In today’s video we’re going to cover is a fairly representative sample of some of the bass magazines available from the late 1960s through the 70s, who owned the magazines and maybe flip through some of their pages to see what they looked like and how they compared to the cornerstone of bass magazines, Bassmaster.
Prior to the 1960s and even into the mid-60s, if you were a died-in-the-wool bass angler, you only had a couple of options to learn the craft. One, you could read some of the books that were in print like Jason Lucas’ Lucas on Bass, or you could subscribe to one of the Big Three; Sports Afield, Field and Stream, or Outdoor Life.
The trouble with the books was they were sometimes difficult to understand the concepts being put forth.
The trouble with the magazines was they covered all aspects of fishing and hunting. You may go months without a single article related to bass fishing. It was definitely not an efficient way to learn the craft.
Then in 1963, a department store clerk by the name of Bill Binkelman started a newsletter called Fishing News. It was printed on newsprint and had between two and four newspaper-sized pages.
Fishing News was a great step forward is disseminating fishing information but the problems with it were, it was short in length, and it was multi-specie. Southern bass anglers weren’t interested in how to catch walleye, pike or muskie. Fishing News would eventually turn into Fishing Facts magazine in the early 70s and from that would spawn the In-Fisherman, Ron and Al Lindner’s amazing publication. Still, the problem was they were still multi-species magazines.
Then in 1968 a former insurance salesman and recent bass tournament organizer named Ray Scott turned the industry on its ear and came out with BASSMaster Magazine.
BASSMaster Magazine was the first bass-centric magazine. At the beginning it was a staple-bound quarterly magazine with roughly 40 pages, but by 1970 it had turned into a bi-monthy magazine sporting close to 80 pages of bass catching wisdom. Each issue was packed with articles written by expert anglers of the day, and in many instances, the pros that were on the Bassmaster Trail.
But BASSMaster Magazine would get some competition soon after it started from others who wanted to copy the success of Scott, some even thinking they could topple him from his lofty peak.
THE LUNKER HOLE
The first magazine to come out after Bassmaster was The Lunker Hole in 1970. Published by the Bass Casters Angling Society, the magazine had pretty much the same premise as Bassmaster. It was owned by Art Reid, Bob Mason and Jan Swetz. In the early days, they stated that they were not in competition with BASS and just wanted to provide anglers in the Midwest with a magazine and tournament circuit that would cater to them.
The Lunker Hole lasted from 1970 until shortly after 1980. It was a great magazine but, in the end, they did try to compete with BASS and it didn’t end well.
The next bass-centric magazine to come out was Western Bass Magazine. Started in 1973, the first issues were a newsletter on newsprint but by 1975, the newspaper had turned into a full-up glossy magazine.
Like The Lunker Hole, Western Bass magazine catered to the western U.S. angler. Yes, there were some articles that covered national topics, but the nuts and bolts was teaching anglers the western way of catching bass.
Western Bass magazine changed to U.S. Bass in May of 1984. From there they went bankrupt due to bad money practices and were rebought by Western Outdoor News, the organization who originally owned Western Bass. Today it exists only as the WON Bass Trail.
AMERICAN BASS FISHERMAN
The next magazine to come out was Florida Bass Fisherman, which quickly changed its name to American and Florida Bass Fisherman, which then changed to just American Bass Fisherman, all within a period of months in 1973/74.
This magazine and tournament organization was owned by George Oates – who was an early competitor on the Bassmaster Trail.
Oates seriously thought he could outdo Ray Scott. The masthead of the magazine had writers and anglers like Al Lindner, John Fox, Tony Mack, Don Wirth, Larry Green, and a host of others.
By the end of 1976, George Oates had been put in jail for embezzling money from the organization and rigging his tournaments. The organization went on with Wayne Dyer and Don Williams and was later sold to National Bass Association in late 1978.
We’ll touch on National Bass in a minute.
Another magazine that started in 1974 was American Angler. Published by Phil Jay, to compliment The American Angler TV series. Phil Jay sold out to Bill Roberts around 1976 then John Fox, known as The American Angler,” bought both the magazine and the TV Show. Fox sold out to National Bass in early 1979. John Fox was also accused of cheating in bass tournaments and if you are able to look him up in the Bassmaster archives, you’ll see and Oates were both barred for life from participation in Bassmaster events.
Now we can move on to National Bass Association and the National Bassman magazine. National Bass started in 1977 by a man named Dewey Yopp, who was part of the original cast of American Bass Fisherman. Again, looking at who was involved with the organization, it’s a list of well-known industry folks. It makes me wonder if some of these people knew they were associated with these organizations in the end.
National Bass and the magazine would become the shortest living among the magazines presented so far. They folded in late 1979, making it just over two years in business.
The crazy thing about these organizations, minus BASS of course, was they were mostly corrupt in some way. But the magazines they produced were top notch. I go through these rags on a frequent basis and the content just floors me. They’re beautifully put together, have great content and visual appeal and they’re all between 80 and 100 pages long. If any of them could have ever exorcised their demons, they may have given Ray a run for his money.
Well folks, that a fairly representative look through the history of national bass magazines from the 1960s through the 70s. There are others I know I haven’t covered, and we’ll try to cover them in a later edition.