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?