Everyone knows of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, better known as B.A.S.S. What many of today’s young anglers don’t know of are the number of early bass organizations that popped up right after Ray Scott organized that first event on Beaver Lake in 1967.
Shortly after that tournament, the Professional Sports Fishing Association was born. By the early 1970s there were four more organizations claiming regional and national tournaments – American Bass Fisherman, National Bass, American Angler and the Bass Casters Association. Today we’re going to talk a bit about he Bass Casters Association, or BCA as it was better known.
Recently a reader named David Fields contacted me about BCA. David was involved with BCA from around 1973 through 1976. He first started out fishing the events and eventually worked for them helping set up events and writing for the magazine. This past week David sent me several Lunker Hole magazines and a bunch of other BCA-related memorabilia. I thought it would be good to look at some of those old magazines as well as some of the tournament patches and pictures.
Back in the day, if you were going to start a bass organization, a magazine wasn’t far behind. As far as we can determine, BCA got its start in late 1968 early 1969 holding regional events in the Illinois/Indiana region. Its original name was the Bass Caster’s Angling Society, BCAS, as seen on the masthead of the first and fourth issues published in 1970.
The logo and emblem are very close to that of B.A.S.S.’s and talking with Clyde Drury, author of Books of the Black Bass, the embroidered bass on the shield was the exact bass used on the B.A.S.S. shield, only reversed. It’s no wonder the name changed from BCAS to the Bass Casters Association between 1970 and 1971.
The first issue of The Lunker Hole was printed for the May/June release period. I must thank Ken Duke for scanning his copy of the issue and sending me the digital copy. In the magazine there is no mention of BCAS-sponsored events. The next magazine I own is Number 4 from Nov/Dec 1970. In that issue there is a write-up of the BCAS Barkley Invitational held September 26-27, 1970. I am unsure how many events BCAS held in 1970 as I am missing Number 2 (July/August 1970) and Number 3 (September/October 1970).
The next issues I have are Number 7 (May/June 1971) and Number 9 (September/October 1971). In these issues you notice the name change from BCAS to BCA on the masthead. The contents of Number 7 doesn’t mention any BCA-sponsored events but does mention a couple club challenge tournaments. Issue Number 9, though, has a good write-up of the Second Annual Barkley Invitational and gives the results for the Champion of Tournament Champions Award – their AOY.
Charlie Bumpas won the 1971 AOY with 880 points while Jerry Crowell took second with 850 points. Reading the AOY report, BCA’s first sponsored event was the first Annual Barkley Invitational in 1970. That event counted in the 1971 AOY race. The next three events were held at Lake Monroe in the spring of 1971, Kentucky Lake in June 1971 and then finished at the Barkley Invitational just mentioned.
The next issue I have is courtesy of David Fields, Volume 3, Number 6 Nov/Dec 1972. By this time BCA has changed their numbering system to one more inline with every other magazine. The first two years 1970 and 71 not being delineated by volume numbers, only Number 1 through 10.
In this issue, it becomes quickly apparent that BCA has been bought out by another organization, United Society of Anglers, USA. I’ll be talking more about the acquisition in another article I’m working on with David Fields.
BCA went on to organize national and regional events. The national events had a $100 entry fee and were held from the Midwest to the south. In 1972 there were four events and 1973 the same. The regional tournaments were meant to allow weekend anglers a shot at competitive fishing and stuck around the Illinois region. Entry fees for the regional events was $25.
Over the course of the next couple months, I’ll be making a deeper dive into the Lunker Hole magazines I have to put together an overview of the organization and the events it held. I’ll also be talking more with David Fields about the origin of the organization and their goals. For now, I’ll leave you with some covers from each year of publication I have as well as some of the awesome tournament patches and other memorabilia David sent.
I’d like to thank David Fields for his help with this piece. There aren’t many people out there today that know much about BCA, how it started and what it stood for.
Great article, Terry, and thank you, Mr. Fields! I didn’t know BCA was originally BCAS. At the end of the article, the caption for the first magazine shown is wrong. (July/August 1973) Also, there is an error in the first paragraph….B.A.S.S. was never known as the Bass Anglers Sportsman Association.
Thanks Andy. Yeah, I need to stop working on this stuff at 2am. My editing skills go to sleep around midnight.
Second try to post a comment! My sister-in-law was one of the secretaries at BCA in the 70’s and early 80’s. She took her sister, my wife, to many of the BCA tournaments to help work the weigh-in table. That is where we first met in 1975 at the Shelbyville Hi/Lo and again in 1976 at the same tournament. The second time I asked her out!!
I am looking for the September/October issue for 1977 and June/July, September/October and November/December issues for 1978 of The Lunker Hole. I lost mine recently due to water flooding our lower level and SourcePro taking them without my permission. I had probably 10 years of The Lunker Hole, and several years of ABF, Red Man and a few other now obscure fishing organization magazines.
In August of 1977, Harold Dees of Creal Springs and I (then a grad student at U of IL in Champaign) won the Two Man Team, BCA Invitational on Carlyle Lake. The water temperature was in the high 90’s and low 100’s and it was muddy. The fishing was so bad, most of the teams gave up early and left. I caught all the fish caught during the tournament on my Bass Boss Bait Company Orange Crush. Since I was making Bass Boss fishing lures at the time, I got the idea to paint the buzz baits with orange glow construction paint Friday night before the tournament. I am still making and selling that same buzz bait today!!
Since our team won, we both got entry into the 1977 BCA Grand National at Lake Geneva, WI. The next year, I finished 5th overall in the point standings for BCA, and got the invitation to attend the 1978 BCA Grand National at Little Rock, AR. The highlight of 1978 was my winning the Rend Lake BCA Hi/Lo in May of that year.
We had a tornado come through the campgrounds where I was camped and it picked up the Bass Cat boat and Holsclaw trailer for the tournament winner. The boat ended up upside down in the middle of the Rend Lake Marina bay. All you could see was the trailer tires sticking up out of the water. The wind was so bad that two guys who came down to watch the tournament from an aluminum boat died during that weekend. When the “lake closed” horns went off on the second day, most of the anglers had to trailer their boats from other launch areas (another first). I asked Ron Pierce, the owner of Bass Cat, if he would make me the larger model boat if I would pay for the difference. He said he would make it for me if I would come to his plant in Mountain Home, AR and pick it up. That was one of the best boats that I ever owned.
I won that tournament using a Pomme Special and my own Bass Boss Bait Company spinnerbaits. The Grand National was a big disappointment for all of us who fished it, except the winner, Joe Verbeck. At the kick-off banquet, Ron Haddock announced that this was going to be the first “inch” tournament. Observers in each boat were to measure each fish 12 inches and over and the one with the most inches was the winner. We fished always by weight and this was a really big deal. Four 12 inch fish would weigh about 4 pounds, while a 26 inch fish would weigh 8 pounds or more! A lot of us were done with BCA and never fished another tournament hosted by them again.
Thanks for taking the time to read some of my story!!
Dale (Doc) Wittmer, Carbondale, IL
Doc, what a story! Thank you for taking the time to write it out for us! I’m sorry about your magazines and stuff. So, the cleaners took it all? I can’t believe they’d do that. I guess they thought it was trash at that point?
I need to talk with Rick about that boat. LOL. I’m sure he’ll remember the boat as well as you. Such cool stories and memories. Thank you again for the comments! Terry
Great comments, Dale, from someone who experienced the BCA tournaments firsthand. Growing up in St. Louis, BCA was a very popular and predominant tournament organization. Rend, Carlyle, Shelbyville, Millwood and Lake of the Ozarks were all lakes that I fished as a young man. I loved the Lunker Hole magazine and the “local” coverage of these lakes that I was familiar with. Some of the fisherman from this region were real sticks. Joe Verbeck of Illinois, who you mention above, won the 1969 Bassmaster tournament at Lake Seminole. I just wished that I had saved my collection of the magazine!