The Hemphill Gang, March 1982 issue of Bassmaster Magazine

While doing research for the 1982 Bassmaster Trail, I came across an article in the March 1982 issue of Bassmaster Magazine titled, Wanted: The Hemphill Gang.  Well, today in Meet the Hemphill Gang, I’m going to post sections of this article, talk a little about the significance of this group, and how Toledo Bend became the training ground for the best of the day.

So, who were the core anglers who made up the Hemphill Gang and why were they given their name?

The makeup of the Hemphill Gang consisted of five anglers who made their living on Toledo Bend Lake out of Hemphill, TX.  They were Tommy Martin, Jon Hall, Larry Nixon, John Torian, and Harold Allen.  All were guides on the sprawling 185,000 acre impoundment at the time and bringing the knowledge they’d learned on Toledo Bend to the Bassmaster Trail.

Tommy Martin

Leading the team was Tommy Martin, who was 41 years-old at the time.  Martin got his start guiding on Toledo Bend in the late 1960s and polished his game.  By 1974, Martin entered his rookie season on the Trail, won a regular season event, finished 5th in the Angler of the Year, and then won the Classic.

By the end of the 1981 season, Martin had amassed three Wins, seven top-3s, 14 top-10s, a Classic Win and had qualified for the Classic eight years in a row.

Tommy Martin part of the famous Hemphill Gang. Photo March 1982 issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

Larry Nixon

The most impressive to come out of Hemphill, though, was Arkansas native Larry Nixon (31).  Nixon had moved from Bee Branch, Arkansas to Hemphill, Texas in order to guide.  Nixon wasted no time becoming one of the most sought after guides on the lake.  Then Tommy Martin talked him into fishing the Bassmaster Trail in 1977.

In his rookie year, Nixon would cash a check in every event, finish seventh in the AOY race, and place second in his first Classic.  By the end of the 1981 season, he’d qualified for five straight Classics, won three events, had eight top-3s, 14 top-10s, and won the 1980 Angler of the Year.

Larry Nixon part of the famous Hemphill Gang. Photo March 1982 issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

Jon Hall

The next angler in the Hemphill Gang was Jon Hall (41), a native of Virginia, turned guide on Toledo Bend.  By the end of the 1981 season, Hall had qualified for three Classic (75, 80, 81), had one second, and two top-10 finishes.



Jon Hall part of the famous Hemphill Gang. Photo March 1982 issue of Bassmaster Magazine.


Harold Allen

Although Harold Allen had moved from Hemphill to Mississippi in 1980, he had guided on the lake for more than a dozen years and was one of the founding members of the Hemphill Gang.  Allen went fulltime on the Bassmaster Trail in 1977 and qualified for the Classic his rookie year.  Between 1977 and 1982 he had accumulated two top-3s, nine top-10s, and four Classic qualifications.



Harold Allen part of the famous Hemphill Gang. Photo March 1982 issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

John Torian

The kid in the group was John Torian (23), originally from Louisiana.  Torian moved to Hemphill when he as 19 to become a guide.  Under the tutelage of Martin, Nixon, and Allen, he became one of the top guides on the lake, and in 1981, decided to try his luck at the big leagues.

Torian fished the Western Division in the 1980/81 season and qualified for the Classic in the 7th spot.  His finishes his first year were 5th, 12th, 60th, and an 82nd place.

The 1981/82 Season

After several years of Hemphill guys making waves on the circuit, people started to wonder what was in the water in southeast Texas.  The 1981/82 season would be no different.

In Part Two of the 1982 Bassmaster Trail, we posted several tables of the standings through the tournament year.  One thing you couldn’t help but notice was who was on top in both Leagues (Divisions).

By the end of the year, the top angler in the West was Tommy Martin, and in the East was Larry Nixon.  Nixon also finished second in the West League.  Harold Allen finished third in the West and ninth in the East.  All three made it in the top-4 of the Angler of the Year race, with Nixon winning his second AOY, Martin placing in second, and Allen taking fourth.  Rick Clunn, another Texan placed in third.

John Torian part of the famous Hemphill Gang. Photo March 1982 issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

Jon Hall opted out of the 1981/82 season due to the first event being held on Toledo Bend and he couldn’t afford the three weeks off guiding.  Torian, on the other hand, fished all three events and placed 8th at Toledo Bend but bombed at Bistineau and Lake of the Ozarks.

Overall, the stats from the three Hemphill Gang members who competed the whole 1981/82 season are beyond impressive.  Three wins, four seconds, and one third out of seven events.  For a better look at their finishes, check out the table below.

The Hemphill Gang's Finishes in 1981/82 Bassmaster Season
AnglerToledo BendBistineauLake of the OzarksLake OkeechobeeLake WylieLake EufaulaOhio River
NOTE: DNF means Did Not Fish.

Why Toledo Bend

From all this, it’s easy to see why the group Martin, Nixon, Hall, Allen, and Torian were branded with the nickname The Hemphill Gang.  It gives credit to their dominance on the water and to the lake they all cut their guiding teeth on.  But why was Toledo Bend so good and not Sam Rayburn or Lake Fork?  Here’s some of what The Hemphill Gang had to say about that.

Tommy Martin:

“Toledo Bend is big even for Texas.  At different times of the year, it offers totally different fishing.  There isn’t another lake like it in the United States where a Bassmaster can find as many different types of fishing for bass with every one being successful.”

Harold Allen:

“I got an education at Toledo Bend.  What’s more, I’m still learning.  I thought, for a while last year, I had learned enough.”

“Actually, Toledo Bend gave me a thorough knowledge of the bass, their habits, characteristics, and contrariness.  There are so many different patterns, so many different ways you can fish for bass at Toledo Bend each day.”

Larry Nixon:

“You catch a lot of bass, which builds your confidence in your ability to catch fish anywhere.  You really get an education.  You are prepared.”


Toledo Bend has been that and more throughout the years.  It has pumped out countless top-tier anglers over the decades and continues to be the university of choice for Texas bass anglers.  Just ask The Hemphill Gang.

If you’re interested in reading the entire article from the March issue of Bassmaster magazine, check out the gallery below.  Click on the first image and use the arrows to scroll through the pages.


Gallery – Meet the Hemphill Gang