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…]

Happy Birthday to a Twenty Year Old Dieting Deep Diver

Twenty years ago one of the best crankbaits that has ever been developed was born - the Bomber Fat Free Shad.

Twenty years ago one of the best crankbaits that has ever been developed was born – the Bomber Fat Free Shad.

Looking through the old “New Tackle for…” issues of Bassmaster, it quickly becomes clear that few new lures survive the open market for even a couple of years, let alone two decades. Of those that do live to fish another day or another year, many take a long time to gather a meaningful following. In that respect, the Bomber Fat Free Shad is something of an anomaly, a lure that was popular almost from the start, due in no small part to good design, a solid pro-staff and more than a bit of on-the-water advertising. While many of us can still remember its introduction, this year it celebrates its 20th birthday.

In 1994, PRADCO introduced the Pro Autograph Series of hard lures – proven baits that each bore a particular pro’s name and his suggested modifications or special paint schemes. They included the following lures: [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…]

Looking for Operation Bass Golden Blend Info

Golden Blend was a title sponsor for Operation Bass' attempt to give B.A.S.S. some competition. Unfortunately the circuit didn't last long and there's little information out there regarding it.

Golden Blend was a title sponsor for Operation Bass’ attempt to give B.A.S.S. some competition. Unfortunately the circuit didn’t last long and there’s little information out there regarding it.

Many modern fans of professional fishing assume that the FLW Tour was the first major competitor to B.A.S.S. Of course, that is not quite correct – over time, there were several national trails that tried to make a run at being the dominant circuit, or at least supplementing it. The truth is that the FLW Tour, founded under the Operation Bass umbrella, wasn’t even the first attempt by that organization to create some competition for Ray Scott’s baby.

Starting in the late 1980s, and running into the early ‘90s, Operation Bass operated the Golden Blend series of tournaments. They built upon the success of the original Red Man events, which catered to the “working man” – one-day weekend tournaments with low entry fees and a chance to qualify for the high payout All-American. [Read more…]

Monday Trivia – The Great Grigsby Goes to Georgia Answer and Winner (March 31, 2014)

Shaw Grigsby Jr., Photo Bassmaster.com.

Shaw Grigsby Jr., Photo Bassmaster.com.

Congratulations to Andy Williamson for winning this week’s trivia contest sponsored by Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits. For the answers, pleas read below.

Despite leading on Day One of this year’s Elite Series tournament on Lake Seminole, Shaw Grigsby couldn’t close the deal, finishing 8th when the scales closed on Sunday. That didn’t leave his trophy case devoid of Seminole hardware, though – he won the Georgia Top 100 there in 1993 and the Georgia Top 150 in 2000. Those came after he earned the first three of his nine B.A.S.S. winner’s trophies on Sam Rayburn in 1988, 1990 and 1992.

While the two Seminole victories were labeled as “Georgia” tournaments, the big lake spans into Grigsby’s home state of Florida. He’d previously won a major event in the Sunshine State – the $100,000 top prize in the 1984 Red Man All American on Lake Toho – but his first B.A.S.S. win was something special. Seminole was the sight of his first bass tournament, at the age of 16. [Read more…]

Monday Trivia – The Great Grigsby Goes to Georgia (March 31, 2014)

Shaw Grigsby Jr., Photo Bassmaster.com

Shaw Grigsby Jr., Photo Bassmaster.com

Despite leading on Day One of this year’s Elite Series tournament on Lake Seminole, Shaw Grigsby couldn’t close the deal, finishing 8th when the scales closed on Sunday. That didn’t leave his trophy case devoid of Seminole hardware, though – he won the Georgia Top 100 there in 1993 and the Georgia Top 150 in 2000. Those came after he earned the first three of his nine B.A.S.S. winner’s trophies on Sam Rayburn in 1988, 1990 and 1992.

While the two Seminole victories were labeled as “Georgia” tournaments, the big lake spans into Grigsby’s home state of Florida. He’d previously won a major event in the Sunshine State – the $100,000 top prize in the 1984 Red Man All American on Lake Toho – but his first B.A.S.S. win was something special. Seminole was the sight of his first bass tournament, at the age of 16. [Read more…]

Monday Trivia – Tak on Top Answer and Winner (October 28, 2013)

Photo Bassmaster.

Photo Bassmaster.

Well, another week and no winner for the week’s trivia contest sponsored by Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits. Come back next week for another try. For the answer, read below.

Takahiro Omori wasn’t the first native of Japan to win a B.A.S.S. event. That honor went to Norio Tanabe. Nor was Tak the most recent — Morizo Shimizu’s 2006 win came later than Omori’s last one. Nevertheless, Omori’s five wins from the front of the boat are by far the most of any of his countrymen.

The first of those five came in April of 1996, when he outlasted over 300 other pros to claim $35,000 in cash and merchandise as the winner of the Missouri Bassmaster Central Invitational. Omori’s closest follower was former Bassmaster Classic winner Guido Hibdon, who’d been an Ozarks-region force before making a name for himself on the national stage. Hibdon’s son Dion, who’d win a Classic of his own the following year, was also a Lake of the Ozarks expert, and he finished fourth. In between the father and son was third place finisher Mark Tucker, another top local stick. He’d yet to fish a Classic but ultimately participated in eight of them. He also won the 2011 Central Open on Lake Lewisville in Texas. Jim Bitter finished fifth. [Read more…]

Monday Trivia – Tak on Top (October 28, 2013)

Photo Bassmaster.

Photo Bassmaster.

Takahiro Omori wasn’t the first native of Japan to win a B.A.S.S. event. That honor went to Norio Tanabe. Nor was Tak the most recent — Morizo Shimizu’s 2006 win came later than Omori’s last one. Nevertheless, Omori’s five wins from the front of the boat are by far the most of any of his countrymen.

The first of those five came in April of 1996, when he outlasted over 300 other pros to claim $35,000 in cash and merchandise as the winner of the Missouri Bassmaster Central Invitational. Omori’s closest follower was former Bassmaster Classic winner Guido Hibdon, who’d been an Ozarks-region force before making a name for himself on the national stage. Hibdon’s son Dion, who’d win a Classic of his own the following year, was also a Lake of the Ozarks expert, and he finished fourth. In between the father and son was third place finisher Mark Tucker, another top local stick. He’d yet to fish a Classic but ultimately participated in eight of them. He also won the 2011 Central Open on Lake Lewisville in Texas. Jim Bitter finished fifth. [Read more…]

Monday Trivia – Not so Bitter Answer and Winner (September 30, 2013)

Photo Bassmaster.com

Photo Bassmaster.com

Congratulations to Duke Jenkle for winning this week’s Monday Trivia Contest sponsored by Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits! That makes it two weeks in a row we’ve had a winner. For the answers read below.

Eight years after the end of his career with B.A.S.S., Jim Bitter is probably best remembered for a snippet from his lowlight reel – watching the winning fish flop out of his hands at the 1989 Bassmaster Classic on the James River, thereby ceding the title to Hank Parker. That’s unfortunate, because the Florida pro produced results that many other competitors would envy. He totaled nearly $850,000 in B.A.S.S. winnings, qualified for seven Bassmaster Classics and won five events. [Read more…]

Monday Trivia – Not so Bitter (September 30, 2013)

Photo Bassmaster.com

Photo Bassmaster.com

Eight years after the end of his career with B.A.S.S., Jim Bitter is probably best remembered for a snippet from his low-light reel – watching the winning fish flop out of his hands at the 1989 Bassmaster Classic on the James River, thereby ceding the title to Hank Parker. That’s unfortunate, because the Florida pro produced results that many other competitors would envy. He totaled nearly $850,000 in B.A.S.S. winnings, qualified for seven Bassmaster Classics and won five events.

Three of those wins came in 1995, when he won the Texas Invitational at Sam Rayburn, the Minnesota Top 100 at Minnetonka and the New York Top 100 on the Hudson River. [Read more…]

Monday Trivia – Introducing Jay (August 26, 2013)

Photo Bassmaster.com

Photo Bassmaster.com

Twenty years ago this month a young Jay Yelas earned the first of his five B.A.S.S. victories, outlasting 2nd place finisher Gary Klein by a half pound to win the Top 100 on the Potomac River.

He’d been the runner-up the year before, finishing a distant 2nd to Jim Bitter by over 7 pounds.

Since then, Yelas has returned to the Potomac seven times with B.A.S.S. and a couple of times with FLW. While his results have been mixed, the good has outweighed the bad – he notched additional top ten finishes in 1994, 1995, 1998 and 1999. For a westerner who relocated to Texas, he seemed to have a pretty good grasp on this distinctly eastern river. [Read more…]

Scorecard Snapshot – Geography Lesson Answer and Winner

Photo December 1992 issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

Sorry folks, I lost track of the day.  Anyway, congratulations to Bob Uhrig for providing the correct answer to this week’s trivia game! Read below for the answer.

The most notable tournament of Jim Bitter’s career, at least to the general public, might be the one that got away – the 1989 Bassmaster Classic in which the winning fish, already in the boat, slipped out of his hands and back into Virginia’s James River. He never finished out his limit that final day and Hank Parker beat him by two ounces to take the crown. It was the first of Bitter’s seven Classic appearances and only once more did he crack the top ten.

Despite that apparent black cloud hanging over his legacy, Bitter had a more-than-solid career with B.A.S.S., notching five victories, including three over an eight month stretch in 1995. Those last three victories came on a diverse set of waterways – Sam Rayburn (February), Minnetonka (August) and the Hudson River (September). [Read more…]