The 1989 Bassmaster New York Invitational doesn’t appear to have been a remarkable or particularly memorable tournament: Mickey Bruce won the second of his three BASS victories, the only one not on Lake Lanier. Local angler Dick Garlock earned his top finish at the Invitational/Open level. The field is studded with stars, both past and future, along with more than a few never-beens and never-will-bes.
Despite the fact that it appears to be another forgettable event, this one was significant in the history of lure development. Can you guess why?
The angler who provides the clue to my hypothesis is the fifth-place finisher, Terrence Baksay. BASS stubbornly continues to insist on calling him that, even though I’ve never heard anyone else refer to him as anything but Terry.
Unlike Garlock, who missed the trophy by half a pound, Baksay didn’t threaten to win, but this event was for all meaningful purposes his introduction to fishing fans. He’d fished four previous Invitationals, never finishing better than 64th. Indeed, the $5,500 he won on the St. Lawrence was his first check from BASS, and the first step on his route to qualifying for the 1990 Bassmaster Classic on the James River. But this tournament was also the coming-out party for a particular lure – indeed, a whole CLASS of lures – that would have a major impact on the sport.
Baksay reported catching 100 fish a day on a Slug-go, a stubby piece of plastic manufactured by his Connecticut neighbor Herb Reed of Lunker City fishing lures. He used it elsewhere that year – the schedule included lakes like Okeechobee, Sam Rayburn and Guntersville – to claim the first of his two Classic berths. Why did it mop up on occasion? Well, part of it could be attributed to Baksay’s skill and youthful enthusiasm, but another factor was that bass had never seen anything like it before. There was no Super Fluke or Bass Assassin. Even the floating worm, which Danny Joe Humphrey used to win the Federation National Championship in 1988, had only regional pockets of fans. Baksay could walk the dog in grassy situations that would foul a spook. Unlike a frog, he could drop it in holes in the weeds. He could also weave it through the branches of a laydown or dead stick it, targeting fish that had previously only seen worms, lizards and jigs. Not only was it versatile, but it moved seductively and didn’t make noise that would negatively impact fish. Just over two decades later, the Slug-go doesn’t have the notoriety that it should, but it spawned an entire group of lures that most anglers have used at one time or another.