Unless you live under a rock, anybody that follows tournament bass fishing has heard of Jacob Wheeler. At just 21 years of age, Wheeler, of Indianapolis, IN, won the 2012 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Sidney Lanier. With that win he set all kinds of records, including being the only angler in history, as well as the youngest, to win both the BFL All-American (age 20) and the Forrest Wood Cup.
Can you guess who that other angler is?
That honor goes to Stanley Mitchell, winner of the 1981 Bassmaster Classic (Classic XI) on the Alabama River, who was 21 years, 5 months, and 19 days old at the time of his accomplishment, and a rookie on the trail. Mitchell, from Fitzgerald, Ga., barely squeaked into the tournament as the 10th place finisher in the Western Division of the BASS Tournament Trail. Of the 42 anglers who launched for the first day of Classic competition, Stanley was probably one of the least likely people to be considered a threat to win the event, seeing as how names like Rick Clunn, Roland Martin, Larry Nixon, Hank Parker, Jimmy Houston, and Harold Allen dominated the field. However, Stanley took the lead on the first day of the event and went wire-to-wire, winning with a three-day catch totaling 35 pounds, 2 ounces. Mitchell used a Bomber Model A crankbait and Luhr Jensen Krocodile spoon to produce the winning sacks of fish.
The 1981 Classic was novel in several respects. It was the first Classic to be held indoors, with weigh-ins held at the Montgomery Civic Center. The first-place prize money was raised from $30,000 to $40,000 and increased the total prize money to over $100,000. Merle Haggard provided the entertainment, and none other than Roland Martin captured the AOY title that year, his 7th at the time, winning $2500 for the accomplishment. Ray Scott also had one of his more memorable quotes as MC at weigh-in time, announcing when Stanley was about to hit the scales, “You gotta’ have a dream and a $300 entry fee, and you can be a pro.”
Stanley competed on the Bassmaster tournament trail for 22 years (1979-2001), with 15 top 10 finishes, 39 top 20 finishes and 10 Classic appearances. Mitchell also fished competitively for three years on the FLW circuit. He never had much in the way of big dollar sponsorships, but he didn’t feel like he really had to pursue them much either, since his family owned and operated a thriving timber business. Stanley, now retired from tourney fishing, still helps run the family business. He splits his fishing time between local saltwater trips for redfish and speckled trout, and still bass fishes a bit on the local rivers and lakes in the area.
Past Reader Comments:
Harold Sharp: Here’s another one for you, who was the youngest angler to ever fish a B.A.S.S. Tournament ?
Brian to Harold: Just a guess, but wasn’t it Zell Rowland? Didn’t he get entered as a 14 or 15 year old, and B.A.S.S. thereafter incorporated the “Zell Rowland Rule” concerning age, where all future events had a 16 year old age limit?
Harold Sharp to Brian: You got it Brian, it was Zell Rowland at age 13 and as I remember it, the weather turned very cold, and his partner brought him in as he did not have enough clothing to stay out in that cold weather in February. BASS installed the 16-year age limit after that because they could see where a 10 year old could enter as the BASS rules did not state an age limit.