The early Bassmaster Classics were certainly serious fishing tournaments, but there was also a substantial carnival and party atmosphere throughout the festivities. In the earliest days Ray Scott would announce the tournament lake onboard the airplane to the event. Even after that became logistically infeasible, the week was filled with all sorts of oddball activities that today’s ultra-serious competitors might not tolerate.
There were squirt gun fights, rides on the Chattanooga Choo Choo and of course a wide variety of themed parties. As Nick Taylor described in Bass Wars, at the 1986 Classic:
“The party assembled for a luau that began with a sumptuous buffet and ended with a hula exhibition. Fishermen with gray beards and drooping mustaches, and with considerable bulk, rolled their pants legs up above their cowboy boots and donned grass skirts to dance along with a professional troupe. They looked like the elephantine ballerinas of a Disney cartoon, and somebody called out above the music, “Anybody got a Weed Eater?”
Those “elephantine ballerinas” of 1986, a group that did not include Paul Elias (he qualified from 1981 through 1985 and 1987 through 1989, missing the ’86 derby) likely paled in comparison to the cheerleaders of 1988. The picture above is a screen shot from the 1988 Classic TV program. It was taken at one of the pre-tournament parties in Richmond, Virginia which appears to have been a 1950s-themed event. Old Paul apparently drew the short end of the stick.
Maybe Harold Sharp, RichZ or one of the other veteran members of the fishing media can fill us in on exactly what happened. We’re not sure that asking Paul is a particularly good idea.