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…]

The First Season of the Red Man Trail

Red Man Tournament Trail Patch.

Red Man Tournament Trail Patch.

Many of us who immersed ourselves into the world of competitive bass fishing in the 1990s or after the turn of the century tend to assume that there were always stable nationwide organized circuits for the weekend angler. We may have known that what are now the BFLs were previously the Red Man circuit, but we don’t have a sense of when and where the Red Mans were born.

As Terry has detailed previously, old issues of CAST Magazine are a treasure trove of information about that era, and provide an incredible look back at the origins of the BFLs. [Read more…]

Stephen Browning – 1996 Red Man All-American Win

Stephen Browning 1996 Red Man All-American winner.

Stephen Browning 1996 Red Man All-American winner.

In this video post, Elite Series angler Stephen Browning talks about his 1996 Red Man All-American win on the Arkansas River. He looks back on the event, one that was held essentially in his backyard.

Local knowledge has a history of killing locals in big events like the Bassmaster Classic or FLW Cup. But Browning used his history with the river and knowledge of a pattern that still works at that time of year today as well as it did back then and before. [Read more…]

Mark Menendez – How He Started

Mark Menendez topped a field of 137 anglers in the LBL division on Lake Barkley in 1988. Photo September/October 1988 issue of Bass Fishing magazine.

Mark Menendez topped a field of 137 anglers in the LBL division on Lake Barkley in 1988. Photo September/October 1988 issue of Bass Fishing magazine.

In today’s video feature Mark Menendez talks about how he got his start in competitive bass fishing on the Operation Bass circuit. He remembers the two gentlemen that got him started, how his entry fees the first year were partially paid, practicing out of a 16-foot aluminum boat then jumping into another angler’s glass boat – an angler usually a lot older than him – and having to convince them he was on fish. [Read more…]

Jay Yelas – Domination of the West in 1988

Jay Yelas in 1988, his rookie year of competitive bass fishing. Yelas would go on to win two AOY awards in the 88/89 season and cement himself in the professional bass angling world. Photo Novcember/December 1988 issue of Bass Fishing Magazine. Matt Vincent Author/Photographer.

Jay Yelas in 1988. Photo Nov/Dec 1988 issue of Bass Fishing Magazine. Matt Vincent Author/Photographer.

In 1987 Jay Yelas was a recent college graduate with little tournament experience under his belt. The fact is, though, by the end of 1988, he was not only an experienced tournament angler, he was an experienced winner.

His first big-time event took place in the summer of 1987 – the U.S. Bass U.S. Open held on Lake Mead. In that tournament he finished in 6th place and that launched his career. In the next 18 months he’d chock up five wins on four different western impoundments – including the 1988 Operation Bass Championship – and win two different Angler of the Year awards. Not too bad for a rookie.

I remember anglers coming into the shop at that time, the big sticks of the west, talking about this new kid who ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and slept in his van at the lakes for months on end. “He just showed up out of nowhere and now he’s taking our money,” they’d say. It wasn’t long after the name Jay Yelas became a standard in the southwestern tournament scene. [Read more…]

CAST Magazine and Charlie Evans

CAST Cover Jan-Feb 1984FLW Outdoors and its numerous fishing leagues are pretty much the only competition the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society has these days. This wasn’t so back in the early days of tournament bass fishing when you had circuits such as Western Bass Fishing Association (WBFA), U.S. Bass, Project Sports INC (PSI), Bass Caster’s Association (BCA), National Bass Association (NBA) and a bevy of other organizations vying for the professional bass spotlight.

But FLW Outdoors didn’t just appear out of nowhere to give ole’ Ma B.A.S.S. a run for her money. Instead the roots of FLW Outdoors can be traced to an organization called Operation Bass – or better known by many as The Red Man Circuit. [Read more…]

Breaking Though – OT Fears


“Breaking Through” is an occasional series on BFA in which long-time professional bass anglers recount the details of their first major win – how they accomplished the victory and how it impacted their careers. This entry chronicles the 25th anniversary of the first major victory for Oklahoma pro OT Fears III, with present-day input from Fears.


While the Red Man All-American tournament (known today as the BFL All-American) is now an established national level tournament, in 1987 it was still a relatively new enterprise. One thing about it, though – despite having first been held in 1983, it was a potential kingmaker, as the $100,000 top prize was double what was awarded to that year’s Bassmaster Classic champion. [Read more…]