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.

We’ve talked a lot about WBFA in the past here on the Bass Fishing Archives. It was an association that brought the anglers of California, Nevada and Arizona together for competition and also provided a bi-monthly magazine and bimonthly paper, which was published on the months in which the magazine wasn’t published.

The organization was started by the western fishing and hunting publication Western Outdoors around the 1972 timeframe and was the entity that eventually took control of the California Lunker Club periodical/tournament organization in late 1974.

Western anglers who participated in these early western tournaments were a cornucopia of names we recognize today and a number of others who you’d never know about unless you lived in the west and followed the early tournaments. Of the more well-known were Mike Folkestad, Bobby Garland, Dee Thomas, Gary Klein, Rich Tauber, Dave Gliebe, Don Iovino, Don Doty, Larry Hopper and Fred Ward. Others, who don’t have nationally recognized names but left huge impressions on the sport include Steve Oliver, Fred Kunkle, John Bedwell, Don Siefert, Dave Nollar, Bobby Sandberg, Pete Gardner and Jay Hoffman. [Editor’s note: There are many more names too add to these lists and we don’t mean to leave any of those out.]

In the old days of western tournament fishing, anglers would proudly display their Western Bass patches (alongside the proverbial B.A.S.S. patch) on their tournament vests or hats – not many anglers in the West wore the coveralls opting more for t-shirts and jeans in the summer and normal winter wear in the colder months. By the time I got onto the scene in the late 70s, every bass angler, serious or recreational, sported the WBFA patch. Western Bass had as big a following as did B.A.S.S. did in the west.

The next patch presented is one from a more obscure organization out west – the Southwest Association of Bass. Unlike Western Bass, which became known nationally in 1981 for putting on the biggest payout event ever held at the time – the U.S. Open – SWAB was only around for about 10 years. Started roughly in 1975 by Fred Ward of Phoenix, AZ, SWAB concentrated it efforts in the Arizona/Nevada/New Mexico region of the southwestern U.S. Although it competed directly with WBFA, they didn’t hold tournaments on top of WBFA and the western anglers fished both circuits. Interestingly enough, SWAB owner Fred Ward even fished the WBFA events, winning the WBFA AOY title in 1976.

What’s interesting for me about the SWAB patch shown above is that it’s one of maybe 10 I’ve ever seen in my life. There just weren’t too many of them around.

U.S. Bass patches starting with a 1985 U.S. Open patch, second a 15-year anniversary patch that obviously takes credit for the Western Bass days and finally a Fisherman's Dream tournament patch also from 1987.

U.S. Bass patches starting with a 1985 U.S. Open patch, second a 15-year anniversary patch that obviously takes credit for the Western Bass days and finally a Fisherman’s Dream tournament patch also from 1987.

SWAB also published a bi-monthly paper to keep its membership informed about recent and future events along with the typical how-to article you’d see in the day.

SWAB was eventually bought out by Rich Shultz and Don Doty at the same time they bought out WBFA from Western Outdoors in 1980. Under the Shultz/Doty helm, they kept the name Western Bass until 1984 when they changed the name to U.S. Bass with plans to directly compete with B.A.S.S.

The early days of U.S. Bass seemed like they’d have a shot at their dream. Expansion through the Midwest, Texas and south-central U.S. was met with successes. A number of future B.A.S.S. stallwarts, such as Deny Brauer, got their start with U.S. Bass. But the boom didn’t lat long. Like a few of the expanding bass fishing organizations back then, money issues (many not kosher at all) busted the organization and U.S. Bass folded around 1989.