This is part one of a three-part series on the 1971 Bassmaster Tournament Trail. Because some information in the Nov/Dec Issue of Bass Master Magazine was a little fuzzy, retired Bassmaster Weigh-master Harold Sharp was consulted to clear things up.
The 1971 Bassmaster season or as they used to call it, “The Society’s Tournament Trail,” became the second-such season where an angler would be recognized for consistency throughout the year. Many know Bill Dance was the first angler to win the Bassmaster Angler of the Year (AOY) award in 1970. The interesting thing in this report is the title, as called out in the 1971 Nov/Dec issue of Bassmaster Magazine, was referred to as the Point Scoring Crown. More on this later.
There were also a number of firsts in 1971, though. This was the first year that the top anglers from the “Tournament Trail” would compete in a year-end championship. This championship of course, being the Bass Masters Classic. An interesting bit of information is found in the Nov/Dec issue, though. It states in the The Classic was not the championship as we know today, but was used to decide who the Bass Angler of the Year was. More will be said on this too.
Here are a few excerpts from the “Tournament Trail” column in that issue.
Regarding the Point Scoring Crown: “[Roland] Martin’s victory also clinched the 1971 point scoring crown on the Society’s ‘Tournament Trail.’”
Regarding the first Bass Masters Classic: “Of course by the time you read this you’ll probably have heard the results of the BASS MASTERS CLASSIC fished Oct. 20-22 at a ‘mystery lake.’ The winner of the super fish-off will be proclaimed the 1971 Bass Angler of the Year.”
Both of the comments were clarified by Harold Sharp, though.
“I’m not sure who wrote that but I can tell you this, The Classic never determined the AOY,” Sharp said. “The B[assmaster]AOY was started in 1970 and was determined by the top angler at the end of the regular season. The Bassmaster Classic winner was deemed the World Champion. Bill Dance was the first Bassmaster Angler of the Year and penned by Bob Cobb and Bobby Murray was the winner of the first Bassmaster Classic and thus the first World Champion.”
Also of note regarding the Classic: “The CLASSIC appears to be a ‘keeper.’ It may well become hook, line and slip sinker equivalent of the Masters golf, the World Series or the Super Bowl. It is designed to be the true test of a Bass Angler’s abilities….”
Little did Ray know at the time The Classic would become the event of the sport.
It’s easy to see from these examples that tournament fishing, specifically the Bassmaster Trail, was evolving and Ray and company were doing their best to give the anglers what they wanted in a tournament circuit.
The year ’71 also marked the beginning of a new era of bass fishing – an era dominated by one angler, Roland Martin. This was the year Martin secured the first of his nine AOY awards. Martin, who had finished in second the year before to Bill Dance, would bring to the forefront something every angler today takes for granted, Pattern Fishing.
The year started off at Lake Seminole on the Georgia/Florida border and anglers expected Martin to repeat his winning performance from the year before. Instead, Tom Mann walked away with the event with Martin finishing in second place. A record 198 entrants signed up for that Seminole event. The top 25 for the event are shown below.
|4||Al St Romain||LA|
|8||J. D. Robinson||AL|
|13||Mike St. John||AZ|
The next event would take the field to Table Rock where 82 anglers vied for the top spot. John Powell won the tournament, the second of his career. Tom Mann finished in sixth place and Martin finished in eighth place. After the second tournament of the season, Mann was in the lead for the AOY with Martin a close second. The top 25 for the Table Rock National are shown below.
Part two will cover the remaining two events while part three will cover the first-ever Bassmaster Classic.