Not so Bitter Anymore: The 1990 Golden Blend Championship

The cover of the January/February edition of Bass Fishing magazine, the publication of Operation Bass, had Jim Bitter front and center for his Golden Blend Championship win.

The cover of the January/February edition of Bass Fishing magazine, the publication of Operation Bass, had Jim Bitter front and center for his Golden Blend Championship win.

Back in November, we solicited information from readers about the history of the Operation Bass Golden Blend tournament series. We’d put together a basic outline of the circuit’s history, but we had little meat to put on those bones. Thanks to one of our great readers and supporters, Andy Williamson, we have a bit more to add.

In that original article, we mentioned Jim Bitter’s 1990 win on Lake Chickamauga. Specificially, we explained that “[t]he win marked a strong period in Bitter’s career, as he’d won MegaBucks IV on the Harris Chain two years earlier.” Left unsaid was the fact that it came on the heels of what is for many – fairly or unfairly – the defining moment of Bitter’s long career, his failure to win the 1989 Bassmaster Classic. As you may recall, Bitter had the winning fish in his hand, but when he went to re-measure it under the gaze of Tim Tucker’s camera, it slipped from his hand and back into the James River. Hank Parker ended up beating him by two ounces. Gone were not only the lasting glory of a Classic win, but also the $50,000 top prize. [Read more…]

The First Season of the Red Man Trail

Red Man Tournament Trail Patch.

Red Man Tournament Trail Patch.

Many of us who immersed ourselves into the world of competitive bass fishing in the 1990s or after the turn of the century tend to assume that there were always stable nationwide organized circuits for the weekend angler. We may have known that what are now the BFLs were previously the Red Man circuit, but we don’t have a sense of when and where the Red Mans were born.

As Terry has detailed previously, old issues of CAST Magazine are a treasure trove of information about that era, and provide an incredible look back at the origins of the BFLs. [Read more…]

Monday Trivia – Carving up the St. Johns Answer and Winner (January 12, 2015)

Kim Carver. Photo FLWOutdoors.com.

Kim Carver. Photo FLWOutdoors.com.

[Editor’s note: Remember, the rules have changed for the Monday trivia contest. You are now allowed to win three times per calendar year rather than three times only.]

We had two people answer the trivia contest this week and by virtue of answering first, congratulations to Steve Quinn for winning!  For the answers please read below.

Kim Carver may not be a household name to many of the more recent vintage of bass fishing fans, but the Georgia pro has had a solid career on the water. Among those who follow the sport closely, he’s probably best known for his $100,000 victory in the 1998 Red Man All-American on the Mississippi River out of Lacrosse, Wisconsin, where the leaderboard included a who’s-who list not only of Red Man superstars, but also current Elite Series pros Skeet Reese (6th), Jeff Kriet (13th), David Walker (17th), Steve Kennedy (23rd), Stephen Browning (24th) and John Murray (39th). He’d been the runner up in the prior year’s All-American in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Along the way, he’s notched six other Red-Man/BFL wins, including three Regionals, with the most recent victory coming on his home lake, Sinclair, in May of 2014. [Read more…]

Monday Trivia – Carving up the St. Johns (January 12, 2015)

Kim Carver. Photo FLWOutdoors.com.

Kim Carver. Photo FLWOutdoors.com.

[Editor’s note: Remember, the rules have changed for the Monday trivia contest. You are now allowed to win three times per calendar year rather than three times only.]

Kim Carver may not be a household name to many of the more recent vintage of bass fishing fans, but the Georgia pro has had a solid career on the water. Among those who follow the sport closely, he’s probably best known for his $100,000 victory in the 1998 Red Man All-American on the Mississippi River out of Lacrosse, Wisconsin, where the leaderboard included a who’s-who list not only of Red Man superstars, but also current Elite Series pros Skeet Reese (6th), Jeff Kriet (13th), David Walker (17th), Steve Kennedy (23rd), Stephen Browning (24th) and John Murray (39th). He’d been the runner up in the prior year’s All-American in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Along the way, he’s notched six other Red-Man/BFL wins, including three Regionals, with the most recent victory coming on his home lake, Sinclair, in May of 2014. [Read more…]

Monday Trivia – Lillegard Wins Again Answer and Winner (Dec 8, 2014)

Rick Lillegard. Photo Bassmaster.com.

Rick Lillegard. Photo Bassmaster.com.

Well, again we have no winner for this week’s trivia contest sponsored by Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits! Are we making it too difficult? Well, maybe next week we’ll make it a little easier. For the answers to this week’s contest, please read below.

The 1997 New York Eastern Invitational on the St. Lawrence River was the second of Rick Lillegard’s two Bassmaster wins. A little less than two years earlier, he’d won the Maryland Eastern Invitational on the Potomac by a massive 11 pound 7 ounce margin over second-place finisher Pete Gluszek. In New York, the gap wasn’t quite that large, but he still managed to beat runner up Clark Wendlandt by more than four pounds.

The tournament was only 17 years ago, but while many of the anglers in the field still fish at the highest levels, the only member of the top 10 who fished in Elite Series competition is South Carolina’s Ray Sedgwick, who last fished the Elites in 2008. [Read more…]

Monday Trivia – Lillegard Wins Again (Dec 8, 2014)

Rick Lillegard. Photo Bassmaster.com.

Rick Lillegard. Photo Bassmaster.com.

The 1997 New York Eastern Invitational on the St. Lawrence River was the second of Rick Lillegard’s two Bassmaster wins. A little less than two years earlier, he’d won the Maryland Eastern Invitational on the Potomac by a massive 11-pound 7-ounce margin over second-place finisher Pete Gluszek. In New York, the gap wasn’t quite that large, but he still managed to beat runner up Clark Wendlandt by more than four pounds.

The tournament was only 17 years ago, but while many of the anglers in the field still fish at the highest levels, the only member of the top 10 who fished in Elite Series competition is South Carolina’s Ray Sedgwick, who last fished the Elites in 2008.

One member of the top 10 continues to attend every Elite Series event, though. It’s fourth place finisher Mark Zona, fishing the fifth of nine B.A.S.S. events in which he competed. His inaugural Bassmaster tournament was on the same waterway in 1995, and he finished a dismal 101st, so the 1997 event marked a substantial improvement in his performance. It wasn’t his best Bassmaster effort, though. In his final event (as far as we know) in 2005, he finished 3rd in a Northern Open on Lake Champlain. If you look down the standings sheet you’ll see that he did not yet call Michigan home – his address was listed as “Homewood, Illinois.” [Read more…]

Looking for Operation Bass Golden Blend Info

Golden Blend was a title sponsor for Operation Bass' attempt to give B.A.S.S. some competition. Unfortunately the circuit didn't last long and there's little information out there regarding it.

Golden Blend was a title sponsor for Operation Bass’ attempt to give B.A.S.S. some competition. Unfortunately the circuit didn’t last long and there’s little information out there regarding it.

Many modern fans of professional fishing assume that the FLW Tour was the first major competitor to B.A.S.S. Of course, that is not quite correct – over time, there were several national trails that tried to make a run at being the dominant circuit, or at least supplementing it. The truth is that the FLW Tour, founded under the Operation Bass umbrella, wasn’t even the first attempt by that organization to create some competition for Ray Scott’s baby.

Starting in the late 1980s, and running into the early ‘90s, Operation Bass operated the Golden Blend series of tournaments. They built upon the success of the original Red Man events, which catered to the “working man” – one-day weekend tournaments with low entry fees and a chance to qualify for the high payout All-American. [Read more…]

Nixon and Yelas Talk On-the-Water Etiquette

Larry Nixon and Jay Yelas talk on-the-water etquette. Photo Brenda Serrano.

Larry Nixon and Jay Yelas talk on-the-water etquette. Photo Brenda Serrano.

Here’s a scenario. You’ve spent 3 days practicing for an event and have located a number of good spots that are holding fish. The first day of the event starts and you head to your best spot, an offshore ledge that only yesterday was holding what you think are the winning fish. As you approach the spot, you see another angler sitting smack dab on your area. Within 15 minutes another four boats come in and drop their trolling motors. What you thought was an area you’d have all to yourself has just turned into a “new” community hole. [Read more…]

Yelas and Nixon Talk Sponsorships

Jay Yelas and Larry Nixon talk about attaining sponsors. Photo Brenda Serrano.

Jay Yelas and Larry Nixon talk about attaining sponsors. Photo Brenda Serrano.

Every angler wishing to become a pro dreams of the day they can fish off of someone else’s dime. But what’s it take to get there? In the old days, anglers fished hard and let their scores do the talking for them. Today, though, it seems the new crop of anglers are doing it backwards. Is there a correct way to go about it?

Over the years the fishing industry has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. Surely there’s room for Joe Weekend angler to be a part of it. But, when it comes down to it, the industry is quite small. Making a name for yourself is the name of the game and the bigger your name, the bigger your paycheck. [Read more…]

My First Bass – Dave Lefebre

Dave Lefebre at the FLW Cup talks about the first bass he caught. Photo Heidi Roth.

Dave Lefebre at the FLW Cup talks about the first bass he caught. Photo Heidi Roth.

We all remember our first bass – or at least the first bass we set out to catch. The memory always holds a deep place in our hearts. But just because bass pros make their living at catching bass doesn’t mean the thought of their first largemouth or smallmouth doesn’t bring back a flood good memories. In fact, it was usually that first fish that paved the way for them choosing their profession. Dave Lefebre is no different. [Read more…]

Larry Nixon Talks About His First Year on the Bassmaster Tour

Larry Nixon talks about his first year on the Bassmaster Tour - 1977. Photo Brenda Serrano.

Larry Nixon talks about his first year on the Bassmaster Tour – 1977. Photo Brenda Serrano.

In a recent edition of Season at a Glance here on the Bass Fishing Archives, we talked about Larry Nixon’s rookie year on the Bassmaster Trail – 1977. That year Nixon finished in 7th place for the AOY standings and placed in the top 10 in three regular-season events. He would have won Rookie of the Year hands down if B.A.S.S. had had the award at the time. [Read more…]

How Not to Introduce Your Wife to Fishing – Dave Lefebre

Dave and Anne Lefebre show their big fish in the first tournament they fished together in 1995. It could have turned out a lot worse. Photo Dave Lefebre.

Dave and Anne Lefebre show their big fish in the first tournament they fished together in 1995. It could have turned out a lot worse. Photo Dave Lefebre.

While at the FLW Cup this past month, I ran into longtime tour angler Dave Lefebre and had a chance to talk with him about how he got his start in fishing. He had a couple of good stories for us, including this somewhat morbid one about how he introduced his future wife, Anne, to tournament fishing.

Most anglers who want their significant other to like competitive bass fishing would make sure to take them out during a summer event, or at least one when the weather isn’t supposed to be nasty. I guess they do things differently in Pennsylvania, though. [Read more…]