Dean Starkey and wife Brenda on the cover of CAST Magazine for winning the first Operation Bass Red Man All-American. Cast Magazine January-February issue 1984.

Early this year, Brian wrote a short piece on Mike Whitaker and Operation Bass. That piece got my wheels turning and I felt it was time to start some work on Operation Bass and Cast magazine, Operation Bass’ official publication. Operation Bass officially started in the fall of 1979 but their first season didn’t kick off until 1980, as did the magazine.

Prior to Operation Bass, though, there were numerous other tournament organizations that had come and gone or were soon to fade away. Bass Caster’s Association, National Bass Association, American Angler, American Bass Fisherman, Western Bass, U.S. Bass, the list seems never ending. All served a purpose but most of them were trying to knock Ray Scott and the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society off their pedestal.

But Whitaker’s organization and premise was different. It was dedicated to giving the weekend angler a chance to compete on a regional level and then have a year-end Classic of the top qualifying anglers. Of course, that Classic became the Red Man All-American in 1983.

Cast Magazine Volume 1 Issue 3 May-June 1980 Cover.

Brian’s article made me reach for my early CAST magazines to see what would jump out at me. The earliest issue I have is from May/June 1980, or Volume 1 Number 3. I scanned the entire magazine and found quite a bit of great historical info in it. Being the first year of the magazine, it didn’t have the page count of a Bassmaster or Western Bass magazine, having only 36 pages from cover to cover and printed in black and white.

Apart from the short number of pages and black and white printing, the information in it was golden. A young Paul Elias, Corbin Dyer, Ron Shearer, and Charles “Charlie” Evans were some of the names that popped out at me. Then there was a tournament report for the Barren Lake tournament. What got my attention was the picture and note from a Lori Van Nostrand. The note read:

“Dear Mike, I just wanted to send you a note to tell ya how much I enjoyed fishing your tournament. Even though I didn’t catch any fish I still had a super time. It was Fantastic! I hope to fish more of the tournaments in the future. But thank you for letting me fish it. It was Great!”

Wow, it seems Whitaker was way ahead of the times letting a lady fish.

Further on in the issue were tournament reports on Rend Lake, and the Baggett Invitational. The Baggett tournament report also caught my attention when I hit page 17. The picture at the bottom of the page showed Ron Shearer, the winner of Baggett, in action. But reading the caption really put something into perspective. Shearer was skipping a plastic worm deep into cover. I don’t think I’d ever seen anyone write about skipping before or after this for quite some time.

The remainder of the magazine had a couple articles, season standings for the three divisions and a bunch of great local ads. I’ve provided the full magazine below in the gallery.

Dean Starkey waits at the tanks with the winning fish. Cast Magazine January-February issue 1984.

Eventually I got to the January/February 1984 issue and was reminded of the first All-American and its winner, Dean Starkey. Dean and his wife have been on my mind a lot lately, so I decided to scan several of the pages dedicated to the All-American.

Thumbing through the images, more familiar faces and names started popping up.

What struck me initially was a shot of longtime FLW weighmaster Charlie Evans. I knew Evans had been involved with Operation Bass, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise to see him here. What got me was how young he was and, maybe the way he was wearing his hat – a trucker hat with flat brim and canted to the side.

Tournament Director Charlie Evans weighs Mark Hicks' fish. Cast Magazine January-February issue 1984.
Charlie Evans weighs Tom Snow's fish. Snow placed second in the 1983 Red Man All-American. Cast Magazine January-February issue 1984.

Another thing I noticed about the picture was a certain individual being interviewed. It was none other than perennial bass writer and tournament angler Mark Hicks of Ohio.  In the caption it states that Hicks won the Buckeye Division honors for the event proving that Hicks is not just talented with words – he can also manage a fishing rod pretty well too.

Another notable in the adjoining article was the angler who won the Gator Divisional fishoff just prior to the main event. It was reported that “Top Honors in the Gator Division match fell to a 29-year-old contractor from Gainsville, FL” That contractor by week, bass pro by weekend was veteran Elite Series angler, Bassmaster contributor and artist Bernie Schultz.

1983 Red man Divisional Fish-Off results. Cast Magazine January-February issue 1984.

Soon I’ll be covering more of the old Operation Bass / Cast magazine era. I have quite a few of the original magazines to help me along but I am missing a few important ones. If anyone out there has a stash they wouldn’t mind loaning out, we’d be happy to pay for shipping and get them back to you. If you’re interested in helping out, leave a comment below or hit me up at