Last week when Pete posted the piece on the relaxing of political ties between the U.S. and Cuba – and the renewed possibilities of U.S. anglers being able to fish the mythical lakes on the island – it jogged my memory of the first (maybe the only) bass tournament ever held on the island. That event was sponsored by the now-defunct American Bass Fishing organization who used Dan Snow as the conduit for getting a number of American anglers from the U.S. to Cuba via a tortuous path through Mexico.
By 1978 ABF had become a force in the competitive bass fishing arena and had not only swayed some anglers from B.A.S.S. but also had developed their own share of exceptional tournament anglers. Some of those anglers, such as Guy Eaker and Hank Parker, would, in turn, become household names as they eventually ventured over to B.A.S.S.
But let’s get back to the U.S./Cuba event.
The March/April 1978 issue of American Bass Fisherman had a 13-page spread on the event that covered not only the tournament but also the anglers and their tortuous trip. The cast of anglers was a who’s who in bass fishing at the time. That list included; Hank Parker, Guy Eaker, Shag Shahid, Shorty Evans, Arnold Philbeck, Bruce Cunagin, Herman Gettelfinger, Walt Sawicki, Joe Verbeck, Charlie Hardy, Don Butler, Roger Moore, Ernest Neil, Ken Stumpf and Lee Henry. Jerry McKinnis was scheduled to fish but his plane got iced over in the states and missed the event.
Others present, either as ABF / Cuba Tours, USA representatives or as observers included Wayne Dyer (ABF president), Dan Snow (president of Cuba Tours, USA) Jim Bagley, Ron Haddock (president of the Bass Caster’s Association), Larry Heath (BCA Tournament Director), Russ Miller (Cuba Tours, USA partner), Tom Wellborn (Bass Research Foundation) and Kim Whitaker (Rebel Lures).
The article speaks of the history of bass in Cuba (which were initially stocked in 1916), Wayne Dyer’s history with fishing Cuba (which started in the early 50s with a fish camp located at Treasure Lake) and, of course the tournament.
The tournament was set up as a team event where an American angler would be paired with a Cuban. The reason for this was the Cubans were inferior to the U.S. anglers and the tournament directors, both U.S. and Cuban, didn’t want to start an international up rise if/when the Americans beat the Cubans. This would become evident to the American anglers once they saw the equipment the Cubans used; Russian rods and Czech reels and worms made out of melted-down tire rubber.
The entire article, which is an amazing look back in history, is posted below.
As a caveat, bass fishing historian Dan Basore, who fished Cuba in the 70s, contacted us with a recent report from Cuba and said the fishing there has been destroyed. This due to the Cuban government bringing in giant catfish as a food source. He said the catfish have eaten everything in the lakes and ruined a once-amazing fishery. His report was from to friends who fished three of Cuba’s lakes last year.