[Editor’s note: This is Part Three of a six-part series on the 1978 Bassmaster Trail. Click the following links to read Part One and Part Two. We’re sorry for the lack of a story yesterday – we were experiencing server problems and hope we got it figured out.]
By the beginning of May, the Bassmaster Trail was half way through the 1978 season with three Classic qualifiers completed along with the Bass Champs event. By that point the Bassmaster Angler of the Year race was getting pretty heated with Californian Dave Gliebe in the lead by 10 ounces followed by Jerry Rhyne. The top 10 was fairly stacked with anglers such as; Roland Martin (3rd), Larry Nixon (5th), Tom Mann (6th), Bobby Murray (7th) Rick Clunn (8th). See the table below for the entire top 40 in the 1978 AOY race.
|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|
But the 1978 season wouldn’t be an easy skate due to the controversial 14-inch length limit imposed on the anglers by Ray Scott. Many of the top anglers in the sport were not happy with the ruling in fact Billy Westmorland, in his book Largemouths, stated that he left B.A.S.S. shortly after that due to this ruling.
One angler who wasn’t bothered by the change in the length limit, though, was North Carolina’s Jerry Rhyne. In fact Rhyne, who would later found the Hungry Fisherman trail, blamed the 12-inch length limit on why he didn’t make the 1977 Classic. He had no problem catching big fish, little fish were his demise. Here’s what he had to say in the July/August 1978 issue of Bassmaster Magazine:
“It was a blessing in disguise for me.”
“Last year I tried to pattern myself after Roger Moore, Rick Clunn and Bo Dowden who are very successful at catching limits of small bass, and this hurt me. I didn’t have much luck for a long time. By the end of the season, I had figured out patterns for catching small bass, but then it was too late.”
Rhyne, may not have always caught limits but he always caught bigger-than-average-bass. It was difficult for him to change that trail of thought and hurt his 1977 season. So, when 1978 rolled around, he was pretty happy – and his results showed.
Further in that article with Rhyne he talked about his method for locating bigger fish. Here is some of what he had to say:
“Finding those larger bass is like looking at a bingo card and watching the four corners. When I find a concentration of small bass, I look for the four corners. These are the farthest things from the concentration, and I fish the two outer, deeper corners. These corners on the structure might be brush, a tree, stump, log, rock or hump. Something like this has to be there, and I’ll concentrate on spots like this during all three days of the tournament.”
Nearly all the bass he’d weighed by mid-season had come from spots like this.
Although, Rhyne had no complaints with the new system, most of the anglers did and the reasons were pretty understandable when you look through the data. By mid-season, only 11 limits had been weighed for 6,750 angler days. Compared to previous years, that number was in the noise.
The second half of the season would see the competition go to Kentucky Lake, the St. Lawrence River and West Point Reservoir, where the AOY would be decided along with the final roster for Bassmaster Classic VIII.
Kentucky Lake – Shorty Weighs Big
Kentucky Lake, and its sister Barkley, has become an icon over the years as one of the best bass producers in the country. Known for its school bass – and big schoolers at that – the post-spawn and summer patterns are known to be offshore. That wasn’t the case in the late 70s when B.A.S.S. made its debut on the twin lakes.
But deep-water fishing wasn’t unknown – in fact it was becoming popular because of anglers such as Roland Martin, Bobby Murray and Bill Dance. Another angler that was dedicated to fishing deep was L. F. “Shorty” Evans of Missouri. In fact Evans had made a name for himself on Kentucky/Barkley Lakes, having won a number of events over the recent past. The 1978 Bassmaster event would place another notch on his belt.
Evans started off the event with a seven-bass limit that went 27-04. On the second day he added another limit for 16-04 and topped that off the final day with five bass for 13-05 and a total of 56-13. He caught all of his fish within sight of the Port Prizer Point marina on Barkley. His reason for going there was that the marina held a lot of events and a lot of fish were released there. The other strategic thought had to do with the fact the fish had already spawned, and Evans, knowing the fish would head for deep water, concentrated on stump fields and drop offs near these spawning flats.
He caught his fish on a mixture of buzzbaits, Bagley’s crankbaits, a Jelly Worm and Rebel ringworms. In fact, most of his fish came from the deep water drop-off on plastics.
Second place went to North Carolina angler Paul Chamblee. Chamblee was a noted shallow water spinnerbait angler caught all of his fish making short casts and flipping a plastic worm at buck brush in three to five feet of water. Chamblee weighed a total of 47-04 (16 bass).
Third place went to Bobby Murray who had a three-day total of 45-06 (20 bass). He too concentrated on shallow brush, fishing a 6-inch Jelly Worm and switching to a buzzbait during the middle of the day. Murray also reported that he had his best luck where he found carp working the water (presumably spawning). He noted they dirtied the water and made the bass hold better in the shallows.
Bo Dowden took the fourth spot after a bit of bad luck. He fell out of his boat one day and accidently lost a 14-inch fish as he was measuring it. Still, he weighed in 19 bass for 42-12.
You’d think that a deep-water event would have Roland Martin in the top – and it did. Martin, who weighed in 15 bass for 42-06, rounded out the fifth spot. The problem was Martin, who was evidently still enamored with the new flipping technique, never ventured off the bank.
“I stayed with the flippin’ technique to the end,” he told Bob Cobb. His comment, “I should have changed to casting the last day,” shows he didn’t even think of going to deeper water. Amazing the best structure fisherman of the era got lured into the shallow water.
Overall 188 anglers caught 1,164 bass that weighed a total of 2,579-07. There were 29 seven-fish limits weighed, almost triple the number from the three previous events. Shorty Evans had the big fish for the event at 7-09. The top-40 in the final standings are listed below.
|1978 Kentuky Lake Kentucky Invitational Final Results|
|Place||Angler, State||Weight, lbs-ozs|
|1||Shorty Evans, MO||56-13|
|2||Paul Chamblee, NC||47-04|
|3||Bobby Murray, TN||45-06|
|4||Bo Dowden, LA||42-12|
|5||Roland Martin, OK||42-06|
|6||Woo Daves, VA||40-04|
|7||Greg Ward, MO||38-12|
|8||Tommy Martin, TX||36-05|
|9||Gary Wade, NC||35-11|
|10||Hank Parker, SC||35-10|
|11||Ron Shearer, KY||35-04|
|12||Al Curtis, KY||33-00|
|13||Harvey Mastin, TN||30-13|
|14||Rick Clunn, TX||30-11|
|15||Harold Allen, TX||30-06|
|16||J.D. Skinner, AL||30-03|
|17||Billy Phillips, TN||29-15|
|18||Bill Dance, TN||29-08|
|19||Dennis Nelson, KY||29-06|
|20||Glenn Crawford, FL||29-05|
|21||Bill Ward, MO||28-04|
|22||John Vinson, KY||27-15|
|23||Larry Nixon, TX||27-12|
|24||Jim Hunziker, VA||27-00|
|25||Max Atkinson, AR||26-04|
|26||Jon Butler, TN||25-12|
|27||Ricky Green, AR||25-07|
|28||Erwin Cole, TN||24-06|
|29||Steve Goodwin, NC||23-15|
|30||Jimmy Houston, OK||23-08|
|31||Steve Mitchel, IN||23-08|
|32||Chic Aydelette, NC||23-04|
|33||David Owens, AR||23-04|
|34||Doug Brown, TX||22-08|
|35||Jack Westberry, FL||22-05|
|36||Hugh Massey, KY||22-02|
|37||Glin Wells, TN||21-06|
|38||Sol Fritz, KY||21-02|
|39||Charlie Campbell, MO||21-01|
|40||J. W. Cheatham, AR||20-11|
St Lawrence River – Martin Sleeps Through the Last Day
By 1978 no one had come close to winning as many Bassmaster events as Roland Martin, who’d won nine. He’d won four events at that time by more than 10 pounds and the St. Lawrence River would become his fifth blowout.
Martin’s 3rd-round was so good, in fact, that by 7:30 am he knew he’d won and relinquished the front of the boat to his partner. Bassmaster photographer Ron Wright had this to say when he saw Martin in the back seat, feet propped up sleeping. “What’s wrong Roland? Are you sick?”
Martin’s response was, “Ron, I’ve got the tournament won! I’m just cooling it, and watching my partner try to get his limit.”
Martin had happened upon a special spot during practice and bled it dry through three rounds of competition. On the first day he weighed a limit (5 fish) that tipped the scales to 20-05. The second round saw a lot of wind and because of that Martin couldn’t feel the fish hit his worm – he weighed another limit for 15-10 and went into the final round with a 5-pound lead.
But the final day was magical. His partner, Bill Hauke, knew Martin could win and made a deal with him. Here’s the deal in Martin’s words. “He told me to go ahead and pull up to my ‘special spot’ and catch five. He offered to fish out of the back of the boat, but wanted to fish first after I got my five.”
Within 20 minutes Martin had 20 pounds in the well.
Martin anchored the boat on the spot, gave up the front and coached Hauke on what he was doing. Martin had been fishing a 7- to 9-inch worm deep in the grass, but the fish were hitting the worm in a picky manner. He figured out what to do – put the reel in freespool when he got bit and wait for the fish to take line, which generally took about 20 seconds.
Hauke’s first fish weighed five pounds, then he missed one about the same size. Martin asked if he could fish off the back of the boat and proceeded to catch a 5-3/4 and then a 6-02 – big fish for the tournament. He ended up weighing a total of 59-13, beating runner-up Gary Wade by 11-10. Wade weighed 15 fish for 48-03.
Cliff Craft placed third with 15 fish for 47-03 while Bill Dance took the fourth spot with a 3-day limit that went 46-11. J. W. Cheatham took 5th-place honors with 15 fish for 45-14.
Totals for the event were 1,650 fish that weighed 3,998-14 with 170 limits. Evidently the 14-inch minimum wasn’t a problem in the northern-tier river.
The final results for the top 40 are shown below – pay special attention to the angler who sat in the 39th spot.
|1978 St. Lawrence River New York Invitational Final Results|
|Place||Angler, State||Weight, lbs-ozs|
|1||Roland Martin, OK||59-13|
|2||Gary Wade, NC||48-03|
|3||Cliff Craft, GA||47-03|
|4||Bill Dance, TN||46-11|
|5||J. W. Cheatham, AR||45-14|
|6||Chic Aydelette, NC||45-12|
|7||Jake Crutchfield, OK||44-14|
|8||Larry Nixon, TX||43-07|
|9||Jimmy Houston, OK||42-08|
|10||Rick Clunn, TX||41-11|
|11||John Powell, AL||39-07|
|12||Bobby Murray, TN||39-02|
|13||Butch Rouse, NM||38-04|
|14||Dave Gliebe, CA||37-03|
|15||Greg Ward, MO||37-01|
|16||Ricky Green, AR||36-15|
|17||David Owens, AR||36-02|
|18||Bo Dowden, LA||35-08|
|19||Roger Moore, MO||35-08|
|20||Loyd McEntire, IN||35-04|
|21||Rayo Breckenridge, AR||35-01|
|22||Bill Ward, MO||34-09|
|23||Bob Sickafoose, OH||34-02|
|24||Glenn Crawford, FL||33-12|
|25||Charlie Howser, IN||33-00|
|26||Randy Fite, TX||32-15|
|27||Bob Kluth, TN||32-13|
|28||Dan Stadler, NY||32-10|
|29||John Pryor, OK||32-07|
|30||Hank Parker, SC||32-05|
|31||H. J. Stevens, AR||32-05|
|32||Charlie Campbell, MO||32-04|
|33||Joe Wagoner, NC||32-03|
|34||Mark Canter, NJ||31-14|
|35||Bob Watson, PA||31-03|
|36||Joe Landwerlan, IN||31-02|
|37||Sonny Viola, LA||31-04|
|38||Marvin Baker, TX||30-10|
|39||Rich Zaleski, CT||30-03|
|40||Tommy Martin, TX||30-02|
West Point – Fite Proves No Contest
The final event of the season would bring the anglers to Bassmaster’s home state of Alabama – specifically West Point Lake. Billed as a shallow-water event, most anglers were caught off guard – having spent pre-practice fishing the shallows. At the start of the official practice, though, the anglers came back to a lake that had been drawn down eight feet in anticipation of winter. The shallow fish had been drawn out to the creek channels, the problem was most of the 168 anglers were fishing them.
Most of them except Randy Fite, that is.
Fite, who is Rick Clunn’s cousin, was a renowned guide on Texas’ Lake Conroe. His forte? Deep water and an inane ability to read a graph.
Fite went into the event knowing he would concentrate in deep water – he was just surprised how deep he’d find the fish. Over the course of practice, he hit nearly 40 spots he’d found on his topo maps and finally located fish on two of those spots – both in over 30 feet of water. His weapons were a Mann-O-Lure spoon and a plastic worm.
Over the course of three days, he brought 21 bass to the scales that weighed 69-11, enough to beat 2nd-place finisher Tommy Mike by a little over seven pounds (62-13 total). Woo Daves took 3rd place with 19 bass for 58-14 while Cliff Craft took 4th with 54-03. Jerry Guest rounded out the top 5 with 54-02.
Over the course of three days the 168-angler field weighed in 1,056 bass for a total of 2,669-09. Twenty-seven limits were caught. Alabama angler James Thomas caught big fish for the event, a 7-15 largemouth.
The final standings are below.
|1978 West Point Alabama Invitational Final Results|
|Place||Angler, State||Weight, lbs-ozs|
|1||Randy Fite, TX||69-11|
|2||Tommy Mike, GA||62-13|
|3||Woo Daves, VA||58-14|
|4||Cliff Craft, GA||54-03|
|5||Jerry Guest, GA||54-02|
|6||Ricky Green, AR||47-15|
|7||Gordon Elkins, GA||43-03|
|8||Harold Allen, TX||42-05|
|9||Cecil Mitchell, GA||42-03|
|10||Jack Chancellor, AL||39-00|
|11||Joe Wagoner, NC||38-04|
|12||James Thomas, AL||37-09|
|13||Al Greene, GA||37-06|
|14||Bo Dowden, LA||37-03|
|15||Paul Chapple, AL||33-04|
|16||David Lockhart, AL||32-13|
|17||Jery Rhyne, NC||32-01|
|18||Tom Mann, AL||31-09|
|19||Gary Wade, NC||31-01|
|20||J. W. Cheatham, AR||31-00|
|21||Ron Shearer, KY||30-09|
|22||Dan Payne, GA||30-05|
|23||Roland Martin, OK||30-04|
|24||Hank Parker, SC||29-15|
|25||Rick Clunn, TX||28-06|
|26||Bill Dance, TN||28-04|
|27||Dick Busby, VA||26-14|
|28||Frank Ford, GA||26-12|
|29||H.J. Stevens, AR||26-05|
|30||Glin Wells, TN||26-02|
|31||Reid Hurston, GA||26-00|
|32||Bill O’Connor, FL||25-14|
|33||John Powell, AL||25-05|
|34||Bill Stephens, AL||25-03|
|35||Wayne Waldrop, AL||25-03|
|36||Larry Nixon, TX||25-00|
|37||Jimmy Stephens, FL||24-12|
|38||Robert Varner, NC||24-11|
|39||Bob Upton, GA||24-06|
|40||Wendell Riddle, IN||24-01|
The West Point event also marked the end of the 1978 Bassmaster Trail season and the final AOY standings. For the fifth time in his career, Roland Martin won the AOY award. This year B.A.S.S. awarded the AOY based off of total weight for the year and even with one event where he blanked – at the St. Johns River no less – Martin ran away with the title. Finishing in the second spot was Bobby Murray while Ricky Green took 3rd-place honors. For the top-25 Bassmaster Classic qualifiers, please see the table below.
|1978 Angler of the Year Final Results|
|Place||Angler, State||Weight, lbs-ozs|
|1||Roland Martin, OK||197-01|
|2||Bobby Murray, TN||162-00|
|3||Ricky Green, AR||160-09|
|4||Gary Wade, NC||158-05|
|5||Bo Dowden, LA||157-10|
|6||Rick Clunn, TX||155-05|
|7||Cliff Craft, GA||154-01|
|8||Larry Nixon, TX||154-00|
|9||Hank Parker, SC||149-09|
|10||Dave Gliebe, CA||146-15|
|11||Jerry Rhyne, NC||144-13|
|12||Harold Allen, TX||143-10|
|13||David Owens, AR||142-09|
|14||Bill Dance, TN||136-11|
|15||Woo Daves, VA||135-00|
|16||Randy Fite, TX||133-05|
|17||Tom Mann, AL||132-03|
|18||Paul Chamblee, NC||131-06|
|19||Bill Ward, MO||130-00|
|20||Glen Crawford, FL||128-09|
|21||Shorty Evans, MO||126-05|
|22||Jimmy Houston, OK||126-03|
|23||Greg Ward, MO||122-00|
|24||Tommy Martin, TX||121-01|
|25||A.B. Battles (Federation)||N/A|