Bass Master Classic 1984 – Future Presidents and a Secret Service Dude

[Editor’s Note: Yesterday Brian talked about the ’84 Classic and how ironic and coincidental it was to have two presidents on the weigh-in stage when Rick Clunn won his third Classic. Well today Harold Sharp reflects back on that Classic and how they ended up on the Arkansas River and some interesting things that happened during the weigh-in.]

Setting up a BASS Master Classic isn’t an easy task by any means. It takes time as venues must be found and then agreed upon by BASS and the host city. While I was at BASS, I would start setting up the following year’s Classic at least a year in advance. The 1984 Classic was no different.

The 1983 BASS Classic was held on the Ohio River in Cincinnati, Ohio. Before the Classic had started, I was already in negotiations with Niagara Falls, NY to be the possible host for the ’84 event. In order to give them an idea of what they could expect from an event such as the Classic, I had invited them to the ’83 Classic.

After they experienced the Classic, they went back to Niagara Falls and a short time later they called to say they wanted to hold the Classic in their city. They were really excited about hosting the event and told me they had already gotten some local politicians involved in the process.

The thought of having politicians involved didn’t sit too well with me because of the water pollution problems they had in the Niagara River and other waterways in that part of the country. I felt the local politicians would never allow our press anglers to get a good look at the river. Soon the project was rejected – a good thing to be honest – but now I had a problem. I had to find a location for the ’84 Classic and fast.

After some thought we decided to approach the folks at Pine Bluff, AR and ask them if they were interested in hosting the Classic on the Arkansas River. Pine Bluff had a convention center that could hold all the spectators and the Classic Outdoor Show.

The first thing I did was call Forrest Wood. I told him we needed to talk to Governor Bill Clinton to see if they were interested in hosting thee Classic. Forrest said he’d make some calls and not too long after that we had a meeting set with Governor Clinton.

At our meeting with Gov. Clinton, we presented the Classic Plan. He listened intently as we talked and made our offer. When we finished, his response was, “Can we have it for two years?”

That took us by surprise because we’d never thought anyone would ask for two years. Still we quickly replied “yes” and we were booked.

Rick Clunn discusses his third Classic win as Ray Scott, VP George H. W. Bush, Gov. Bill Clinton and Harold Sharp listen.  Photo courtesy of Harold Sharp.

Ray [Scott] had been very involved with George H. W. Bush’s Presidential campaign in 1979, and had even invited him to the ’79 Classic on Texoma. So he decided to invite the then-Vice President Bush to the ’84 Classic. His idea was VP Bush and Gov. Clinton could help weigh the fish on the last day of the event.

The weigh-in stage consisted of a Ranger Classic bass boat, a set of stairs leading up and into the boat and a table across the front for the scale. Everyone – the angler, Ray Scott and myself – stood in the boat while the fish were weighed. We knew it would be a tight fit with two more bodies but we felt we could make it work.

Before the first day of the tournament we were setting up the weigh-in stage when a Secret Service man introduced himself. He wanted to check out the stage and make sure it was safe. As soon as we finished setting the stage up, they brought in a bomb sniffing dog, cleared the area and told us we’d need to install a second set of stairs on the other side of the boat – which we supplied.

The other request he made was that he needed to be right next to Bush at all times. There would already be five people in the boat – Ray, Bush, Clinton, The Angler and me – so there wasn’t going to be room for the agent. I asked if he could stand on the floor near the front of the boat and he said that would be fine.

The normal procedure for weighing fish was as follows:

1) Ray would call out the weight of the fish and a BASS member standing near the boat would record the weight on the angler’s weigh-in ticket.

2) The BASS Member would then give a copy of the ticket to the angler as he left the boat.

3) On the other side of the boat we had three BASS scorekeepers who got the other copy of the ticket to record the score.

What ended up happening was we placed the agent near the three scorekeepers. Ray would yell out the weight, the BASS Member would record the weight, give the angler his slip and then hand thee copy of the slip to the agent, who then passed it along to the three scorekeepers.

The agent was wearing a BASS ball cap and no one knew who he was let alone we had a Secret Service agent on staff that day.

We also had Jimmy Carter and Chuck Yeager at the ’86 Classic but that’s a story for another time.