Congratulations to Bob Uhrig for winning the Bass Fishing Archives Trivia Contest with the correct answer! Read below for the answer.
The 1987 Florida Bassmaster Top 100 on Lake Okeechobee was the first of Ron Shuffield’s seven B.A.S.S. victories. He’d finished 158th on the Big O the year before, so the markedly improved result and its $101,000 in cash and merchandise were a welcome change.
As you can see from the standings, it was a closely packed top five, with Shuffield beating second place finisher Larry Lazoen by 15 ounces. It would be nearly seven more years until Lazoen earned his first B.A.S.S. win. In the interim, Shuffield added three more winner’s trophies to his mantle.
While the victory was no doubt important to the Arkansan’s career, it represented a major change to the B.A.S.S. tournament format.
The Florida event, the first of the so-called “Top 100s,” differed from the Invitationals that populated the entire schedule before that time. Those Invitationals featured a pro-on-pro draw, in which two pros would share a boat and divvy up both the time on the front of the boat and on their chosen waters. As you can imagine, that caused a great deal of angst amongst anglers who wanted total control.
Starting with this tournament, B.A.S.S. went to a pro-am format, wherein amateur B.A.S.S. members chosen by lottery would be paired with a different pro each day of competition. They’d be relegated to the back of the boat and have no decision making power, but they’d also compete for a separate prize pool. B.A.S.S. reported that the program was an instant success – the pros got total control and the ams got a chance to fish with their heroes. The B.A.S.S. tournament department received several thousand applications for the 100 amateur tournament slots.
As you can see from the corresponding amateur leaderboard, Joe Bragg was the lucky amateur who took home the top prize, valued at $17,500. That comprised the vast majority of the $20,950 that he earned over 20 B.A.S.S. events. Oddly enough, this was the only Top 100 he fished – he “retired” with a perfect one-for-one record. The 19 other entries were all in Invitationals, where his results were otherwise unremarkable; he finished 25th at Lake Livingston in 1989 and 19th at Lake Guntersville in 1992. His final event with B.A.S.S. was the 1997 Alabama Invitational, also on Guntersville, in which he blanked and finished in a 31-way tie for 288th place.
While the pro-am format was initially well-received, pros gradually came to believe that the amateurs’ participation affected the outcome of their livelihoods more than it should have. Accordingly, they lobbied to have the co-anglers removed from their boats and replaced with “Marshals” who would observe but not fish. Starting with the 2009 Elite Series season, that plan went into effect, and while there have been a few hiccups along the way, on the whole it has been successful. Co-anglers remain a part of Bassmaster Open and FLW Tour events.