Congratulations to Bob Uhrig for winning the Bass Fishing Archives Trivia Contest with his correct answer! Read below for the answer.
Jay Yelas earned a tough win in the June 1995 Bassmaster SuperStars event on the Illinois River out of Peoria. It marked the second of his five B.A.S.S. wins and also his second on a river (he’d won on the Potomac in 1993). The last of his five B.A.S.S. victories came at the 2002 Bassmaster Classic on Lay Lake – now he fishes FLW exclusively.
As the name of the tournament indicates, the 31 competitors at Peoria comprised a star-studded field. All were either Classic winners, former AOYs, or members of the list of all-time leading money winners.
In the final standings, prior Classic winners occupied 2nd through 6th places — David Fritts, George Cochran, Robert Hamilton, Guido Hibdon and Paul Elias. Other prior Classic winners included Rick Clunn, Charlie Reed, Hank Parker, Ken Cook, Tommy Martin, Larry Nixon, Bobby Murray, Bo Dowden, Stanley Mitchell and Jack Chancellor. Future Classic winners, in addition to Yelas, included Cochran (again), Denny Brauer, Kevin VanDam (four times), and Mark Davis (that same year).
The river was completely flooded, so much so that B.A.S.S. nearly had to move the launch site. The downstream portions of the river were finally reopened by the Coast Guard the day before the tournament started, though, enabling B.A.S.S. to launch as planned. In addition to the pre-existing adverse conditions, hail and thunderstorms on Day One provided an additional challenge. John Husar of the Chicago Tribune described it thusly: “Welcome to Illinois, guys, the Hades of largemouth bass fishing.”
Yelas used a trio of Stanley spinnerbaits to earn the win. He had shared a small backwater pond (Snicarte Slough) with Gary Klein for much of the first two days, but Husar reported that Yelas got there first on the final day. Klein, respecting the unwritten code, backed off, as did Shaw Grigsby, thereby allowing Yelas to win.
While the tournament cemented the reputation of Yelas as more than a one-hit wonder, it also produced one of the most iconic moments in bass fishing television history.
Do you remember what it was and how it played out? Well, here’s the answer.
If you’ve watched more than a few 90s-era episodes of The Bassmasters television show, then certainly you remember David Fritts falling out of the boat as he gingerly attempted tried to land a precious bass. That sequence occurred on Day Two of the 1995 Superstars event.
“I reached down a little bit too far,” he told Ray Scott on stage, in perhaps the understatement of the year.
“It was two inches farther than I thought,” he told the Tribune’s Husar. “The next thing I knew I was 3-feet under and my legs were sticking up.”
Fritts, who a few years later went on a much-publicized diet, was not described charitably by Husar, who referred to him with the following terms: “bulbous”; “the florid 250-pound North Carolinian”; and “huge bulk.” Fritts somehow managed to keep a grip on the interior of the boat after falling in and therefore his retrieval was deemed to be a legal catch.
Fishing a Texas-rigged craw worm rather than the more typical crankbait, he led through the first two days of the event, averaging in double digits, but could only muster three fish for 7-04 the final day, and fell to Yelas by 1 pound 10 ounces.
Lamenting his shortcoming on stage, Fritts told Ray Scott that “I should’ve jumped in again today, I guess.”
If it’s any consolation, though, more people probably remember his gymnastics than the fact that Yelas won.
To see the television production of the tournament, watch the following four videos in sequence. Bob Cobb and crew got plenty of mileage out of the “Fritts Flip.” In particular, check out Video One at the 0:27 mark and the 2:00 mark. The more complete version, complete with circus music, starts in Video Three at the 0:30 mark.