Jimmy Houston 1977 American Angler Tournament Trail.

Today in American Angler 1977 we’re taking a look back at three of the events put on by American Angler in 1977.  A little bit of a backdrop first.  We’ve written a couple pieces about American Angler over the course of time here.  For example, we wrote a piece on the last event of the 1977 season as well as another piece introducing American Angler.

In short, American Angler was one of the top tournament trails in the 1970s, competing with the Bassmaster Trail, American Bass Fisherman trail, and National Bass Association trail.  You’re likely to recognize some of the biggest names in bass fishing not to mention a few of these anglers who frequent the Bass Fishing Archives themselves.

You’ll also see from the tournament standings in this piece, all of the top anglers of the day competed in American Angler’s trail, as well as all the others, assuming there wasn’t a date conflict.  And, with four top tournament trails to choose from, there was a lot of cherry picking depending upon what trail anglers were doing better in.

For example, anglers such as Hank Parker and Guy Eaker got their starts on the trails outside of Bassmaster.  There were other anglers like Roland Martin, Tommy Martin, Don Butler, and Phil Green who fished all they could fit into their calendar.

First, let’s look at American Angler’s tournament schedule for the 1977 year.

The circuit would feature seven qualifying events for the Grand American All-Pro Championship to be held November 6-11.  To make it to the Championship, anglers had to place within the top-25 in the Angler of the Year race.  This followed suit with Bassmaster and their Classic qualification.

To start off the year, anglers would head to Sam Rayburn Reservoir for the first event January 30 through February 4.  Here’s the rest of the schedule.

  • Texas National – January 30 to February 4, 1977 – Sam Rayburn Reservoir
  • Arkansas National – February 20-25, 1977 – Millwood Reservoir
  • Louisiana National – March 27 to April 1, 1977 – Toledo Bend Reservoir
  • South Carolina National – April 17-22, 1977 – Clark Hill Reservoir
  • Kentucky National – May 15-20, 1977 – Kentucky Lake
  • Lone Star National – June 25-30, 1977 – Lake Livingston
  • Oklahoma National – September 4-9, 1977 – Lake Eufaula


American Angler 1977 Schedule

The three events covered in this post are the Louisiana, South Carolina, and Kentucky Nationals, which represent the third through fifth events of the season.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the reports from the first two events nor the sixth event.  Still, let’s check out these events and see who came out in the top-40.


1977 American Angler Louisiana National

Louisiana National Pages 1 and 2 American Angler Summer 1977 issue.

The Louisiana National was held on Toledo Bend Reservoir and produced a top-10 that was filled with stars.  The winner was Sonny Viola, a name that has been lost in the decades following the 1970s.  But if you were a professional angler in the 1970s, you definitely knew Sonny could put fish in the boat.  Viola qualified for two BASS Master Classics (1977 and 1979), and was a key player anytime a tournament circuit went to Toledo Bend.

Next in the lineup was Rick Clunn, hot off his domination of the 1976 Classic.  Jeff Green (TX) placed third, perennial Classic qualifier Marvin Baker (TX) finished fourth and 1975 Classic winner Jack Hains (LA) finished in 5th-place.

From the tournament report, Viola had caught his fish in the same area as Clunn all three days.  Both he and Clunn had brought in 8-fish limits each day.  On the last day, Viola only had one fish in the boat up until the last couple hours.

At weigh-in, Clunn was in an earlier flight and brough 32 pounds even to the scales.  Viola would have to have a remarkable end of his day to hold on to the wire-to-wire win.  And indeed, he did.

When it was Viola’s turn to drop his fish on the scales, he plopped 8 bass into the basket that went exactly 32 pounds, holding onto his lead by exactly five pounds.  Viola would win his first major bass tournament.

Overall, 98 anglers fished the American Angler Louisiana National catching 546 bass that weighed 1,699 pounds, or better than three pounds apiece.

Other big names that finished in the top-40 were Joe Kennedy (6th), Ricky Green (7th), Lendell Martin (8th), Jimmy Houston (9th), Phil Green (10th), Tom Shockley (12th), Jack Wade (13th), David Wharton (23rd), Elroy Krueger (32nd), Lonnie Stanley (34th), Shorty Evans (35th), and Jackie Hewlett (40th).

Phil Green caught first big bass and Rick Clunn caught second big bass.

American Angler South Carolina National

South Carolina National Pages 1 and 2 American Angler Summer 1977 issue

The South Carolina National was held on Clark Hill Reservoir, which straddles the South Carolina and Georgia borders.  This was a main stay lake for Bassmaster, where they held the 1973 BASS Masters Classic.

John Farr (SC) won the event barely beating Junior Collis of Georgia.  Again, the top-10 of this event was filled with big-named pros.  In third place was Marvin Baker (TX), Hank Parker took the 4th spot, Phill Green took 6th, Dave Gliebe 7th, and Ricky Green 8th.

Filling out the top-40was Don Butler (12th), Tommy Martin (27th), Jimmy Houston (28th), Joe Kennedy (31st), and Tom Shockley (34th).

Ricky Green caught the big bass of the event, with Collis taking second big bass.

American Angler Kentucky National

Kentucky National Pages 1 and 2 American Angler Summer 1977 issue

The Kentucky National was probably the toughest event of the season weight wise.  Kentucky Lake wasn’t producing like it had in the past and when only 30 pounds is needed for a win in a three-day event, you know the lake is off.

Billy Joe Hall of Tennessee didn’t let the tough fishing deter him in any way.  His first-day catch put him in 7th place.  On the second day he drew Ricky Green.  And although each of them we only able to weigh in five pounds apiece, what Farr learned from Green would end up cementing his win.  That lesson was the Harkins’ Lunker Lure.

The Harkins Lunker Lure had come to the forefront in 1976 when Bassmaster went to Codell Hull reservoir.  Rick Clunn had almost won that event with the “new” lure and he’d used it for a number of good finishes since then.

Farr watched Green use the bait and developed a liking to it.  At the end of the second day he procured a couple of the baits and used them on the last day to bring in a 16-pound limit of fish to secure the win.

American Angler AOY Standings After Five Events

With two events left to go, the AOY race was shaping up.  Looking at the top-40, you had a veritable list of the top anglers of the day.  Printed below is the top-40.

1977 American Angler AOY standings as of five events.

If any of you readers out there happen to have any American Angler magazines you either like to part with or loan us, please contact us below in the comments.  If you’d like to hang on to your magazines, we surely understand.  In that case maybe we can work out something where we can get them scanned so we can share them with the community and finish this story.