Last week we brought you two pieces on American Bass Fisherman events from the late 1970s. Both events were held on Lake Okeechobee, one in 1977 and the other in 1978 and each significant in its own way. While researching those pieces, I happened to read the tournament report for the ABF Grand Prix 1977. Last week I mentioned that a large percentage of the big guns fished all the circuits, schedules permitting. Today you’ll see that again in this 50-angler field.
The Grand Prix was American Bass Fisherman’s BASS Master Classic. Anglers fished all year for Angler of the Year and a spot in the Grand Prix. Unlike B.A.S.S., which only took 24 to 30 anglers, depending on the year, ABF increased the field for this no-entry-fee fish-off. This was most likely done to increase participation in their events throughout the year.
Another big difference between the two championships was the payout. The BASS Masters Classic was worth $25,000 to the winner, while the Grand Prix was worth $10,000. Still, it was a free event featuring a good payday and worth investing the time to try and qualify for.
Like the Classic, the Grand Prix had its own tournament boat. For this event the boat was the Pro-Craft 1640 powered by a 140 Evinrude motor. Other features on the boat were a Silvertrol Pro Model 12-24 trolling motor, Silvertrol batteries, Lowrance electronics (two flashers), and an Optronics spotlight.
For those who wanted the boat after the event, it sold for $5,999.00. But, if you committed to buy the boat before the event, ABF had a deal for you. This included:
- Opportunity to be an observer at the Grand Prix and fish with a pro for three full days
- Free meals and lodging at Grand Prix site at Sportsman’s Lodge
- Free hospitality room all three days
- Free picture of you and your rig made with one of the pros
- Free participation awards to all buyers of Golden Grand Prix rigs
- Finally, You will be the first to use your Grand Prix Rig (no used boats)
- Full Factory Warranty on boat, motor, trailer, and accessories
- Be the first in your club to own a beautiful 1977 Grand Prix Rig
- Not too bad for someone serious about buying a boat.
Let’s get back to the event.
The tournament writeup of the event lacked in several ways. For one, there wasn’t a Box Score like B.A.S.S. put out in Bassmaster Magazine. ABF did list the standings but not the weights or what each angler won. With respect to the standings, the text only mentioned the winner and second place. All this important information was presented in the first five paragraphs.
The author spent the rest of the article writing about his experience fishing with one of the anglers who didn’t do too well and other anglers who didn’t show. It was a disappointing article from an historical point of view.
So, who of the big names in bass fishing fished the event? Here’s a list. Some of these names may not ring a bell unless you are familiar with the top anglers of this era.
Within this list each angler was a BASS Masters Classic qualifier at least one time and all were competitive on the BASSMaster Trail.
The winner of the event was Shorty Evans, who weighed 27-07 for the win. It was reported that Evans used a Harkins Lunker Lure to secure the top spot and the $10,000 check for first place.
I did find an interesting piece of trivia in a sidebar relating to Evans and what he called his method of fishing. Here’s the quote:
“Shorty is one of the best junk men in the business, as he likes to throw little baits, crank baits, and spinner baits. This does not mean that the lures are junk, but just the way Shorty mixes them up reminds you of a junk man.”
That is the first time I have ever heard of this type of fishing referred to as junk fishing. Most people refer to Mike Iaconelli as the angler who coined the phrase junk fishing. Evidently Shorty Evans gets credit for it in 1977.
Guy Eaker took the second spot in the event but there is no report of his final weight. What was reported was Eaker’s day-one catastrophe, one that surely lost the event for him.
On the way to weigh-in, Eaker’s motor gave him trouble and he missed check-in time by five minutes. With a penalty of 1 pound per minute, Eaker lost five pounds, bringing his day-one total from 13-15 down to 8-15. It cost him the event.
For the year, Eaker had won the 1977 ABF Lake Seminole event as well as the 1977 Angler of the Year. If Eaker’s motor hadn’t failed him, this win would have capped off a phenomenal tournament season for him. One for the record books.
Where this article lacked in solid tournament reporting, it somewhat made up in photographs. I say somewhat because all the images are small and in black and white, but there are several of them. I guess ABF was going for quantity, not quality.
At this point in time, the new owners of ABF were just trying to keep the ship afloat. After the George Oates fraud case, ABF’s stock had dropped considerably. This is most likely why the payout was low and the tournament coverage sub-par. Within a year, ABF would be purchased by Dewey Yopp at National Bass and then National Bass would fold in 1979.
Tournament coverage like this is important in the history of the sport. It shows just how big the sport was back in the 1970s and that Ray Scott wasn’t the only game in town. All the big names fished the other circuits, many of them getting their start there before dipping their toes in the B.A.S.S. pond.
I hope you enjoyed this look back into the American Bass Fisherman Grand Prix Championship. We’ll dig deeper into ABF as well as the other circuits of the day in the future.
Also, if you have any American Bass Fisherman magazines in your stash of memorabilia and would like to share them, please drop us a line below in the comments. We are missing about half of the issues and could really use them to help tell the story of the sport.
To view the entire article, check out the gallery below. Click on the first image and use the arrows to scroll through the entire article.