In Bassmaster Trail 1978 – Part Five we’re taking a look at the anglers who qualified for the 1978 Bass Masters Classic. This year’s Classic was announced 10 days prior to the event and would be held on a Bassmaster Trail standard, Ross Barnett Reservoir in Mississippi.
The 1978 Classic would feature the top-24 anglers from the Bassmaster Trail qualifiers plus one angler from the Federation. In years past, qualification was determined by a points system, 50 for 1st place, 49 for 2nd place, etc. This year, though, B.A.S.S. moved to a total weight system – one they’d use for a number of years thereafter.
In this installment of the 1978 Season at a Glance, we’re looking into the anglers who qualified for Classic VIII in the order of their Angler of the Year placement. Note that the data is taken from a 1978 Bassmaster Classic Media and Press guide provided by Ken Duke.
This year’s Classic would have several repeat offenders as well as a few rookies. Let’s look into that data before we get into each contestant’s bios.
- 7-Time Qualifiers: Three – Roland Martin, Ricky Green, Bill Dance, Tom Mann
- 6-Time Qualifiers: One – Bobby Murray
- 5-Time Qualifiers: Three – Bo Dowden, Rick Clunn, Paul Chamblee,
- 4-Time Qualifiers: Two – Bill Ward, Tommy Martin
- 3-Time Qualifiers: Two – Jimmy Houston, Greg Ward
- 2-Time Qualifiers: Seven – Gary Wade, Larry Nixon, Dave Gliebe, Jerry Rhyne, Harold Allen, Woo Daves, Shorty Evans
- Rookies: Six – Cliff Craft, Hank Parker, David Owens, Randy Fite, Glenn Crawford, A. B. Battles
And yet another interesting piece of history is that by 1978, only three anglers had shared the coveted Bassmaster Angler of the Year award, those anglers being Roland Martin (71, 72, 73, 75, 78), Bill Dance (70, 74, 77), and Jimmy Houston (76).
This year’s Classic qualifiers would also have some former Classic winners in the mix. Of course Rick Clunn, hot off his streak of two wins (76 and 77), along with Bobby Murray (71), and Tommy Martin (74). Missing Classic winners in this year’s competition were Don Butler (72), Rayo Breckenridge (73), and Jack Hains (75).
Let’s move on to this year’s competitors with respect to their Angler of the Year standings.
(1) Roland Martin (age 38), Broken Arrow, OK: In 1978 Martin captured his fifth Bassmaster AOY title and had qualified for seven out of the eight Classics to date. Over the course of the 1978 season, he’d accumulated a total weight of 197-01 and won the St. Lawrence River event.
Since his start in professional bass fishing in 1970, he’d won 10 Bassmaster events (a record) and was the all-time Bassmaster money leader with $93,230.14. He’d also placed in 51 of the 58 Bassmaster events he’d entered at the time, not to mention two wins on Ross Barnett, the site of this year’s Classic.
(2) Bobby Murray (age 32), Nashville, TN: Classic VIII would be Murray’s sixth Classic – he won the inaugural event in 1971 at Lake Mead, NV. He also fished in the 1972, 73, 74, and 77 Bass Masters Classics.
In 1978 Murray placed in the money five of six events not including the 1978 Bass Champs event, where he placed 8th. Over the course of his career, he’d placed in the money 30 times with 14 top-10 finishes. He’d also placed in the top-5 twice at Ross Barnett in previous years.
(3) Ricky Green (age 33), Arkadelphia, AR: Ricky Green was always a threat to win an event and also a perennial qualifier for the Classic, with 1978 marking his seventh-straight foray to the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing. Green had made a run for a Classic win three times prior to 1978 with a 2nd-place finish in 1972, a 4th in 1974 and a 3rd in 1976.
During the 1978 season, Green made a check in five of the 6 qualifying events – his highest places being a 5th at Gaston and a 6th at West Point. He had 38 money finishes from his start in 1968 and 33 from the time he went full-time in 1972. He’d won at Ross Barnett in 1972 and had another win in 1974 at Sam Rayburn.
(4) Gary Wade (age 27), Greensboro, NC: Gary Wade had been a full-time angler on the Bassmaster Trail since 1976 and qualified for his first Classic that same year. He fished the 1977 Bass Champs event but missed the ’77 Classic. Classic VIII would be his second time in the Big Show. In 1978 Wade had two top-10 finishes, a 9th at Kentucky Lake and a 2nd at the St. Lawrence River.
(5) Villis (Bo) Dowden (age 37), Natchitoches, LA: Bassmaster Classic VIII was Dowden’s 5th-straight Classic qualification since he went full time in 1974. By the time the 1978 season had ended, he’d fished 32 Bassmaster events and had placed in the money 21 times. In that he had 11 top-10 finishes along with a 2nd-place finish at Classic VI and a 3rd at Classic VII.
(6) Rick Clunn (age 32), Montgomery, TX: Clunn was the reigning back-to-back Classic winner and also the second-highest money winner on the Bassmaster Trail ($77,318.76). Since starting his career in 1974, he’d qualified for five-straight Classics, won two (1976 and 77), won the 1977 BASS Champs event and had eight top-10 finishes. At the time, he was considered the most scientific angler on the Trail but still not as highly regarded as Roland Martin.
(7) Cliff Craft (age28), Sugar Hill, GA: Craft was a guide from Georgia and had fished the Trail full time since 1976. Classic VIII would be his first shot at the big show. Through 1978, Craft had finished in the money seven times out of 22 events fished. In 1978 Craft had two top-5 finishes, a 3rd at the St. Lawrence River and a 4th at West Point.
(8) Larry Nixon (age 27), Hemphill, TX: Nixon started his career in 1977 and summarily qualified for his first Classic the same year and nearly won the 1977 AOY in his rookie season. He also won the 1978 BASS Champs event held on Percy Priest Reservoir. In the 13 events he’d fished he’d placed in the money at every event along with six top-10s.
(9) Hank Parker (age 25), Clover, SC: Hank Parker made his full-time debut on the Bassmaster Trail in 1978, having only fished one other Bassmaster event in 1975 at Santee Cooper. In the six-event season of 1978, Parker placed in the money five times and had two top-10s.
Parker was by no means a rookie, though. He’d torn up the American Bass Fisherman and National Bass Angler tours for a few years. It was only a matter of time before he’d switch over to B.A.S.S. and start making his name on that circuit.
(10) Dave Gliebe (age 35), Stockton, CA: Gliebe had been full time on the Bassmaster Trail since 1976 and had made quite a name for himself within that time. Dee Thomas may be the inventor of flipping, but it was Gliebe who really showed the world what it could do.
By 1978, Gliebe had qualified for his second-straight Classic and had won two Bassmaster events, the 1977 Louisiana Invitational on Toledo Bend and the 1978 Florida Invitational on Toho. His 1978 win coupled with a 3rd-place at Gaston and a 14th-place at the St. Lawrence River cemented his second Classic qualification.
(11) Jerry Rhyne (age 37), Stanley, NC: The 1978 Classic was Rhyne’s second time qualifying for the big event – he’d also qualified in 1976. In 18 events fished, he’d placed in the money nine times and had four top-10 finishes, including two in the ’78 season. Rhyne had stated earlier in the 78 season that the move to the 14-inch length limit really helped him in ’78 as he always had trouble “catching small bass.”
(12) Harold Allen (age 33) Milam, TX: Harold Allen went full time as a Bassmaster pro in 1977 and made his first Classic that same year. By the end of the ’78 season, Allen had fished 15 Bassmaster events and had placed in the money nine times with four top-10 finishes. Prior to becoming a professional tournament angler, Allen was a guide on Toledo Bend and one of the original Hemphill Gang along with Larry Nixon.
(13) David Owens (age 29), Story, AR: The 1978 Classic was Owens’ first Classic and he did it in his rookie year. Out of six events, he placed in the top 20 three times, his best finish a 6th at Gaston. Owens would go on to fish the ’79 and ’80 seasons and never had a finish higher than 29th. He left the Bassmaster Trail after the 1980 season ended.
(14) Bill Dance (age 36), Memphis, TN: If Dance hadn’t sat out the 1971 season due to the filming of his new show, “Bill Dance Outdoors,” he would probably have been fishing his 8th-straight Classic. Instead, Classic VIII would be his seventh Classic in a row.
At the time, Dance had seven wins, which included two on Ross Barnett. He was a three-time Bassmaster AOY (1970, ‘74 and ‘77) including 27 top-5 finishes. He was third on the all-time money list with $54,724.15, having never won a Classic.
(15) Woo Daves (age 32), Chester, VA: Classic VIII would be Woo Daves second time qualifying for the event – he also qualified in 1975. Between 1974 and ’76, Daves had fished eight Bassmaster events and three Chapter Championships. Then in 1977, he went full time as a pro. He had five top-10 finishes from 1974 through the ’78 season with won win, the Virginia Invitational at Buggs Island.
(16) Randy Fite (age 25), Conroe, TX: Before the 1978 season, Fite had only fished three Bassmaster events. In the ’78 season, he could only muster 12-03 for the first three events but then kicked it into high gear the next three, winning at West Point and qualifying for his first Classic. Also of note is Rick Clunn and Randy Fite are cousins.
(17) Tom Mann (age 45), Eufaula, AL: Mann was another perennial Classic qualifier with Classic VIII being his seventh (he missed the ’76 Classic). He placed second in the inaugural Classic at Lake Mead, NV and by the end of the 1978 season, had placed in the top-10 25 times. His highest finish in 1978 was a 2nd-place at Gaston.
(18) Paul Chamblee (age 44), Raleigh, NC: Classic VIII was Chamblee’s fifth-straight Classic. His best finish was the 1975 Currituck Sound event where he led the first two days and relinquished the win to Jack Hains. By the end of the ’78 season, Chamblee had fished 34 Bassmaster events with 10 top-10 finishes including a 2nd-place finish in ’78 at Kentucky Lake.
(19) Bill Ward (age 43), Amsterdam, MO: Part of the famous Bass Buster Lures family and son of fishing legend Virgil Ward, the 1978 Classic was Ward’s fourth time in the big show. By 1978 he’d fished 30 Bassmaster events and had 14 top-25 finishes.
(20) Glenn Crawford (age 41), Clearwater, FL: Crawford was a first-time Classic qualifier having only fished two other Bassmaster events outside of the 1978 season. His top finish in ’78 was a 7th place at the St. Johns River.
(21) L. F. “Shorty” Evans (age 65), Houston, MO: Classic VIII was Evans’ second Classic, having competed in 1971 on Lake Mead. In 1978 he won the Kentucky Lake Invitational becoming the oldest angler to ever win a Bassmaster event. He was also the oldest angler to have ever qualified for a Bassmaster Classic.
(22) Jimmy Houston (age 34), Cookson, OK: Houston had missed qualifying for the 1977 Classic after qualifying two times in a row in ’75 and ’76. Classic VIII would be his third trip. He was also a past Bassmaster AOY, 1976, and by the end of the 1978 season had amassed 11 top-10 finishes including a win in 1976 at Santee Cooper.
(23) Greg Ward (age 21), Amsterdam, MO: Ward was the son of fellow Classic competitor Bill and grandson of the bass fishing legend Virgil Ward. Greg and his father, at the time, were the only father and son duo to ever qualify for a Classic together, doing it in 1975, 76, and again here in 1978.
Classic VIII would be Greg Ward’s third Classic. His 1975 qualification still holds the record for the youngest angler (18) to qualify for the coveted event. He and his dad also hold the record for father-son qualifiers in the same year with three, 75, 76 and 78.
(24) Tommy Martin (age 37), Hemphill, TX: Tommy Martin, fishing in his fourth Classic, was again part of the famous Hemphill Gang of Texas. He was a professional guide on Toledo Bend and spent 300 days a year on the water. In his rookie year, Martin won the ’74 Classic on Wheeler Lake along with the Arkansas Invitational on Beaver Lake – the first angler to do so in the same season, let alone his rookie season.
(25) A. B. Battles (age 37) Gadsden, AL: Battles made the ’78 Classic through the Federation and become the fifth angler to do so since 1973. Battles was the leading angler on the winning Alabama team in the Federation Championship.
(Alternate) James Thomas (age 35), Pelham, AL: James Thomas finished just two ounces shy of Tommy Martin in the regular-season Bassmaster Trail standings. If not for three dead fish, he would have bumped Martin out.