Paul Elias wins the 12th BASS Masters Classic held on the Alabama River outside Montgomery. Photo January 1983 issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

The final culmination of every Bassmaster Trail schedule is the BASS Masters Classic.  And today in 1982 BASS Masters Classic we provide a look into that season-ending event and how it played out.

For the second year in a row, the Classic was held on the home waters of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, the Alabama River, also known as Lake Montgomery.  The year prior, a 21-year-old rookie by the name of Stanley Mitchell won the event by the margin of only 15 ounces.

Mitchell’s tactics involved casting a Bomber Model A crankbait and a Luhr Jensen spoon on sand bars outside of creek mouths on the main river.  If not for the help of a 6-03 Hail Mary lunker, things would have been different.  But so is the competition at the BASS Masters Classic – it’s never over until the last fish is weighed.

This year seemed like it would be more of the same.  Anglers would concentrate on main-river structure and it’d be a fight to the finish.  One caveat, though, was 20 extra miles of the river were opened for competition.  This would spread the anglers out more and provide more fishable water.

Of the 41 contestants who qualified, 28 anglers had already experienced The Classic.  There were two 11-time Classic qualifiers (Roland Martin and Ricky Green), one 9-time Classic qualifier (Rick Clunn who had won back-to-back in 76 and 77), and 10 others who’d fished the event at least 5 times.  The field was stacked.

Let’s move onto the event.

Practice    1982 BASS Masters Classic

Prior to the actual competition days, the anglers were afforded a day and a half to get familiar with the waters and try to find some willing fish.  The weather was cool for the time of the year, windy, and wet.  Also in the mix was the water flow as it changed every day, causing major fluctuations in the level from one day to the next.  Because of this, most anglers had a hard time finding fish.

Another problem was the 14-inch size limit.  The river was filled with spotted bass, of which most would not meet the required size.  This was looking to be another tight event where one big fish could make one lucky angler the hero.

Day 1      1982 BASS Masters Classic

As happens more times than not, the first day of competition anglers woke to clear skies as a cold front had pushed through the area overnight.  By the end of competition on the first day, Billy Noah was in the lead with six bass (7-fish daily limit) that pulled the scales down to 12-02.  In the second spot was Guy Eaker who’d reported catching 27 fish the day prior on crankbaits.  Eaker’s four bass weighed 11-04.  Bill Ward, of Bass Buster Lures and the son of fishing great Virgil Ward, took up the third position with four bass that weighed 10-12.

Ron Shearer (4th place) and Paul Elias (5th) rounded out the top-5 with 10-09 and 8-12 respectively.

Eaker surmised that his fish had moved due to the lack of current and the water level dropping 18 inches overnight.  There is probably some truth to that as he had been catching his fish tight to the bank to get out of the current.

To show how tough the first day was, nine anglers blanked on the first day.

Day 2        1982 BASS Masters Classic

After another hard day on the water, day-1 leader Billy Noah was only able to bring one fish to the scales and fell to the 5th spot.  Guy Eaker had it worse, as he wasn’t able to catch a single keeper and fell to the 14th spot.

1980 Classic winner, Bo Dowden, on the other hand, was able to catch four fish that elevated his bag to 20-01 and the lead.  Anchoring his day-2 bag was a 6-01 lunker, good for big bass of the day.  Another angler who was consistent was Paul Elias, who’d been deep cranking submerged trees on the main river channel.  Elias, was able to bring his two-day total to 19-12, putting him in the second spot going into the final round.

The only 7-fish limit weighed in the first two days was brought in by Jack Chancellor, who happened upon a group of schooling bass, and in the matter of 7 minutes boated 10.  His seven best weighed 10-03 and brought his two-day total to 16-13, putting him in the third spot.

Day 3

The final day was more of the same.  Tough fishing and light bags.  The first angler in the top-3 to weigh in was Jack Chancellor, who was able to trick four bass into the boat.  His four fish gave him a total of 24-08.  Next was Bo Dowden.  Dowden knew he had to have a good day to stay ahead of Elias, but the odds weren’t stacked in his favor.  The Louisiana pro was only able to get two bass into the boat, bringing his 3-day total to 23-03.

Then in what is standard Classic fashion, the last angler to weigh in was Paul Elias.  Elias’ luck had changed for the better as he brought in the second of two 7-bass limits to be weighed the entire event.  His seven bass dropped the scales 12-12 and increased his total weight to 32-08.  Elias had won the BASS Masters Classic by a total of 8 pounds.

The Top 3

All three anglers who finished in the top-3 were fishing within sight of each other.  It just so happened that Elias and Dowden had found the same fish in practice, but didn’t know this until the morning of the second day.

Elias was fishing a main-river sand bar downstream of Holy Ground Battlefield, that had downed trees located on it.  The bar dropped from 10 feet down to 25 feet and the tree limbs, located on an inside turn, would reach into to 10-foot zone.  Elias would position his boat downstream and cast upstream with either a Bill Norman Deep Little N or a deep diving Bagley’s bait in chartreuse/black back.  He’d at times also use a Whing Ding tail spin.

Paul Elias throwing a crankbait on the Alabama River. Photo January 1983 issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

Elias’ technique for cranking the bait would become a national trend after this event.  Using a long Lew’s cranking rod, Elias would kneel on the deck of his boat, place the rod into the water and reel.  It became known as Kneeling and Reeling, and although the technique can be found in books from as far back as 1960, it had never been broadcast to the public before on this scale.

Dowden, on the other hand, fished the area from upstream, making slightly downstream casts and working the same area.  Dowden was throwing a Bagley’s DB-2 and DB-3 crankbait on the sand bar but would also venture into shallow water to flip a jig, which is how he caught the 6-01 on the second day.  The two worked together, sharing the water as best possible.

Chancellor, who finished in second place, was up to his old tricks with his Do-Nothing worm and rig.  It accounted for his fish on the first day of competition but through a bit of luck on the second day, he switched to a spoon to boat his 7-fish limit.  He also relied on a crankbait for some of his fish.

That about ends a look at the 1981/82 Bassmaster Tournament Trail.  For a complete list of the final standings and box score, please see the table below.

1981 BASS Masters Classic Final Box Score, Montgomery Lake, AL, October 14-16, 1982
PlaceAngler, StateBass/AliveWeight, lbs-ozs*Award
1Paul Elias15/1332 - 8$40,500
2Jack Chancellor14/1424 - 8$12,000
3Villis Dowden10/1023 - 3$7,000
4Ronnie Young10/1022 - 14$4,000
5Bill Ward8/821 - 8$2,500
6Jack Westberry8/819 - 0$1,500
7Billy Noah9/918 - 12$1,500
8Roland Martin10/1017 - 4$2,000
9David Wharton7/716 - 8$1,500
10Jimmy Houston9/916 - 0$1,500
11Basil Bacon6/615 - 14$1,000
12Linwood Thornhill7/715 - 8$2,000
13Harold Allen8/815 - 5$1,000
14Tom Jurkewicz8/715 - 1$1,000
15Ron Shearer8/814 - 10$1,000
16Stanley Mitchell8/813 - 10$1,000
17Ricky Green8/813 - 5$1,000
18Hank Parker6/612 - 15$1,000
19Jerry Rhyne4/412 - 10$2,000
20Kelous Kizer5/511 - 12$1,000
21Marvin Baker4/411 - 07$500
22Guy Eaker5/511 - 04$500
23Rick Clunn6/610 - 03$1,000
24Billy Lewis6/610 - 02$500
25Denny Brauer4/410 - 01$500
26Thomas Martin4/48 - 09$500
27Charles Campbell2/27 - 13$1,000
28Van Kennedy4/47 - 07$500
29Ken D Cook4/45 - 15$500
30James Dudley3/35 - 10$500
31Larry Nixon3/35 - 05$500
32Danny Ashley3/34 - 04$500
33Larry Ummel2/24 - 02$500
34Maurice Jackson2/23 - 12$500
35George Bowman2/23 - 03$500
36Kenneth Walker1/12 - 09$500
37Lonnie Stanley2/22 - 06$500
38Randy Behringer1/11 - 12$500
39John Lawson1/11 - 10$500
40Blake Honeycutt0/00 - 00$1,000
41Cliff Craft0/00 - 00$500
Box Score
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Total Bass Caught
Total Bass released
Total Pounds Caught/strong>
Limits Caught (5-fish)
Daily Big Bass Awards
Jerry Rhyne, NC6-02$1,000
Bo Dowden, LA6-01$1,000
Linwood Thornhill, SC5-02$1,000
Daily Press Angler Big Bass Awards
D'Arcy Egan, Cleveland Plain Dealer5-03$500
John Phillips, Birmingham Post Herald5-01$500
Tony Estes, Decatur Daily3-12$500
Cliff Shelby, BASSMASTER Magazine3-14$500
Ken Schultz, Field & Stream3-01$500
* A penalty of two ounces was assessed for each dead fish.


If you’re interested in reading the first four parts of this series you can see them at these links: