[Editor’s Note: Welcome to the Big Leagues” will be an occasional series on BFA in which long-time bass pros recall their first national tournament]
Nearly 30 years later, veteran Missouri pro Randy Blaukat can still remember the first day of his first B.A.S.S. event. That’s a period that spans 199 additional B.A.S.S. tournaments (including eight Bassmaster Classics) and nearly as many FLW events (including nine FLW championship tournaments and two Ranger M1 events).
The 1985 Bassmaster New York Invitational tournament, like many events at the time, was a pro-on-pro draw. In other words, the contestants would prefish out of their own boats, but were paired with other pros on each day of the tournament, with each angler getting half the day on his preferred water and on the front of the boat. As you can certainly imagine, this caused a lot of heartache and hardships – anglers would have to flip a coin to decide whose boat to take, where to start and when to switch. For Blaukat, though, it turned out to be a blessing.
“On the first day of my first B.A.S.S. tournament, I was paired with Hank Parker,” he recalled. “He had already won a Classic and an Angler of the Year title. He was at the top of his game and this was my first trip away from home. That made it frightening and intimidating.
“I had never been to the St. Lawrence,” Blaukat continued. “He was a world champion, and didn’t know me from anyone. I had a Ranger 340 at the time, a little 16 foot boat. He had a bigger boat – I think it was a Ranger 350, which was 17 feet. This is what impressed me about him: He said ‘Let’s take my boat and I’ll let you drive.’ That’s what impressed me at first, that he let a 23 year old kid drive, but the whole day was impressive, especially the way he broke down the water. “
They both caught enough to be around the 40th place mark that day (in a 291 man field). The next day Blaukat was paired with Pennsylvania pro Randall Romig and had a big limit, enough to push him up into 5th.
“I was fishing a tube for suspended smallmouths around barge tie ups and pilings,” he said. “We ran my pattern for the first half of the day and the second half we went to his deal, flipping grass for largemouths.” On Day Three, they felt the effects of a hurricane and Blaukat’s catch tailed off. Jimmy Houston won the tournament with 43-09. After that, many of the weights were tightly packed in the lows 30s and upper 20s. Romig was 12th with 33-11. Blaukat was 19th with 31-03. Parker was 35th with 27-07.
“It was such a positive experience to start my career,” Blaukat said. “Hank was a consummate professional – fair and kind.”
Despite the fact that he benefitted from the pro-on-pro draw in that event, Blaukat was happy to see that format eliminated down the line. “It altered the true outcome of events,” he said. “You may have lost because people over- or underestimated what they were on.”