Season at a Glance: 1971 Bassmaster Trail – Part Three

Bobby Murray with his final-day string and Ray Scott presenting him with the $10,000 check for winning the first Bass Master Classic. Photo Bass Master Magazine Jan/Feb 1972.

This is part three of a three-part series on the 1971 Bassmaster Tournament Trail. To read Part One, click here and to read Part Two, click here.

The conclusion of the 1971 tournament season brought on a new twist in bass fishing – the first Bass Masters Classic – which would determine the first bass fishing World Champion. All year anglers fished to qualify for this event and at the end of the regular season, the top 24 anglers were secretly placed on an airplane in Atlanta, GA and whisked through the sky westward to their final destination.

Once the plane hit the 10,000-foot level, Ray Scott stood up and announced the final destination for the event, Lake Mead in the stark Nevada desert. Here are a few of Ray’s words taken from the Jan/Feb issue of Bass Master Magazine regarding the disclosure of the event site.

“We’ve got the best bass fishermen in the world on this plane. You wouldn’t expect the World Series to be played on a Little League ball yard. Neither would you expect the World Championship of Bass Fishing to be held in a fish hatchery. We’re headed for Lake Mead on the Nevada-Arizona border. It will be the toughest fishing test of your angling careers. But, it’ll be worth it. To the victor goes $10,000 cash.”Ray wasn’t kidding when he said it’d be the toughest test for these 24 anglers. Lake Mead, even today, is considered one of the toughest venues in the world.

Ray also had another card up his sleeve – the anglers were only allowed four rods and ten pounds of tackle. They would also be fishing out of identical boats, each rigged with identical equipment. Only one day of practice was allowed before the three days of competition would commence.

The first anglers to fish a Bass Master Classic. Photo courtesy of Bill Rice, longtime editor of Western Outdoor News and one of the writers involved with the first Bass Master Classic. Bill Rice can be seen in the upper right alongside Ray Scott.

Tournament Days

For those who know Mead, it can be a stingy body of water. This event was no different. Bobby Meador, brought nine fish to the scales that weighed 15-12 and became the first-day leader. Tom Mann, of Jelly Worm fame, brought in the only limit (10 fish) posted that day weighing 13-4 and took the second-place position. Out of the 24 anglers, only 73 keepers were caught and five of the anglers blanked.

The second day brought about a pretty big change in the leader board. Tom Mann again brought in the only limit that weighed 15-6, giving him the first-place position after the second day with 28-10. Bobby Murray, who only weighed five fish for 9-7 the first day, brought in a bag of six fish totaling 18-6 – better than a three-pound average – taking on the second spot after two days with 27-13 total. Murray also had that day’s big fish at 6-5.

Tom Mann congratulates Bobby Murray on his Bass Masters Classic win. Photo Bass Master Magazine Jan/Feb 1972.

The third day brought more tough fishing but Tom Mann, who was the only angler to limit the first two days, was able to bring in another eight bass to the scales for 9-3. His 28 fish totaled 37-13. Roland Martin made a valiant effort the last day but his fish, including the event’s big fish (6-9) wouldn’t be enough. Martin ended up finishing in fourth place with a total of 14 fish for 30-3.

Bobby Murray only brought six fish to the scales but his weight of 15-14 (17 for 43-11) was more than enough to pass Mann as the first-place leader and the winner of the first Bass Masters Classic.

A total of 254 fish were weighed for a total weight of 430-15 or just over a 1-11 average per fish.

A full list of the standings is shown in the table below.

Bass Master Classic Final Standings Lake Mead 1971
Place
Angler
State
# Fish
Wgt, lbs-ozs
1
Bobby Murray
AR
17
43-11
2
Tom Mann
AL
28
37-13
3
George Oates
TN
17
34-01
4
Roland Martin
AL
14
30-03
5
Bobby Meador
LA
20
28-03
6
Don Butler
OK
16
24-07
7
Drew Reese
MO
17
23-08
8
Will Little
AL
18
23-06
9
Shorty Evans
MO
15
22-09
10
Bill Fletcher
AR
15
22-00
11
Fred Brist (tie)
TN
7
16-10
12
Marvin Miller (tie)
IA
9
16-10
13
Bob Ponds
MS
8
15-10
14
Dave Jadwin
MO
7
15-02
15
Glen Wells
TN
7
14-00
16
Al St. Romain
LA
7
12-08
17
Joe Kennedy
TX
8
11-01
18
Wallace Lea
MO
5
10-07
19
Carlos Mayo
AR
5
8-08
20
Rayborn Waits
TX
4
5-03
21
Stan Sloan
TN
4
5-01
22
Dennis Pope
KS
1
4-05
23
Emmitt Chiles
AR
3
3-14
24
John Powell
AL
2
2-03
Totals
254
430-15

What Won

Murray won the first Bass Masters Classic in the “Rotary Cove” area 13 miles from the ramp. Before the event, locals were saying it would be won deep and they ended up surprised when they heard that the winning fish came “in two feet of water.”

Murray’s winning pattern was to throw a 1/4-ounce white tandem-bladed spinnerbait (Zorro Aggravator) near and in the many salt cedars present during the time. Here are his words from the Jan/Feb issue of Bass Master Magazine.

Stan Sloan holding a solid Lake Mead largemouth that succumbed to the winning bait, the Zorro Aggravator. Photo Bass Master Magazine Jan/Feb 1972.

“The water was so clear I could always see the bass hit or follow the Aggravator,” Murray said. “In three days, I bet I saw 40 bass weighing at least five pounds each [b]ut they spooked easy and I tried to make long casts.”

The technique that Murray used to catch his fish was also new amongst the spinnerbait crowd. Here are Bob Cobb’s words describing the technique in the same article.

“Spinnerbaits long have been fished slowly, letting the lure sink deep, then worked slowly to the boat. The technique used by Murray (and others) is overlooked in many areas. Described as ‘blade fishing’ in the South-west, the singlespin is buzzed across the top or just below the surface. Pull the spinnerbait through stick-ups, fallen limbs or cover that may hold fish. Keep the blade running just beneath the surface. When this method fails, try running the blade up to the brush piles, stopping it or ‘killing it’ for a count or two, then resume the retrieve.”

It’s pretty amazing that a technique we take for granted today, buzzing a blade, was uncovered in this article.

Also of note is third-place angler George Oates. For those of you bass fishing historians, can you tell me what happened to Oates in the years following this first Classic?

  • Watt

    I finally finished reading the ’71 series (I may not be fast but I am real slow!). Good stuff! Notice the massive payouts for the qualifiers? Heh! That’s why everybody had a job on the side! 😉 I was actually a skipper in the USMM and only got to fish for four or five months out of the year. It was almost impossible to make a living strictly fishing back then.

    George Oates eh? Caught, and convicted, of cheating in one of the tournies they put on. That one rocked the world. I think it was in ’74 or ’75 but don’t hold me to which one. I do remember it was right when I began fishing pro so it was one of those two years. That was ugly and for what? There just wasn’t that much money in freshwater in those days. 🙁

  • Thanks Watt. the 1972 season is coming shortly. 🙂

    George Oates. I was curious about the whole Oates deal and asked Harold Sharp what happened. Here is what he told me recently.

    “Oates came on the B.A.S.S. scene in the early years of B.A.S.S. Later he decided to get into the tournament business as competition against B.A.S.S. and even set tournaments on the same day and same waters as us.

    “Later it was reported that he and his tournament director had rigged an event by furnishing some pre-caught bass to a hand-picked contestant. Some legal action was filed and soon George was out of the bass tournament business and barred from B.A.S.S. competition.”

    Pretty amazing and this is exactly what Ray and company wanted to eliminate from the Bass Tournament scene when B.A.S.S. was founded.