August 4, 1967 Elyria Chronical Telegram a column written about the new organizations promoting professional bass fishing.

With all the talk these days of B.A.S.S. and MLF, I thought I’d share some history with everyone about the rocky road in the early days of Ray Scott’s fledgling tournament circuit.  Over the past few months, I’ve been scouring the newspaper archives for information on the early days of competitive bass fishing.  Today, I want to share some snippets of this history in Ray’s Competition 1967/68.  Its’s sure to open your eyes.

We’ve talked numerous times about the competition Ray Scott had between his Bass Anglers Sportsman Society and organizations like National Bass, American Bass, American Bass Fisherman, and U.S. Bass.  All of these organizations got their start in the 1970s and tried to knock B.A.S.S. of its pedestal.  Most of these organizations started in the early- to mid-1970s and most were gone by the turn of the decade.

By the early 1970s, Scott’s B.A.S.S. organization was sporting nearly 50,000 members and was growing by the thousands monthly.  Because of those numbers and the fact that Scott was going to congress to pass boating safety and environmental laws you’d think no one would challenge him.  But challenge they did.

What a lot of people don’t know, though, is Scott was challenged by other organizations before the ink had even dried on the checks he made out to the Beaver Lake winners.

Back a month or so ago, we posted a piece on a patch that was on Hubert Greene’s coveralls about the World Invitational Bass Tournament in September 1967 at Lake Texoma.  Because of that patch and the research we did, we uncovered some other interesting finds.

I have known for quite a while of the existence of the Professional Sport Fishing Association (PSFA) headed by Ed Howze and Glen Andrews out of Memphis, TN.  There was also another organization called the Professional Fishing Association (PFA) out of Prairie Village, Kansas.  Both of these organizations set out after that first Beaver event in June 1967 to give Scott some competition, with the PSFA having the most credibility.

The interesting thing about the PSFA was that its president, Glen Andrews, helped Scott get the Beaver Lake event going.  Andrews helped Scott develop the tournament rules as well run the event and provide names for Scott to call during his “prospecting” for anglers.

But enough of that.  The best way to present all this data is to do it by timeline.  I’m going to start out with the leadup to the first Ray Scott event, the All-American to be held on Beaver Lake, AR June 5-7, 1967.  Then we’ll move to a couple months after that event and see what transpired.

The kickoff for the Beaver Lake All-American put on by Rat Scott and “All-American Bass Tournaments” hit the presses hard.  Scott had a press conference in Springdale, AR and by the end of April 1967, the papers were touting the event like it was the next coming.  I found several articles from the papers all over the Midwest and south but have three here to share with you that I think give good insight into Ray Scott and how the event was being promoted.

The first column, from the April 25, 1967 Northwest Arkansas Times, is the earliest column I could find about the event.  In it, Scott made a comment that I don’t think was quite true.  It’s been said by Scott himself that it was down to the wire to get the 106 entries for the event instead of entries “pouring in,” as he stated here.  But, the rest of the article is quite candid.  For example, Scott says he chose Beaver Lake because of an article he read in Outdoor Life.  He also stated that fishing tournaments were hard to promote because you can’t charge admission.  Lastly, he stated that if he could get this one off the ground, it’d be much easier to host the next event.

The next column presented was from the May 5, 1967 Elyria Chronical Telegram out of Ohio.  This column talks about the invitational and how the scoring will be conducted, counting both black bass and white bass.  It also stated that tournament fisherman were abuzz about the event and that the deadline for entry is May 15th.  The caveat to that was that the tournament committee would “accept” late entries if they met the tournament directors’ standards.  Who was Ray kidding?  Also mentioned in this article was Glen Andrews as the driving figure behind the Invitational.

April 25, 1967 Northwest Arkansas Times Beaver Lake All-American Tournament Announcement.
May 9, 1967 Athens Limestone Democrat Beaver Lake Announcement.

The last column to share was one from the May 9, 1967 Athens Limestone Democrat featuring a Dr Kenneth Eldred who had entered the event.  Eldred was considered by his home paper to be the best angler around who could compete on any lake at any time.

May 5, 1967 Elyria Chronical Telegram Beaver Lake All-American Announcement.

So, the event was held and as you know, it was a resounding success.  Although Scott walked away $600 lighter in his wallet, he paid all his investors and was told the event was a smash.  As soon as he was done with Beaver, he knew he had to hold another event soon in order to keep up the momentum.  Scott headed back to Montgomery, AL to put together his game plan.

Little did he know what was coming down the pike.

The August 4, 1967, Elyria Chronical Telegram headline said, “’Big Money’ bass tournaments pop up all over, 6 on agenda.” (see lead-in image)

Only two months after the Beaver event, Scott had competition.  One event, the World Invitational to be held on Texoma in September, had been announced prior to Scott’s first event.  But read on a little further and you’ll see that by the start of August, the Professional Sport Fishing Association was to host their first event at Kentucky Lake on October 27-29, a week after Scott’s second event at Smith Lake, AL.  Two other events which didn’t involve money were the U.S. Open scheduled for April 1968 and the 1968 World Series of Sport Fishing to be held on Lake Eufaula, OK.

June 15, 1967 Leesville Leader Beaver Lake All-American Tournament Report.

Now the press had a food fight on their hands.  Prognosticators all over the Midwest and south were talking about professional fishing tournaments and which ones were the best.  But the real answer was no one really knew because of how new sport was.  Of course, there had been Hy Peskin’s World Series of Sport Fishing since 1960 but that was an event that didn’t pay any money and required each angler qualify through either state championships or some sort of country championship.  It didn’t allow anyone with $100 to show up and challenge the field.

Speaking of which, and we’ve mentioned it several times here before, Glen Andrews was the only person to ever win the WSOSF twice, doing it in 1965 and 1966.  He would have also won the year before had he not been restricted in his fishing due to his guiding experience.  Andrews was the hottest stick in the Midwest back in the 1960s, arguably the world.

The next columns presented are from the final months of 1967 and will give you an idea of the competition between the PSFA, B.A.S.S. as well as another newcomer, the PFA.  Pundits Don Miller of the Elyria Chronical Telegram and Art Reid of the Edwardsville Intelligencer give their takes on the organizations as well as what each has to offer.

August 21, 1967 Edwardsville Intelligencer.
September 1, 1967 Elyria Chronical Telegram.
September 6, 1967 Edwardsville Intelligencer.
November 27, 1967 Elyria Chronical Telegram.
December 27, 1967 Edwardsville Intelligencer.

Lastly, I leave you with a picture and the 1968 PSFA Sam Rayburn Tournament report from the Diboll Free Press and the Port Arthur News.  Check out who won the Rayburn event as well as the rest of the finishers.  The PFSA wouldn’t make it past 1968 and the WSOSF died the same year.

PSFA Sam Rayburn Tournament April 1968. April 4, 1968 Diboll Free Press.
1968 PSFA Sam Rayburn Tournament Report. April 4, 1968 Port Arthur News.

I’d love to have been alive and fishing back then.  It sounds like it was the wild west and the winner of the Shootout at the OK Corral would end up being Ray Scott and his Bass Anglers Sportsman Society.

Between Brian and I, we have literally hundreds of newspaper clippings from the archives to share here.  If you’d like this to become a regular part of the offerings here at the Bass Fishing Archives, let us know in the comments below.