Season at a Glance: 1977 Bassmaster Trail – Part Two

Bill Dance wins his second Bassmaster AOY title in 1977. Photo 1978 February issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

Bill Dance wins his second Bassmaster AOY title in 1977. Photo 1978 February issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

[Editor’s Note: This is Part Two of a five-part series on the 1977 Bassmaster Tournament Trail. Part One covered the first half of the regular season, Part Three will cover the BASS Chapter Federation Nationals, Part Four the Classic Qualifiers and Part Five the Bassmaster Classic. This part will cover the second half of the regular season.]

With the first half of the 1977 season in the books, Bill Dance had a commanding lead in the Angler of the Year points race, 59 points ahead of second-place angler Steve Goodwin. Also among the top 10 were Bassmaster stalwarts Roger Moore (3rd), Jimmy Houston (4th), Al Lindner (5th), Paul Chamblee (7th), Jack Hains (8th), Bill Ward (9th) and Larry Nixon (10th).

Relative newcomer and all-around top money winner for 1977 Dave Gliebe sat in the 11th position while veteram Ricky Green took up the 17th spot. On the bubble were two anglers you would expect more out of, Rick Clunn (22nd) and Roland Martin (23rd). Would they be able to make a charge in the second half of the season and qualify for the Bassmaster Classic? We’d have to wait and see.

The first half of the season saw the trail visit the St. Johns River, Toledo Bend Reservoir and Lake Gaston. The second half of the season anglers would face Greers Ferry, AR, West Point, AL and the St. Lawrence River in New York. During the ‘77 season the Trail visited a number of venues for the first time ever – starting with Gaston and including all the waters fished in the second half of the season. In fact, the final event of the year, held on the St Lawrence River, was the furthest north B.A.S.S. had ever gone at the time.

The AOY race was nearly locked up by Dance and by the time the anglers assembled at Greers Ferry, it seemed all the other contestants were fishing for second place. But there was still a lot of water to cover. Dance could falter and anglers such as Jimmy Houston could make a run for the title – for a second year in a row. Stranger things have happened but we’ll have to wait and see how it all boiled down.

Billy Westmorland captures his third win on the Bassmaster Trail at Greers Ferry in 1977. This would be his last full year of competitive fishing on the Bassmaster Trail. Photo 1977 September/October issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

Billy Westmorland captures his third win on the Bassmaster Trail at Greers Ferry in 1977. This would be his last full year of competitive fishing on the Bassmaster Trail. Photo 1977 September/October issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

Greers Ferry – Westmorland Weighs 13 on the 13th

The fourth stop on the 1977 Bassmaster Trail included a first-time stop at Arkansas’ Greers Ferry Lake. With Classic berths still up for grabs, it was surprising that only 175 out of a possible 250 anglers decided to play with half the year remaining.

After a slow start to the ’77 season, Tennessee veteran Billy Westmoreland took home top honors for the week with 18 bass totaling 34-04. He targeted stick-ups with a 6-inch blue Ding-a-Ling worm, a spinning rod and 10-pound test line for all of his fish, including a 9-14 bass that took big fish for the event. This was the second time in two tournaments that the first-place angler also won big fish – Al Lindner having done it a month before at Gaston.

Roland Martin broke out of his slump and placed second with 14 bass for 31-08, while Tom Mann weighed in 31-05 (19 fish) good enough for 3rd place. Alabama’s James Thomas took 4th-place honors with 17 fish that tipped the scales at 30-11 and Bo Dowden rounded out the top-5 with 24 bass for 30-06.

It was reported by Bob Cobb that the event, held Wednesday May 11 through Friday May 13, provided some anglers with bad luck on the final day. For example, in the final round, Roland Martin left a spot he’d been catching big fish in all week only to have another competitor move in after he left and catch a 5-02 – a fish that would have won the event for Martin. Tom Mann, the second-day leader, also had some misfortune on the final day when he lost three fish that would have won the event.

Westmorland, on the other hand, had nothing but good luck all week. Here are the words as written by Cobb in the 1977 September/October issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

“’I was lucky,’ opined Westmorland. ’The bass swam out from the bush and got the bait in open water.’”

“Near the end, the 10-pound mono and Westmorland’s nerves survived a tug-of-war with a dead, brittle stick-up.”

“’The Stick-up broke off, and the fish came clear,’ said the wide-eyed Westmorland, who retold the story with crashing, cracking sounds of the battle.”

Westmorland weighed in 13-pounds of fish on the final round, Friday the 13th.

Overall the 175 anglers caught 1,346 bass that weighed a total of 1,893-00.

For the final results of the event, see the table below.

1977 Bassmaster Arkansas Invitational Greers Ferry Final Results
Place
Angler, State
Weight
pounds-ounces
1  Billy Westmorland, TN  34-04
2  Roland Martin, OK 31-08
3  Tom Mann, AL 31-05
4  James Thomas, AL 30-11
5 Bo Dowden, LA 30-06
6  Bill Dance, TN 28-15
7  Larry Nixon, TX 27-15
8  Bobby Murray, TN (yes, TN) 26-08
9  Max Atkinson. AR 26-03
10  Glen Cossey, AR 25-05
11  Bill Ward, MO 24-06
12  Bill O’Conner, FL 24-05
13  J. B. Warren, AR 24-04
14  Rayo Breckenridge, AR 21-01
15  Steve Goodwin, NC 21-01
16  Woo Daves, VA 20-04
17  Doug Odom, SC 20-02
18  Bruce Williams, GA 20-01
19  Greg Ward, MO 19-14
20  Bill Melvin, IL 19-08
21  Jerry Wagner, AR 18-14
22  Emmett Chiles, AR 18-03
23  Gene Miller, AR 17-13
24  Rick Clunn, TX 17-12
25  George Mason, TX 17-10
26  Louis Bagwell, AR 17-09
27  Jim Kirk, AR 17-09
28  Hugh Massey. KY 17-06
29  Glin Wells, TN 17-06
30  Paul Chamblee, NC 17-01
31  Dennis Wegert, AR 16-11
32  Carl West, AR 16-10
33  Larry Allard, MA 16-03
34  Jerry Williams, AR 16-03
35  De Lynn Byrd, AR 16-00
36  Harold Allen, TX 15-15
37  Gary Wade, NC 15-15
38  Don Shealy, NC 15-09
39  Sonny Viola, LA 15-09
40  Jeff Henderson, AR 15-07

 

After a dismal 1976 season in which he missed the 1976 Classic, Roland Martin came back in 1977 and won an event and placed second in another. Here he checks his weight at the West Point event. Photo 1977 September/October issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

After a dismal 1976 season in which he missed the 1976 Classic, Roland Martin came back in 1977 and won an event and placed second in another. Here he checks his weight at the West Point event. Photo 1977 September/October issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

West Point – Martin Done with Complacency

Something unbelievable happened in 1976 that rocked the bass fishing world at the time. Roland Martin didn’t qualify for the ’76 Bassmaster Classic for the first time since its inception. He finished in the 26th spot for the year.

At the time Martin had not only been fishing competitively but, as with many top tour anglers had numerous industry engagements to maintain along with the filming of his syndicated television show, Fishing with Roland Martin. In the 1977 September/October issue of Bassmaster, Martin authored a piece, titled The Perfect Bassin’ Plan, where he talked about the ’76 tournament year and how he fell from his pedestal. Here are some of his words.

“In the early tournaments, I really felt I had to do well, to set records, and hopefully beat one angler – my idol, Bill Dance.

“By 1974, truthfully I just didn’t have any pre-conceived performance goals left to conquer. At that point, I turned the efforts to outside interests, such as a syndicated TV program and the tackle industry. Figuring I’d established a solid track record, I planned to ride the gravy train for awhile. Boy, was this bass angler in for a disappointment! When a career is based on performance, like in pro bass fishing, you can’t let up.

“This fact hit home, like a lunker largemouth climbing on a surface plug. One of my business partners called on a television station to place the “Fishing with Roland Martin” show. The program director asked, ‘Roland who?’ The final result was that the station didn’t want to get involved with a ‘has been.’”

After this experience, Martin was recalibrated. He would no longer take for granted his stardom. He looked at his career with the seriousness of his earlier years – much to the chagrin of his fellow competitors. [Sounds a lot like Mark Davis’ awakening this year after his dismal appearance at the 2014 Classic.]

At Greers Ferry he took second place and seemed to be back on track. At West Point, he practiced in the way he’d practiced for years and won the event by four pounds.

Roland Martin's tournament report from West Point. A must read for any serious bass angler. 1977 September/October issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

Roland Martin’s tournament report from West Point. A must read for any serious bass angler. 1977 September/October issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

Martin relied on three different patterns in three different parts of the lake. In the early morning hours he’d fish on top with a Floyd’s Buzzer in shallow stick-ups then at mid-day he’d turn to throwing a Rapala Fat Rap (crawdad) up the Chattahoochee River. To end the day he’d fish plastics in the timber. What won it for him, though, was a spot he’d saved for the last day – a single ironwood tree he’d found in practice that had a huge school of big fish on it.

Martin ended up with a 3-day limit of 30 bass that totaled 59-00.

Second place went to second-day leader Gene Howard – who also had the biggest limit of the event – 24-11. Howard weighed in a total of 26 bass for 55-04. Rick Clunn put 24 bass across the weigh-in stage for 52-09 and took 3rd-place honors.

Alabama veteran John Powell placed fourth with 44-04 (23 fish) and Woo Daves took 5th place with 15 fish for 40-06. Big fish for the event was taken by Joe Garner of Tennessee with a bass that weighed 8-11.

Overall the 225 anglers who participated caught 1,787 bass that totaled 3,101-14. A total of 21 10-fish limits were weighed – Martin being the only angler to weigh three limits.

If you happen to have the 1977 September/October issue I highly recommend reading this tournament report. It is classic Martin on how he practiced for an event and how he patterned fish.

The final results from the event are shown below.

1977 Bassmaster Alabama Invitational West Point Final Results
Place
Angler, State
Weight
pounds-ounces
1  Roland Martin, OK 59-00
2  Gene Howard, FL 55-04
3  Rick Clunn, TX 52-09
4  John Powell, AL 44-04
5  Woo Daves, VA 40-06
6  Bo Dowden, LA 38-13
7  Billy Westmorland, TN 38-11
8  Hugh Massey, KY 38-01
9  Harold Allen, TX 36-02
10  Fred Capriotti, MI 35-11
11  Paul Varnadoe, GA 35-10
12  Tommy Mike. GA 35-07
13  John Pryor, OK 33-10
14  Reid Hurston, GA 33-03
15  Joe Garner, TN 32-01
16  Dennis Weggert, AR 31-07
17  Joe Wagoner, NC 30-09
18  Jack Hains, LA 29-06
19  Jerry Brown, LA 28-04
20  Roger Moore, MO 28-02
21  H. J. Stevens, AR 28-02
22  Russell Fackler, GA 26-13
23  Ray Lloyd, LA 26-13
24  Bruce Cunagin, OH 26-09
25  Ricky Green, AR 26-05
26  Norman Browning, AL 26-02
27  Phil Greene, TX 26-01
28  James Kilpatrick, GA 25-11
29  Kenny Bryan. GA 25-06
30  Gary Wade, NC 25-06
31  Tom Mann, AL 25-02
32  Erwin Cole, TN 24-09
33  Jack Chancellor, AL 24-08
34  Tommy Martin, TX 24-01
35  Sonny Viola, LA 23-12
36  Larry Nixon, TX 23-10
37  Paul Chamblee, NC 23-09
38  Bob Varner, NC 23-04
39  James Dudley, VA 23-03
40  Mitch Herring, MS 22-12

 

Jim Rogers talks with Ray Scott after his 1977 win on the St Lawrence River, NY. Photo 1978 February issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

Jim Rogers talks with Ray Scott after his 1977 win on the St Lawrence River, NY. Photo 1978 February issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

St Lawrence River – Rogers Takes First Win

The final event of the year on the ’77 Bassmaster Trail would lead the anglers up north, way up north in fact, to the St Lawrence River. No one knew how this event would transpire as many had heard the River had been fished out due to pressure. But it’s been shown time and time again that when you get 147 of the best bass anglers in one spot for competition, people will get their eyes opened.

That’s what happened in New York in October 1977 when the field of anglers brought 1,485 bass to the scales for a total of 3,446-06 – nearly a 2 1/2-pound average per fish. A total of 130 6-bass limits were also weighed in. These totals eclipsed nearly all the results from the other five events held in 1977. It may have been the first time B.A.S.S. had ventured so far north. Because of this event, it wouldn’t be the last.

Unfortunately the tournament report didn’t offer much other than praise to the New York fishery. No pattern information was provided – maybe because anglers caught fish on everything?

When it was all over, tournament veteran and lure manufacturer Jim Rogers of Missouri weighed in 17 bass for a total of 56-02. His day-1 limit (6 fish) weighed in at 26-07 and was the heaviset limit of the tournament. John Powell almost caught Rogers but fell an ounce short with 18 fish for 56-01. Third place went to Sonny Viola 18 bass for 54-10. Viola also had big fish for the event, a largemouth that weighed 7-10.

Charlie Campbell took the fourth spot with 16 bass for 53-10 and Bobby Murray rounded out the top-5 with 52-15 (16 bass).

For the final results please see the table below.

1977 Bassmaster New York Invitational St Lawrence River Final Results
Place
Angler, State
Weight
pounds-ounces
1  Jim Rogers, MO 56-02
2  John Powell, AL 56-01
3  Sonny Viola, LA 54-10
4  Charlie Campbell, MO 53-10
5  Bobby Murray, TN 52-15
6  John Gaffney, PA 52-02
7  Gene Miller, AR 50-11
8  Roland Martin, OK 50-06
9  Paul Chamblee, NC 49-14
10  Phil Greene, TX 48-00
11  Emmett Chiles, AR 46-13
12  Rayo Breckenridge, AR 46-11
13  Roger Moore, MO 45-09
14  Bill Dance, TN 45-06
15  Jay Nelson, NY 44-15
16  Ricky Green, AR 44-14
17  Doug Odom, SC 44-12
18  Rick Clunn, TX 44-04
19  Mark Canter, NJ 44-02
20  David Barnes, ME 43-13
21  Tom Mann, AL 43-10
22  Jerry Rhyne, NC 43-09
23  Bo Dowden, LA 41-11
24  Paul Kelley, NH 40-08
25  Jack Hains, LA 39-00
26  Dave Gliebe, CA 38-05
27  Al Lindner, MN 37-14
28  Bob Layporte, OH 37-09
29  Tommy Martin, TX 37-08
30  Paul Devine, MA 37-06
31  Larry Nixon, TX 37-06
32  Ron Lindner, MN 37-05
33  Dick Busby, VA 36-09
34  Doug Eriquez, CT 35-09
35  Loyd McEntire, IN 35-09
36  Bob Sickafoose, OH 35-08
37  Cliff Craft, GA 35-04
38  Harold Allen, TX 34-12
39  Nathan Laskiewicz, NY 34-01
40  Berkeley Ellis, NY 33-08

 

With the season over, Angler of the Year was determined and as many would think, Bill Dance had won his third AOY title (hewon the first AOY title in 1970, the first year it was coined and also in 1974). Roland Martin, after his rebirth, finished in second place 41 points light of Dance. Roger Moore, Paul Chamblee and Rick Clunn finished out the top-5. For the complete AOY standings, please refer to the table below.

1977 Bassmaster Angler of the Year Points Final
Place Angler, State Points
1 Bill Dance, TN 491
2 Roland Martin, OK 450
3 Roger Moore, MO 422
4 Paul Chamblee, NC 396
5 Rick Clunn, TX 393
6 Phil Greene, TX 393
7 Larry Nixon, TX 383
8 Bobby Murray, TN 375
9 Bo Dowden, LA 370
10 John Powell, AL 363
11 Jack Hains, LA 361
12 Harold Allen, TX 360
13 Bill Ward, MO 349
14 Steve Goodwin, NC 347
15 Rayo Breckenridge, AR 337
16 Al Lindner, MN 334
17 Billy Westmorland, TN 323
18 Hugh Massey, KY 321
19 Tom Mann, AL 318
20 Doug Odom, SC 310
21 Ricky Green, AR 309
22 H. J. Stevens, AR 304
23 Sonny Viola, LA 304
24 Jim Rogers, MO 298
25 Woo Daves, VA 281
  • Josh Hearst

    First off, great site! Very entertaining. Secondly, I believe 1977 was AOY number three for Bill, (1970 ’74 ’77). Keep up the good work.

    • Josh, yes, you’re right. Brain fart on my part. Got it corrected! Thanks for pointing that out!!

      Terry