Season at a Glance: 1975 Bassmaster Trail – Part One

Photo Bassmaster Magazine March/April 1975 issue.

Photo Bassmaster Magazine March/April 1975 issue.

This is part one of a three-part series on the 1975 Bassmaster Tournament Trail. Part one will cover the first half of the tournament season, part two will cover the second half and part three will cover the 1975 Bassmaster Classic. There will also be sections on the 1975 Federation Championship and a lead-in article showing Classic contenders and their bios.

The 1975 Bassmaster Tournament Trail started off with a number of rules changes and introduced a new concept in tournament angling – fly-fishing tournaments. Although the horsepower race was already a concern, the ’75 season saw B.A.S.S. finally put into law horsepower restrictions on bass boats. The maximum horsepower allowed on any bass rig would be dictated by the new U.S. Coast Guard capacity plate issued with every boat. For those boats that didn’t have these plates, a restriction was placed on the boat depending on its length.

Also introduced in the ’75 season was the “Ooose Off.” Instead of the standard “Flare Gun Blast Off,” boats would now idle past a safety inspection in ten-second intervals and then idle 200 yards away before being permitted to take off.

In the March/April 1975 issue of Bassmaster Magazine, Ray Scott, in his Scott on the Line editorial, introduced the concept of fly-fishing tournaments into the fold of the Bassmaster Trail.

Photo Bassmaster Magazine March/April 1975 Issue.

Photo Bassmaster Magazine March/April 1975 Issue.

“You can count on a one-day ‘Flyrod Only Tournament’ before the regular pro national tournaments in April, May and June. This maybe the most fun we’ve ever had at a BASS tournament. We expect most of the BASS pros to give it a whirl, we’ll probably see a few previously timid flyrod ‘experts’ jump in the contest since we’ll be using weapons of their liking.”

The ’75 season was also being touted as a “record breaker,” namely because of a new stop on the trail, Bull Shoals Reservoir on the Arkansas/Missouri border. Once known as the best bass lake in the country, Bull Shoals had been through the typical reservoir cycle of phenomenal fishery to a place you couldn’t buy a bite. In recent years, though, the reservoir had been on the mend with high water and successful spawns – thus B.A.S.S.’s desire to hold a national event there.

Harold Sharp even commented, “We’re looking to set an all-time tournament catch record at Bull Shoals.” Little did he know that Mother Nature would throw a curve ball making the Bull Shoals event the toughest event of the ’75 season.

The ’75 schedule, which kicked off for the third straight year at the St. Johns River is shown below. Along with Bull Shoals, Santee-Cooper and Texoma were new stops.

  • Florida Invitational, St. Johns River, January 29-31
  • Louisiana Invitational, Toledo Bend Reservoir, March 5-7
  • Arkansas Invitational, Bull Shoals Reservoir, April 2-4
  • Virginia Invitational, Kerr Reservoir, May 7-9
  • South Carolina Invitational, Santee-Cooper Reservoir, June 4-6
  • All-American, Lake Texoma, September 24-26
Billy Westmorland. MArch/April 1975 issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

Billy Westmorland. May/June 1975 issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

Florida Invitational – Westmorland Wins for Second Straight Year

Bassmaster Editor Bob Cobb said it well when he suggested that the Florida Invitational should be called the, “Bill Westmorland Benefit Fish-Off.” For the second year in a row, Westmorland had bested bass fishing’s best in the Sunshine state.

The year prior, Westmorland had found a series of canals “within casting distance of the tournament headquarters” in order to garner the win. In ’75, though, he found his water completely overrun with anglers hoping to capitalize on his previous year’s spot.

So, like any savvy basser, Westmorland packed up and headed north 20 miles to Palatka. When he got there he found fish stacked on sunken pilings along two bars that fed into the St. Johns. The trick was to “swim a plastic worm over the maze of pilings.”

It wasn’t an easy haul for Westmorland, though. On the final day of the event, a thick fog inundated the waterway and kept him from finding his new hole by nearly two hours. By the time he got there, he found another angler had also found the area. Still, Westmorland was able to catch nine bass for 18-02 and capped off his win. His 3-day total weighed 59-08 (26 fish).

Second place went to 1973 Classic winner Rayo Breckenridge. Breckenridge almost didn’t make the opener due to an emergency appendectomy right before the event.

Breckenridge utilized “light tackle” in order to weigh 23 bass for 49-10. He too swam worms in a series of canals in the Palatka area using a size-1 worm hook, a 6-inch worm and 8-pound line.

Third place went to Bassmaster stalwart and bait maker Tom Mann with a tournament-high 28 bass for 46-12. Mann also utilized light line – 6-pound – and plastics in order to catch his fish. The Rodman Pool was the area he fished.

Rounding out the top 5 were Jeff Green (TX) with 44-07 (20 fish) and Steve Goodwin (NC) with 41-14 (18 fish).

Big fish honors went to Emmett Chiles (AR) with a pig that tipped the scales at 11-11 and was just shy of the all-time B.A.S.S. tournament record set at the St. Johns River in 1973 by Bob Tyndall (12-13).

The top 35 for the event is shown in the table below.

1975 Bassmaster Florida Invitational St. Johns River Final Results
Place
Angler, State
Weight, lbs-oz
1
Billy Westmorland, TN
59-08
2
Rayo Breckenridge, AR
49-10
3
Tom Mann, AL
46-12
4
Jeff Green, TX
44-07
5
Steve Goodwin, NC
41-14
6
Russ Breckenridge, AR
39-08
7
Al Lindner, MN
38-11
8
Ricky Green, AR
36-13
9
Roger Moore, MO
36-12
10
Jack Hains, LA
35-13
11
Bo Dowden, LA
33-14
12
Donald Harper, GA
32-15
13
Loyd McEntire, IN
32-14
14
Billy Parker, MS
32-11
15
Bill Dance, TN
32-06
16
Steve Hadley, SC
32-05
17
Joe Chaffin, MO
31-07
18
Blake Honeycutt, NC
29-04
19
Jimmy Houston, OK
29-03
20
Bobby Meador, LA
28-10
21
Russell Cook, MO
28-08
22
Bill Bailey, MO
28-07
23
Emmett Chiles, AR
27-06
24
Bobby Qualis, FL
27-01
25
Marvin Klare, IN
25-08
26
Al Greene, GA
25-07
27
Wallace Lea, MO
25-01
28
Elroy Krueger, TX
24-11
29
Tom Wellborn, MS
24-10
30
L. E. Martin, MS
24-01
31
Dave Hilton, TN
23-12
32
Don Norton, MS
21-13
33
John Powell, AL
21-08
34
Joe Pryor, NC
20-03
35
Ed French, GA
19-15
Marvin Baker. Photo May/June 1975 issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

Marvin Baker. Photo May/June 1975 issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

Louisiana Invitational – Baker Becomes Oldest Winner

The Louisiana Invitational greeted anglers with cold, miserable conditions. Sleet came down in practice and the weather didn’t warm up for the entire event. This cold weather actually helped the event in one way, it gave B.A.S.S. its highest “release rate” to date with 96.6 percent of the fish being released alive and well.

Although the weather didn’t cooperate, the fish did with 81 10-fish limits being weighed by a 200-angler field. Total fish count for the event was 2,987 for a total weight of 5,611-02. This weight was only 114 pounds off the B.A.S.S. record set in 1974 at Sam Rayburn.

Topping the three-day event was Broaddus, Texas angler Marvin Baker with 27 fish that weighed 61-06. Baker, a guide on Sam Rayburn, caught his fish in moss beds, 5- to 7-feet deep, using a Norman Little N in the morning and then switching to black plastic during the day.

In second place was perennial winner Bill Dance with 28 fish for 59-11. Dance reported catching his fish on 7-foot ledges near 10 to 15 feet of water. He used an assortment of baits including an Arbogast Mud Bug, “Twister Lizards,” a solid orange “Big-S,” and 6-inch black Diamond (Back) worms.

Rounding out the top 5 were Bevo Rome (LA) with 58-14 (28 fish), Jimmy Houston (OK) 57-08 (27 fish) and Ricky Green (AR) with 56-06 (25 fish).

Big fish of the event was caught by L. E. Martin (MS) with an 8-14 largemouth.

After two events, the AOY race was under way. Ricky Green sat in the driver’s spot with 89 points followed closely by Bill Dance with 85, Jack Hains (84), Jimmy Houston (79), Al Lindner (74), Loyd McEntire (72), Emmett Chiles (55) John Powell (54) and Marvin Baker and Bill Westmorland each with 50 points.

Results for the Toledo Bend event is shown in the table below.

1975 Louisiana Invitational Toledo Bend Final Results
Place
Angler, State
Weight, lbs-oz
1
Marvin Baker, TX
61-06
2
Bill Dance, TN
59-11
3
Bevo Rome, LA
58-14
4
Jimmy Houston, OK
57-08
5
Ricky Green, AR
56-06
6
Roland Martin, OK
55-05
7
Mitch Herring, AL
53-03
8
Jack Hains, LA
52-11
9
Phil Greene, LA
52-09
10
Willard Moore, LA
51-06
11
Rick Clunn, TX
51-02
12
David Vanderford, MS
50-13
13
Hugh Massey, KY
50-07
14
Lanny Verner, TX
49-13
15
John Powell, AL
49-12
16
Gene Miller, AR
49-00
17
Loyd McEntire, IN
48-13
18
Dennis Martin, LA
48-07
19
Jim McKay, MO
48-02
20
Dennis Rogers, OK
46-13
21
Al Lindner, MN
46-07
22
Wayne McElveen, LA
46-04
23
James Bryce, TX
46-01
24
Emmett Chiles, AR
46-00
25
Tom Wellborn, MS
45-15
26
Bob Kluth, MO
45-00
27
Wallace Lea, MO
45-00
28
Pat Boudreaux, LA
44-14
29
Jon Hall, VA
44-13
30
Don Butler, OK
44-09
31
Bobby Murray, AR
44-04
32
Terry Gibson, IL
44-02
33
Bob Laroux, LA
44-01
34
L. E. Martin, MS
43-06
35
Russell Cook, MO
42-14
Dee Thomas. Photo July/August 1975 issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

Dee Thomas. Photo July/August 1975 issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

Arkansas Invitational – Thomas Unveils Flipping

At the time there was probably no more important tournament result than the 1975 Arkansas Invitational on Bull Shoals. Looking at the final weights one could say the event was a wash in that the fish didn’t bite. True, of the 175 anglers that fished the event, 100 of them blanked on the first day and it only took two fish for 5-14 to finish in the top 50. So why is this tournament so important?

Two words – Dee Thomas.

Although this was Thomas’ second Bassmaster event, he fished the Toledo Bend event the month prior and stunk it up really bad, he would change the way anglers viewed bass fishing for the rest of history. He did this by introducing the Bassmaster Tournament Trail to flipping.

We have written a number of articles on Dee Thomas and his technique here at the Bass Fishing Archives and if you’re interested in going back to read them, you can find them at the following links:

Prior to the event it was believed by many that the Bull Shoals event would be a record breaker. The tournament was scheduled during the spawn and the lake, as mentioned previously, was on the rebound. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate. A driving snow storm hit the area just prior to the tournament and that coupled with 50-degree water temps, a rising lake level and a severe cold front shut the bite down.

Still, Thomas wasn’t deterred. Bull Shoals looked much different than the tree inundated Toledo Bend he’d fished the month prior – in fact the lake reminded him of his home lakes of northern California where he’d had so much success.

It didn’t take Thomas long to figure out that the fish were shallow and they’d bite his homemade hair jigs. Using a rental boat for practice, he found fish in the Theodosia area, Big Music Creek, Little Sister Creek and the Bull Shoals Boat Dock area.

The first day of the event Thomas and his partner “got their wires crossed” and ended up without a net in the boat. It was reported by Dave Myers that “Thomas lost more fish than he weighed in.”

The second day of the event Thomas made a run for the Theodosia area and put eight bass in the boat for 15-14, the top daily weight of the tournament.

On the last day he scratched a few fish and was able to win the tournament by nearly 10 pounds over Bassmaster veteran and 1974 Classic winner Tommy Martin of Texas.

Martin, who weighed in a total of 12 fish for three days (25-10), caught his fish on a Rebel Humpback and Norman Little Scooper cranks in crawfish patterns. He paralleled bluff banks with flooded willow trees for his 2nd-place finish.

Third place was taken by local Bull Shoals angler Charlie Hoover with nine fish for 21-07. Hoover caught his fish using 4-pound line and a weedless jig on gravel points with willows.

Fourth place went to Dave Hilton (TN) with 10 fish for 20-00. Hilton found his fish in the same conditions as Thomas, under a mat of “sawdust” that covered the backs of certain coves. Hilton didn’t get on the pattern until the last day which makes one wonder if Thomas’ pattern hadn’t been let out of the bag. He too used a 5/8-ounce jig and eel to catch his fish.

Dan Muckler (MO) rounded out the top 5 with five bass for 18-03.

Big fish for the event went to Jack Hains with a 8-02 largemouth. It was reported that Hains caught his fish in a way similar to Thomas’ tactics – again which begs to guess that Thomas’ technique had already started catching on.

By the end of the Bull Shoals event, the 1975 Bassmaster tournament season was half over. Already, three anglers had qualified for the Classic – Westmorland, Baker and Thomas – and the AOY race was starting to take shape.

Below are the final results for the Bull Shoals tournament along with the AOY totals at the mid-point.

1975 Arkansas Invitational Bull Shoals Final Results
Place
Angler, State
Weight, lbs-oz
1
Dee Thomas, CA
35-06
2
Tommy Martin,, TX
25-10
3
Charlie Hoover, AR
21-07
4
Dave Hilton, TN
20-00
5
Dan Muckler, MO
18-03
6
Elroy Krueger, TX
16-11
7
Rick Clunn, TX
16-10
8
Marvin Baker, TX
16-06
9
Jack Hains, LA
15-13
10
Roland Martin, OK
14-11
11
Chloe Holder, MO
13-13
12
Emmett Chiles, AR
12-08
13
Gary Witt, MO
12-06
14
Gary Simon, MN
11-14
15
Don Mead, MO
11-08
16
Carl Ungerer, MO
11-05
17
Jim Bryan, AR
10-14
18
Stan Sloan, TN
10-07
19
Phil Greene, LA
10-06
20
Frank Wohl, OK
10-03
21
Gene Miller, AR
10-01
22
Forrest Wood, AR
9-15
23
Ray Lloyd, LA
9-09
24
Russell Cook, MO
9-02
25
John Storie, AR
9-02
26
Bo Dowden, LA
8-12
27
Greg Ward, MO
8-10
28
Bill Roller, MO
8-10
29
Bob Tyndall, MO
8-10
30
Don Butler, OK
8-08
31
Al Greene, GA
8-08
32
Gene Nicolini, IN
8-04
33
George Wimberly, TX
8-04
34
Danny Whaley, SC
7-05
35
Bill Vanderford, GA
7-05
1975 Angler of the Year Points Race After Three Events (Bull Shoals Flyrod Tournament Included)
Place
Angler, State
Points
1
Jack Hains, LA
126
2
Ricky Green, AR
104
3
Bill Dance, TN
100
4
Rick Clunn, TX
99
5
Emmett Chiles, AR
94
6
Marvin Barker, TX
93
7
Roland Martin, OK
86
8
Elroy Krueger, TX
81
9
Jimmy Houston, OK
79
10
Al Lindner, MN
74
11
Phil Greene, LA
74
12
Russell Cook, MO
73
13
Loyd McEntire, IN
72
14
Roger Moore, MO
70
15
Dave Hilton, TN
67
16
Billy Westmorland, TN
65
17
Gene Miller, AR
65
18
Bo Dowden, LA
65
19
Tom Mann, AL
63
20
Russell Breckenridge, AR
60
21
John Powell, AL
59
22
Dee Thomas, CA
50
23
Rayo Breckenridge, AR
49
24
Tommy Martin, TX
49
25
Bevo Rome, LA
48
26
Charlie Hoover, AR
48
27
Tom Welborn, MS
48
28
Wallace Lea, MO
48
29
Jeff Green,
47
30
Dan Muckler, MO
46
Fly fishing seminar put on prior to the 1975 Bull Shoals event. Photo July/August issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

Fly fishing seminar put on prior to the 1975 Bull Shoals event. Photo July/August issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

On the Fly Rod Front

Bull Shoals also marked the first fly rod-only event of the season. The tournament was held the day prior to the regular tournament with 63 anglers participating. Eleven fish were caught and weighed with Ricky Green taking the top honors with two fish that totaled 3-04. His fish netted him an extra $1,400 dollars. Ron Deardoff and Austin James each took big fish honors with single fish weighing in at 3-03 along with second and third place honors.

Russell Breckenridge (brother of Rayo) collected a fourth-place check of $300 with one fish that went 2-05, while Roger Moore held on to the fifth spot with one fish that weighed in at 2-04. Other anglers who caught fish were Bill Dance, Billy Westmorland, Rick Clunn, Jim Nolen and Walt Sawicki. In all the 63 anglers caught 11 bass.

Also awarded to the anglers who caught fish in the fly rod event were 15 extra points towards the AOY race.

 

In part two, we’ll cover the second half of the 1975 Bassmaster tournament season.