The Youngest of the Young Guns

2012 Forrest Wood Cup winner, Jacob Wheeler, age 21

Anybody that follows tournament bass fishing has, by now, heard that 21 year old Jacob Wheeler of Indianapolis, IN won the 2012 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Sidney Lanier just a couple weeks back. With the win, he set all kinds of records, including being the only angler in history, as well as the youngest, to win both the BFL All-American (age 20) and the Forrest Wood Cup (age 21).

However, Wheeler, who will turn 22 on September 18th this year, isn’t the youngest world champion (to win either the Forrest Wood Cup or the Bassmaster Classic). There was one angler younger.

Can you guess who that other angler is?

That honor goes to Stanley Mitchell, winner of the 1981 Bassmaster Classic (Classic XI) on the Alabama River, who was 21 years, 5 months, and 19 days old at the time of his accomplishment, and a rookie on the trail. Mitchell, from Fitzgerald, Ga., barely squeaked into the tournament as the 10th place finisher in the Western Division of the BASS Tournament Trail. Of the 42 anglers who launched for the first day of Classic competition, Stanley was probably one of the least likely people to be considered a threat to win the event, seeing as how names like Rick Clunn, Roland Martin, Larry Nixon, Hank Parker, Jimmy Houston, and Harold Allen dominated the field. However, Stanley took the lead on the first day of the event and went wire-to-wire, winning with a three-day catch totaling 35 pounds, 2 ounces. Mitchell used a Bomber Model A crankbait and Luhr Jensen Krocodile spoon to produce the winning sacks of fish.

1981 Bassmaster Classic winner, Stanley Mitchell, age 21 (B.A.S.S. video capture)

The 1981 Classic was novel in several respects. It was the first Classic to be held indoors, with weigh-ins held at the Montgomery Civic Center. The first-place prize money was raised from $30,000 to $40,000 and increased the total prize money to over $100,000. Merle Haggard provided the entertainment, and none other than Roland Martin captured the AOY title that year, his 7th at the time, winning $2500 for the accomplishment. Ray Scott also had one of his more memorable quotes as MC at weigh-in time, announcing when Stanley was about to hit the scales, “You gotta’ have a dream and a $300 entry fee, and you can be a pro.”

Stanley competed on the Bassmaster tournament trail for 22 years (1979-2001), with 15 top 10 finishes, 39 top 20 finishes and 10 Classic appearances. Mitchell also fished competitively for three years on the FLW circuit. He never had much in the way of big dollar sponsorships, but he didn’t feel like he really had to pursue them much either, since his family owned and operated a thriving timber business. Stanley, now retired from tourney fishing, still helps run the family business. He splits his fishing time between local saltwater trips for redfish and speckled trout, and still bass fishes a bit on the local rivers and lakes in the area.

  • Harold Sharp

    Here’s another one for you, who was the youngest angler to ever fish a B.A.S.S. Tournament ?

  • Brian

    Just a guess, but wasn’t it Zell Rowland? Didn’t he get enteresed as a 14 or 15 year old, and B.A.S.S. thereafter incorporated the “Zell Rowland Rule” concerning age, where all future events had a 16 year old age limt?


  • Harold Sharp

    You got it Brian, It was Zell Rowland at age 13 and as I remember it the weather turned very cold and his partner brought him in as he did not have enought clothing to stay out in that cold weather in February. BASS installed the 16 year age limit after that because they could see where a 10 years old could enter as the BASS rules did not state a age limit.