[Editor’s note: This is Part One of a six-part series on the 1978 Bassmaster Trail. Over the course of the next two weeks we’ll cover the 1978 season, the Classic qualifiers and the 1978 Bassmaster Classic.]
The 1978 Bassmaster Trail season would be one to go down in tournament fishing history. First off, between the end of the ’77 season and the start of the ’78 season, B.A.S.S. president Ray Scott decided to increase the length requirement for legal tournament bass from 12 inches to 14 inches. This new rule threw a wrench into the game that many of the top pros didn’t like. Here’s what some of them had to say:
Billy Westmorland – “We’re programmed to fish for smaller fish, and catch numbers. Usually, you don’t catch many tournament bass in the 14-inch class except for an occasional lunker. Now it’s going to be a new ball game.”
Tom Mann – “It’s going to hurt big-time tournament fishing. There are days when you’ll catch 15 to 20 bass that won’t snub up against the 14—inch mark. But someone can make one lucky cast and catch a big fish.”
Three other rule changes also went into effect in 1978; 1) the daily bag limit of 10 bass was reduced to seven, 2) the bonus award for weighing in a live bass was increased from one ounce to two ounces and 3) the AOY race would be decided on total weight for the year, not a points system.
Ray Scott’s response to the rule changes all focused on the sustainability of the fishery and the fact that interest in bass fishing had skyrocketed. Here’s what he had to say in the May/June 1978 issue of Bassmaster Magazine.
“We’re not trying to handicap the tournament pro. They’re concerned about the rule changes and having to adapt to a new system. But they are professionals, and will continue to prove it. What we’re all concerned about is the future of bass fishing.”
“The national BASS tournaments are held up as a mirror, and others mimic the pros. There are over 1,600 affiliated BASS clubs and many other fishing clubs. In many cases, they pattern club tournament rules after the pros.”
Bobby Murray didn’t like the length limit rule change but it appears he did understand it. “I’m a junk fisherman. I throw a lot of little baits. The new rules hurt me. But, if it’s necessary for the future of bass fishing – I’ll give it a try.”
On to the 1978 season.
The ’78 season had a total of six qualifying events for the year-end championship, The Bassmaster Classic, along with the second-annual Bass Champs event to be held mid-season. Here’s the schedule:
- Bassmaster Classic Qualifier 1: Florida Invitational, Kissimmee Chain of Lakes – Jan 25 – 27, 1978
- Bassmaster Classic Qualifier 2: Florida Invitational, St. Johns River – Feb 22 – 24, 1978
- Bassmaster Classic Qualifier 3: Virginia Invitational, Lake Gaston – Mar 22 – 24, 1978
- Mid-year Event: Bass Champs, Atchafalaya River Basin – April 26 – 28, 1978
- Bassmaster Classic Qualifier 4: Kentucky Invitational, Kentucky Lake May 31 – June 2, 1978
- Bassmaster Classic Qualifier 5: New York Invitational, St. Lawrence River – June 21 – 23, 1978
- Bassmaster Classic Qualifier 6: Alabama Invitational, West Point Lake – Sept 20-22, 1978
- Bassmaster Classic, Ross Barnett – October Oct 25-27, 1978
Kissimmee Chain of Lakes – Gliebe Doesn’t Flip
This would be the first time since 1973 that B.A.S.S. wouldn’t start the year off at the St. Johns River – hoping that by venturing further south they’d have better luck dodging any weather-related problems. Unfortunately, Mother Nature has a way of finding bass tournaments and still provided a nasty cold front the competitors had to deal with.
The field was comprised of 250 contestants who, over three days of competition, weighed in a total of 493 fish that weighed 1,375-13. Out of that, only four 7-fish limits were weighed. Nothing was reported about how many fish were caught between the 12- and 14-inch slot.
Not much was written about the tournament and how it played out but it seems that Dave Gliebe drew Roland Martin on the second day and Gliebe got a look into how Martin was catching his fish – a small 1/4-ounce spinnerbait. Gliebe had been flipping on the first day.
The report stated, Gliebe, who was sitting in 40th place after day 1, caught a limit with Martin that went 24-12. This put him only a couple pounds out of 1st place as Martin’s combined 2-day weight was 32-03.
On the final day Gliebe took his new-found pattern across the lake and continued to catch fish.
Martin’s problem had been a lack of big fish. Each day he had big fish either wake his spinnerbait or eat and it miss. On the second day, Gliebe’s sack included two fish in the 6- to 8-pound class, either of which would have blown the doors off the event for him.
At the weigh-in, Gliebe brought four fish to the scales for 9-06 and a total of 39-12 (12 fish). Unfortunately, Martin could only muster one more bass – his total ended up being 35-05 (14 fish) and fell to the 2nd-place position.
Rounding out the Top 5 was Harold Allen in 3rd place with 33-12 (13 fish), Ed Chancey placed in fourth with 27-07 (5 fish) and local Fred Martin finished in 5th place with 27-04 (9 fish).
Chancey also had big fish for the event – a 10-08 largemouth that netted him Ranger btommyoat rigged with a Stop-Master kill switch, Lowrance locator and surface temp unit, a Johnny Reb LectrAnchor system and trailer.
The top 40 for Kissimmee is shown below in the table.
|1978 Florida Invitational Kissimmee Chain of Lakes Final Results|
|Place||Angler, State||Weight, lbs-ozs|
|1||Dave Gliebe, CA||39-12|
|2||Roland Martin, OK||35-05|
|3||Harold Allen, TX||33-12|
|4||Ed Chancey, FL||27-07|
|5||Fred Martin, FL||27-04|
|6||Tommy Martin, TX||25-12|
|7||Jerry Rhyne, NC||23-15|
|8||Hank Parker, SC||22-04|
|9||Claude Kennedy, FL||21-12|
|10||Hubert Greene, NC||21-03|
|11||James Thomas, AL||20-15|
|12||David Owens, AR||20-14|
|13||Marvin Baker, TX||20-12|
|14||Gene Howard, FL||18-15|
|15||Rick Clunn, TX||18-14|
|16||Jim Dunbar, FL||18-14|
|17||Dick Busby, VA||18-13|
|18||Jimmy Houston, OK||18-07|
|19||Freddie Lester, SC||18-07|
|20||Shorty Evans, MO||17-14|
|21||O’Neal Mintz, SC||17-05|
|22||Bo Dowden, LA||17-01|
|23||Doug Gilley, FL||16-07|
|24||Bill Stephans, AL||16-07|
|25||Garth Golden, IL||16-02|
|26||Dick Moore, FL||15-09|
|27||Forrest Wood, AR||15-08|
|28||Billy Penland, NC||14-14|
|29||Bill Ward, MO||14-12|
|30||Gerry Bevis, FL||14-03|
|31||Estel Nash, IN||14-01|
|32||Bobby Lee, FL||14-00|
|33||Whitey Ham, FL||13-11|
|34||Gary Alverson, GA||13-08|
|35||Dave Hilton, TN||13-08|
|36||Bobby Murray, TN||13-03|
|37||Billy Burns, KY||13-01|
|38||Bill Thompson, FL||13-00|
|39||Larry Nixon, TX||12-11|
|40||John Brister, FL||12-08|
St. Johns River – Wade Waits Out Rhyne
The second stop of the season to the anglers a little north to what was normally the season opener, the St. Johns River. Even though the Kissimmee and St Johns tournaments were a month apart, severe weather again hampered the event – this time with three nights where the lows were subfreezing, dropping the water temperatures into the low 50s.
Totals for the event again were dim, most likely because of the weather, but it also makes you wonder how much effect the new 14-inch length regulation played a part. Overall there were 425 bass weighed for a total of 1,434-10 and one daily limit. Big fish went to Jack Westberry with a toad that weighed 11-12.
As with the tournament report from Kissimmee, there wasn’t much written on the St Johns event, in fact, they only covered the 1st- and 2nd-place anglers.
Bassmaster rookie, 21-year-old Jack Wade ended up winning the event on a two-day total of 33-14. Wade caught the only limit (17-03) of the entire event on the first day and followed that up with five more fish the second day (16-11) for a total of 33-14. He blanked on the final day and almost gave up the lead to Jerry Rhyne – who, if not for a disgruntled canal resident, may have overtaken Wade.
Rhyne had a canal he wanted to try that had warmer water in it than other canals but when he pulled up to start fishing it, an altercation ensued. Here’s how it was written by Bob Cobb in the May/June 1978 issue of Bassmaster.
“’When I pulled into the canal, there was a mean-looking woman standing there,’ [Rhyne] said.” The woman told him, ‘You can’t fish in my canal. These are my bass in here.’
She then told her husband to go call the sheriff.
Rhyne later said he knew he could have won the event in ther-e with one cast. Instead he had to settle fishing another canal where he caught five bass that weighed 18-07. That lifted his overall total to 32-12 (9 fish).
The remainder of the Top 5 was 3rd-place local Palatka resident Larry Parker with 30-05 (8 fish), fourth place went to Ray tester with 30-03 (8 fish) and overall big-fish winner Jack Westberry with six bass that went 28-07.
The Top 40 is presented below.
|1978 Florida Invitational St. Johns River Final Results|
|Place||Angler, State||Weight, lbs-ozs|
|1||Jack Wade, TX||33-14|
|2||Jerry Rhyne, NC||32-11|
|3||Larry Parker, FL||30-05|
|4||Ray Tester, FL||30-03|
|5||Jack Westberry, FL||28-07|
|6||Joe Wagoner, NC||27-08|
|7||Glenn Crawford, FL||26-12|
|8||Doug Yarbrough, TN||23-08|
|9||Paul Hanna, FL||22-12|
|10||Bill Stephens, AL||21-05|
|11||Larry Utsler, IN||21-05|
|12||O’Neal Mintz, SC||20-14|
|13||Leonard Andrews, VA||19-14|
|14||Harvey Mastin, TN||19-10|
|15||Gary Wade, NC||19-05|
|16||Hank Parker, SC||19-01|
|17||Bill O’Connor, FL||18-05|
|18||Paul Chamblee, NC||18-03|
|19||Aaron Kelly, FL||17-13|
|20||Danny Logan, FL||17-08|
|21||Earl Rylee, LA||17-04|
|22||Larry Nixon, TX||16-10|
|23||Jim Rogers, MO||16-09|
|24||Ricky Green, AR||16-03|
|25||Bob Upton, GA||16-02|
|26||Gene Miller, AR||15-13|
|27||Rick Clunn, TX||15-09|
|28||Bobby Murray, TN||15-09|
|29||Roger Moore, MO||15-08|
|30||Jack Chancellor, AL||14-08|
|31||Steve Goodwin, NC||14-08|
|32||George Hoffman, MI||13-13|
|33||Chic Aydelette, NC||13-06|
|34||Loyd McEntire, IN||13-06|
|35||James Stephens, FL||13-06|
|36||John Rorhbaugh, FL||13-02|
|37||Gary Simon, MN||13-02|
|38||Tom Mann, AL||12-15|
|39||Gene Howard, FL||12-13|
|40||Fred Capriotti, MI||12-08|
Lake Gaston – Board Used Slow Speed Shad
The winter of ’78 must have been a nasty one as evidenced by the first three events of the ’78 Bassmaster season. One would guess that by mid-March, weather and water temperatures in southern Virginia would be pushing springtime values – such wasn’t the case in ‘78. Water temperatures in the low 50s greeted the 250 Virginia Invitational anglers and this, along with fluctuating water levels, turned the fish and the anglers on their ears.
Although the conditions weren’t optimal, the overall event turned out much better than the previous two with a full field weighing in a total of 982 bass (twice as many as weighed in at both Kissimmee and the St. Johns) for a total of 2,490-04. There was also a total of six limits weighed. Maybe the 14-inch size limit wasn’t so bad after all?
By the end of three competition days, local North Carolina angler Hurley Board had proven he could not only catch fish, but catch fish in the terrible, late winter, conditions. Hurley concentrated on a single, 200 yard rock bank adjacent to deep water.
Board’s first-day catch wasn’t too impressive, he only weighed 6-04, but he knew it could pay off big if the weather changed – and it did. Starting the second round outside the top 20, Board went back to his bank with his trusty Bomber Speed Shad and continued with his game plan. By the end of the day, he’d amassed a 7-fish limit that pushed the scales to 17-11 leaving him in 4th place going into the final round.
On the last day, Board brought in another five bass for 14-12 and a total of 38-11. Board beat runner-up Tom Mann by nearly 4 pounds who weighed in 11 fish for 34-12 over the course of the event.
Rounding out the top 5 was Dave Gliebe (3rd place) with 33-14 (12 fish), Frank Colyer (4th place) with 31-10 (16 fish) and the 5th slot went to Ricky Green with 10 fish that weighed 31-06. Big fish of the event went to Bobby Blankenship who weighed in a 10-14 bruiser.
As stated previously, Board concentrated on a lone rock bank fishing a Bomber Speed Shad, a bait that has become synonymous with Gaston over the years. His technique required a 5-foot custom made spinning rod, 8-pound test and a painfully slow retrieve.
Second-place angler Tom Mann also relied on a crankbait, but his bait of choice was a Mann’s Razorback in the new natural baby bass finish. Gliebe, as one would guess, caught his fish flipping.
This event would also mark another interesting benchmark. Bill Dance, who was the prior year’s AOY, had not weighed in a fish over five tournament days until the Gaston event. He finished in 15th place by fishing a Chrome Speed Shad.
The top 40 and mid-year AOY results are presented below.
|1978 Virginia Invitational Lake Gaston Final Results|
|Place||Angler, State||Weight, lbs-ozs|
|1||Hurley Board, NC||38-11|
|2||Tom Mann, AL||34-12|
|3||Dave Gliebe, CA||33-14|
|4||Frank Colyer, VA||31-10|
|5||Ricky Green, AR||31-06|
|6||David Owens, AR||30-15|
|7||Bill Ward, MO||30-14|
|8||Roland Martin, OK||29-05|
|9||Bobby Blankenship, VA||28-08|
|10||Larry Nixon, TX||28-08|
|11||John Pryor, OK||28-03|
|12||H. J. Stevens, AR||27-04|
|13||Bobby Murray, TN||26-01|
|14||Ken Gilbert, VA||25-15|
|15||Bill Dance, TN||25-12|
|16||Bob Layporte, OH||25-03|
|17||Ben Cowan, NY||24-06|
|18||Ronnie Lemons, VA||23-06|
|19||Al Greene, GA||23-05|
|20||Rick Abbott, MO||22-15|
|21||Cliff Craft, GA||22-06|
|22||Paul Dutton, VA||22-02|
|23||Benny Cubitt, SC||22-01|
|24||James Thomas, AL||22-00|
|25||Basil Bacon, MO||21-01|
|26||Leonard Andrews, VA||20-13|
|27||Bo Dowden, LA||20-10|
|28||Jimmy Houston, OK||20-07|
|29||Carl Miller, NC||20-04|
|30||Rick Clunn, TX||20-02|
|31||John Powell, AL||19-10|
|32||Tommy Brincefield, NC||19-08|
|33||Ron Frier, NC||19-03|
|34||Jeff Muller, VA||18-10|
|35||Paul Chamblee, NC||18-09|
|36||Jack Westberry, FL||18-09|
|37||Jerry Rhyne, NC||18-08|
|38||Bruce Cunagin, OH||18-07|
|39||Paul Kelly, NH||17-14|
|40||Buddy Allen, VA||16-09|
|1978 Mid-Year AOY Race
|Place||Angler, State||Weight, lbs-ozs|
|1||Dave Gliebe, CA||75-12|
|2||Jerry Rhyne, NC||75-02|
|3||Roland Martin, OK||64-10|
|4||David Owens, AR||61-11|
|5||Larry Nixon, TX||57-13|
|6||Tom Mann, AL||57-08|
|7||Bobby Murray, TN||54-13|
|8||Rick Clunn, TX||54-09|
|9||Jack Westberry, FL||54-03|
|10||James Thomas, AL||53-05|
|11||Harold Allen, TX||52-08|
|12||Hank Parker, SC||51-11|
|13||Ricky Green, AR||50-04|
|14||Bill Ward, MO||49-02|
|15||Paul Chaamblee, NC||44-12|
|16||Bill Stephens, AL||44-05|
|17||Gary Wade, NC||43-06|
|18||O’Neal Mintz, SC||43-04|
|19||Jimmy Houston, OK||43-02|
|20||Glenn Crawford, FL||43-01|
|21||Leonard Andrews, VA||42-13|
|22||Bill O’Connor, FL||42-08|
|23||Bo Dowden, LA||42-03|
|24||Cliff Craft, GA||40-14|
|25||Freddie Lester, SC||40-04|
|26||Roger Moore, MO||40-01|
|27||Frank Colyer, VA||39-12|
|28||Joe Wagoner, NC||39-06|
|29||Jack Wade, TX||39-04|
|30||Marvin Baker, TX||38-15|
|31||Hurley Board, NC||38-11|
|32||Tommy Martin, TX||38-06|
|33||Doug Yabrough, TN||37-15|
|34||Dick Busby, VA||37-10|
|35||Dave Hilton, TN||37-07|
|36||Gene Howard, FL||37-04|
|37||H. J. Stevens, AR||36-02|
|38||Forrest Wood, AR||33-04|
|39||Chic Aydelette, NC||32-12|
|40||Bill Dance, TN||32-04|
In Part Two of this series we’ll cover the mid-year Bass Champs event held on the Atchafalaya Basin.