There’s always been a rivalry between the Western U.S. and the Eastern U.S. when it comes to bass fishing. It’s just a plain hard fact of the sport. Having grown up in the Western U.S. and lived there for nearly 50 years, I experienced it firsthand. It was like nothing “bass fishing” existed east of Oklahoma. Yeah, there were the freak fish caught by David Zimmerlee and Ray Easley in 1973 and 1981 and there was Dee Thomas, Gary Klein and Dave Gliebe who ventured back to the cradle of bass fishing and made names for themselves – but they too were freaks of sort – making an imprint on the scene with heavy line and big rods.
Talk to anyone in the East between the late 1970s and 1990s about Western bass fishing and I’m sure they would say one of two things: 1) They have bass in the West? or 2) They fish with sissy rods and 6-pound line.
That’s about the only thing the West was known for at the time – light line tactics and deep-water angling. Fact of the matter, unless you lived near the California Delta or Clear Lake, this was a fairly accurate statement.
Although we all subscribed to Bassmaster Magazine or other Eastern magazines such as Pro Bass, it was difficult for us to glean any useful information out of them that would pertain to our deep clear lakes. Heavy action casting rods, 20-pound line and 1/2-ounce spinnerbaits fished in 2 feet of water wasn’t the norm. We needed information on how to catch fish in 50 feet of water on 4-inch worms attached to light spinning rods and 6-pound test. Bassmaster articles on that subject were few and far between.
In the early ‘70s through the mid-80s, we had magazines and newsprint papers like Western Bass and U.S. Bass to give us our fix on Western Techniques – written by local pros. But in the mid-80s, U.S. Bass folded, their magazine in tow, and all was lost.
The local weekly fishing news rag, Western Outdoor News, assumed the remainder of the defunct U.S. Bass organization and started printing an insert called WON Bass a couple years later but it wasn’t the same.
With a need for a Western tournament circuit, Larry Viviano and Rich Bryant started what would be called West Coast Bass to fill the void. The magazine started out as primarily a tournament report but within a few issues ballooned into a full-fledged bass magazine by the mid-80s. Then around the beginning of the 1990s, the circuit folded and along with it the magazine. Again, Western anglers were in need.
The next serious bass magazine dedicated to the Western angler to come out was, in my opinion, probably one of the best magazines to ever be published about bass fishing. The year was 1995 and the magazine was Bass West – a magazine dedicated to the Western angler.
Started by Ray Crosby and Don Allphin out of the crazy location of Provo Utah, Bass West became the staple of bass anglers west of the Continental Divide. They published excellent articles by top western pros with locally relevant topics.
Although the magazine was published with a staple binding, it was printed on heavy, glossy paper and had excellent photographic support. Contributing pros such as Gary Klein, Jay Yelas, Don Iovino, Mike Folkestad, John Murray and Dub LaShot provided cutting-edge material for the reader to consume.
Not to alienate the reader from the East, each issue also had articles from pros of the East. For the western angler, it was the magazine to subscribe to.
Then in the early 2000s, the magazine was sold to Mark Mendez of Angler’s Choice Tournaments. By the mid-2000s the magazine went from a stapled binder to a perfect bind, better photo support and even better articles.
The name changed from Bass West to Bass West USA and started covering not just western-specific topics but nationally recognized anglers and tactics. Unfortunately, it seemed the printing and delivery of the magazine started to wane – from six issues a year to four, then three, then back up to four and so on. The best magazine for the West seemed to be dying on the vine.
The last issues I’ve seen or heard about came from 2013, when two issues were printed. After that, the magazine went under and so did any sort of western-centric bass magazine.
As I go back and reread my back issues from time to time, I miss the day when the western angler had something solid to learn from and relate to. Maybe sometime in the near future someone will resurrect the concept of a well thought out and written magazine that caters to the West. But I highly doubt that will happen when you look at the recent issues of Bassmaster and In-Fisherman and how thin they’ve become.
It seems no one reads anymore, instead they garner their information from YouTube or the Internet itself. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I wonder what the future holds for humanity not being able to concentrate long enough to actually read an article. Or for that matter, will we lose the ability to write since no one wants to read? Just some of the thoughts that race through this head of mine.