A little over a year ago we did a short piece on the patches of western bass organizations. In that story we looked at two patches from the original western organizations, Western Bass Fishing Association and the Southwest Association of Bass Champions, that started in the early ‘70s along with the organization that bought and consolidated the two previous organizations, U.S. Bass. In this piece, thanks for Bass Fishing Hall of Fame inductee, Bill Rice, we have a more complete set of patches to share.
A little history before we start, though. Western Bass Fishing Association started in April, 1973 in order to bring competitive bass fishing to western anglers. The organization was based out of southern California and operated by Western Outdoor News. Not too long after that, the Southwest Association of Bass Champions (SWAB) was started in Arizona.
These two organizations competed for the western anglers until they were both bought out by Rich Schultz and Don Doty in 1981 and eventually U.S. Bass was formed in 1983. U.S. Bass was going to change the world of bass fishing and if not for the unethical doings of Schultz, it may have given B.A.S.S. a real run for its money.
For example, Western Bass was the first to hold an event where the winner was guaranteed a $50,000 pay day. The event was the inaugural U.S. Open held on Lake Mead near Las Vegas. Anglers put up a $1,000 entry for the chance of winning the $50k top prize. The event drew 161 anglers from across the United States including the best the South had to offer. Names like Roland Martin, Jimmy Houston, Larry Nixon and Rick Clunn came out west to test their mettle against the West’s pros. By the next year, the Open field had grown to 262 anglers.
U.S. Bass didn’t stop with the U.S. Open, though. They continued to expand creating tournament circuits in Texas, Louisiana, and the Midwest. By 1987, they held a 2-million-dollar event on Lake Chickamauga called the Fisherman’s Dream tournament. In fact, anglers such as Denny Brauer and Tommy Biffle got their start fishing the U.S. Bass events held in the Midwest and South.
Then around the 1988 time frame, U.S. Bass couldn’t pay their bills. Word has it Schultz blew membership money and tournament money at the crap table, putting the organization into a tail spin. Doty, an avid and very competitive angler, as well as businessman, decided to try and right the ship, funding the organization out of his own pocket. It lasted for another year before Doty went broke and Western Outdoor News bought the floundering organization. From 1989 through today, Western Outdoor News owns the rights to the U.S. Open – which is pretty much all that’s left.
Above and below are a number of patches from these organizations dating back to 1978 (or earlier) through 2010. It’s the most complete set I’ve seen compiled but there are still a large number of missing patches. If you or anyone you know have any Western Bass, U.S. Bass, SWAB or WON Bass patches, and you’re willing to share them, please write us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to see them and put them where everyone can see them.