Before we go through the highlights of the ’74 Classic, I thought it would be good to introduce the anglers who made the Classic. In the February ’75 issue of Bassmaster Magazine, as was done in the January/February issue of ’74, B.A.S.S. not only gave the Classic report, the magazine also dedicated a substantial number of pages to the Classic qualifiers with respect to their bios. We’re going to go through these bios and touch on the anglers’ accomplishments up to this point in time. No byline was given but I assume it was Bob Cobb who penned the piece.
In this series of biographies, the anglers were asked two primary questions. The first question was, “how they tackle a new body of water,” and the second was, “what they thought of the new oxygen meters that were being sold.” We’ll go through the answers they provided to these questions along with giving a little more of their histories at this time. All photos from the February 1975 issue of Bassmaster Magazine.
(1) Bill Dance, 32 (Memphis, TN)
Quoting his bio in the February 1975 issue of Bassmaster Magazine, “[Dance] was the first super star of professional bass fishing.” It’s easy to understand why one would say this.
Prior to the ’74 Classic, Dance was already a legend among the sport and probably the most recognized of any angler in competitive bass fishing. Between 1968 and 1970, he had won seven Bassmaster titles in 16 events and had also won the inaugural Bassmaster Angler of the Year award. He was second on the all-time B.A.S.S. money leaders board with $30,217.20 in tournament earnings – a remarkable feat in that he left the tournament scene for 18 months between ‘71 and ’72.
The ’74 tournament season would see Dance win his second AOY trophy – showing others that he hadn’t lost his touch his touch at the competitive game of bass fishing. It also marked his third-straight Classic qualification.
At the time, Dance was known as a structure angler – one of the few on the trail who spent more time probing deep-water haunts using state-of-the-art tools and techniques. Here’s a quote from his bio as written by the author.
“Dance has emerged as one of the most famous of the new breed of scientific anglers using sonar depthfinders, temperature meters and oxygen probes. He is basically known as a deep-water ‘structure’ expert, who ponders contour maps to locate suspect spots for bass.”
Today anglers don’t think twice about venturing away from the shore in search of deep-water fish. It’s interesting to go back and read about the first anglers credited with that movement – Dance being one of them.
The ’74 Classic would mark Ricky Green’s third appearance in the championship in as many years. He won the ’74 Texas Invitational on Sam Rayburn, which automatically qualified him in the ’74 Classic. He didn’t slow down on his quest to win after that automatic bid, though, racking up 2nd-, 6th-, 11th- and 13th-place finishes in the last four events of the season.
Here’s a look at what he said in his bio regarding his method to find fish before an event.
“I spend most of the day boat riding, looking at water clarity, water temperatures, and oxygen content.”
“I try to cover as many different types of water as possible; points, cover timber, stump beds, creek channels, etc. Then I look back over my day of fishing, and try to figure out the type of water that was most productive. This includes the particular type of water, water color, depth, lure color and retrieve speed. For example, if points were more productive, then the next day I would fish as many points as possible. If you can catch a bass on every fifth point, you’ll limit and be able to release the smaller fish.”
Again, this seems to be a no-brainer mentality today but back in the 70s, most weekend anglers hadn’t grasped this concept.
A chemist by education, by 1974 Green had quit his day job and became a consultant for Ray Jefferson electronics.
In 1974, Bobby Meador qualified for his third Classic, having fished the inaugural event in ’71 and again in ’73. Over the course of the ’74 season, he had four top-20 finishes topped by a 9th-place finish at the Texas Invitational.
Here are a couple of interesting tidbits from his bio:
To solve the riddle of a new lake – “We can only weigh in 10 bass per day, so if I keep the bait wet, I’m solving my problem of a strange lake.”
“Use the right equipment with the best frame of mind, light line increases strikes and know how to fish a select number lures.”
At this time his biggest fish to date was a 13 1/2-pound bass taken from Lake Jackson in Florida. What did he catch it on? A Bill Plumber frog.
To any other angler, a 4th-place finish in the AOY standings would be considered a good year. To Martin, though, it was considered a bad year. Martin had taken the last three consecutive AOY awards and had also won seven events on tour, including three in the ’73 season alone.
Still Martin was the all-time money leader with $40,580.20 in earnings and would be fishing his fourth Classic.
Martin is credited as one of the pioneers of structure fishing and defined it as, “The exact set of water and cover conditions, namely the exact water depth, certain type of cover, closeness to bottom structure – all working together to attract bass to that exact spot.”
In the bio it states that Martin had recently left his job as a research and promotion specialist for Lowrance Electronics and was starting a new educational TV fishing series produced by Roland martin Enterprises.
Tommy Martin’s first year as a full-time touring pro resulted in six top-50 finishes topped by a win at the Arkansas Invitational held on Beaver Lake. Martin, at the time, was the owner of the House’n Bay Marina and Guide Service on Toledo Bend Reservoir. He guided full time and had been seriously bass fishing for nine years.
He was another angler who was dedicated to pattern fishing and believed anglers must be versatile in order to be successful.
“I have learned to use all types of lures, different types of fishing equipment, casting and spinning. Adjust this equipment, line size and lure size to the type of lake you’re fishing. Try to establish several patterns in different depths of water, if possible. A good fish-catching pattern is much better than finding one good hole.”
At this time, Martin’s biggest fish was a 9-02 largemouth caught from Sam Rayburn Reservoir in 1972. He caught it on a Glen Andrew’s black twin spin. When was the last time anyone fished a twin spin?
By the time the ’74 Classic rolled around, Tom Mann had qualified for all four. He placed 2nd in the first event at Lake Mead, took 3rd place at the ’72 Classic on Percy Priest and finished in the 5th spot in ’73 at Clark Hill.
At the end of the ’74 season, Mann held the 6th spot on the all-time money leaders board with $15,903.15 in earnings.
An interesting comment he made was when he was asked about his opinion of the newly touted oxygen meter.
He said he owned one but, “To be honest it has very little overall use in bass fishing.”
Mann fished all six events in the ’74 season and placed in the top 50 in five of them. His best finishes were two 7th-place efforts at the St. Johns River and Clark Hill.
A first-year touring pro, Krueger made the Classic on his first try. He fished five events total and placed in the top 50 in four events – topped by a 3rd-place finish at Watts Bar.
It seems the big question this year that was asked of a number of Classic qualifier was about the oxygen meter. Krueger felt that the O2 meter would become a part of every angler’s tackle in the future.
Al Lindner’s first year on the B.A.S.S. circuit was a profitable one. He fished four of the six events held and had top-10 finishes in three of them including a win at the Watts Bar event in Tennessee. Here’s a funny quote by the author – again we assume this was Bob Cobb.
“[Al Lindner] perhaps the best known, if not the best, Yankee bass chaser on the tournament circuit.”
Lindner was touted as being the Promotion Manager for Lindy/Little Joe lures and star of Facts of Fishing TV series. Obviously this was before he and brother Ron started In-Fisherman.
He stated that a good topo map and Lowrance depthfinder as the two most important tools an angler could have.
He was also asked what he thought off the O2 meter. Here’s what he had to say:
“I don’t know. After over 18 months of working with it, it hasn’t really helped me at all.”
The ’74 Classic would be Skinner’s first after a number of prior attempts. In his bio, the author said that Skinner had fished over 30 Bassmaster events over time but a look at the Bassmaster website indicates that he’d only fished 4 events prior to the ’74 season.
In his bio he had three tips for catching fish – concentrate, be versatile and never give up.
Powell had qualified for his third Classic and was one of the sports most recognized anglers. Powell was also known for his ability to catch fish out of shallow water and the author of this bio series even said he was, “Reported to fish even flooded cow tracks.”
His track record at the Classic wasn’t too stellar, capturing the 24th spot in the ’71 event and 13th in the 1972 event. Maybe 1974 would be different.
His three tips for success were experience, effort and confidence and his lure preferences were a 6-inch Crème worm, black and white spinnerbait, mid-depth plug, topwater and Doll Fly.
Wells was one of the few to have qualified for all four Classics to date. He fished all six events in ’74 and placed in the top 25 in all, topped by a 4th-place finish at Watts Bar.
Wells was another angler who preached about structure fishing saying, “fish a variety of depths and structure with different lures, then fish similar places that produced success.”
He also touted the use of topographical maps prior to fishing a new lake. Anglers today have it so easy compared to back then.
In 1974 Bobby Murray made his fourth Classic by fishing four events and placing in the top 25 in each. Murray, the winner of the first Classic on Lake Mead, was always a threat wherever he went.
His method for figuring out a new lake was to, “Study topo maps to plan fishig areas. Try to establish a shallow water fish-catching pattern first. Fish fast!”
Murray was also asked the question about the O2 meter. His response was: “It is very useful when used with other fishing instruments, however, I do not feel it will revolutionize the bass fishing industry.”
In 1974, Johnny Morris was 26 years old and had qualified for his third straight Classic. In the bio it makes no mention of his Bass Pro Shops business but we know that 1974 was the first year he came out with the BPS Master catalog.
Morris was another angler sold on pattern fishing. Here are a few comments he made.
“The first and most important step is determining the proper depth to fish. The next job is finding areas of concentrations of bass at the most productive depth. And, finally the fun part – discover which lures work best.”
He also felt that the topo map was integral in learning a new lake along with discussing local fish patterns with locals. But here was his final comment about becoming a better angler.
“I feel a fisherman must find his own fish if he’s going to be continually successful.”
Seems Johnny was more than just a tackle salesman.
The 1974 tournament season was Bo Dowden’s first and he made a big splash by qualifying for the ’74 Classic. He fished five of the six events and placed in the top 20 in three of them – his best finish a 3rd at Clark Hill.
Dowden comments with respect to learning a new body of water were:
“I generally try seven or eight deep structure spots and about the same number of medium-depth areas first. If I haven’t located any fish, I’ll try shallow water in shady areas.”
What were his thoughts on the O2 meter?
“[It] is a must. It eliminates a lot of fishless water.”
Chamblee made his first Classic in ’74 in a pretty remarkable manner. He only fished three of six events but in the events he fished, he finished in the top 20 in each – topped by a 4th-place finish at Kerr Reservoir.
His method fr learning a new lake is to, “First ride over the lake. Spot check different types of cover, such as brush, piers, rock points, gravel points, deep banks, underwater islands, etc. Pick one or two points on the map that extend into deep water. Check these out with a depthfinder to see if fish can be spotted. Then fish at all depths on [the] point until you determine at what depth fish are holding.”
He also stated, “What depth is more important than what lure.” Pretty sound advice in my opinion.
Hilton made his first (and only) Classic in 1974. He fished all six events, placing in the top 50 in four. His best finish of the season was a 12th place at Sam Rayburn, followed by a 15th at the St. Johns River.
Hilton also was one of the manufacturers of the newly-invented kill-switch. His version, called the “Kwik-Stop” was manufactured by his company.
His opinion of the new O2 meters?
“It’s a very important tool when fishing conditions are slow or bad.”
Sloan, another of the few who had qualified for all fur Classics to date, was also the winner of the first Ray Scott event held on Beaver Lake in Arkansas. He owned the Aggravator bait company, one of the most successful spinnerbait companies of the early days and the bait that Bobby Murray used to win the first Classic.
Sloan’s method for finding fish on new water was to first fish the shallow water then gradually move deeper until fish were found. He also said, “Find out the water temperature, get a good map and locate some baitfish.”
In 1974 Norton was fishing his second Classic having finished in 3rd place the year before at Clark Hill. Norton was a veteran of bass fishing with 27 years of experience and he owned Johnny Reb, a company that manufactured the “LectrAnchor” electric anchoring system found on many boats of the time. For those who don’t know, it was the Power-Pole of the ‘70s.
Primos would be fishing his first Classic in ’74 after almost making the cut in ’72 at the 25th spot. Like nearly all the other anglers questioned, he believed in the study of topo maps to get familiar with a new lake. He also was of sound belief that you should look for fish shallow first and then move deeper and then reverse the process.
“I move around a lot until I locate fish, then slow down to hopefully catch the larger bass.”
In 1974 Cook made his second Classic appearance in two years. At the ’73 Classic, he finished in 4th place.
His comments about the O2 meter were: “It’s going to take a lot of studying before it becomes helpful.”
The year 1974 would mark the first year that Rick Clunn would fish bass but it’d also be the first time he’d make the Bass Master Classic. His string of consecutive appearances in the Super Bowl of bass fishing wouldn’t end until 2001 – a string that lasted for 28 years. Since then he’s fished the Classic 4 four more times for a total of 32 appearances.
Here are some of his comments:
“I keep extensive records and hope the longer I fish the tournament circuit the more I can relate to this log book and at least have an idea where to start searching.”
With respect to finding a pattern, he said: “I am a mixture of both the instinctive and scientific fisherman. I combine scientific techniques and instincts to determine the correct depth, cover pattern, structure pattern, lure retrieve, etc. I don’t feel there are any hard and fast rules.”
This was the first time in the literature that I’ve read were someone actually talked about instincts as a method in which to target bass. Here’s another example:
“Confidence, enthusiasm and dedication. These are intangible qualities, but without them you can be the most knowledgeable fisherman around and still fail. So many fishermen know the basics and have equal talent. I feel what makes the real difference from being No. 1 or No. 50 in the standings is the different degrees of these intangibles each fisherman has inside himself.”
Here’s his comment with regard to the O2 meter – in typical Clunn fashion.
“The concept of determining oxygen rich areas, I feel, is very promising but I still have reservations about the accuracy of the present oxygen meters.”
Here’s another great comment he made, as told by the author, regarding the future of the sport.
“[He] hopes there is a ‘future’ to professional tournament fishing, such as pro golf.”
Mr. Clunn, you are proof there would be.
Another interesting tidbit is his biggest bass at the time was a 7-08 taken out of Toledo Bend in 1969.
Roger Moore, not related to the James Bond character, made his first Classic in ’74, the first year he fished the Bassmaster Trail. He would go on to qualify for three other Classics.
When asked what it takes to be a successful angler, his replies were quite entertaining.
“Luck is almost as important as concentration. Ask anyone about the ones that got away and it always comes back to bad breaks; never skill. Honestly, I believe concentration is 40%, luck is 40% and the other 20% is skill.”
His idea on how to figure out a new lake was: “Study maps beforehand and decide on one or two areas. Work them during the practice and pray that not everyone else is in the same area. If all else fails, hope for a pairing the first day with someone that has found ‘em.”
His opinion of the O2 meter was it was good for the summer but not of much benefit in the spring.
Massey would make his second Classic in 1974, having fished the ’73 event on Clark Hill. Not much was said about Massey’s past but he did give his three reasons that make an angler a success. They were hard work, good equipment and an understanding wife.
The 1974 Classic would be Sceurman’s second in a row. He credited his success on the Trail with learning how to effectively fish a plastic worm. His method of learning a new lake is to, “Just going out and fishin’ until I catch a bass. Then I’ll try to work out a pattern on the type of water and cover where the fish came from.”
(25) Loyd McEntire, Alternate (Indiana)
Breckenridge was the defending Classic Champion. The ’74 Classic was his second in a row and he would make four more Classic appearances – ‘75-‘77 and ‘79. There was no further information provided.
Westmorland qualified for the 1974 Classic by winning the first event of the season on the St. Johns River. This was his third Classic in a row and his streak would continue through 1977.
Westmorland was (and still is) considered one of the foremost authorities on smallmouth bass and at the time was one of the few (if not the only) anglers in the world who had both a 10-pound largemouth and smallmouth to his credit.
His opinion on the O2 meter was, “It probably has a place for some people , but not for me.”
Shealy qualified for the 1974 Classic by winning the Kerr Reservoir event. It was the only event he fished that year – claiming he went to fish the event for a vacation. After the first day of competition, his vacation became quit stressful when he stood in 5th place after the first day of competition. Things got even more stressful for him the second day when he took the lead from Ricky Green.
Shealy would fish 11 more events, including two Chapter Championships, but wouldn’t make another Classic.
Farr qualified for the 1974 Classic by winning the last event of the season at Clark Hill. The Clark Hill event was his third venture into professional bass fishing and he made it pay off big.
Farr credited John Powell with showing him how to go back into the creeks and develop a feel for the plastic worm.
Campbell won the 1974 Chapter Championship on Table Rock Lake to make his inaugural trip to the Bass Master Classic. Campbell would use his newfound celebrity to start his career on the Bassmaster trail shortly after – a career that would go until 2002. Over the years he fished in five Classic and had 79 top-10 finishes.
Campbell was a high school basketball coach at the time but also guided on the White River Lakes of Missouri and Arkansas.