Without fail, it seems every year one of bass fishing’s forefathers passes to the great lake in the sky and the sport is left with a gaping hole. In 2012 we lost Homer Circle and in 2013, Doug Hannon. In January of this year we lost lure giant Cotton Cordell and I was hoping that would be it – there just aren’t many of the old-timers left – and from my selfish perspective, they have so much to offer with respect to the history of our beloved sport.
Then last week, we lost a man who helped change the sport of bass fishing to make it what it is today. That man was Harold Sharp. Yes, Ray Scott gets the credit for starting the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society – that fact will never be argued. And, Ray started the sport the right way, by making sure there was a firm set of rules and that every angler adhered to them. But it was Harold Sharp who, along with Ray Scott, wrote the B.A.S.S. rules, regulations and bylaws, started the B.A.S.S. Chapter (what would eventually become The Federation/Nation) and started the Chattanooga Bass Club – all in the same night. (if you’d like to read the story, click on this link from one of Harold’s columns back from March, 2013)
To say that Harold Sharp was a part of bass fishing would be like saying Colonel Sanders was part of the chicken industry.
Harold was B.A.S.S.’s first Tournament Director. In fact, I would like to find anyone who would argue that he wasn’t the first Tournament Director. Having co-developed the first abridged set of tournament rules in 1968 (Ray Scott had a hefty set of rules for the two events he held in 1967), Harold knew backwards and forwards the rules and made sure every angler abided by them. If they didn’t abide by them, tough luck. Anyone and everyone fishing a B.A.S.S. event knew of Harold and respected Harold – even if he had to be heavy handed. Even with his position of authority, he was well liked.
Another thing few people know about Harold was his commitment to preservation of the outdoors. He was the man who started the Peg-A-Polluter campaign in Tennessee and helped Ray Scott with the national campaign to clean up the waters of the United States.
But Harold wasn’t just a hard-a$$. He had a joking side too. If you look in the early Bassmaster Magazines (1968 through 1970) you’ll see cartoons he penned and sent into Ray for publication, prior to his becoming part of the organization. In fact I jokingly credited Harold with inventing the Alabama Rig after one of his 1969 cartoon – something he’d forgotten about and led to a lot of laughs between the two of us.
Also, being the Tournamment Director for all those years, he’d pull jokes on anglers from time to time. One that I remember him telling me was when he’d placed a brick in Jimmy Houston’s Classic Tacklebox. Back then, anglers were only allowed 10 pounds of tackle for the event. Sharp said that when he weighed the box, “the look on Houston’s face was priceless.” Then Harold started taking gear out of the box, much to the chagrin of Houston, to make the cut weight, taking baits he knew Houston liked. Here’s a link to the story.
Over the years Harold could been seen participating on bass fishing websites all over the internet, but mostly on BassFan where he’d send in feedback comments having to do with current topics. Although he rarely fished anymore, he occupied most of his time as a bird watcher and conservationist in his later years, he was still a diehard bass angler and was free to let anyone know his opinions of the current state of professional bass fishing.
Months before starting this site in March, 2012, I contacted Harold to see if he’d be interested in helping me with some of the early B.A.S.S. history. He said he’d be happy to help in any way possible. From November 2011 through May of this year, we corresponded weekly and he wrote a number of original pieces for the Bass Fishing Archives, telling B.A.S.S. stories that no one would ever know about if not for him.
Over those four years, Harold and I became friends, but more so, he became a mentor to me. We didn’t agree on everything but we did agree on most subjects. If I had a question about an early B.A.S.S. event, my first thought was to contact Harold. If I needed info on an obscure angler I didn’t know about, I’d email Harold. If I made a mistake in an article I wrote, Harold would email me with the correction. When I had to hang up the site recently due to work obligations, Harold contacted me to see if I was alright.
Harold was not only the Tournament Director every TD should measure themselves by, he played one of the major roles in making a sport out of bass fishing. Without Harold, Ray and Bob Cobb’s jobs would have been a lot harder and B.A.S.S. may not have become what it has.
I don’t think we’re ever ready for one of our idols/mentors to pass. As time goes on, we know people we look up to are getting older and closer to that time. When I heard the news of Harold’s passing this past Thursday, my heart sank. Harold and I hadn’t talked since the beginning of July and he’d been on my mind the past couple weeks.
Harold, thank you for your help, support and for being a friend. Your contributions to bass fishing and the environment will live on forever. I hope you know we’ll all try to keep it as you left it and hopefully make improvements you’d approve of. Happy Bassin’ and Birdin’.
[Note: if you’re interested in reading the stories Harold penned for the Bass Fishing Archives, please look at the main menu and click the button, “Sharp Recalls.”]