Editor’s Note: This is the third part in a three-part series on the 1974 BASS Master Trail. Part one covered the first three tournaments of the season, while part two covered the three events. This part will cover the 1974 Classic. To read part one, click here and to read part two, click here.
The 1974 Bass Master season would end with 29 of the country’s best anglers vying for the coveted BASS Master Classic title. The Classic IV location would be another mystery-lake event, where anglers wouldn’t know the destination until they stepped on the plane. This time, the lake would be Wheeler Lake in Alabama, a short distance away from B.A.S.S. Headquarters in Montgomery.
Unlike previous years, not much was written about the event other than how Classic IV was won. In preceding years, there was a lot written about the pre-tournament activities and the day-to-day events that made up the event.
What is known about the event was that it was tough for all participants involved. Wheeler Lake was reportedly down three to four feet from normal pool and the fish didn’t cooperate – even for the winner. Over the course of three days of competition, 29 anglers brought 291 bass to the scales or 3.3 bass per angler per day. Only two limits were recorded during the 3-day event. Total weight for the entire event was a paltry 359-08. Talk about tough.
At the weigh-in on day one, it appeared that Roland Martin may finally take home the Classic trophy. Although Roland only brought in two fish, those two fish were enough to hold down the 1st-place spot and outweigh Ricky Green’s first-day limit. The question, though, was, did Roland have enough big fish to last the tournament.
What didn’t register in anyone’s mind, though, was Tommy Martin and what he’d discovered with only 30 minutes left in the day. Tommy only weighed in three fish the first day but what he’d discovered in the waning moments would change the complexion of the event.
Tommy had been fishing the backs of coves, targeting murky water that contained wood and docks with a white spinnerbait. With only one squeaker to his credit, he knew he had to make an adjustment.
With the lake elevation down, he decided that the fish had moved out of the shallow coves and had probably relocated where there was a little more water over their heads.
He made his final move of the day to the First Creek area of the lake, within sight of the official marina, and pulled up on a steep, rock-littered bank that had clear water. He picked up a rod rigged with a shad-colored Balsa B, made a cast against the steep shoreline and set the hook into a 5-04 largemouth that would anchor his 3-fish creel. A short time later he added another one to the livewell and called it a day.
At the weigh-in his three bass totaled 7-03, good enough for 9th place and little notice.
On day two, instead of heading back to his day-one hot spot (if you could call it that) Tommy headed to the Elk River arm of the lake in search of more steep, rocky shorelines. He’d work the shallower part of the water column with a 3/8-ounce white Fleck spinnerbait rigged with a rubber skirt and a trailer hook. He slow-rolled the spinnerbait over the rocks in 3 to 4 feet of water. In the deeper water he employed Rebel Super R and Balgey’s crankbaits – both in shad patterns.
The second day weigh-in was more of the same – small fish and very few of them at that. By the time weigh-in had concluded, Roger Moore had taken over the lead with the second limit caught – 10 fish for 10-06 – and a total of 22-15. In second spot was Tommy Martin after weighing in six bass for 10-06 for a total of 17-09.
The 5-pound-plus deficit Tommy faced going into the last day could be considered the difference between one good fish at any other lake. But on Wheeler this week, that deficit seemed almost insurmountable. Moore would have to have a disastrous final round in order for Tommy to take the crown.
Roger Moore had been fishing the Second Creek area of the lake, just above Wheeler Dam, for the entire tournament. Unfortunately, on the third day his fish disappeared due to too much pressure. His final day total was five fish that weighed in at 6-02, which gave him a total of 29-01 (22 fish).
Tommy had eight bass, but as in the prior days, his fish were much bigger. His weight of 15-06 would give him a total of 33-07 and the win at Classic IV. He beat Moore by more than four pounds.
In third place was Bobby Meador with 16 bass that weighed 24-08, while Ricky Green placed fourth with 22-04 (18 fish). Rounding out the top 5 was Chapter angler Charlie Campbell,debuting in his first Classic, with 22-02 (19 fish).
Martin at the time was a guide and marina owner at Toledo Bend in Texas and had logged more than 300 days a year on the water. His win was credited to his experience and ability to adapt to changing conditions.
Below are the final standings for Classic IV.
|Tommy Martin, TX|
|Roger Moore, MO|
|Bobby Meador, LA|
|Ricky Green, AR|
|Charlie Campbell, MO|
|Roland Martin, OK|
|J. D. Skinner, AL|
|Glin Wells, TN|
|Bobby Murray, AR|
|Billy Westmorland, TN|
|Russell Cook, MO|
|Hugh Massey, KY|
|Bo Dowden, LA|
|Rayo Breckenridge, AR|
|Tom Mann, AL|
|Rick Clunn, TX|
|Johnny Morris, MO|
|Don Norton, MS|
|John Powell, AL|
|Dave Hilton, TN|
|Paul Chamblee, NC|
|Don Shealy, NC|
|Al Lindner, MN|
|John Farr, SC|
|Elroy Krueger, TX|
|Bill Dance, TN|
|Billy Primos, MS|
|Andy Sceurman, OH|
|Stan Sloan, TN|