Bass Boats 1956

The boat used by Sports Afield Fishing Editor and bass fishing legend Jason Lucas. Photo May issue of Sports Afield.

The boat used by Sports Afield Fishing Editor and bass fishing legend Jason Lucas. Photo May 1956 issue of Sports Afield.

Is it bass boat or just boat?  Looking at the picture on the left I’d venture to guess that any angler today would call this boat a boat. But to anglers of the 40s, 50s and even through the mid- to late-60s, this would have been a bass boat. Maybe more correctly, a boat owned and operated by a bass fisherman.

The boat you see here was owned by none other than Jason Lucas, fishing editor for Sports Afield. We mentioned Jason earlier in the week in an article called BBM – Before Bassmaster Magazine. At the time there was no one who could hold a candle to Lucas on the water and he was and still is, among the few who know of him, considered the person who championed bass fishing over all other forms of fishing from the 40s through the late 60s.

Ray Scott gets all the credit for putting competitive bass fishing at the forefront of angling but I believe it was Lucas who deserves the credit for putting the black bass on the map. Lucas looked down his nose at any fish other than the black bass and thought of them as inferior in all ways. The bass was the smartest fish in the water and, therefore, because he was a smart angler, he would waste no time on anything but the black bass.

Anyway, I digress. This article is not about Lucas, per say, but his boat and gear. We’ll be doing a comprehensive set of pieces on Lucas in the near future – for those interested.

Lucas’ boat looks like any other wooden skiff of the time (what would you give to have that boat restored and in your garage?). Maybe 14 feet in length, made of wood and powered by what looks like a 15-horse Mercury. There’s no battery and no trolling motor or flasher.

He fished from the back (always by himself – he was afraid someone would want to talk with him so he refused to fish with anyone) and spread his gear out so it was within easy reach of his seat. His seat consisted of a standard throw cushion and he could easily operate the anchor winch while sitting. You’ll also notice the mat on the floor at his feet, no doubt used to quiet down any noise he’d make with his feet.

From reading Lucas’ work in Sports Afield and his book, he normally carried four casting rods. In his book, Second Edition published in 1949, he scoffed at spinning reels saying in effect that they were not worthy of the serious angler but okay for the novice. He cherished fly fishing for bass but only when the times and conditions permitted it.

What you see in the picture, though, and I’m quite positive it was just for the picture, is a casting rod, spinning rod (he must have warmed up to them) and a fly rod. What you will also see if you look are four other rod tubes, which I’m sure he has more casting rods in.

The amazing thing about the picture os the tackle box that takes up an entire section of the boat. He says about box selection in the article:

“There are few things on which it’s so difficult to give advice as tackle boxes, since it’s so much a matter of personal taste and temperament. For Instance, some like a box with pull-out drawers that fits under the boat seat, if there’s room for it. Some wouldn’t have that; they want their stuff out in sight at all time.”

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“When you go shopping for boxes, you’ll be confronted with a wide variety. An aluminum box is lightest, and rustproof – but easily battered. Steel is strongest, but heavier. There are now fiber-glass tackle boxes that are both light and strong, but they’re not cheap.

“A few who have reached the last (or hopeless) stage of addiction to bass fishing have tackle boxes –well, like mine. It’s a custom-made wooden thing with ten long cantilever trays and is as heavy to carry as a fair-sized outboard motor. When open, the outer trays just touch each gunwale of my boat, which has a 54-inch beam.”

Folks, that’s a box!

One of the reasons Lucas’ box was so big was because he didn’t just stuff it with tackle. In it he placed a rainsuit along with other essentials that he’d need during a day’s fishing. Extra reels, scale, light, compass, pliers and other things he felt important. Essentially his tackle box doubled as his storage compartment(s).

Back to the boat. If you really look at it, it seems very fishable and well laid out. Other than the fact it’s small and narrow, one person could easily fish out of it – maybe that was by design since Lucas didn’t want anyone going with him. Still I think I could fish out of the thing – albeit my back would probably let me know what it thought after a long day.

  • fish_food

    That was an enjoyable read–I’ve been meaning to hunt down a copy of Lucas’ book for some time now. And speaking of old books on bass fishing, I also love going through Henshall’s “Book of the Black Bass” from 1881.

    (Full title: “Book of the Black Bass: Comprising Its Complete and Scientific and Life History with a Practical Treatise On Angling and Fly Fishing and a Full Description of Tools, Tackle and Implements” Is that a mouthful, or what?)

    • Hey fish_food,

      Glad you liked the post. Lucas’ book was printed three times, 1947, 49 and 62. I have the 49 and 62 copies. Great reads and it’s amazing what he was preaching way back when.

      Henshall’s book is just as good from a historical perspective. We’ll be covering all them in the near future.

  • Bill M

    I thought the setup looked great, until I enlarged it. Then it looks AWESOME! Makes me want to go back to the 50’s and finally get to fish with my dad.

    • Bill, I have to agree with you 100%. Pretty amazing picture of a craft used by an expert.

  • My favorite Jason Lucas quote:

    A reader asked, “Don’t you have to admit that fishing is cruelty to animals?”

    And Jason’s answer was, “No, ma’am. Every fish I catch comes in wagging its tail.”

  • One more:

    Lucas was writing about sharing lakes with water skiers, and he said he thought a 50-50 split was fair. “As long as the skiers get the bottom half.”

    • Dan, those are both classic! Do you happen to have those magazines with those quotes?

      • Terry, I was sick in bed my sophomore year of high school, and I asked Dad to bring me a fishing magazine. He came home with the May 1963 issue of Sports Afield – the annual fishing issue. That was my introduction to Jason Lucas. (I believe that issue had a glowing article about Bill Plummer’s Bassfrog).

        I read the magazine regularly after that, until I went off to college.

        So both of those Jason Lucas quotes came from issues between 1963 and 1965, I’m guessing. I do remember that the first quote was from his monthly column, and the second was deep inside a longer article whose main thrust was, I believe, that the best day of the week for big-lake fishing is Friday, because the weekend water skiers hit the lakes on Saturday and Sunday, and it takes until Friday for the fish to settle in again.

        That’s as close as I can come – it’s been half a century, you know!

        —Dan, http://danhughes.net, feeling older as I write this….

        • Not that it has anything to do with bass fishing, but when I left for the Air Force, my parents got rid of all my comics, my Hardy Boy books, and my fishing magazines.

          I don’t think a jury in the world would have convicted me of….

          • Thanks for sharing that Dan. Good stuff right there.

            Regarding your parents and your magazines and such, my mom did the same thing with my magazines. I had every issue of Bassmaster, Western Bass (magazine and the papers), SWAB (Southwest Association of Bassmasters) and who knows how many SAs, F&S and OLs. I left the house and because I didn’t take them to my apartment she thought I didn’t want them and threw them out. :-/

  • Gotta tell somebody, Terry – went to the Goodwill store today (Senior Day, 20% off everything), and found a copy of the 1962 edition of LUCAS ON BASS FISHING. Cost me a buck! Zowie! No dust jacket, darn it, but still an exciting find.

    • NICE!!!! Good find Dan. It’s a tough read but it really shows what Lucas knew about fish habits. It also shows that he hated the plastic worm. 🙂

      • Well, remember, it was 1962. Plastic worms then were primitive, stiff and unnatural with little if any action, and usually rigged with three snelled hooks running down the length of the worm and a tiny propeller-spinner up front. .

        I wonder what he’d think of the Texas rig today!