In June of 1967, I read a small announcement in the Chattanooga Times morning paper about a bass fishing tournament to be held on Beaver Lake, AR. It listed the name of Bob Treadway from Chattanooga that was fishing the tournament, so I looked Bob up in the phone book and gave him a call. He was operating a small grocery nearby so I drove over to ask him some questions about the bass tournament.
He told me all he knew was that an insurance salesman named Ray Scott from Montgomery, AL. was conducting it and had sent him an invitation. The entry fee cost was $100 and it started next week. Bob said he was going to ride a bus out there and not take a boat. I ask that he contact me when he returned and tell me about the tournament, which he did.
He said that he and everyone else seemed to enjoy the tournament, they had a weigh-in every day at the Holiday Inn and Stan Sloan from Nashville won it. I was very interested in the bass tournament as I bass fished every chance I had. I grew up on a small river north of Chattanooga and moved there in 1952 when my job with the Southern Railroad was relocated there. I fished Lake Chickamauga and Nickajack a lot.
In October of 1967 I received an invitation from Ray Scott to fish his second bass tournament, The Dixie Invitational, to be conducted on Smith Lake in Cullman ,AL. After the Beaver Lake event, Ray had sent all the contestants a questionnaire about how they liked the Beaver event and he asked that if they knew any bass anglers to give him their names. So Bob Treadway sent Ray my name and address and Ray sent me an invitation to his event on Smith Lake.
Again, the entry fee was $100. I wasn’t going to spend that to fish, but my wife talked me into taking a few days vacation and fishing the tournament. At the time I was making crappie jigs and had sold a few to my friends, so I got busy and sold enough crappie jigs to pay my way to Smith Lake. My fishing buddy was Glynn West, we had grown up together fishing the small river and both worked for the railroad. Glynn said he would like to fish Smith Lake if I could get him an invitation, so I called Ray Scott and asked him to invite Glynn, which he did. Glynn, Bob and I fished the Smith Lake Dixie Invitational.
We met several people at Smith Lake and several anglers from Tulsa were there who had fished Beaver and later organized the Tulsa Bass Club. They all had a jacket with their name and Tulsa Bass Club on it along with some patches advertising lures, etc. Bob Cobb, an outdoor writer from the Tulsa Tribune was with this group. There was also a group from Lexington, KY and another group from Memphis.
The event had a trophy for the largest Black Bass and the largest Spotted Bass caught during the tournament. I caught the largest Black Bass and Bob Cobb took a photo of it.
We had a great time and enjoyed the event. On the way back to Chattanooga, Glynn and I started talking about organizing a bass club in Chattanooga. We thought it could lead to some tournaments between other clubs like Tulsa, Lexington, Memphis and others if the idea grew. I discussed it with my barber Jim Ashley, who was also a good bass angler. Jim said, “It’s a good idea and we can hold a meeting in my barber shop to see who’s interested.”
I bought 30 penny post cards, made up an announcement about the club and the meeting at Jim’s shop and then made 30 copies of it on the copy machine at work. I split the post cards with Glynn and Jim and we mailed them to our fishing friends that we thought may want to join our club. Jim mailed one to his friend Willie King, who wrote the Outdoor column for the Chattanooga Time paper and Willie published it in the paper, which suddenly got us more response than we had room to handle at the barber shop. Bob Myers worked at the American Bank up the street and he told Jim that he could reserve the meeting room at the bank that should hold our crowd, so we moved the meeting to the bank.
In the meantime I also wrote Bob Cobb a letter asking if he would send me a photo of my big Bass and anything they’d used to organize the Tulsa club as we were organizing a club in Chattanooga. Bob sent the photo and a copy of the Tulsa bylaws and regulations.
Then one morning I got a call from Ray Scott. He said, “I hear you’re starting a bass club in Chattanooga.” I replied, “You’ve been talking to Bob Cobb,” as Bob was the only one outside Chattanooga I had talked with about it.
Ray said, “Yeah, he told me about it, what are you planning?” I told Ray what we were doing and he said, “You’re getting ahead of me, I’m planning to announce the organization of the Bass Anglers Sportsman’s Society (B.A.S.S.) and start a bass tournament circuit.”
I replied. “We’re not far ahead; we’ve already talked about contacting you to organize these clubs into competition against each other.” Ray said, “Let me come up and talk with you about it, when is your meeting?” I told him the day after tomorrow.
Ray came the next day and I met him at the airport and dropped him off at a motel. This was in January and the next day we had a big ice storm hit Chattanooga so Ray and I spent most of the day in his motel room writing the Rules, Regulations and Bylaws for B.A.S.S. and The Chattanooga Bass Club. We required all members of CBC to be members of B.A.S.S., the yearly dues for CBC were $25 – $10 for B.A.S.S. and $15 for CBC.
We had about 25 to 30 people show up for the meeting that night. I explained our plans for CBC and introduced Ray who announced his plans for B.A.S.S. – this was the official announcement of B.A.S.S. as well as the Chattanooga Bass Club. We signed up 19 members for CBC and B.A.S.S. at that meeting. I was elected President, Jim Ashley was VP, Bob Myers was treasure and Bob Sanford PR Director. We were also the first affiliated B.A.S.S. Chapter.
As a side note, on the way to Chattanooga, Ray had visited Don Butler in Tulsa and told Don about his plans for B.A.S.S. Don asked how much for a life membership and Ray said $100. Don gave him a $100 bill and became the first BASS member – I was second.
Back to the story.
Willie King started to take a picture of the CBC officers and Ray opened his brief case and took out a packet of B.A.S.S. patches that he had made just before leaving Montgomery. He opened the packet and pinned a B.A.S.S. patch on my shirt. This was the first B.A.S.S. patch issued – you can see it in the photo.
A few years ago I noticed my old CBC jacket hanging in the closet collecting dust and it had this patch sewn on the front pocket, I removed it and mailed it to Ray. He has it framed on his office wall today. Ray left Chattanooga with 19 members from CBC to join Don Butler as B.A.S.S. members.
The CBC was a lot of fun, we had a monthly tournament and several members fished the early B.A.S.S. tournaments. In fact, six members fished the first B.A.S.S. tournament at Lake Seminole in February 1968.
Then one morning I turned on the TV to watch the Today show and saw Ray Scott being interviewed by Joe Garagiola. B.A.S.S. had filed a lawsuit in Federal Court against several companies in Alabama who were violating the 1899 Federal Refuge Act by dumping pollution into the Tennessee River without a permit from the CORP of Engineers. Ray had been told about this 1899 Federal Refuge Act by Bob Boyle, a member of the Husdon River Fishermen Association who had used it against polluters in New York. The law had been on the books since 1899 so BASS used it.
I called a special meeting of CBC and we organized a plan to do the same in Chattanooga. We raised money with a group of bass tournaments billed as “Peg-A-Polluter.” We promised to use the money we raised to hire a lab to test water in the river and then hire a lawyer to file a lawsuit in federal court like BASS had.
We had a great response from the anglers and many who were fed up with the polluted water in Chattanooga. BASS joined CBC in the lawsuit and later filed another in Texas over the Houston Shipping Channel. All three of these cases were eventually settled by the State Governments stating they didn’t have jurisdiction in these cases, it belonged to the Federal Government. We replied that if the Federal Government would handle it, we would withdraw our lawsuits. Soon the Federal Government organized the EPA and we claimed credit for starting EPA.
Ray had a team tournament at Lake Eufaula in November 1969, we had a 4-man team from CBC in it and at this event, Ray and I were talking about where B.A.S.S. was heading. The Federal lawsuits seemed to kick off memberships, which had slowed down a little. I told Ray that I believed B.A.S.S. was over the hump and the lawsuits had proven he was serious about cleaning up our fishing waters and if he ever had a full-time job, I may consider leaving the railroad and joining him because I believed we could make a difference.
Not long after that Ray called me one morning and said, “I’ve got that job for you.” I replied, “When do you want me down there?”
Ray said, “Don’t you want to know what it is?” I said, “Not really, I’m ready to do what I can to help make this work.”
He told me about his plan to do a bunch on seminars across the USA and needed me to coordinate it. So we resigned our jobs with the railroad where we’d worked for 26 years and moved to Montgomery, AL. After about two years we stopped the seminars and I became fulltime B.A.S.S. Tournament Director plus anything else that needed to be done to make it work. I never looked back at the railroad and enjoyed every minute of my job with B.A.S.S.
Not long after the Bass Fishing Archives launched in March of 2012, Harold Sharp and I began communicating via email about the history of the sport and in particular, B.A.S.S. Over the course of three years, we emailed each other every week, sometimes more, with either Harold correcting me and my data or me reaching out for help with a subject.
Harold was instrumental in this site’s early success as he made sure the story was told accurately but he also contributed a number of pieces that told the story of how the early days of B.A.S.S. He was always there to bounce a thought off of and edit or look over a historical piece I wasn’t sure about.
Harold Sharp passed away 17 September 2015 at his home in Hixon, TN. We miss him every day here. We will continue to post his stories and recollections in honor of him and the work he did to better the sport we all love and cherish.