Original Caption: A bass has to be a BASS to rate a space in this Florida display. The Gazette, November 1964, no photo credit.

Today’s Throwback Thursday historical photo is a slight change from the norm.  Instead of an angling personality, we have the “Bass Hall of Fame.”  Most bass anglers have probably never heard of THIS ‘Hall of Fame.’  It’s not the Johnny Morris Springfield, MO location, or even related to the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame (BFHOF).  Instead, it dates back to the 1950s and 1960s, and was a wall of mounted bass, all 6 pounds or larger, featured as the highlight of Calusa Lodge near Moore Haven, FL on Lake Okeechobee.

According to a 1964 news write-up:

“Calusa Lodge, one of the most popular on the lake, has a Bass Hall of Fame displaying mounted bass caught in the lake.  It’s the largest collection of trophy bass in the country.  The lodge has offered to mount bass weighing over six pounds caught by guests (at no charge) and to display the fish along with the names of the fishermen.  So many of these lunkers have been caught and mounted, the Hall of Fame fills an entire wall at one end of the lodge and has overflowed to adjacent walls.  To conserve space, the minimum weight was recently raised to eight pounds.  That’s a lot of bass.  But one that size is not unusual in Lake Okeechobee.

“Calusa Lodge is also a favorite headquarters for duck, quail and wild turkey shooting.  Duck hunters jam the space on opening day, but you can usually get a room at all other times.  Meals are excellent, rooms comfortable. Boats, motors and guides are available.”

What a lot of people don’t know about Calusa Lodge is that back in 1957, Buck Perry, “The Daddy of structure fishing,” along with a small group of Carolina sportsmen and investors, bought the lodge.  Buck was president of the Calusa Corp., and owner of the lodge until 1961.  News reports place the official purchase price at $125,000, which included the lodge, some cabins, and about 7 or 8 acres of land on a canal leading into Okeechobee.  Pop that number into an inflation calculator and you’ll see the purchase price in today’s dollars was about $1.4 million.

Many famous personalities beside Buck regularly visited and stayed at Calusa during that time, casting the waters of Lake Okeechobee for big bass.  MLB players like Billy Goodman and Earl Torgeson (Chicago White Sox), Ted Williams (Boston Red Sox), Sam Snead (professional golfer), and Grits Gresham (outdoor writer and personality) were among many others partaking in our favorite pastime.

Also of interest, a plaque would be placed on the wall accompanying guests’ fish that were mounted and displayed, but not every bass had a plaque.  It was reported that all the big bass without such a plaque were personally caught by Buck himself.

Sadly, the old lodge burned down in 2020, having been abandoned for several years at that point.  Was the wall of bass lost along with the lodge?  Or had the bass long since been removed, once totaling nearly 200 fish?  Perhaps another mystery and story for another time.