“Burlington’s Biggest Bass Boy! What a name! Great, isn’t it? In this case it fits. This man is Leo J. Welch…Here he is, with one of the fish, that have earned Leo his title (He even closes his letter with ‘Bass Wishes’). He is dedicated!”
The above excerpt, along with today’s Friday Finale historical photo, appeared in the December 1968 issue of Fishing Facts and Secrets. It turns out Leo Welch was one of Iowa’s big bass specialists, at a time when such anglers were still few and far between, and such monikers were limited in use, at best. I found an Iowa listing of the state’s largest submitted catches by species for 1973 (Iowa Conservationist, Feb. 1974), five years after this mention appeared in Fishing Facts. Sure enough, Leo Welch caught 3 of the 10 largest bass submitted to the state that year, fish weighing 7-04, 7-05 and 7-08. Leo did it again in 1975 with the 7th largest bass submitted (7-10), also.
A little digging about his bio turned up that Leo was a parts manager for Hawkeye Motor Co. in Burlington, and later retired to Florida in 1978. He passed in 2009 at the age of 90. His obituary stated, “He was a avid fisherman, life member (of) B.A.S.S. and was well acquainted with its founder Ray Scott.”
Of particular note though, the mention of Leo signing letters with “Bass Wishes” back then. That is a common thing to see now days, but this mention might be the earliest known usage of that term, at least that I’ve been able to document. I have a signed copy of Roland Martin’s book in which he also ended his inscription with “Bass wishes,” but that only dates to 1982. Was Leo the one who started this now popular sign-off? Have any readers seen a documented prior use or mention of this term?
Part of the fun of researching the history of bass fishing, for me, is trying to untangle these little oddities and curiosities of the sport. Others I’ve dug around with and will likely write about in the future include terms like ‘power fishing,’ ‘finesse fishing,’ and ‘creature bait,’ as an example.