Jay Yelas – From Cheeseballs to Classic Winner

Jay Yelas ICAST 2014. Photo Brenda Serrano.

Jay Yelas ICAST 2014. Photo Brenda Serrano.

Around the 1988 time frame I was still working at the tackle shop and going to college. Although I wasn’t fishing, I kept up on what was happening on the tournament scene from the anglers who came into the shop. What happened in ’88 seemed to be a changing of the guard. Long time western pros such as Don Iovino, Bobby Garland, Fred Ward and Larry Hopper had a new angler to contend with – a kid just out of college named Jay Yelas.

I vividly remember some of the local anglers coming into the shop who fished the Red Man circuit in the day – guys that knew “The River Lakes” like the back of their hand. They were donating entry fees to Yelas’ graduate studies – his field of study being professional bass fisherman. [Read more…]

CLC 1 – May 1974

The first issue of only four issues printed of the California Lunker Club Newsletter. May, 1974. With full permission.

The first issue of only four issues printed of the California Lunker Club Newsletter. May, 1974. With full permission.

We’ve posted a few stories (here and here) in the past about the California Lunker Club and its meager beginnings in 1971 to offer California bass anglers an insurance policy to mount a fish. Not long after that founder Dave Coolidge expanded the CLC into a tournament organization, the first in California, in order to bring like-minded bass anglers together. The concept was friendly competition and also provide a forum to learn from each other and make friends.

The concept took hold and within a couple years the organization grew to a point that Coolidge couldn’t afford it anymore. That’s when Western Bass, formed in 1973, stepped up and took CLC off of Coolidge’s hands. [Read more…]

Western Bass Tournament of Champions 1976

Page One Notes: (1) The Supersport worm mentioned by Burnett was actually a Sportsman's Super Floater. Western anglers used to cut the 4-inch and 6-inch worms from the egg sack to the tail and then weld in a piece of worm to keep the legs apart. (2) The "Mattie" written about was more than likely a jighead poured by Gardner, the mold, which was made by Larry McCain who has been written about here. The jig was essentially a skirted jighead with a spinner tailing off the end of the skirt. It was used for fishing ledges and points as a fall bait.

Dee Thomas accepts the 1976 WBFA TOC Trophy for 1st place and the keys to his new Terry ABF 15. Western Bass Spring 1977 issue.

I was going through the Spring 1977 issue of Western Bass magazine a couple of weeks ago and this article penned by Ben Burnett caught my eye. What initially got me interested was the picture of Dee Thomas and Terry Boats rep J.C. Dillard. Reading further, it was actually Dillard handing Dee the trophy and turning over the keys to his newly-won Terry ABF 15 bass boat from the Western Bass Fishing Association’s (WBFA) Tournament of Champions. The title of the piece, “Ridin’ With The Champions,” gave me more reason to read on.

As I read, it became apparent that Burnett had been invited as a guest writer/observer to the event. Not only that, WBFA director Harvey Naslund had placed him with two of the best anglers of the time, Dee Thomas and Pete Gardner. Between the two anglers, they’d won the 1974 and ’75 TOCs – Thomas winning in ’74 and Gardner in ’75. The ’76 event Thomas would take his second win in the coveted western event. [Read more…]

Patch Pirate Part II – Western Bass Organizations

Early western fishing organizations. On the left Southwest Association of Bass and on the right the Western Bass Fishing Association. Both organizations would eventually be bought and turned into the U.S. Bass organization.

Early western fishing organizations. On the left Southwest Association of Bass and on the right the Western Bass Fishing Association. Both organizations would eventually be bought and turned into the U.S. Bass organization.

In the first segment of Patch Pirate we presented four patches from three different organizations that were prevalent in the Midwest and Southern parts of the United States in the 70s and 80s. Today we’ll look at three organizations that made up the bulk of organizations in the West – namely Western Bass Fishing Association (WBFA), the Southwest Association of Bass (SWAB) and U.S. Bass. [Read more…]

1978: Graphite – That’s so 1974

Phenix Rod ad from circa 1979 featuring 42 different rods models and the infamous trucker hat.

Phenix Rod ad from circa 1979 featuring 42 different rods models and the infamous trucker hat.

In 1974 Fenwick introduced the fishing industry to graphite as a material to replace fiberglass in rod construction. The difference was remarkable in more ways than one. First it was significantly lighter than glass but even more important, it was much higher in modulus thus creating a much faster rod. The other attribute that made graphite superior was its sensitivity. The old saying was “you could feel a fish breathe on your worm from a foot away.”

But before graphite finally took hold of the rod market around 1977 there was another material being touted as the new wonder material. That was boron. [Read more…]

The Writers – George Kramer

George KramerEditor’s Note: This series is dedicated to those people who penned the many articles we read in order to learn more about our sport and become better anglers. Sure it was the anglers who developed the techniques, lures and equipment we use today but it was the writers’ job to make sure these bits of information got to the masses. Without the writers to communicate this, the world of bass fishing would be very different today.

For those of you outside the West, the name George Kramer may not ring a bell. For those in the West, though, the name resonates – longtime writer, longtime supporter, longtime critic. He’s the guy that came up with the California Top 40 – a ranking system that gives credit to the West’s best bass anglers each year. [Read more…]

A Look in the Western Rear View Mirror

Don Crozier hoists his winning fish from a 14-foot aluminum boat he used in the tournament. Photo courtesy of Dave Coolidge CLC magazine 1974.

Although the South Eastern part of the country had had organized bass tournaments since the mid-60s, the Western part of the country, namely California, fell a little behind the curve. This was mostly due to the fact that the state had made it illegal to fish for more than a couple-hundred dollars and the fishermen at the time were not interested in leaving the confines of their clubs – or zip codes.

The California Lunker Club (CLC) changed all of that, though, in 1972. As written before (see The California Lunker Club: Dave Coolidge – Part One and Part Two), Coolidge formed the first organized tournament organization in California and within 2 years it became such a success that it was purchased by Western Outdoor News and assumed into the newly-formed Western Bass Fishing Association. Competitive bass fishing had made its mark in the West. [Read more…]

Graphite Rods: From Aerospace to Bass Fishing

An early 1974 picture of a Fenwick HMG rod – possibly a prototype due to the handwritten model number on the rod. Photo Bass Master Magazine Mar/Apr 1974.

Most people in the fishing industry know Larry Hopper as one of the toughest anglers the west has ever produced. He’s won a number of western events over his 35-year career, including the U.S. Open on Lake Mead in 1987. What most people don’t realize is Hopper was instrumental in the development of the graphite rod. Because of this, I felt it was important to interview him on this advancement in fishing technology. Here’s the story.

Many of today’s anglers take for granted one of the most important pieces of equipment in their arsenal – the graphite rod. In fact, I’d be willing to bet a bag of Senkos that most anglers today don’t remember the days when your choices of rod materials were bamboo, fiberglass, beryllium and steel – with fiberglass being the number-one choice.

I even venture to say, and this might be going out on a limb here, that a lot of the younger anglers didn’t realize when fiberglass came back on the market in the early 2000s as a crank- and jerkbait-rod material that they thought it was a new concept in fishing. Like I said, maybe I’m stretching it here folks, but there are younger anglers I’ve talked to who had no idea. [Read more…]

Scorecard Snapshot – Lure of the Rising Sun

A bevy of BASS winners past and future fished the 1998 Bassmaster New Mexico Western Invitational on Elephant Butte Reservoir. Included among their ranks were Ish Monroe (4th), Skeet Reese (11th), Mike Reynolds (21st), Aaron Martens (25th), Mike Folkestad (T31st ), John Murray (42nd), Byron Velvick (53rd), James Niggemeyer (90th) and Robert Lee (T135th). The field was also full of western studs like Larry Hopper, Gary Yamamoto, Bill Siementel, Greg Hines, Rich Tauber and Don Iovino.

Despite the fact that it was a stacked field, this was one of the rare Bassmaster tournaments where a local won. On a stingy lake that produced only five cumulative catches over 20 pounds in the course of three days, Elephant Butte, NM resident Dennis Hoy claimed the crown, beating runner-up Rich Iannolo by over four pounds.

It was Hoy’s only Top 20 finish with BASS, but it was significant to the history of tournament fishing for another reason. Do you know what it was? [Read more…]