Season at a Glance: 1977 Bassmaster Trail – Part Four

For the third time in his career, Bill Dance was the Bassmaster Angler of the Year in 1977.

For the third time in his career, Bill Dance was the Bassmaster Angler of the Year in 1977.

In the previous three parts of this series we covered the first half of the 1977 Bassmaster Trail, the second half of the trail and the Federation Championship. In Part Four we’re going to look at the Bassmaster Classic contenders, the 25 top anglers from the AOY race plus the Federation qualifier – Bill Stephens of Alabama.

Also of note, a misunderstanding was discovered in the 1977 February issue of Bassmaster Magazine – the Angler of the Year data we used for the last installment of this series. The Classic entry rules for 1977 stated they would be taking the top-24 anglers in the AOY race. Bassmaster printed the top-25 AOY standings and we took those to be the Classic contenders to include #25 Woo Daves. When looking at the Classic standings, though, we noticed that Dave Gliebe fished the event and not Woo Daves.

Classic Qualification Rules for 1977 as found in the 1976 Bassmaster Classic Press Guide.

Classic Qualification Rules for 1977 as found in the 1976 Bassmaster Classic Press Guide.

We eventually found the rules for the 1977 Classic Qualification in the 1976 Bassmaster Classic Press Guide (Thank you Ken Duke). The specific rule that got Gliebe in was he fished all six qualifying events and won one.

Here are the anglers and their competition resumes up through the 1977 Bassmaster Classic. All Photos come from various Bassmaster sources.

Bill Dance(1) Bill Dance, TN – 6-Time Classic Qualifier

The 1977 Bassmaster Classic was Dances sixth straight Classic appearance – having only missed the first Classic due to not fishing the 1971 season. Dance would go on and fish the 1978 through 1980 seasons, qualifying for Classics VIII and IX, making it eight straight. In the 1980 season, though, he would fail to qualify for Classic X and would gracefully bow out of competition the following year in order to concentrate on his TV show, Bill Dance Outdoors.

By the end of the 1977 season, Dance had participated in 56 Bassmaster events. Of those he had 49 top-50 finishes, 45 top-20 finishes, 36 top-10s, five 3rds, seven 2nds and seven wins. All seven of his wins came in the years 1968, ’69 and ’70, with three wins each in the 1968 and 1970 seasons.

Roland Martin(2) Roland Martin, OK – 6-Time Classic Qualifier 

Classic VII marked Roland Martin’s sixth appearance in the year-end championship. He missed Classic VI qualification by one spot the year before and if he’d made that event, he would have been the only angler in the 1977 Classic field to qualify for all Classic held up to that time. His reasoning for having a bad year in 1976 was he was concentrating too much on his new TV show and not putting in the time to practice like he had in the past. This year, he went back to his normal mode of fishing and not only qualified for his sixth Classic but placed second in the AOY race.

As the 1977 season ended, Martin had fished a total of 52 Bassmaster events and placed in the top 50 46 times. Of those top-50 finishes he had 41 top-20s, 35 top-10s, two 3rds, 10 2nds and nine wins. Three of his wins came in the year 1973 to become only the second angler to ever win three events in a single season. In 1972 he also won two events. 

Roger Moore(3) Roger Moore, MO – 4-Time Classic Qualifier

Moore began his Bassmaster career at the start of the 1974 season and made his first Classic the same year. By the end of the 1977 season, he’d made his fourth straight Classic and was always a contender. In fact, he nearly won the ’74 Classic, placing second to eventual winner Tommy Martin.

In four years on tour, Moore had competed in a total of 28 events, placing in the top 50 19 times. Of those 19 top-50 finishes he placed in the top 20 a total of 14 times, had nine top-10s, one 3rd-place finish and two 2nds.

Paul Chamblee(4) Paul Chamblee, NC – 4-Time Classic Qualifier 

Paul Chamblee started his full-time career with Bassmaster at the start of the 1974 season. Prior to that he’d fished two events in the 1973 season. He made his first Classic his rookie season and by the end of the 1977 season had qualified for four straight.

Between the years 1973 and the end of 1977 he’d fished a total of 26 Bassmaster events where he placed in the top 50 22 times. He also placed in the top 20 a total of 14 times along with nine top 10s, two 3rds and two 2nds.

Rick Clunn(5) Rick Clunn, TX – 4-Time Classic Qualifier

Rick Clunn holds the distinction of being the only angler in the 1977 Bassmaster Classic who is still fishing the top Bassmaster tour. He started his career with B.A.S.S. in 1974 and by 1977 had qualified for four straight Classics. In 1976 he won the first of his first of four Classics – a record matched only recently by Kevin VanDam.

By the end of the 1977 Classic, Clunn had fished 28 events with 22 top-50 finishes. With those top-50s he placed 20th or better 13 times and also had seven top 10s, one 3rd, one 2nd and three wins – two of which were Classics and the 1977 Bass Champs event. He’s always had a penchant for winning big events.

8 Phil Greene(6) Phil Greene, TX – 2-Time Classic Qualifier

Greene started fishing Bassmaster events in 1974 but didn’t make his first Classic until the 1975 season. The 1977 Classic represented his second time qualifying for the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing. By the end of 1977 he’d fished in 24 Bassmaster events, of which he placed 50th or better 16 times. He had eight top-20s, five top-10s and one 3rd-place finish to his credit.

Larry Nixon(7) Larry Nixon, TX – Bassmaster Rookie and 1st-Time Classic Qualifier

If B.A.S.S. had implemented the Rookie of the Year award in 1977, it would have been Nixon’s by a longshot. In his first year with the tour he amassed 6 top-50 finishes (including the Classic) and missed the second event of the year held at Toledo Bend in February. With the Classic, where he ended up in second, he placed in the top 20 four times, had three top-10s and one 2nd. In total for 1977 he made $13,845.98 in Bassmaster winnings. Not bad for a rookie year.

Bobby Murray(8) Bobby Murray, TN – 5-Time Classic Qualifier

Murray fished his first Bassmaster event in 1969 but didn’t hit the trail full time until 1972. The amazing thing about Murray is he qualified for his first Classic, Classic I in 1971 which he won, by only fishing two events that season. Maybe that’s why he committed to the whole ’72 season. In any event, Classic VII was Murray’s fifth Classic qualification after missing the 1975 and ’76 versions. He missed half of the 1975 season and all of the 1976 season.

From 1969 through the end of 1977, Murray fished in 28 events. During that time he garnered 24 top 50s and within those, 21 top 20s, 12 top 10s, one 3rd, one 2nd and two wins – including the 1971 Bassmaster Classic.

Bo Dowden(9) Bo Dowden, LA – 4-Time Classic Qualifier

Villis “Bo” Dowden started his Bassmaster career in 1974 and qualified for the Classic from his rookie year through 1977 – making it four in a row. By 1977 he’d fished 28 events and placed in the top 50 no less than 20 times. Out of those 20 top-50 finishes, he made 14 top-20 showings along with 10 top-10 finishes. He also had two 3rds, two seconds, including a second place at the 1976 Classic.

John Powell Feb 1975(10) John Powell, AL – 5-Time Classic Qualifier

The 1977 Bassmaster Classic was Powell’s fifth time qualifying for the event since he started with B.A.S.S. in 1968. He qualified for the first two Classic but a 1973 berth eluded him as did the 1976 Classic. Over the course of ten seasons with B.A.S.S. at the time, he’d fished 43 events and had 34 top-50 finishes. Twenty six of those were top-20 finishes with 14 of those being top 10s. And to dig deeper into those statistics, he had one 3rd, one 2nd and three wins that included back-to-back wins in 1971.

Jack Hains(11) Jack Hains, LA – 3-Time Classic Qualifier

In 1975 Jack Hains hit the Bassmaster Trail sprinting. In his first year alone he would have easily taken Rookie of the Year (if there’d been such an award at the time), never placed lower than 39th in the five regular-season events he fished and won Classic V. From then on, Hains qualified for two more Classics in 1976 and ’77. Over the course of 1975 through the end of 1977 Hains fished 20 events and had an impressive 17 top 50s out of them. Within those top-50s he had 11 top 10s and one win – the right one with the ’75 Classic.

Harold Allen(12) Harold Allen, TX – Classic Rookie

Allen got his Bassmaster start in 1974 but didn’t move full time to the Trail until the 1977 season, same as fellow “Hemphill Gang” member Larry Nixon. Prior to 1977, Allen had fished only three Bassmaster events. Not a true rookie, Allen laid out an impressive first season with five top-50 finishes to go with two others he had from 1974 and ’76. Add to that another top 50 in the 77 Classic and his total was eight out of 10. Within those eight top 50s he placed 20th or better in two events and those events were also top 10s in their own right. The competition was about to be changed with the boys from Texas showing up.

Bill Ward(13) Bill Ward, MO – 3-Time Classic Qualifier

Bill Ward, son of the famous bait maker Virgil Ward, would make the 1977 Classic his third in a row. He started full time on the Bassmaster scene in 1974, missing the Classic his rookie year by three spots. BY the end of 1977 he had fished 27 Bassmaster events and finished 50th or better 22 times. Of his 22 top 50s he placed 20th or better seven times and within those had two top 10s. He also had a 2nd place finish during that time period on the St Johns River.

Steve Goodwin(14) Steve Goodwin, NC – Classic Rookie 

Prior to 1977 Goodwin had fished nine Bassmaster events with only a paltry showing. In those first nine events, he placed in the top 50 only twice – an 18th in ’74 at Bugg’s Island and a 5th at the St John’s River in 1975. The 1977 season would be the year he’d take the training wheels off and ride like he was a star.

He kicked off the season with a win at the St John’s and then logged four top-50 finishes the remainder of the year. By the end of the 1977 season he’d fished a total of 16 Bassmaster events and had seven top 50s, six top 20s, two top 10s and a win.

Rayo Breckenridge(15) Rayo Breckenridge, AR – 5-Time Classic Qualifier

After testing the waters in 1972, Breckenridge went “all-in” in 1973, fishing every Bassmaster event there was. He qualified his first year on the circuit for the Classic and won the event, narrowly winning over Bill Dance. The Paragould, AR farmer found success casting for cash and the 1977 Classic would be his fifth straight Classic appearance.

Up until this time Breckenridge had fished a total of 35 Bassmaster events finishing in the top-50 24 times. Of those 24 top-50 finishes he placed 20th or better 12 times and had five top 10s to boot. He also had two 2nds and one win – The 1973 Classic.

Al Lindner(16) Al Lindner, MN – 3-Time Classic Qualifier 

Lindner’s career with B.A.S.S. didn’t start full time until the 1974 season. Prior to that he’d fished two events, one in 1970 and the other in 1971 – both times finishing in the top 20. Prior to the ’77 season he’d fished 16 Bassmaster events finishing in the top 20 eight times, qualified for two Classics (1974 and 1975) and won an event in 1974 at Watts Bar. In those 1974 through 1976 seasons he never fished the full season.

In 1977, though, he fished all six events, winning one at Gaston, and placed in the top 50 five out of seven events. Throughout his career up to that point, he’d fished 23 Bassmaster events (out of only 26 total) and 18 top 50s, 10 tops 20s, five top 10s and two wins.

Billy Westmorland(17) Billy Westmorland, TN – 6-Time Classic Qualifier

The 1977 season would prove to be Westmorland’s last full season on the Bassmaster Trail. He started in 1972, fishing only three events, and making the Classic his first try. He didn’t miss a Classic from 1972 through 1977 making Classic VII his sixth straight – a feat matched only by Bill Dance and Ricky Green. In the 32 events he had fished up to that time, he had 24 top-50 finishes, 20 top-20 finishes, 15 top-10s, three 3rds and 3 wins. Westmorland would go on to fish three more Bassmaster events in 1978 but would quit due to the increased size limit B.A.S.S. placed on tournament fish. He would continue to fish competitively through organizations such as American Bass Fisherman and National Bass Association but after 1979, he gave up tournament angling altogether.

Hugh Massey 73 Classic(18) Hugh Massey, KY – 3-Time Classic Qualifier 

Massey got his start on the Bassmaster Trail in 1973 fishing three events and qualifying for his first Classic. He also qualified in 1974 but hit a dry spell in 1975 and ’76. Classic VII would be his third try at the Big Game.

By the end of the 1977 season he’d fished 25 events and placed in the top-50 17 times. He had 9 top-20 finishes, three of which came in 1977, and three top-10s.

Tom Mann(19) Tom Mann, AL – 6-Time Classic Qualifier

By the end of 1977 Tom Mann had been around the scene almost as long as Bill Dance. If not for missing the first ever Ray Scott tournament, his career would have spanned the same length as Dance’s. From 1967 through 1977, Mann fished a total of 51 Bassmaster events. He only fished one event in both years 1968 and 1969, three in 1970 and four in ‘71. Still he qualified for Classic I held at Lake Mead in 1971.

Classic VII represented his sixth Classic qualification and if not for a stumble in 1976, he would have held the record as the only man to fish all seven Bassmaster Classics. Still his statistics were record-worthy. By the end of 1977 he’d amassed 44 top-50 finishes (second only to Dance), 32 top-20s (third to Dance and Martin), 24 top-10s (third to Dance and Martin), five 3rds, three 2nds and two wins.

Doug Odom(20) Doug Odom, SC – 2-Time Classic Qualifier

The 1977 Bassmaster tournament year was Odom’s second, having fished the 1976 Trail and qualifying for the Classic his rookie year. In ’76 he fished four events and only had one finish outside the top- 20 and that was a 21st place.

In 1977 Odom fished all six regular season events along with the 1977 BASS Chapter Championship (he placed 4th overall in that event) and qualified for the Classic for the second year in a row. IN two years he fished 12 tour-level events, 10 of which he finished in the top 50. He also had eight top 20s, four top 10s and one 2nd-place finish in his first-ever event held at Santee-Cooper in 1976. He would go on to fish three events in 1978, not making the top 50 in any of them. In 1979 and 1980 he fished one event each and never came back to fishing the Bassmaster Tour.

Ricky Green(21) Ricky Green, AR – 6-Time Classic Qualifier

By 1977 Ricky Green had become known on the Bassmaster tournament trail as Mr. Consistency. It seemed he finished in the top more than not and also had a penchant for catching big fish. Because of this consistency, he was one of the first professional bass anglers to make a living from fishing solely by sponsor dollars and tournament winnings.

Green fished his first Bassmaster event in October 1968 at Sam Rayburn and between then and the end of 1977 had fished a total of 42 Bassmaster events, 37 of which were top-50 finishes. Of those 26 were top 20s, 18 top 10s, two 3rds, three 2nds and two wins. The 1977 Classic marked his sixth straight qualification – a record he tied with Billy Westmorland and Bill Dance.

(22) H. J. Stevens, AR – Classic Rookie (No Photo)

Stevens started fishing Bassmaster events back in 1973, the first being the Louisiana Invitational held on Toledo Bend in February of that year. Between that first tournament and the end of the 1976 Bassmaster season, though, he’d only fished a total of nine events, five of those during the 1976 season.

He picked up the pace in 1977, fishing every event and qualifying for his first Bassmaster Classic. He finished the year in 22nd place. Over the course of his first 16 tournaments with B.A.S.S. between 1973 and the end of 1977 he had nine top-50 finishes and three top 20s. His best finish for that time period was a 5th place at the first event of the 1977 season held on the St John’s River.

(23) Sonny Viola, LA – Classic Rookie (No Photo)

Viola was another relative newcomer to the Bassmaster Trail. While he fished his first event in 1975, the Louisiana Invitational on Toledo Bend, he didn’t hit the circuit full time until 1976. He hit the water running in the first two events of that year, placing 15th and 33rd respectively, then the bottom fell out of his boat and he didn’t make the top 50 in the final three events he fished.

The 1977 season would turn out to be better for him, though. Although he fished only four Invitationals, he made the topo 50 each event and inked a 4th-place finish at his home lake, Toledo Bend, and a 3rd place at the New York Invitational held at the St. Lawrence River.

Between 1975 and the end of the 1977 season, he fished a total of 11 Bassmaster events and finished in the top 50 seven times. In that he finished in the top 10 three times.

Jim Rogers(24) Jim Rogers, MO – Classic Rookie

Rogers was probably one of the best known anglers of the day who hadn’t won an event prior to 1977. Owner of Roger’s World Champion Lures, he fished his first Ray Scott event in 1967 at Smith Lake, AL. He then fished his next event in 1972 and then three in 1973 – where he missed qualifying for the Classic by 10 points.

Between his first event in ’72 and the end of 1977 he’d fished 21 Bassmaster events where he finished in the top-50 13 times. He also had five top-20 finishes topped by his win at the New York Invitational in 1977. Classic VII would be the first and only time he would qualify for the big event. He would continue to fish the Tour full time until 1980. At that point he fished only a handful of Bassmaster events through 1992, his last being the 25th Anniversary event held at Beaver Lake.

Dave Gliebe(25) Dave Gliebe, CA – Classic Rookie

Gliebe’s Bassmaster career started on the heels of Dee Thomas in 1976. During that year he fished 4 events, placing in the top 50 in three, his best finish being a 6th place at Cordell Hull. But 1977 would turn out to be Gliebe’s year nationally. He would win three national events in the span of a month on three different tournament circuits, three different lakes and three different states.

The 1977 would also be Gliebe’s first full season on the Bassmaster Trail. He fished all six events and had three top-50 finishes including his win at Toledo Bend. It’s safe to say that Dee Thomas changed the world of bass fishing in 1975 but it was Gliebe who turned it on its ear in 1977. After that one-month span from January through February, everyone on the national trails was looking for a Flippin’ Stik.

The 1977 Classic would be Gliebe’s first of three qualified for in the years 1977 through ’79. He continued to fish but never again made a Classic. In the span of 1976 through the end of 1977, Gliebe fished a total of 11 Bassmaster events, placing in the top 50 a total of seven times and winning one event.

(26*) Bill Stephens, AL – Federation Angler, Classic Rookie (No Photo)

Federation qualifier Bill Stephens made the 1977 Classic by securing first spot on his team’s Federation Championship. Before the Classic, Stephens had never fished a tour-level event.

[Editor’s Note: I would like to thank Ken Duke of B.A.S.S. for helping with photos as many are from the Press Guides of the time. I’d also like to thank him for working with me on the AOY typo. Ken is always there to lend a hand and we appreciate it]