The Writers: Stan Fagerstrom – Part Two

Stan Fagerstrom in an Outdoor Life ad circa 1960s. Photo courtesy of Stan Fagerstrom.

In Part One of The Writers – Stan Fagerstrom, Stan talked about his childhood, his enlistment in the Army in 1942 and his first job with the Longview Daily News. In Part Two Stan talks about the first Bassmaster Classic and his relationships with Jason Lucas, Homer Circle and Ray Scott. To read Part One click here.


Major Impacts in the 60s

“I still couldn’t get bass out of my head and I was doing a whole lot of actual fishing whenever I could get away from the newspaper,” he said. “I kept a pair of coveralls and a pair of boots in the trunk of the first used car I was able to buy and in the evening and now and then when I had extra time at noon I’d run down to fish one of the Columbia River sloughs that was about seven miles away.

“My bass fishing endeavors figured prominently, of course, in my Nibbles & Bites columns as well as my freelance efforts for the magazines. For a number of years I also wrote weekly outdoor columns for the Vancouver, Washington Columbian newspaper under the pen name Stanley Scott. Hardly anyone else in the Pacific Northwest was writing much about bass fishing when I started. That’s one of the reasons I got the notoriety I did.

Jason Lucas holds a limit of Lake Minnetonka smallmouths ca 1940s. From the book, “Lucas on Bass Fishing,” second edition 1947, Dodd, Mead and Company (out of print).

“It’s also how I got to know people like Jason Lucas, one of the early-day fishing editors of Sports Afield magazine. It’s my contention that he was a bass man who was way ahead of his time. Jason and I became friends and I learned a great deal from him. If ever a writer deserves to be called one of the ‘Fathers of Bass Fishing,’ Jason did and does. It boggles me that today I’m a member of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, but Jason isn’t. I figure the only reason he isn’t is because most of today’s bass fishermen haven’t been around long enough to have known him as I did.”

When Jason Lucas was let go at Sports Afield – contrary to what you might have heard at the time, Stan says he was let go and didn’t just retire – he was eventually replaced by a man named Homer Circle.

(L to R) Stan Fagerstrom, Lisa Snuggs (daughter of outdoor writer Bodie McDowell), Jim Bagley and Uncle Homer Circle at ICAST 1994. Photo courtesy of Stan Fagerstrom.

“I was blessed to eventually get to know Homer much better than I knew Jason. Homer was still with the Heddon Tackle Company when our relationship started. In the beginning our relationship came about partly because Homer worked for a company that was making bass baits and I was doing a whole lot of writing about bass fishing in a part of the country where other writers then weren’t that much involved. Like the two other individuals I’ve mentioned – Gordon Quarnstrom and William Rae – Homer was to be very special in my life.

“Homer’s impact on me wasn’t felt so much where my actual writing was concerned, but in providing me with opportunities to do more of it. This wasn’t something he did just once or twice. He did it time after time. If ever an individual gave special meaning to the term ‘Friend’ it was Homer Circle. I flat out loved the man.

“For starters he was responsible for getting me appointed to the Braniff Airlines Outdoor Council. At that time Braniff was the leading carrier to South and Central America. Once a year the airline flew its Outdoor Council members to many of the exotic regions they serviced. Members of the Council, with all expenses paid and flying first class, would be sent to areas like Argentina, Brazil, Panama, Columbia, the Amazon, Alaska and others. Council members would fish for a week or 10 days and then return to eventually do stories for magazines and newspapers as well as a variety of other publications. The airline’s hope was that this publicity about the regions they serviced would build Braniff traffic.

“As a result of being named to the Braniff Outdoor Council, Homer and I eventually shared a boat together in the Amazon, for a week in Alaska, at my home lake in Washington State, at his home lake in Ocala, Florida, while fishing for baby tarpon in Columbia, South America and a number of other spots.

1974 Berkley Ad with Berkley Outdoor Council member Stan Fagerstrom. Notice Fagerstrom’s book, “Catch More Bass,” at the bottom left.

“When Braniff Airlines wound up doing everything wrong at the right time it eventually went under. Homer then put together and headed up other outdoor councils based along similar lines for the Berkley Tackle Company and the Red Ball Outdoor Council. I was made a charter member of both councils. As a result I had opportunity to fish and write about it from New York State to Honduras and a whole lot of places in between.”

The Bassmaster Classic

Stan says he’s sure Homer had much to do with his invitation to the first Bassmasters Classic at Lake Mead.

“While dates for the Classic had been established, no one knew for sure where it was going to be held,” he said. “The contestants and writers who were taking part were to be flown to Atlanta, then from Atlanta they would be flown to the tournament site. I’m satisfied I’m the only one of the whole Classic crowd who did find out in advance for sure where the event was to be held.

“The reason I did was because they didn’t fly me to Atlanta where the others were assembled. I received a call from B.A.S.S. telling me that two tickets to where the Classic was being held were waiting for me at the United Airlines office at Portland International Airport. They wouldn’t divulge where those tickets would take me. I waited for a time and then I called United Airlines in Portland. I told them they were holding a pair of tickets for me and I just wanted to verify the destination and departure times to be sure there were no mistakes. The lady I spoke to at United was pleased to help. She told me my destination was Las Vegas. I knew then that the Classic was going to be held at Lake Mead, a place I’d already fished a number of times myself.”

Stan Fagerstrom holding a figurine that was given to him by Ray Scott at the first Bassmaster Classic held at Lake Mead, NV. Photo Terry Battisti.

Fagerstrom said that first Classic was a remarkable experience for him.

“It provided an opportunity for me to finally meet face to face with many I knew but had never met,” he said. “It provided my first chance to finally shake hands with Homer Circle. It was also an opportunity to meet so many other early-day greats of the rapidly blossoming bass fishing world. Besides Ray Scott, I had a chance to meet and visit with Roland Martin, Bobby Murray, Tom Mann and a bunch of others.”

It’s Fagerstrom’s contention that everyone who went on to profit from professional bass fishing owes Ray Scott a tremendous vote of thanks.

“Ray really set a special stage when he came up with the Bass Anglers Sportsman’s Society,” he said. “It brought us all together. The formation of B.A.S.S. opened new doors of opportunity for those of us who were writing about the sport. I wound up being invited to and attending all but two of the first 30 Classics.

Stan breaking the balloon to open the Bassmaster Classic outdoor show. Photo courtesy of Stan Fagerstrom.

“For more than half of those first 30 events I rode with one of the contestants as an observer and fished out the back of the boat in the process. Later on B.A.S.S. officials decided they’d rather have me give casting exhibitions at the new outdoor shows that were being staged in connection with the event. I’ll never forget my part in the opening of that first Classic Outdoor Show.

“It was decided that they would hang a huge confetti-filled balloon on a big red ribbon in front of the main entrance to the show. No one was to be allowed into the show until I stood out in front about 30 feet away and busted that balloon with my practice casting weight. I’d stuck pins into the weight and figured as big as that balloon was I’d have no trouble breaking the darn thing. Ray Scott and one of his female assistants stood right up close to the balloon. Well, I hit that balloon on my first cast but the darn thing didn’t break. My casting plug just bounced off. I reeled in and cast again. This time I put some real power into my cast and Pow! That big balloon busted with sufficient force to almost blow Scott’s 10-gallon hat off his head! Though they had me do the same thing at many of the Classic Outdoor Shows in the future, Ray never came back to stand as close to the thing as he had the first time.”

In Part Three, Fagerstrom will talk about his acquisition of the first two Ambassadeur 5000s on the west coast and how those reels led to him becoming one of the world’s noted casting experts.

  • Jeff Hahn

    OK, Harold, what say you?

    “I’m satisfied I’m the only one of the whole Classic crowd who did find out in advance for sure where the event was to be held. “The reason I did was because they didn’t fly me to Atlanta where the others were assembled. I received a call from B.A.S.S. telling me that two tickets to where the Classic was being held were waiting for me at the United Airlines office at Portland International Airport. They wouldn’t divulge where those tickets would take me. I waited for a time and then I called United Airlines in Portland. I told them they were holding a pair of tickets for me and I just wanted to verify the destination and departure times to be sure there were no mistakes. The lady I spoke to at United was pleased to help. She told me my destination was Las Vegas.”

    • Harold Sharp

      Bob Cobb was the one that invited and arranged for the Press Observers to attend the BASS Classic, so he could verify this as he would have been the one that sent the tickets. This is the first time I’ve heard this story and I have a couple questions for Stan, #1 you state there were two tickets at the airport for you, one to Vegas, where was the other one to ? #2 ,you knew that you were going to Vegas but that did not say we were fishing Lake Meade, all the others knew they were going to Atlanta, but that did not say we were fishing Lake Lanier near Atlanta. Remember we flew Stan Sloan from his home in Nashville to Memphis and back to Nashville to fish the Classic at Priest Lake.
      The other question to Stan is, when and where were you told that the Classic was on Lake Meade ? And who told you the Classic was on Lake Meade.
      I’ve know Stand for many years and I’m not doubting his story, but the fact remains that he did not know for sure where the Classic was to be fished until he was told by either Ray Scott, Bob Cobb, Harold Sharp or Dave Newton as we were the only ones that knew, many were guessing.

  • Bill Rice

    Great to see the story on Stan. He was one of the very first writers I hired to write regularly for the Western Bass magazine when it started as a subsidiary of Western Outdoor News. His articles were always informative and entertaining. I think he and I were the only West Coast writers at the first Classic at Lake Mead.

  • Stan Fagerstrom

    Harold:

    When I said two tickets I was making reference to having outgoing and returning flights. No one ever actually told me the Classic was to be at Lake Mead., but Lake Mead seemed like the obvious spot. since my destination was to be Las Vegas. I suppose there was some guesswork on my part if you want to split hairs. I would have, however, bet some big bucks on it—and I’d have been right!

    • Harold Sharp

      If you had bet some big bucks you would have been right and had a pocket full of big bucks. We have always claimed that no one discovered where the secret Classic would be fished, even the BASS staff that worked on getting everything together never found out, the closes anyone came was Barbara Bassel that worked in Ray’s office and it happened like this, I went to Vegas ahead of everyone else to get things set up for the boats arrival and when I arrived I placed a collect call to Ray, Barbara answered the call in Ray’s office and when she heard my voice she asked the operator where the call was from and was told Vegas, so Barbara told Ray she knew where I was and I was in Las Vegas, Ray replied, all that proves in that Harolds in Vegas, give me the phone. At the Nashville Classic we had the Ranger Boat crew and all the others unload the boats and assemble them in an empty warehouse that had a train track at the back door, all the time thinking we were going to load all the boats on flat cars and move them by train to another location.
      One final question, who told you the Classic Lake was Lake Meade and when and where were you told it was Lake Meade ? We could have fished Lake Mohave from Los Vegas.

  • Stan Fagerstrom

    Dear Harold:

    No one “told” me anything. I was guessing. But I was right.

    Stan

  • Harold Sharp

    I wasn’t on the plane when Ray made the announcement but the video of it shows some of the people passing money to others, so someone guessed right and made some money or wrong and lost some. We had a few close calls while doing the secret Classics, one I remember was at Hickory Knob Resort, Bill McGhee, our Federation Director was there with me getting the boats ready and we were in line to go in the dining room for supper, Bill was standing behind me and whispered ,”there’s a guy behind me with a BASS cap on, I replied, bring me something to the room and I walked in the dining room to the kitchen and thru the kitchen back to my room in a hurray.
    We had a lot of fun at the Classic and made many ever lasting friends, Stan was always a favorite and it’s great to read his story. It was a good guess and could have made you some money unless we had launched the boats everyday in Lake Mohave. Stay in touch…

  • Bill Rice

    It’s nice to see Hal and Stan arguing about where the Classic was going to be, but if you ask Ray Scott and he tells the truth, I told him months before the Classic that it would be at Mead…and he flew me from California to Atlanta as part of the press corps and he continued to deny our final destination until he told me and Roland Martin at the airport (before we actually got on the plane) that we would see someone on the plane we knew (Dave Newton of the Las Vegas News Bureau) and we should not acknowledge him or tell anyone else on the plane that someone from L.V. was aboard. And that’s the REAL truth.

  • Harold Sharp

    The idea behind the BASS Classic was to get people to talking about BASS, the new was wearing off, so the secret Classic locations were used to get people talking about BASS. It worked, everyone was guessing where the Classic would be and some guessed right, but until Ray Scott made the official announcement on the charter plane it was all just a guess and four people knew for sure where we were going to fish. Remember that only two of the 6 secret Classics were held in the City were the plane landed, on the other four all were loaded on busses and hauled to another location for the Classic, so we could have landed in Vegas and bussed everyone another 100 miles to the Classic waters. The secret Classic locations were never official until Ray announced them after the charter plane took off, up to that time it was a lot of guessing and that’s just what we wanted.

  • Jeff Hahn

    THANKS to everyone for the details!!!