Not so Bitter Anymore: The 1990 Golden Blend Championship

The cover of the January/February edition of Bass Fishing magazine, the publication of Operation Bass, had Jim Bitter front and center for his Golden Blend Championship win.

The cover of the January/February edition of Bass Fishing magazine, the publication of Operation Bass, had Jim Bitter front and center for his Golden Blend Championship win.

Back in November, we solicited information from readers about the history of the Operation Bass Golden Blend tournament series. We’d put together a basic outline of the circuit’s history, but we had little meat to put on those bones. Thanks to one of our great readers and supporters, Andy Williamson, we have a bit more to add.

In that original article, we mentioned Jim Bitter’s 1990 win on Lake Chickamauga. Specificially, we explained that “[t]he win marked a strong period in Bitter’s career, as he’d won MegaBucks IV on the Harris Chain two years earlier.” Left unsaid was the fact that it came on the heels of what is for many – fairly or unfairly – the defining moment of Bitter’s long career, his failure to win the 1989 Bassmaster Classic. As you may recall, Bitter had the winning fish in his hand, but when he went to re-measure it under the gaze of Tim Tucker’s camera, it slipped from his hand and back into the James River. Hank Parker ended up beating him by two ounces. Gone were not only the lasting glory of a Classic win, but also the $50,000 top prize. [Read more…]

Revisiting Lake Havasu – 1985

Rick in the Champions jacket, awaiting the signing of the check. photo by Rodney Boyd/FLW Outdoors.

Rick in the Champions jacket, awaiting the signing of the check. photo by Rodney Boyd/Operation Bass.

When the Bassmaster Elite Series anglers take off Thursday morning on Day 1 of the second arm of their Western series swing, this time on Lake Havasu, there will likely be some strong memories for several of the anglers. One of those will certainly be Rick Clunn. It was 30 years ago when Rick won the RedMan All-American, and the resulting $100,000 prize, his first such six-figure check. Back then, even the Bassmaster Classic only paid $50,000.

The magazine of Operation Bass at the time was called CAST Magazine, and they covered this event in their January/February 1986 issue at great length. Anglers took off each day from under the London Bridge – THE London Bridge from childhood song. The story of the bridge itself is rather fascinating. According to a Lake Havasu tourism website; [Read more…]

Twenty Five Years of Baits Named “RC”

Rick Clunn won his fourth Bassmaster Classic on the first baits that sported his initials - The RC1 and RC3 crankbaits by Poe's.

Rick Clunn won his fourth Bassmaster Classic on the first baits that sported his initials – The RC1 and RC3 crankbaits by Poe’s.

Poe’s Lures was founded by Californian Milton Poe in the 1950s. Rick Clunn was born in 1946. It took approximately 40 years for their two legacies to join up on the most public stage in bass fishing, the 1990 Bassmaster Classic on the James River.

Twenty five years after Clunn’s fourth Classic victory, most fishing fans associate his initials with the RC 1.5, a square bill crankbait from Lucky Craft, initially marketed by Bass Pro Shops, which has more recently been renamed. In many respects it spawned the rebirth of square bills in the public’s eye as the first widely-distributed and popularized plastic bait that acted like the traditional balsa lures. For other anglers with slightly longer memories, Clunn’s initials call to mind the Rico topwater popper, one of the first high-end Japanese lures to gain favor on American soil. Before either of them, though, there were the RC 1 and RC 3 crankbaits from Poe’s. [Read more…]

The Bassmaster Classic – 1991 through 2000

Ken Cook hoists the 1991 Classic trophy for winning at the Chesapeake Bay, MD. Photo Bassmaster Magazine.

Ken Cook hoists the 1991 Classic trophy for winning at the Chesapeake Bay, MD. Photo Bassmaster Magazine.

By 1991 the Bassmaster Classic had become the event anglers aspired to win – weekend warriors through tour-level pros. The event had grown from a small gathering of anglers and media huddled together at the ramp in 1971 at Lake Mead, NV to sold-out stadiums in 1990. Although the event was centered around the anglers who qualified and the eventual winner, it grew into what we now know as Classic week filled with fan days, media events and one of if not the biggest public tackle shows in the world. [Read more…]

Monday Trivia – Guido Gitzem at the St. Johns Answer and Winner (Dec 22, 2014)

Kevin VanDam. Photo Bassmaster.com.

Kevin VanDam. Photo Bassmaster.com.

Merry Christmas and congratulations to Steve Q for winning this week’s trivia contest sponsored by Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits! For the answers to this week’s contest, please read below. The next trivia contest will be posted January 5, 2015.

It’s hard to imagine that there was a time when a Kevin VanDam top-10 finish was anything other than a routine occurrence, but if you head back to 1991, the 22 year-old Michigan pro was just getting started and not quite yet a household name. Fishing his 8th B.A.S.S. event that February on Florida’s St. Johns River, Van Dam finished second to veteran Guido Hibdon, and just ahead of another legend, Roland Martin.

The 1991 Florida Invitational on the St. Johns marked VanDam’s best B.A.S.S. finish to that point, besting the 3rd-place finish he’d earned the prior September on New York’s St. Lawrence River[], a tournament in which he also fell one place behind Hibdon in the final standings. He “finally” earned his first bass victory in December of 1991 at Lake Lanier where he outlasted six former and future Classic winners in the top 10, including Denny Brauer (2nd), Rick Clunn (3rd), David Fritts (4th), Bob Hamilton Jr. (6th), Mark Davis (10th) and – you guessed it – Hibdon (7th). [Read more…]

Monday Trivia – Guido Gitzem at the St. Johns (Dec 22, 2014)

Kevin VanDam. Photo Bassmaster.com.

Kevin VanDam. Photo Bassmaster.com.

It’s hard to imagine that there was a time when a Kevin VanDam top-10 finish was anything other than a routine occurrence, but if you head back to 1991, the 22 year-old Michigan pro was just getting started and not quite yet a household name. Fishing his 8th B.A.S.S. event that February on Florida’s St. Johns River, Van Dam finished second to veteran Guido Hibdon, and just ahead of another legend, Roland Martin.

The 1991 Florida Invitational on the St. Johns marked VanDam’s best B.A.S.S. finish to that point, besting the 3rd-place finish he’d earned the prior September on New York’s St. Lawrence River, a tournament in which he also fell one place behind Hibdon in the final standings. He “finally” earned his first bass victory in December of 1991 at Lake Lanier where he outlasted six former and future Classic winners in the top 10, including Denny Brauer (2nd), Rick Clunn (3rd), David Fritts (4th), Bob Hamilton Jr. (6th), Mark Davis (10th) and – you guessed it – Hibdon (7th). [Read more…]

Champion Bass Magazine

The premier issue fo Champion Bass, put out by the same publisher of Bass West magazine.

The premier issue fo Champion Bass, put out by the same publisher of Bass West magazine.

Champion BASS magazine is another one of the short-lived bass magazines that many of us hoped would serve as a long-term supplement to the efforts of stalwarts like Bassmaster and In-Fisherman.

Within this issue’s advertisements, founder Ray Crosby made it apparent that he intended this one for mature audiences only: “Due to the advanced information contained in Champion BASS, it is NOT recommended for beginning or amateur bass fishermen,” he wrote. He further stated that he would not cover tournament results or politics, just hard core tournament tactics. Toward that end, he assembled a team including Jay Yelas, Kevin VanDam, Gary Klein, Ken Cook, Shaw Grigsy, Guido Hibdon and David Fritts to serve as regular columnists on the topics of their expertise. Berkley’s Dr. Keith Jones also penned an article under the heading “Bass Biology.” [Read more…]

Monday Trivia – The FLW Cup; Answers & Winner (August 18, 2014)

Congratulations to Adam Hinkle for winning this week’s Monday Trivia Contest sponsored by Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits. For the answers, read below, and come back for next week’s edition.

AG

Photo: FLW Outdoors

I don’t know about you, but I think yesterday’s Day 4 of the Forrest Wood Cup held on Lake Murray was one of the most exciting in recent memory. Steve Kennedy’s 20 pound sack to make a run at the title from 10th place, not to mention the one ounce difference between victory and 2nd place, a $440,000 difference! And Scott Canterbury gets second again – what a heartbreaker. Congrats to hometown winner Anthony Gagliardi.

With the event fresh in our minds, this week we focus our trivia question on past Forrest Wood Cups. To win all the Yamamoto’s this week, you’ll need to brush up on your FLW history and answer these 4 questions. [Read more…]

Crankbait Master David Fritts

David Fritts at ICAST 2014. Photo Brenda Serrano.

David Fritts at ICAST 2014. Photo Brenda Serrano.

Over the course of time there have been a handful of anglers who have become famous due to the crankbait. Rick Clunn, of course, has made a solid career out of throwing crankbaits and is the reason for the squarebill’s resurrection at least twice since the mid-70s. Paul Elias is another angler who’s kneeling-and-reeling technique brought him fame – and fortune. But if one were to take a poll from anglers over 40 who the best professional crankbait fisherman is, I would bet the results would turn out to show David Fritts as number-1. [Read more…]

The First Family of Bass Boat Legends – Greene Boat and Motor – Part One

Greene's was originally started as a small engine repair business that started in Otto Greene's garage in the 1920s. By 1957 it morphed in Greene's Outboard Motor and Boat Company. The rest of the story is history.

Greene’s was originally started as a small engine repair business that started in Otto Greene’s garage in the 1920s. By 1957 it morphed in Greene’s Outboard Motor and Boat Company. The rest of the story is history.

The headline above may seem a bit out of place in that many people may consider Forrest and Nina Wood the First Family of Bass Boat Legends. Honestly it’s a good argument being that Ranger was one of the first to manufacture contemporary bass boats and the company is still going strong today, although the Woods no longer own the company.

But when it comes down to it, a boat company isn’t worth the fiberglass on the production-line floor without a venue in which to promote, market and sell their product. This is where boat dealerships come into play and you would be hard pressed to find a dealership, then or now, that’s as legendary as Greene Boat and Motor of Spindale, NC. [Read more…]

Monday Trivia – Alton Emerges Answer and Winner (April 14, 2014)

Photo Bassmaster.com

Photo Bassmaster.com

For the second week straight no one won the weekly trivia contest sponsored by Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits. Come back next week as we’ll have another set of questions and will award a $25 coupon to the winner. For the answers to this week’s contest, please read below.

Today most fishing fans think of Alton Jones first and foremost as the 2008 Bassmaster Classic Champ, but in May of 1997 the Texas pro was a 34 year-old guide and former computer salesman with seven years as a full-time touring pro under his belt. He’d only notched four Top Ten finishes in B.A.S.S. competition to that point, half of them in Alabama. The best of the bunch came when he finished tied for 4th in the 1996 Alabama Top 100 at Lake Neely Henry. That tournament was won by Davy Hite, marking Hite’s second B.A.S.S. victory, both of them in Alabama.

The following year Jones moved up three spots to claim his first B.A.S.S. win in the 1997 Alabama Top 100, edging out Gary Klein by an ounce to earn the 1st-place trophy. [Read more…]

Moynagh & the Football Jig

Professional bass angler Jim Moynagh, then, and now.

Professional bass angler Jim Moynagh, then, and now.

While the football head was invented by our bassin’ friends out west (see Terry’s story, “The Football Head – Just a Jig Head“), I think I can safely say that for most bass anglers east of the Rocky Mountains, we likely got our first introduction to the bait back in 1995 by a guy named Jim Moynagh. That was the point in bass fishing history when the former angler/researcher for the Hunting and Fishing Library series of books won the Don Shelby Invitational Tournament on Lake Minnetonka, beating out David Fritts by more than 10 pounds and pocketing $50,000. I say former because it was right around the same time that Jim had been laid off from that research position after 9 years of work, but it would turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Two years later (1997), Jim would go on to win the $1 million Forrest Wood Open tournament, also on Lake Minnetonka, pocketing another $200,000 in first place prize money using the same bait and technique, and his professional angling career was cemented. [Read more…]