Today’s Throwback Thursday historical photo is of four-time Classic qualifier and Tampa, Florida angler, Jack Westberry. Back in 1981, Jack was gaining local press attention after having qualified for the Bassmaster Classic two years in a row. At the time, Westberry was the owner of Jack’s Marine, and was a former University of South Florida professor.
Although he was born and reared in Alabama, in the article, Westberry said that he had never seen Lake Montgomery, the site of the 1981 Classic. “There were too many other good lakes and rivers in Alabama to waste time at Lake Montgomery, which is not considered to be one of the state’s better bodies of water.”
The article also mentioned the cost to compete on the professional tournament trail back then. Counting entry fees, traveling and other expenses, Jack estimated that it cost between $600 and $1,000 to enter and fish a tournament.
Also interesting was Jack’s comments on the competition on tour at the time, specifically noting the strength of the “younger” anglers coming up, an observation we continue to read and talk about today. “The competition is really getting tougher,” he said. “So many good, young fishermen are coming on and knocking out the established pros. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the 1981 Classic become known as The Year of the Unknown.”
Little did Jack know how prophetic those words would become as a 21-year-old Stanley Mitchell from Georgia, fishing his first Classic would make sure everyone knew the young guns were on the prowl. Mitchell, in only his second season with B.A.S.S., qualified for Classic 11 by fishing the Eastern Division. His three-day total of 35-02 would put him ahead of second-place angler Harold Allen by a mere 15 ounces making Mitchell the youngest angler to ever win a BASS Masters Classic.