Don Crozier hoists his winning fish from a 14-foot aluminum boat he used in the tournament. Photo courtesy of Dave Coolidge CLC magazine 1974.

Although the South Eastern part of the country had organized bass tournaments since the mid-60s, the western part of the country, namely California, fell a little behind the curve. This was mostly due to the fact that the state had made it illegal to fish for more than a couple-hundred dollars and the fishermen at the time were not interested in leaving the confines of their clubs – or zip codes.

The California Lunker Club (CLC) changed all of that, though, in 1972. As written before (see The California Lunker Club: Dave Coolidge – Part One and Part Two), Coolidge formed the first tournament organization in California and within 2 years it became such a success that it was purchased by Western Outdoor News and assumed into the newly-formed Western Bass Fishing Association. Competitive bass fishing had made its mark in the West.

Although the bassin’ bug had bitten the anglers and organized competition had started, the early equipment utilized at the events was minimal by today’s standards. Yes the anglers had the best money could buy when it came to rods, reels, line and other tackle. What they were missing, though, was the shiny new-fangled bass boats anglers in the east were using. There just wasn’t the market; the lakes in many of the southern California region were small, had horsepower or speed limits and they were costly.

Still, even equipped with small aluminum boats and minimal electronics, the anglers fiercely competed and many a fish were brought to the scales. This picture article looks back on those days and the boats the early California anglers used to compete in bass tournaments.

Although today’s 20-foot rockets make our life on the water easier, safer and more efficient, it makes me think, “Do we really need the boats we have today in order to compete on a local level? Does the angler really need GPS and sidescan or forward facing sonar?”

Believe me, I love my 20-foot Bass Cat but at times I remember how cool it was back in the day just to be on the water in my 15-foot Jon boat, dropping a weight to measure depth and lining up on landmarks to fish an offshore channel or hump.

What do you think?

Whether they owned the boats or rented them at the lake, these anglers were more interested in catching bass to worry about the boat they fished out of. Note the rig “Lunker” Bill used in the day. Photos courtesy of Dave Coolidge CLC magazine 1974.
Put a seat in the front of a run-a-bout and you have a bass boat. The angler caught the fish, not the boat. Photos courtesy of Dave Coolidge CLC magazine 1974.
Some of the first bass boats to make it to the west. Notice Larry Hopper’s rig and the boats lined up on the shore – most of which were aluminum rigs. Photos courtesy of Dave Coolidge CLC magazine 1974.