The Tackle of the 1971 Bass Master Classic

Bobby Murray hoists a stringer from the 1971 Bass Master Classic. Photo Bass Master Magazine Jan/Feb 1972 Issue.

Being somewhat of a tackle buff, I found it very intriguing when I read about the tackle that Bobby Murray used and swore by at the time of the 1971 Bass Master Classic. While doing my research for the 1971 Season at a Glance series, I was reading about that year’s Classic and Bob Cobb had actually pinned down Bobby Murray to ask him his tackle preferences. For those of you who started bass fishing post 1990 the tackle may seem odd and crazy. But for those of you who actually fished in this era, this review will bring back some memories – some good and others that’ll make you scratch your head in bewilderment, how did we get away with that gear?

So, without further adieu, here’s what Murray considered his top gear of the time (1).

“To help catch fish after locating them I use a variety of different equipment, explains Murray. “People sometimes kid me about using light tackle, six-pound line and ultra-light rods, but last year in several tournaments this proved to be successful in catching bass.”

Six-pound line and ultra-light rods? Wait, I thought Bobby was from the south – not the finesse-west? I grew up in the west and spent a long time making fun of southern anglers and their stereotypical rope-and-winch gear. I was always taught that finesse gear and techniques were developed in the west. Is it possible that the southern anglers were using it behind our backs?

Cobb continues describing Murray’s tackle.

“Generally the [p]ros carry four rods and reels to cover all fishing situations. Usually two 5 1/2-foot medium action casting rods with free spool (Ambassadeur) casting reels; one spooled with 20-pound mono, the other with 15-pound test. Also, a 6 1/2-foot spinning rod with open-face spinning reel with 10- to 12-pound line, and a 5-foot ultra-light outfit loaded with 4- or 6-pound line

“The strongly-built 5-feet, 9-inch Murray says a special 4-foot 11-inch and 5-foot, 2-inch worm rods suit him best. These length rods fit his fishing style and the shorter rod lift keeps the lure like a jig and eel hopping, not jumping. He used a casting reel with 14-pound mono at Mead.”

Okay, when was the last time any of you had a 5 1/2-foot rod in your hand while bass fishing, let alone a 4’ 11” stick? The 5 1/2-foot rods were the standard of the day and actually worked dang well for certain techniques. Why the use of shorter rods today is shunned is beyond my comprehension. No I wouldn’t suggest anyone use one for throwing cranks or a Carolina rig but they’re sure useful for fishing a blade in tight quarters. In fact, there are times when I still use my “short” pistol-grip rods for underarm roll casting a blade. Do any of you?


(1) The quotes used in this article were taken from the 1972 Jan/Feb issue of Bass Master Magazine.

  • Chad Keogb

    My current shortest bass rod is 6’6″. If I had it to do over again, they’d all be 7′ or longer. I find the length helps with casting distance and to aid in controling a bass when hooked.


  • cc

    Charlie Brewer from TN is probably the father of finesse fishing as we know it. He developed Slider fishing and his family still sells Slider tackle. Slider heads are great; in fact the new Jackall i-motion technique/philosophy owes a certain debt to Charlie Brewer. Billy Westmoreland – a friend of Brewer’s and smallmouth legend was also a seminal finesse angler.

    I agree with you about 5 1/2 footers – they’re great for blades and jigs – there’s a certain control and balance that you get with them.

  • Hi CC, I don;t know if Charlie Brewer invented finesse fishing but I do know he played a role in it. There were a large number of anglers east to west using light line and ultra-light rods back in the 60s in order to catch fish in “fished out” lakes and rivers. It’s just that over the years people have forgotten these facts and generally relate finesse fishing with the west and pool cues and anchor rope lines with the southeast. Obviously this isn’t the case and it needs to be brought back out in the open for people to see again. 🙂

    Chad, I agree with you to a point with respect to longer rods. Better casting distance and fish-handling is with the longer rods. But let me challenge you to this: Go out and buy a 6-foot or shorter pistol grip rod and throw a spinnerbait on it in tight quarters. Or use it to skip jigs under a dock. I think you might find a place for that short rod in your boat. 🙂

    Thanks for the comments!

    • cc

      Hi Terry, your comments and Rich Z’s are points well taken, I guess the reason that I think of Charlie Brewer as the father of “modern” finesse fishing is that he observed minnows swimming naturally and tried to mimic the forage. This included small baits, light lines, a special head design, etc, and also the “do nothing” retrieve. He also designed his rod and reel around it and basically a whole philosophy and approach – natural looking baits and natural looking presentations.

      I’m not sure how many other anglers at that time approached light line fishing quite like that.

      But again, your points are well taken.

  • Anyone who cut their angling teeth in a trout oriented area learned to fish with an ultra light spinning rod. It was standard gear for New England bassers in those days, just like it was on the west coast. Similarly, if smalllies were the dominant species in an area. Tennessee, bred a whole lot of light tackle guys. I learned a lot about light tackle bass fishing from transplanted Missourians in the 60s and early 70s, too. I guess Table Rock had something to do with it, but so did the popularity of crappie fishing out there. I think Virgil Ward’s Beetles beat Charlie Brewer’s Sliders to the dance by a few years, come to think of t.

  • Mike Poe

    For those interested Ned Khede has the finesse history well documented on his blog at Infisherman.
    His deadly “Ned Rig” is basically a big ward beetle.

    The best deep water angler here in central NC (and that is saying alot ) Abe Abernathy uses a short stiff rod still for worming. It makes quite a “swish” when he drives the hook home. In the right circumstances they work great as Terry says. I don’t think anyone gets close enough to the fish now to see the benefit of the shorter rods. Not many jimmy Houston types fling blades at close targets any more.

    • Using a 6 1/2 foot or longer rod you cannot manipulate an artificial lure (plastic worm, finesse lures, topwater lures) as well as you can using a 6 foot rod. While your casts won’t be quite as far, your casts will be more accurate……you disagree? Then you have never used a 6 foot rod.