For the early western bass angler, there was only one option to get up-to-date information on how to bass fish prior to 1973. That was by subscribing to Bassmaster Magazine. Of course you could subscribe to Sports Afield, Outdoor Life or Field and Stream but you had to wade through a lot of meaningless jibber having to do with hunting along with other species of fish.
Then in 1973 Western Bass Fishing Association filled a niche for the western angler by debuting the first western-centric bass journal called the Bassman’s Tournament Journal. In this newsprint publication they gave tournament results and some tips on how the best western pros of the day were catching their fish.
The photo here of Volume 1 Number 1 was provided by Bass Fishing Archives supporter Bill Rice and is the only photo I know that exists – let alone an actual copy of the paper. The text is difficult to make out at best but I was able to read the photo caption and transcribe it for you to read. It reads:
“Dick Gaumer (far left) poses with first through fourth place finishing teams at Lake Camanche tournament. Individual trophies and cash awards went to (from left to right): First Place, Jerry Dronsky and Bob Hammett; Second Place, Bob Coulter and Eddy Largent; Third Place, Mike McCulley and Pete Gardner; Fourth Place, Darty Cronen and Bernie Sherman. Bob Coulter (fourth from left) also took home big fish honors with his 8 pound 6 ounce largemouth caught on Sunday.”
For those of you who don’t know, Pete Gardner, Jerry Dronsky, Bob Hammett, Bob Coulter and Bernie Sherman were some of the top western anglers at the time and all were influential at the dawn of western bass fishing. Hammett and Sherman were members of the famed Southern Cal Bassmasters, the first bass club in California, along with people like Rip Nunnery, Don Siefert, Larry McCain and others.
Also interesting is the piece about Lake Mohave. In that piece, from what I could make out, it talked about how good the fishing at Mohave was at the time and they expected the WBFA big fish record to fall. At the time Mohave was known for its big fish but shortly thereafter, the lake fell on hard times to the point few tournament circuits would hold events there. within the last few years, though, the lake has rebounded and is again putting out big limits of fish.
I hope you western anglers like this blast from the past. It’s not very often we get to see the beginnings of WBFA and how it morphed into U.S. Bass and now WON Bass.
For you folks out there in other parts of the country, if you have old documents like this from your region or state we’d be very interested in getting them to post here on the Bass Fishing Archives. If you would like to contribute, please use the Contact Us form and let us know.