Before the Christmas and New Year’s break, we were posting a few magazines and histories of other tournament organizations that were in direct competition with Ray Scott and B.A.S.S. Today we’re going to pick that back up with, More Tournament Associations American Angler.
We’ve briefly mentioned American Angler in the past with respect to American Bass Fisherman (ABF) and National Bass Association (NBA). We associated the three with respect to Phil Jay and the fact he was part of the lawsuit regarding George Oates and American Bass Fisherman. Phil Jay left ABF under shady circumstances in 1974 and went to Texas to form American Angler, or at least become part of the company and start the magazine. The story is a bit confusing but maybe we can shed some light on it with the magazines that will be shown in a bit.
American Angler magazine started with the November-December 1974 issue. On the masthead of the rag, it had Phil Jay as the Editor and Publisher with Bill Roberts listed as the president and Lee Walton as Vice president of Products. Taking a complete look at the masthead it was evident that American Angler was serious by the depth of associate editors, contributing editors, conservation research and authors. The list contained every important angler, writer, and scientist of the day.
The next page had Phil Jay’s Editorial welcoming the new readership. In that editorial he wrote that The American Angler Television Series had reached more angler nationwide than any other show of its type. This leads me to believe that American Angler as a company existed before the magazine did. I remember watching the TV show, but I don’t remember the year.
Jay also stated what the goal of the magazine would be and how it would be laid out. There would be learning for all ages, and it would be written by the pros and the tackle manufacturers. They were also going to concentrate on junior anglers, with a special section devoted to teaching kids how to fish. Next on the docket was conservation, camping, and federal and state fish laws. Old Phil Jay had the buzzwords down. The rest of the editorial is filled with more rainbows and unicorns, typical of Phil Jay.
So, reading through the first issue, you get a clear grasp that this magazine isn’t dedicated to tournament fishing or bass fishing for that matter. There were articles on tarpon fishing, trout fishing, giant tuna, and other gamefish not to mention bass. This must have developed due to the TV show, of which John Fox was “The American Angler.”
The magazine started out with bi-monthly distribution for the first year, although the issues don’t make much sense. For example, I have the first issue (cover in the lead image), which was dated November-December 1974 and labeled Vol 1. The next issues I have are the September-October (Vol 2 No 4) and November-December (Vol 2 No 5), 1975 issues. Normally, the November-December issue would be numbered as Vol X No 6. But where things get really confusing are in the year 1976.
The first issue I have from 1976 is the “Spring” issue, which was listed as Vol 3 No 2. Between 1975 they went from bi-monthly distribution to quarterly distribution. I assume I’m missing the Winter 1976 issue which was most likely number Vol 3 No 1.
Back to the magazine in general.
By the Spring 1976 issue, Phil Jay was no longer on the masthead – anywhere. By this time the American Angler staff had figured out what Phil Jay was all about and probably let him go. What I do know about Phil Jay’s whereabouts was he had been spending a lot of time out in California trying to worm his way into the now famous San Diego Lakes. He tried befriending Jim Brown, manager of the San Diego City Park Lakes but that is a story that will be covered in depth by Jim Brown on the new podcast Ken Duke and I started this week, The Big Bass Podcast.
By now, W. O. “Bill” Roberts, who was president in the inaugural issue, was now the president and publisher of the magazine and Earl Golding was the editor. The magazine continued to be an all-species publication, but you could see the writing on the masthead, so to speak, that any species other than bass was short lived. Advertisements were all bass-centric, and most of the articles were about bass fishing.
Speaking of the masthead, by this issue, all the top pros that were in the first issue as writers or contributors were gone. Ken Cook was added to the Conservation Research Team and other than that, the contributors were standard names on the industry. Plus, there was no mention of tournaments.
The next issue I have is the Summer 1976 issue and again, it’s obvious the other fish are being relegated to the bench. They continued with a couple striper articles but that was it. Good for bass anglers but not for the all-around angler who first signed up a couple years earlier.
Then comes the Summer 1977 issue. Besides the gorgeous cover by artist Tom Windham, this issue has another surprise lost in the issues I don’t have. Looking at the table of contents you see the usual articles about bass fishing and a sole article on ocean fishing for Mahi Mahi. Then there’s a tournament section.
Then you turn to the masthead. At the middle of the left column, you see Sonny Mahan, Tournament Director. Some time between the summer of 1976 and Summer of 1977, American Angler started a tournament circuit. The obvious issue this would have been announced in would be the Fall issue to let members know of the new circuit. So now American Angler is now in competition not only with B.A.S.S. but with American Bass Fisherman and others. It’s my thought that John Fox, who’d been kicked out of the B.A.S.S. events convinced the brass at American Angler to start the new trail.
By the Fall 1977 Issue the magazine had turned into a full-up bass magazine – and honestly, a good one.
The magazine continued in its quarterly distribution through what appears to be the Winter 1978 issue Vol 5 No 1. W. O. “Bill” Roberts is still the president and publisher of the magazine with earl Golding still the editor. John Fox is still a contributing editor.
Then my magazines skip to the September-October 1978 issue. They have gone back to a bi-monthly schedule sometime in the middle of 1978. But that wasn’t the surprise.
I opened that issue to the contents page and was amazed to see this issue was Vol 5 No 2. I looked at the masthead and John Fox was listed as the president and publisher with Earl Golding still the editor. John Fox had purchased American Angler. The cover of this issue had gone back to a photograph, and they had done away with Tom Windham’s artwork, which lasted at least three issues, maybe up to five issues.
The other change in the magazine was it had gone from perfect binding to stapled binding and the page count went from 100 pages to less than 90 pages. The magazine was still a quality rag, but there were signs that something wasn’t quite right.
From here the magazine was printed again in December 1978 (Vol 5 No 3), February-March 1979 (Vol 6 No 1) and April-May 1979 (Vol 6 No 2), which, according to Clyde Drury’s Books of the Black Bass, was the last issue.
At this point American Angler was purchased by Dewey Yopp of National Bass Association, which we wrote about a couple months ago.
That is the story of American Angler Magazine regarding its short life. Over the coming months we’ll be taking a deeper dive into these magazines to show you how well put together they were. You’ll be amazed at who was fishing their circuit and the ads within the pages are ads that I have only seen in this magazine. It’s exciting for those of us who track the history of bass fishing by examining old ads.
As for the complete set of magazines, I have pieced together what I think is the publication order for the rag over the years it was published. In BOLD are the issues I do not have. If anyone has any knowledge where I can find the missing issues, please contact me below in the comments. If you’re not willing to part with them, maybe we could borrow them to scan and share with the Bass Fishing Archives community.
- November-December 1974 – Volume 1
- January-February – Unknown if this exists
- March-April 1975 – Volume 2 Number 1
- May-June 1975 – Volume 2 Number 2
- July-August 1975 – Volume 2 Number 3
- September-October 1975 – Volume 2 Number 4
- November-December 1975 – Volume 2 Number 5
- Winter 1976 – Volume 3 Number 1
- Spring 1976 – Volume 3 Number 2
- Summer 1976 – Volume 3 Number 3
- Fall 1976 – Volume 3 Number 4
- Winter 1977 – Volume 4 Number 1
- Spring 1977 – Volume 4 Number 2
- Summer 1977 – Volume 4 Number 3
- Fall 1977 – Volume 4 Number 4
- Winter 1978 – Volume 5 Number 1
- September-October 1978 – Volume 5 Number 2
- December 1978 – Volume 5 Number 3
- February-March 1979 – Volume 6 Number 1
- April-May 1979 – Volume 6 Number 2