Season at a Glance: Bass Master Trail 1973 – Part One

1973 BASS Tournament Entry Form. Photo from the May/June 1973 issue of Bass Master Magazine.

This is part one of a three-part series on the 1973 Bass Master Tournament trail. Part One will cover the first half of the season, Part Two will cover the second half and Part Three will cover the 1973 Bass Master Classic.

 

The 1973 B.A.S.S. tournament schedule was released in early 1973 and was touted by Ray Scott as, “(T)he greatest in history.” Scott “deliberately set” the February event on the St. John’s River in Florida in order to produce big bags and hopefully break the current B.A.S.S. all-time big bass weight of 9-09.

The season was also scheduled around the hot summer months in order to promote the live-release of fish, something that Scott was adamant about. In the year prior, Scott had implemented the Don’t Kill Your Catch mantra to the world of bass fishing and had had a “bad event” at Ross Barnett where nearly all bass had died due to heat and the fact there was a “problem” with the Mississippi Fish and Game Commissioner. For those interested in reading about that story, see Ray Scott’s book, Bass Boss, pages 164-66

1973 Bass Master Tournament Schedule
Date
Location
February 7-9, 1973
Florida Invitational - St. John's River
March 7-9, 1973
Arkansas Invitational - Beaver Lake
April 4-6, 1973
Rebel Invitational - Ross Barnett
May 2-3, 1973
Seminole Lunker Tournament
May 30 - June 1, 1973
Carolina Invitational - Lake Keowee
September 26-28, 1973
All American - Watts Bar
October 24-26, 1973
Bass Master Classic - To be announced

St John’s River – New Record Set

Bob Tyndall’s B.A.S.S. record bass taken from Rodman Pool in February of 1973. Photo from the May/June 1973 issue of Bass Master Magazine.

The first event of the year was to be held at the St. John’s River in Florida and, as stated above, was deliberately scheduled at this time in order to produce record-weight catches. Not only was the tournament open to the St. John’s River – the Rodman Pool, Big and Little Lake George and Crescent Lake were left open for the contestants.

Although the River was where the event was stationed out of, it was Rodman that produced the winning stringer and also big fish for the event, a new B.A.S.S. record of 12-13.

Larry Hill of Winston-Salem, NC won the event with a total weight of 108-02. After the second day of competition, Hill was in fourth place. His last-day heroics moved him from the fourth spot when he brought a 10-fish limit to the scales for 60-01. Hill reported that he caught the fish in a 65 minute stretch that was, “(T)he greatest fishing thrill of my life.” His fish were caught on a “home-made balsa wood bait, known as the Big-O,” in the Rodman Pool.

Andy Williams of Union Springs, AL took second, after leading the event for the first two days of competition, with a three-day total of 95 pounds and Tom Mann of Alabama took third spot with 77-15.

The event also marked another historic event in that Bill Dance’s all-time money awards for B.A.S.S. was surpassed by Roland Martin (fifth place). Martin took home $690 increasing his overall B.A.S.S. earnings to $21,365. Dance didn’t enter the event.

Bob Tyndall, of Greenfield, MO earned big fish honors and a new B.A.S.S. record with his monster 12-13 largemouth. He caught his fish in the Rodman Pool on a bait Ray Scott said, “[Looked like a] hunk that blew off a retread tractor tire.” The bait, a twin hooked Hawg Hunter plastic worm, measured 13 inches in length and was laughed at by numerous contestants, until the big fish hit.

The Hawg Hunter worm that caught the new b.A.S.S. record bass at the Rodman Pool. Photo May/June issue of Bass Master Magazine.

Tyndall’s fish wasn’t the only fish caught that would have eclipsed the old record for that matter. J.D. Skinner actually broke the record first on the second day with a 10-02 caught on an Aggravator spinnerbait. His record didn’t last 24 hours and he was quoted later saying, “Well, I’ve still got one record. That’s the record for holding the record the shortest length of time.”

The last day produced seven fish over 10 pounds including a 12-03 caught out of Rodman Pool by Bill Bailey of Kansas City, MO. His fish was caught on an eight-inch Mann’s Jelly Worm.

Overall the tournament had 200 entrants from 22 states and Italy who caught 1,713 fish totaling 4,247 pounds eight ounces. The event set a record for the number of 10-bass limits weighed and had an 84-percent live-release rate.

The Final top-25 standings are shown in the table below.

Florida Invitational - St. John's River
Place
Angler, State
Weight, lbs-oz
1
Larry Hill, NC
108-02
2
Andy Willliams, AL
95-00
3
Tom Mann, AL
77-15
4
Wallace Lea, MO
74-03
5
Roland Martin, OK
69-07
6
Jerry Pankey, FL
60-02
7
Jerry Long, TN
59-07
8
Johnny Morris, MO
57-14
9
Herbert (Bert) Siniard, TN
55-02
10
Bobby Wilkes, FL
53-09
11
Cecil Walters, GA
51-08
12
Ernest Neil, MS
49-11
13
Gene Pendley, GA
49-06
14
David Lockhart, AL
49-01
15
Paul Chamblee, NC
48-14
16
Emmett Chiles, AR
47-15
17
Rayo Breckenridge, AR
46-15
18
Jim Rogers, MO
45-14
19
Gerald Blanchard, TN
44-11
20
Stan Sloan, TN
44-00
21
Evon Austin, MO
43-05
22
Tom Smith, AL
43-01
23
Gordon DeBerry, TN
42-13
24
Verlye Newbern, FL
42-00
25
Jack Adams, FL
41-08

Beaver Lake – Another Record Set

Photo May/June 1973 issue of Bass Master Magazine.

For the second event of the season the anglers set off for the site of the first Ray Scott-held event in 1967 – Beaver Lake, AR. Don Butler of Tulsa, OK continued his hot streak, after winning the second Bass Master Classic just months earlier, and won the Beaver event with 56-14. He reportedly caught his fish on his famed Okiebug spinnerbait and a Rebel Humpback crank.

Here are his words as written by Bob Cobb in the 1973 May/June issue of Bass Master Magazine:

“I’d cast beyond the flooded cedar trees where the bass were suspended, then crank the bait opposite the tree. The lure would dive about 3- to 6-feet deep and just sort of hang there when I’d quit reeling. The Stop-and-go method really got their attention.” He reported that he saw most of the fish hit in the clear water.

Second place went to Roland Martin, the 1971 and ’72 Bass Master AOY, with a total of 54-13. He caught his fish throwing a white Zorro Aggravator or a Whopper Stopper Hellbender. He caught his fish off of “undisturbed logjams.”

“If the trash hadn’t been pushed around, I could almost bet no one had touched the area,” he told Bob Cobb in an interview afterward.

His second-place finish bumped him up further on the B.A.S.S. all-time money list for a total of $23,065.

Billy Westmorland of Celina, TN weighed a three-day bag of 51-10 to take third-place honors. He concentrated on shady spots the first two days of the event to catch his fish but on the third day, the clouds moved in and his weight dropped. Here’s what he told Bob Cobb after the weigh-in.

“In the clear water and bright sun, the bass were in the [dark] shady spots. The last day was overcast and there were dark spots everywhere.”

Cobb also wrote about a funny thing that was discovered after the event –that Don Butler had utilized “French Pink” nail polish for his win. Evidently Butler had used the women’s primping material to customized the Rebel Humpbacks he was using. As far as I know, this was the first mention anywhere that talked about anglers raiding their wives’, or significant others’ stock of nail polish in order to customize baits on the fly.

Overall, a field of 142 anglers from 17 states weighed 1,644 bass, of which 1,619 were released. This gave a live-release rate of 98.4 percent – a B.A.S.S. record for fish released.

The final standings of the Beaver event are shown in the table below.

Arkansas Invitational - Beaver Lake
Place
Angler, State
Weight, lbs-oz
1
Don Butler, OK
56-14
2
Roland Martin, OK
54-13
3
Billy Westmorland, TN
51-10
4
Russell Cook, MO
48-05
5
Don Mead, MO
47-07
6
Wayne Bradshaw, OK
44-05
7
Johnny Morris, MO
44-04
8
Stan Sloan, TN
43-05
9
Larry Hummell, MO
42-08
10
Tom Mann, AL
39-07
11
George Royce, OK
37-07
12
Carlos Mayo, AL
36-12
13
Lloyd McEntire, IN
36-01
14
David Lockhart, AL
34-13
15
Emmett Chiles, AR
34-08
16
Wallace Lea, MO
34-08
17
Bill Roller, MO
34-04
18
Jon Hall, VA
33-10
19
Mark Jones, OK
33-03
20
Robert Robinson, AR
32-02
21
Jim Winchester, AR
31-10
22
Bill Dance, TN
31-05
23
Kenneth Hattaway, GA
31-03
24
Jim Rogers, MO
30-08
25
Jerry Kidwell, IN
30-07

Ross Barnett – Big-O Takes the Spotlight

Photo May/June 1973 issue of Bass Master Magazine.

The Ross Barnett Rebel Invitational would be a turning point for the season and also a turning point for lure development – especially hand-crafted wood crankbaits. Although Roland Martin would win the event and take over the AOY race, the tournament report on the Rebel Invitational was all about the Fred Young Big-O.

As stated, Martin won the event – his third top-5 in three tournaments. Over the course of three days he weighed in a 30-bass limit of 72-07 outdistancing second place Bobby Murray (61-06) by 11 pounds one ounce. Martin reported catching his fish on the Big-O, a Johnson Spoon, a chartreuse Aggravator spinnerbait and worms. But mostly he was, “cranking that home-made plug.”

Stan Sloan was another 10 pounds behind with 51-00 to take third place honors while Bill Dance took fourth place with 46-03. Jerry Williams of AR filled out the top 5 with a three-day total of 43-08. Future fishing legend, Ray Murski, caught big fish weighing 6-08.

The win allowed Martin to expand his distance in the all-time B.A.S.S. money winners race against Dance giving him a total of $34,000 in B.A.S.S. earnings. It also allowed him to extend his AOY lead.

Final standings for the event are shown in the table below.

Rebel Invitational - Ross Barnett
Place
Angler, State
Weight, lbs-oz
1
Roland Martin, OK
72-07
2
Bobby Murray, MO
61-06
3
Stan Sloan, TN
51-00
4
Bill Dance, TN
46-03
5
Jerry Williams, AR
43-08
6
Rayo Breckenridge, AR
43-04
7
Glin Wells, TN
41-13
8
Benny Meadows, AL
39-08
9
J.D. Skinner, AL
39-01
10
J.B. Warren, AR
38-10
11
Ricky Green, AR
37-06
12
James Gray, MS
37-03
13
Terry Davidson, MO
36-06
14
Billy Primos, MS
36-05
15
G.G. Gale, TX
35-05
16
Johnny Morris, MO
35-04
17
Jim Hawkins, MO
34-15
18
Tom Mann, AL
33-12
19
Hoot Gibson, MS
32-09
20
Paul Davis, TN
32-06
21
Dale Hutson, MS
32-02
22
Leonard Smith, MS
30-04
23
Charles Morehead, KY
29-14
24
Cecil Walters, GA
29-14
25
Deryl Janzen, OK
29-13

As said above, the report was all about the Fred Young Big-O – I guess another tournament report about Roland Martin was getting a bit blasé.

Photo July/August 1973 issue Bass Master Magazine.

Here are some quotes from the article published in the July/August issue of Bass Master Magazine, as written by Bob Cobb.

“It looks like a pregnant guppy, has better moves than a hopped-up go-go dancer, costs even more than a prime cut New York Strip and with it, bass fishing professionals, that can find one, are winning big dollars.”

“On one cast, Dave Hilton earned over $2,000 at the Rebel Invitational [Ed’s note: he caught big fish for the event and won the Ranger boat package]…… Roland Martin, the country’s top-ranked bass pro used one of the ‘home-made plugs’ carved from balsa to win the $17,000 fish off. Runner-up Bobby Murray got hung up, lost his and had a special shipment rushed in by bus to fish the finals.”

“One industrious kibitzer wasn’t in the Rebel contest but he reportedly had seven of ‘the lures’ fishing it. It’d cost you $5 to use it for 10 hours fishing and $20 if you lost it.”

Part Two of this series will discuss the remaining three tournaments of the season and Part Three will talk about the 1973 Classic.

  • Jojo Norwood.

    LOL I have one of those worms……and I can’t wait to read the Keeowwee re-cap. That lake is right up the road and it’s full of Knot-head spots…..sort’a Lanier but 12″ is a whopper…LOL

    • Did’ja pick it up off the road Jojo? 🙂 Yeah, the Keowee event was a real record breaker. 🙂

  • Scott Hill

    Larry Hill was my dad and I am looking for any film footage of the Florida Invitational where he won the event at St.Johns in 1973, and set his bass catch record. Please let me know if anyone has footage of that event. I would love to have it! LSHill1@yahoo.com
    Thanks,
    Scott

    • Hi Scott,

      I don’t think they actually filmed the regular season events back then but I’m checking with a good source to find out. If I hear of anything, I’ll let you know!!! Thanks for coming to the site.

      Terry