Here’s a cool old picture of Villis “Bo” Dowden. We dug this picture up from the archives of The Town Talk newspaper from Alexandria, LA from October 1975. The picture is a bit curious due to what was said about it in the paper. Here’s the short blurb.
“Natchitoches’ Villis (Bo) Dowden, front, and Roland Martin of Broken Arrow, Okla. will both be striving for the $15,000 winner-take-all purse in the fifth annual BASS Masters Classic set for Oct. 29-31 on a lake which will not be revealed until the contestants have enplaned from New Orleans Monday.”
The paper is obviously excited to have a home boy in the Classic but the write-up is a bit confusing. Are they stating that Roland Martin is in the back seat of the boat, or are the stating that Dowden and Martin will be competing against each other in a week?
A careful look at the picture and you’ll see that Roland Martin is not in the back seat of this photo. Yes, it’s a grainy picture but there’s no doubt in my mind it’s not Martin. The facial structure and the hair don’t match. Add to that the picture was most likely taken at the ’74 Classic due to the 1974 Bass Masters Classic patch on Dowden’s life vest. This is important to solve this mystery because if you take a careful look at the gentleman behind Dowden, he’s wearing a matching life vest, which points to the likelihood the passenger is his press observer for the day.
In the early days of the Classic, competitors and the press were given matching life vests with the Classic patch sewed on them along with three additional patches each to sew on their daily shirts or patch vests. I have the 1974 Classic patch and the one on Dowden’s vest in the picture is an exact copy of it. He didn’t make the 1973 Classic and the ’75 Classic had yet to be held.
It’s fun little things like this that keep us busy here at the Bass Fishing Archives and it also keeps us motivated. We hope you enjoy these short looks back on the history of our sport.
Thanks, Brian. Here is another mystery perhaps you can solve, also involving Roland Martin and Villis “Bo” Dowden: Roland produced a video in Feb. 2021, which is on YouTube entitled, I believe, “A foot race to break a tie”. In it, he says at the September 1973 B.A.S.S All-American on Watts Bar, Ray Scott arranged a foot race to break a tie for a big bass prize between he and Bo Dowden. According to my investigation, this is false, since Dowden did not enter a B.A.S.S event until 1974. Roland may be thinking of a different tournament. According to the tournament write-up in the Nov/Dec 1973 issue of BASSMASTER, the tie was with Robert Smith, of Ohio, and was broken with a casting accuracy contest, which Roland won. I emailed Roland last summer about this, wanting to know the details of the casting contest and he said he vaguely remembers casting to floating hoops. I didn’t even know about his video of a few months earlier. So where was this foot race held, if it was ever held! Perhaps you, or Terry can approach Roland about this. I may send him another email, eventually. I emailed the Dowden Real Estate business in hopes of getting some answers but got no response. This bugs me.
I think Roland has the basics right, but has got the exact details a little mixed up. The correct answer appears to be what you posted, which involved a big bass tie with Robert Smith. Roland won the event outright, but a tie for second big bass at 6-06 between the two anglers led to the “cast off” to break the big bass tie. Each angler took 20 casts to a “ring life buoy at 40 feet.” Roland put his lure in the ring 2 times; Smith didn’t hit the ring a single time, so Roland won the $750 for 2nd big bass along with $3700 for the win according to newspaper reports. Third place finisher, Andy Sceurman of Newark, OH also won the big bass award with a 7-01 largemouth, securing a $4,000 bass boat and trailer for his efforts.
So far, I haven’t found any references to a “foot race” to determine anything at BASS, though I could easily envision Ray making that type comment as an off-hand remark giving his sense of humor/sarcasm. Dowden was a pretty big boy, so Scott saying something like that to him on stage would certainly not be out the question in my opinion – lol.
Thanks, Brian for your good research. Thank heavens for newspaper reports. I often wondered about the details of this casting contest, and now I know. Regarding Ray Scott’s “fun and games”, a few days ago, I watched a video where he was announcing a weigh-in , and Bo Dowden was coming up, and Ray says something like, “Next, we have Bo Dowden, a former Olympic runner in the 1952 Olympics”. For the life of me, I can’t find that video anymore. If you know, tell me. I’m in the process of reviewing Bassmaster Classic videos but can NOT find it anymore! Anyway, maybe that’s where Roland Martin “dreamed up” the foot race.
The title of Roland’s video is, “A foot race for big bass”.