California Lunker Club August 1974 Cover

Over the past three weeks we’ve published the first three newsletters from the California Lunker Club.  Today in California Lunker Club August 1974, we publish the final issue of the short-lived publication.  The CLC and its Bass Report was what brought bass anglers in California together for the first time ever.  It got anglers from different clubs not just talking to each other but sharing a boat and knowledge.  All this was accomplished due to the foresight of Dave Coolidge.

Talking with Coolidge back in 2012, I asked him why the CLC dissolved if it had so much momentum and support from the anglers.  His answer was that it was just too much for him to handle.  Coolidge had a day job and although he had help from Mike Gardner and Harvey Naslund, it was more than the three of them could handle and do it right.

In late 1974, Coolidge handed over the organization to the folks at Western Outdoor News (WON), which had started Western Bass Fishing Association (WBFA), and began working for them.  Naslund then took a job with WBFA and that was the end of the CLC.

Reading this August issue of the Bass Report, there are no clues that Coolidge is about to hand over the organization.  He’s still talking about uniting the entire state and holding events.  I wish I had asked him back in 2012 why that was and when exactly he determined he would hand over the organization.

After the handoff, WBFA took the CLC and with Coolidge, Naslund, and others, united not just the state of California, but the entire west, including Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. By 1975, WBFA was hosting events all over the western U.S. and had a full-up magazine for its members.

But let’s not get sidetracked.  Let’s get back to this final issue of the CLC Bass Report.

As in the previous three issues, the cover of the rag is adorned with images from the prior two events – Lake Cachuma and El Capitan Reservoir.  The image on the right is of particular interest to me because it really shows the way it was back in the early days of bass fishing.  A bunch of guys on the dock with their day’s catch spread out in front of them.  It’s a shabby crowd – guys with no shirts, a couple holding beer cans, and only one angler (Jim Patton) wearing a patch jacket.  There’s no way in hell today’s anglers would be caught in an image like this.

The second page of the rag is Harvey Naslund’s editorial.  The subject of this month’s thoughts being what it takes or means to be a pro angler.  It’s a good read and gives insight into how early the west was in developing professional anglers.  At this point in time, I’m sure there were no anglers in the west that were making a living off the sport as was happening in other parts of the U.S.

Page 3 of the newsletter was the Letters to the Editor page.  Other than the letters from readers, which were all positive, there was something on the page that left me scratching my head.  At the top of the page, under the page title, it mentions CAL BASS.  Then you’ll see the same thing at the bottom right of the page.  Was Coolidge thinking of changing the name of the organization from the California Lunker Club to CAL BASS?

Pages 4 through 9 provide the tournament reports from lake Cachuma and El Cap.  The El Cap report leads things off and describes how Don Crozier won the event.  Crozier the week before had found fish in the back of the El Cap arm throwing a 20-year-old bait, called an “Arbo-gaster.”  His pattern held up for the event and he weighed in 17 pounds for the win.  It’s comical to me that they refer to the bait as being old back in the 1970s.

Don Crozier used a "20-year-old" Arbogaster to secure this 17-pound stringer and the win at El Capitan.
"Lunker" Bill Murphy with a couple of El Capitan fish.

The next report was from Lake Cachuma, where Jay Hoffman won with a 21-pound stringer topped off with an 8-1/2-pound lunker.  This is a notable limit of fish as Cachuma was a pure northern-bass lake.

Although the reports are fun to read and give you an idea of what fishing was like back in 1974, what I really appreciated was the images.  Notice the lack of actual bass boats.  Most of the anglers were fishing out of aluminum boats they either owned, or, in some cases, had rented from the lake.  That really brings into perspective how hardcore these guys were.

On page 10 is a history of the California Lunker Club, penned by Dave Coolidge.  This article goes into detail the evolution of the CLC from a few buddies pooling their money to get fish mounted to a full-fledged tournament organization.  What Coolidge left out of the piece was his intent to give the organization up in the coming months.  This makes me think that at the time he wrote this, he was still moving ahead with expanding the organization on his own.

Pages 12 and 13 provided a look at the next tournament venues Lower Otay Reservoir and Lake San Antonio.  These articles gave the prospective angler an idea of what to expect as well as historical patterns and tackle that had proved successful in years past.

Coolidge’s northern expansion was discussed on Page 14 as they were preparing to hold their first event on Lake Comanche in September.  Again, here’s Coolidge running all over the state to unify the bass anglers of California without any inkling of turning over the reins.  The deeper I go into this newsletter the more I’m convinced that Coolidge may not have even considered bowing out at this point.

Bass Club reports start out on page 15 and will bring back a flood of memories for those of you who fished the area back at this time.  There’s even a report from my old bass club, The AmBASSadeurs of SoCal.  My club was started by a group of guys who wanted to name the club after the best reel on the market – the ABU Ambassadeur 5000.  I joined the club in 1978, four years after this newsletter was published and it was pretty nostalgic reading this club report.

The local lake reports begin on page 18 and provide a look at the bite for the previous month.  Within the reports are a ton of great images of anglers with their catches, including one of the “Ripper,” Rip Nunnery, on page 19.

One thing I noticed that was different from the past issues was the number of advertisements in this issue.  Nearly every page had an old ad for national brands or local companies.  It was evident that the CLC had grown to the point companies felt it worthwhile to spend some ad money.  That is even more evident on page 20 where Coolidge wrote a product review piece for the Shark Jaw fishing cleaning tool.

The next page showcased an article by local taxidermist Bob Berry of Animal Arts Taxidermy about the benefits of a glass-mounted bass over a skin mount.  This was back at a time where catch and release was still gaining momentum and big fish were rarely, if ever released.  Anglers wanting a mount, any type of mount at this point, had to kill their fish.  Taxidermists were experimenting with the new mold technology, producing molds from big fish, then casting a glass fish in place of a skin mount.

Page 22 features a funny story by Zeke Zippermouth titled, “The Wobble Dobble Lure – (Or Why I hate the Holesale Takel Bizness).  I have no clue who actually wrote this, but it left me smiling.  Humor has changed so much over the decades.

The back cover was reserved for the CLC members who held records in the state.  Tis version had been updated from the July version.

Well, that ends out look back at the California Lunker Club Bass Report.  I hope you enjoyed this look back into the early years of bass fishing in California.  Next we’ll get back to posting the second year of Smallmouth magazine.

Jay Hoffman with his 8-1/2-pound fish from Lake Cachuma.
Tom Monson and Ed Adam's in a typical bass boat of the day.

To read the first three issues, click May 1974, June 1974, and July 1974.

To view the entire August issue, please see the gallery below.  Click on the first image and use the arrows to scroll through each page.


Gallery – California Lunker Club August 1974