Scorecard Snapshot – Untying the Knot

The 1999 Alabama Eastern Invitational held on Lake Martin in early December of 1999 was a stingy affair. It took less than 5 pounds a day to earn a check and winner Rufus Johnson didn’t even end up with 30 pounds.

His victory is significant. Can you guess why?

Sure it was his sole victory with BASS, but it’s his one pound, five ounce margin of victory that really makes this derby meaningful.

When the weigh-in concluded that Saturday, Johnson and Carl Maxfield had tallied the same weight – 25-04. Tournament director Dewey Kendrick sent them out at 3:45 and gave them until 4:30 to catch whatever they could. When they weighed in again, Johnson added three for 3-10 to his total. Maxfield could only muster two little fish for 2-05. Johnson’s winning bait was an Excalibur Fat Free Guppy.

Maxfield had lost an ear off of his propeller that morning, costing him valuable fishing time, but made no excuses. He earned his first and only BASS victory the next summer on the Top 150 circuit, winning an event on the Potomac River, without benefit of a fish-off. Unfortunately, the South Carolina pro died of a heart attack in early 2003 as he prepared to leave for a Top 150 event on Toledo Bend.

Johnson’s win came in only his second BASS event. He went on to fish 19 more tournaments with BASS, including the 2001 Bassmaster Classic on the Louisiana Delta. He notched a 5th place finish in 2000 at Old Hickory and a 6th at Pickwick/Wilson in 2011, but despite earning a check in 12 of 19 events overall he never again cracked the top ten. His BASS career ended in 2003.

Johnson’s win wasn’t the first fish-off in BASS history, and there have been several since? How many can you name?

  • Harold Sharp

    I can only remember one and can’t recall who the second angler was, it was the first fish-off for the winner on the BASS trail and it happened at Cherokee Lake/TN in 1981. Jerry Knicely won it.

    I remember that we had an off limits area posted near the weigh-in where we were releasing the live bass. When the first place tie happened, we had to devise a method to break the tie. We had each angler park their boats side by side along the bank, we put two BASS employees in the boats, James Dawson in one boat and Tom Ellis in the other boat with a watch and a CB radio. Then we instructed the two anglers that we would give a signal to start and they must not fish in the off-limits area and the first one that boated a keeper Bass would win. The bass must be verified by the BASS employee in the boat by the CB radio.

    We gave the signal and Knicely ran to the first point outside the off limits, made two cast and boated a keeper that was reported on the CB Radio. The other boat was still running and just turned around when he heard the news on the CB Radio.

    I remember a fish off for the largest Bass too. It happened at Watts Bar Lake between Roland Martin and another angler, whom I can’t recall. We put the anglers in their boats in front of the weigh-in crowd and placed an innertube anchored within casting distance and instructed both anglers that they would rotate cast to put a lure inside the tube until one anglers missed and one put a lure inside the tube. It took several cast before either one put the lure inside the tube and Roland finally won it. We expected it to last a while as each angler could easily cast to the tube – we did not expect it to take forever before one put a lure inside the tube.