Just like the prior two Bass Master Classics held, the third Classic was also a secret. This time, though, we were heading to Clarks Hill Lake on the Georgia/South Carolina border.
We were going to stay on the South Carolina side of the lake and had set up to use a new resort, Hickory Knob Resort, that was just being completed. Prior to the event, we made a trip to the resort to check it out.
The resort was located a long way from any town and a new road had been cut through the pine forest in order to reach it. Once we got there we noticed that the place had a very large barn and some smaller buildings located behind the barn that would be perfect for hiding the boats during their assembly.
Another part of the scouting trip was to locate a motel for the Ranger Boats drivers somewhere halfway between Flippin, Arkansas and McCormick, South Carolina. The motel had to have a secluded parking lot to hide the boats during the day while the drivers slept. I located a Holiday Inn that would serve well and later I called to reserve the rooms for the drivers. Unfortunately I was told by the Holiday Inn that they were all booked up for a coon hunters convention. I had to make another trip to find a motel, which I did.
A few days before the Classic, I called Mickey Wood and instructed him to get all the boats and trucks ready and that I’d call him with driving instructions. When the day came, I told him the drivers were to drive at night and when they reached a certain highway exit, to get off, go to the hotel, park the boats in the designated area and go to sleep. They should arrive around daybreak. I also told them not to wear any Ranger clothing if they ate in the restaurant and that I’d be calling later in the afternoon to give more instructions.
While the Ranger drivers were sleeping, the rest of the B.A.S.S. crew showed up at the same hotel and were told to wait for more instructions.
Just before dark, I called Mickey and gave him the next set of instructions and what exit to get off of. The B.A.S.S. crew was to follow the Ranger convoy. I also told Mickey I’d be at the bottom of the exit ramp and I’d flash my headlights and then they’d follow me the rest of the way.
During this time I had the Federation Director, Bill McGhee, with me at Hickory Knob Resort. Prior to leaving to meet the Ranger convoy, Bill and I blocked the road leading to the barn with some saw horses and a big sign that read, “DANGER KEEP OUT HIGH VOLTAGE.WIRES.” The funny thing is this road was right across the street from the Resort Director’s home. Later he’d tell me he thought the road block and sign were put there by maintenance crews and he’d instructed his staff to stay clear.
Bill and I met the convoy at the exit ramp at 3:00 am and led them back to the Resort. We moved the road block hauled the boats behind the barn and then hauled the crew to their rooms. They were to eat and remain in their rooms until we picked them up – again they were to wear no Ranger clothing.
Later I picked them up and took them back behind the barn to unload and assemble the boats. Using a forklift, they unloaded the boats onto their trailers and began assembling them. By mid-afternoon they were done, I brought them lunch and released them to head back to Flippin. As they were leaving, one driver asked if I’d tell him where he was so he could tell his wife where he had been. I replied, “Just follow that white line in the middle of the road until you get to the interstate. Then turn right and the interstate will take you back to Arkansas. By then the Classic will be announced and your wife will know where you’ve been.
The Resort had a very large meeting room that overlooked the parking lot. Bill and I went in the meeting room, closed the blinds and asked the Director to bring his staff in for a meeting.
We’d booked the Resort under the name of, “Mutual of Omaha Insurance Conventions so the staff assumed we were going to give them an idea of what we were going to do that week. I told the staff, “We’re not Mutual of Omaha, we’re The Bass Master Classic here to hold the World Championship Bass Tournament. As we speak, a chartered plane is landing and buses are headed here to the Resort with the anglers, their wives and media to cover the event.
While this was going on Bill and the Ranger crew were bringing the Classic Boats around to the front of the complex and parking them in front of the resort. When I finished talking to the resort staff, I told them open the blinds and take a look. What they saw was all the Classic Boats lined up.
The Resort Director was dumbfounded and said, “I can’t believe you all did this right across the road from my house and I didn’t know a thing about it.”
The event was another success. Roy Clark and the String Busters showed up and entertained all week and we even had a barn dance. We also had a greased pig contest in the big barn and Ray (Scott) gave the outdoor writer/angler team that won $100. It was another great Classic time.