To many of you here reading this, the name Don Doty won’t mean much at all. In fact, his name hasn’t been associated with the sport since the late 80s. Even though his name is only recognized by a few older western anglers and maybe a few of the older Bassmaster pros, he will always be remembered for a record he holds that will never be broken.
Don Doty is the only angler to qualify for a Bassmaster Classic as a pure non-boater.
In the old days, when pro-on-pro draw tournaments existed, many times when the draw for partners happened, both anglers had a boat. There were a few methods in which the two anglers decided which boat would be used. For example, if one angler could convince the other he had better fish going, they might opt to use that anglers’ boat. Another method was, if you drew Roland Martin, Jimmy Houston or Ricky Green, there was no argument, you fished out of their boat. The other method was a coin toss.
This would happen for three or four days, depending upon the length of the event, and if you brought a boat, you at least had the chance of fishing from it from one day to the next.
Southern California resident Don Doty went into the 1980 Bassmaster season, only his second year fishing for bass, choosing not to tow a boat from coast to coast and leaving a lot of his destiny in his eventual boaters’ hands.
At this time Doty used to frequent the shop I worked in. I remember him coming in prior to the final qualifying event for the 1980 season, the 1980 Bass Champs event on Lake Guntersville, nervous about his chances of making the Classic. He was bubble boy before there was such a phrase.
Two weeks later his close friend and confidant, Chuck English stopped by the shop to tell us, “Don made the Classic.” For a bunch of western anglers, we were all pretty excited that one of our own had gone east and made it against the big boys of the south – and from the back of the boat.
When Doty returned from Alabama, he came by the shop and talked about his Classic qualification. It’s pretty interesting what he said about fishing from the back and how he made himself competitive. I remember one question I asked him and his response vividly. That question was, “How do you catch fish from used water?”
His response was, “Son, I try not to fish any used water. A lot of the boaters will let you stand up front with them and go cast-for-cast. If they won’t let me do that, I cast to the front of the boat, when they’re half way in, at clean water. In fact, I can control the guy in the front of the boat by making him miss key spots by being an accurate caster and making a lot of fast casts.”
You would never see that in today’s angling scene for two reasons; 1) a lot of tour-level events no longer have another angler in the boat and 2) The events where non-boaters/amateurs are allowed to fish, they’re not allowed to cast in front of the consoles.
It was a different time.
1980 was a breakout year for Doty. Not only did he qualify for the Classic, he qualified for the Western Bass (WBFA) Tournament of Champions and the Southwest Association of Bassmasters’ (SWAB) Tournament of Champions – a feat never match by another angler.
Doty only fished the Bassmaster trail for a total of 23 events spread out between 1979 and 1990. In 1981 he and Rich Schultz bought WBFA and by 1984 had changed the organization into U.S. Bass. That organization is credited with the first $50,000 and $100,000 1st-place prize events as well as competing directly with B.A.S.S. In fact, a lot of nationally known anglers, such as Tommy Biffle and Denny Brauer, got their professional start on the Western Bass/U.S. Bass trail.
I’ve attached an article on Doty that was authored by longtime outdoor writer Bruce Holt in the 1981 January/February issue of Western Bass magazine for you to read in full. It’s filled with a lot of great western and national history and even mentions a few standouts of the sport such as Stan Fagerstrom, Cliff Craft, John Powell, Ricky Green and Tommy Martin. We hope you like this look back in time.