty Evans, MO||5-14||$320|
|Larry Nixon, TX||5-12||$320|
|Wayne Bushey, VA||5-10||$320|
|Scott Pope, NC||5-09||$320|
|Randy Behringer, TX|
|Jim Smith, TX|
|Basil Bacon, AR|
Who Made the Classic
Although the last event held some drama for the two anglers at the top, it held even more drama for the anglers who were in contention to qualify for the Classic. This event would decide the Divisional Standings as well as the AOY standings, both of which played a part in the Classic field.
After running the numbers, and trust me when I say this was not easy, I’ve come up with a few tables revealing how confusing this year was.
As stated earlier, if you were Roland Martin, you probably made your Classic reservations back in March. But for the rest of the competitors, it wasn’t that easy.
From the Divisional point of view, Roland Martin won both Divisions. The East by a little under seven pounds and the West by almost 20 pounds. From the Angler of the Year standpoint, he won by over 70 pounds. It was a rout. On top of that he stretched his record of 11 BASS Tournament Wins to 14. At this point he also had 12 second-place finishes to boot.
But let’s get back to the Classic Qualifiers.
Below is a Table of the Divisional Standings. Next to the anglers’ names in parentheses is the Division they qualified in. Although only the “Top-14” for each Division earned a qualification to the Classic, there were some double qualifiers and ties that made things a little more interesting.
|East Division After BASS Champs Fish-Off||West Division After BASS Champs Fish-Off|
|Place||Angler||Weight, lbs-ozs||Place||Angler||Weight, lbs-ozs|
|1||Roland Martin (West)||133-03||1||Roland Martin (West)||146-05|
|2||Guy Eaker (East)||126-04||2||Larry Nixon (West)||126-14|
|3||Rick Clunn (East)||109-08||3||Hank Parker (West)||120-13|
|4||Jack Chancellor (East)||106-06||4||Bobby Murray (West)||114-09|
|5||Villis Bo Dowden (East)||98-10||5||Gary Klein (West)||113-10|
|6||Ricky Green (East)||93-00||6||Villis Bo Dowden (East)||111-07|
|7||Gary Klein (West)||83-05||7||John Torian (West)||110-06|
|8||Larry Williams (East)||81-05||8||Don Rank (West)||108-14|
|9||Basil Bacon (East)||81-01||9||Rick Clunn (East)||108-01|
|10||Stanley Mitchell (East)||80-08||10||George Cochran (West)||107-01|
|11||Larry Nixon (West)||79-01||11||Randy Behringer (West)||106-00|
|12||Scott Pope (East)||75-09||12||Greg Ward (West)||102-15|
|13||Bruce Cunagin (East)||72-15||13||Ray Meredith (West)||102-15|
|14||Jack Westberry (East)||72-11||14||Ken D Cook (West)||100-11|
|15||Neal Parker (East)||70-10||15||Kenneth Walker (West)||97-07|
|16||Thomas Martin (East)||69-02||16||Harold Allen (West)||93-14|
|17||Johnny Adams (East 3-way tie)||68-02||17||Guido Hibdon (DNQ)||92-06|
|18||Larry Wright (East 3-way tie)||68-02||18||Jimmy Houston (AOY)||90-08|
|19||Linwood Thornhill (East 3-way tie)||68-02||19||Thomas Martin (East)||89-04|
|20||Hank Parker (West)||66-03||20||Jerry Rhyne (AOY)||86-01|
|21||Harold Allen (West)||65-07||21||Ron Shearer (AOY)||84-04|
|22||Cliff Craft (DNQ)||65-00||22||Guy Eaker (East)||84-01|
|23||Paul Elias (AOY)||63-01||23||Shorty Evans (DNQ)||82-02|
|24||Jon Hall (AOY)||62-15||24||Bill Ward (AOY)||80-02|
|25||Tom Jurkewicz (DNQ)||62-11||25||William Taylor (DNQ)||79-11|
|26||Bill Ward (AOY)||61-05||26||David Wharton (DNQ)||79-09|
|27||Steven Mitchell (DNQ)||61-04||27||Tommy Chapman (AOY)||79-04|
|28||Richard Hale (DNQ)||61-00||28||Randy Dearman (DNQ)||78-07|
|29||Tom Mann (DNQ)||60-07||29||Paul Elias (AOY)||78-02|
|30||W D Thornhill (DNQ)||57-01||30||Ricky Green (East)||77-02|
For example, in the East Division, there was a three-way tie for the 14th spot between Johnny Adams, Larry Wright, and Linwood Thornhill. That meant that the Classic roster just increased by two anglers to 42.
Curious to me was Bo Dowden’s qualification. Nowhere in the articles I’ve read does it state that he got an automatic return visit to defend his championship. In all the other years, the prior year’s Classic winner was not included in the next year’s Classic race. This year they seem to have forgotten that and it kept Guido Hibdon and Cliff Craft out of the Classic through the Divisional races, as well as Shorty Evans from the AOY Race.
The other confusing end note is, as written in the third round of the rules, if an angler double qualified in the Divisional competition, he would qualify through the division in which he had the largest weight. This didn’t hold true for Dowden according to the 1981 Classic Report, as he qualified through the East Division yet his weight in the West Division was higher.
Based on how many times the rules had to be explained in Bassmaster Magazine, I bet Harold Sharp’s phone was ringing off the hook, especially after the results were reported. I understand that B.A.S.S. wanted to get more participation by spreading the wealth of the Classic but this set of rules required a Ph.D. in Accounting, English, and Critical Thinking in order to figure things out. Sorry Harold.
Presented in the table below is the final Angler of the Year standings.
|Roland Martin, FL (West)||277-06|
|Villis Bo Dowden, LA (East)||206-01|
|Guy Eaker, NC (East)||203-13|
|Larry Nixon, TX (West)||200-03|
|Rick Clunn, TX (East)||196-01|
|Gary Klein, CA (West)||193-02|
|Hank Parker, NC (West)||174-09|
|Ricky Green, AR (East)||160-04|
|Harold Allen, TX (West)||153-04|
|Basil Bacon, AR (East)||151-09|
|Thomas Martin, TX (East)||149-07|
|Bobby Murray, AR (West)||142-15|
|Paul Elias, MS (AOY)||139-05|
|Bill Ward, MO (AOY)||135-04|
|Jimmy Houston, OK (AOY)||133-00|
|Jon Hall, VA (AOY)||127-15|
|Jerry Rhyne, NC (AOY)||127-12|
|Kenneth Walker, TX (West)||124-09|
|Ron Shearer, KY (AOY)||124-09|
|Tommy Chapman, NC (AOY)||124-05|
|Shorty Evans, MO (DNQ)||123-08|
|Cliff Craft, GA (DNQ)||121-06|
|John Torian, TX (West)||110-06|
|Don Rank, IN (West)||108-14|
|Tom Mann, AL (DNQ)||107-08|
|George Cochran, AR (West)||107-01|
|Jack Chancellor, AL (East)||106-06|
|Randy Behringer, TX (West)||106-00|
|Greg Ward, MO (West)||102-15|
|Ray Meredith, KY (West)||102-15|
|Marvin Baker, TX (DNQ)||102-03|
|Gary Van Nostrand, (DNQ)||100-14|
|Ken D Cook, OK (West)||100-11|
|Zell Rowland, TX (DNQ)||98-13|
|Bobby Ditto, FL (DNQ)||98-12|
|Erwin Cole, (DNQ)||98-03|
|Bob Mcallen, (DNQ)||97-13|
|Randy Fite, TX (DNQ||97-07|
|John Powell, AL (DNQ)||94-07|
|Guido Hibdon, MO (DNQ)||92-06|
In the end B.A.S.S. had its 35, actually 37, Classic qualifiers from the Divisions and AOY. Next would be the Chapter Fish-Offs. Unfortunately, there was no Chapter reports written in any issue of Bassmaster nor was it in the 1981 Classic Report. I have a feeling that this was the year they took to reporting those events solely in BASS Times. So, if anyone out there has a 1981 BASS Times with the Chapter Divisional results in it, please contact us in the comment section below.
In Part 4 of this series we’ll look into the Classic Qualifiers and in Part 5 we’ll cover the 1981 BASS Masters Classic. If you missed Part 1 and Part 2, click the links to read them.
Also, below are the pages from the September/October 1981 issue of Bassmaster Magazine describing what to expect at Classic Week and the first annual BASS Masters Classic Outdoor Show. Little did they know that they were creating the biggest fishing show on earth.
Gallery – 1981 Bassmaster Trail End-of-Year Results