BASS Seminar Handbook 1974 Cover

Introduction

Having just recently moved to a new home after being in my old location for nearly 30 years has presented lots of challenges but also a few pleasant surprises.  One of those surprises came the other day when I was unpacking boxes of Bassmaster magazines for more permanent storage.  While doing so, I came across a very thin “magazine” that was out of character for the other issues from that timeframe.  Much to my delight, it was a B.A.S.S. Seminar Handbook from 1974.  I suddenly remembered that indeed, my dad and I had attended a seminar in the St. Louis area at that time presented by Ray Scott and the B.A.S.S. pros of the day.  In B.A.S.S. On Tour-1974, we’ll dive into the history of these early tours and look at a few historical nuggets from the Seminar handbook I took home 50 years ago.

Background

As Ray Scott’s seminal tournaments were gaining momentum in the late 1960s and early 70’s, Ray sensed a bit of unease from local fisherman where these tournaments were held.  Many felt like these new “bass pros” would come in and make a devastating impact on their local fishery (remember that this was in the days prior to catch and release).  Ray decided prior to the 1970 Ross Barnett tournament in Mississippi, to hold a free bass fishing seminar prior to the tournament to quell any local discontent.

At this first seminar, Ray explained his concept of B.A.S.S.  He also got pros like Bill Dance, Tom Mann, John Powell and the outdoor writer, Grits Gresham to woo the crowd with their bass fishing expertise.  The seminar apparently went so well that similar events were scheduled and held later in 1970 in Tulsa and Houston before tournaments at Lake Eufaula (OK) and Sam Rayburn, respectively.

In late 1970, Ray decided to hit the road in earnest with a gaggle of touring pros and secured the use of a forty-one-foot touring Bluebird bus.  He also made the precipitous decision to hire Harold Sharp and put him in charge.  For 10 months, a core group of Ray, Harold Sharp, Roland Martin, and John Powell delivered 101 seminars, with frequent guest appearances from other pros along the way.

BASS Seminar Handbook 1974 featuring the Bluebird tour bus with Ray Scott, Harold Sharp, Roland Martin, and John Powell.

Roland Martin was the designated deep-water expert, followed by John Powell who never wormed more than 6 feet deep.  It was apparently at one of these seminars when asked about when to set the hook with a plastic worm, Powell famously quipped, you’ll feel 3 taps; first when a bass picks the worm up, second when he spits it out, and third when I tap you on the shoulder and ask you why you didn’t set the hook!

These seminars continued with less frequency in ensuing years, including the 1974 event I was fortunate enough to attend.

1974 Seminar

Fifty years is a long time to test one’s memory.  I would be mistaken to tell you that I recall this seminar with especially great clarity.  I can tell you that as a wide-eyed 14-year-old, I was smitten by all things bass fishing and eager and willing to soak up any and all information I could.  My heroes were not the baseball or football players of the day, but guys named Bill Dance, Roland Martin, and Tom Mann.  Fishermen.  Bass Fishermen to be exact.

These were obviously also the days prior to the amazing technology employed in tournament fishing today. Concepts discussed at these seminars didn’t involve expensive or fancy gear, just information on how to find, locate, and catch bass.  Information was shared on how to obtain and use topographic maps for locating reservoir bass, information on how to interpret a flasher depth finder.  Real advice straight from the mouth of real pros, face to face – no Internet or social media required!

1974 Seminar Handbook

Now, let’s dive into the contents of the thin, but historically packed handbook that was given out at this seminar.  Again, to my surprise, I had actually obtained personalized autographs from none other than Ray Scott, himself, along with Tom Mann, Roland Martin and Jerry McKinnis.  

BASS Seminar Handbook 1974 featuring Ray Scott and his words of what to expect at the seminar.
BASS Seminar Handbook 1974 featuring three of the pros who would be talking. Tom Mann, Roland Martin, and Jerry McKinnis.

Besides these pros, the handbook shows that other names on the 1974 seminar tour also included B.A.S.S. staffers Bob Cobb and Harold Sharp, as well as pros Bill Dance, Stan Sloan, Al Lindner, Rayo Breckenridge, and Bobby Meador.

The handbook also has some cool retro ads of the day.  Included were venerable Fliptail worms that were still prominent on the tournament trail at that time, Zorro baits that advertised getting a patch, or decal for 75 cents or a new catalog for 25 cents, and one of the few ads I have seen that specifically identify Lindy/Little Joe products designed for bass fishing

1974 BASS Seminar Handbook featurig a Fliptail Lures Ad.
1974 BASS Seminar Handbook featurig a Sloan's Zorro Baits Ad.
1974 BASS Seminar Handbook featurig a Lindy/Little Joe Ad.

There was also some real “meat” in this little handbook, including an article titled, “Winning Ways With Plastic Worms,” by Bill Dance, and a “Deadly Dozen Bassing Tips” article among others.  Check out tip #11 that points out in the golden age of “bubba tackle” the need to learn to use spinning gear and light line.

1974 BASS Seminar Handbook featurig the article "Winning Ways With Plastic Worms," by Bill Dance.
1974 BASS Seminar Handbook featurig the article Deadly Dozen Bassing Tips.

Lastly, the Ranger boat ad on the back cover is a great photo of the then transitional phase away from the traditional tri-hull fiberglass boats to the wider, pad hull boats that would soon dominate.

1974 BASS Seminar Handbook featurig a full page ad by Ranger Boats on the back cover.

Conclusion

I am unsure how much longer after 1974 this initial iteration of B.A.S.S. Seminar tours continued.  The next year in 1975, Billy and Bobby Murray created the Bass Fishing Institute Seminars in conjunction with Indiana State University.  B.A.S.S would also in later years conduct what were called Bass Fishing University events.  I was fortunate enough to attend both of these back in the day.

I hope you enjoyed this journey back into the state of bass fishing 50 years ago. Besides bringing back special memories for me of time spent with my beloved father, it was truly indicative and reminiscent of a time when true giants were among us.