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Jan 23rd, 2013
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early years of bass fishing and bass tournaments #13452741 02/26/20 11:09 PM
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Prior to the early 70's,every lake had boats for rent generally at several landings and you would carry your own small motor and rent a boat.....as a kid,I fished with my parents on TVA lakes in east Tenn in the 40's and 50's with an occasional trip to other parts of the country..

most fishermen on the lakes in those days were fishing for crappie or bream and you might go all day and not see another bass fisherman...the older wooden boats with pointed bows didn't lend themselves to sculling well so in the area i lived,we would fish topwater early..putt-putting along the bank and casting then stopping to fish the points or creek mouths then troll throughout middle of day...the plastic worm changed all that and allowed us to cast for bass in middle of day but we didn't have trolling motors so we had to anchor the boat to fish a worm.......

Dad owned several wooden boats, couple of which he built himself and he would get somebody to take it to the lake in a truck and leave it chained (and locked) up at one of the landings..nobody trailered boats back then and few people had pickup trucks either except farmers..I recall a rite of passage is when i got old enough(early teens) that my Dad let me run the boat from the upper lake/river where he kept the boat in spring probably 30 miles to the lower lake in mid summer by myself....a trip that took most of the day because we had a 10 hp motor.......in the 60's,the boats available for rent changed from wood boats that leaked like hell to aluminum boats that leaked like hell but weren't as heavy...if you didn't carry your own bailing can,you looked around the landing til you found one.......these boats were generally cheap,narrow,easy to turn over and didn't have flotation in them...and every year you would have a drowning or two in area lakes.....

I had owned several used small (and temperamental)motors and my first new motor was about a 68 E-rude 9 1/2 (that cost $325.00)and it may have been the best motor I ever owned......it was wonderful to have a motor that cranked easy and it would fly on a 14 ft jon boat....probaly every bit of 20 mph.....which was blazing speed compared to how fast a 3-5 hp would push one of those boats.....

I lived on Miss. river in mid 60's and we would rent a boat and use sculling paddle...i got introduced to "doodle-socking" and it was unbelievable the fish you could catch with 12-14 ft. cane pole and a top water bait worked up under cypress trees and bushes.....I didn't use a rod and reel for several years until I joined a bass club and they wouldn't let us use those poles....we hadn't learned to flip yet so using that cane pole was only way to get back under stuff that you couldn't cast to....bass clubs started springing up back in late 60's/early 70's and that plus electric trolling motors changed everything....we did find that trolling motors scared fish in real shallow water so we would use sculling paddles when we were doodle socking but the fish soon got used to trolling motors...

you were liable to see most anything in early years of tournaments...those that could afford bassboats generally showed up with stick steering 14-16 ft boats with engines from 25-40 hp.......trolling motors on front and trolling motors on back(and both)..those that couldn't afford a bassboat generally modified what they had or could afford and there were weird and dangerous rigs that showed up in first few years of tourny fishing.....50 hp engines on aluminum boats with the transom full of angle iron bracing because the boat was designed for 10 hp motor....ski boats with trolling motors and everything in between...
.my first bass boat was a a crosby ski sled that I installed swivel seats in with a 50 hp johnson and Otasco hand operated trolling motor and it was probaly one of the more normal looking rigs....it didn't take long for for tournys to turn into half fishing contest and half boat race with each about equal in importance...within just a few years,the engines got bigger and bigger and it was really getting dangerous......it was not unusual to see 14ft stick steering boats rated for a 25 hp with 80 hp engines on them.... B.A.S.S. thankfully started limitations on horsepower and the boat manufacturers caught up with pad boats and dual steering that would handle the higher speeds......
fishing boats and tackle since mid 70's have gradually evolved into what we have today but the 6-8 years from late 60's to mid-70's was the period of greatest change when we went literally from a jon boat,paddle and one rod and reel to the high horsepower boat with electric trolling motors and multiple fishing rods across the deck.......
one last remembrance.....when our bass club scheduled it's first out of town of town tournament against another club,I went out and bought my second rod and reel.....a red ambassadeur with a $4.98 True Temper 5 1/2 ft pistol grip glass casting rod....and the guy I drew commented how he liked my two matching rod/reel combos....

Moritz Chevrolet - 9101 Camp Bowie W Blvd, Fort Worth, TX - Monte Coon (817) 696-2003
Re: early years of bass fishing and bass tournaments [Re: beartrap] #13452863 02/27/20 12:52 AM
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I grew up outside of Memphis in the 50's and fished like you did. It's been a long time since I've thought about skulling a john boat around cypress trees doodle socking for bass. We fished Arkabutla, Sardis, and Tunica Cutoff mostly for crappie and bream. It was in the 70's when I got my first Ambassador 5000 and put it on a Fenwick 686 I built and wrapped myself. I still have the rod. Great memories!

Re: early years of bass fishing and bass tournaments [Re: beartrap] #13452871 02/27/20 12:56 AM
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dayum, you must be as old as me!!

Re: early years of bass fishing and bass tournaments [Re: beartrap] #13452886 02/27/20 01:14 AM
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Keep going, fellows. I'm sure you remember the old red Ambassador 5000 and those little pearl handles. Still have a couple. If I remember right, the gear ratio was about 3.5 to 1. You couldn't turn the handles fast enough to keep a Lunker Lure (remember when the LL came out) on top the the water.

Then we got 5 to 1 reels and we thought they were the fastest things in the world. You could buy gear sets to speed up the red reels.

Now, most guys call 6 to 1 reels slow.

My Dad and I both custom built rods in the 60's. Old Fenwick glass blanks and Feather Weight handles, carbide guides. Top of the line. I still have couple I built 50 - 60 years ago. Pick one up and you wonder how we ever fished.

My favorite tournament partner, fantastic guy, good buddy, has never sculled a boat. Didn't even know what I meant.

I fished my first tournament in 1975. Still fishing. Brand new 2020 Skeeter. Every time I get in it, I think of my dad. His 15 HP was the most he ever had and he was a serious fisherman.

I'm 74, love it as much as ever, but wonder about our heritage and where our grandkids will be.

Re: early years of bass fishing and bass tournaments [Re: beartrap] #13453008 02/27/20 04:06 AM
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Good stuff. You guys have quite a memory for details!

Re: early years of bass fishing and bass tournaments [Re: beartrap] #13453035 02/27/20 04:41 AM
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Does anyone remember the Shimano Bantam reels?

Last edited by BrandoA; 02/27/20 10:45 PM.
Re: early years of bass fishing and bass tournaments [Re: beartrap] #13453044 02/27/20 05:00 AM
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A 5# bass was something to brag about!
And most likely a trip to the taxidermist!


Just one more cast!

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Re: early years of bass fishing and bass tournaments [Re: beartrap] #13453063 02/27/20 06:46 AM
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The day I got bass fever. Caught at Lake Cisco, 8 3/4 lbs caught trolling a red and white deep diving crank bait from dad’s 14 foot lone star with 9.9 Johnson. He assisted with the catch. Largest bass caught at Lake Cisco that year (1964) or through July of that year. Picture made the local newspaper there.

PS.. it was delicious! roflmao

Last edited by lconn4; 02/27/20 06:48 AM.

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Re: early years of bass fishing and bass tournaments [Re: lconn4] #13453065 02/27/20 07:21 AM
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red Ambassador 5000

Still have mine and like it as much as the newer baitcasters I own with faster gear ratios. Even spincast reels have evolved since the good ol' days of Zebco.

Re: early years of bass fishing and bass tournaments [Re: SenkoSam] #13453125 02/27/20 12:52 PM
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Originally Posted by BrandoA
Does anyone remember the Shemiamo Bantam reels?


I had 2 and sold both over time to 'upgrade'.

Originally Posted by SenkoSam
red Ambassador 5000

Still have mine and like it as much as the newer baitcasters I own with faster gear ratios. Even spincast reels have evolved since the good ol' days of Zebco.


Grew up on these and still have 4 or 5. I bought the Ambassaduer 2500C when it came out and still have the box it came in.

Beartrap mentioned 'rods on the deck' which is interesting because unless you built a front deck in your boat those did not show up until the mid-late '70's I believe. The Skeeter and Kingfisher models with stick steering had a very small spot you could stand on the bow but the trolling motor pedal had to be in the bottom of the boat.


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Re: early years of bass fishing and bass tournaments [Re: lconn4] #13453147 02/27/20 01:15 PM
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Originally Posted by lconn4
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The day I got bass fever. Caught at Lake Cisco, 8 3/4 lbs caught trolling a red and white deep diving crank bait from dad’s 14 foot lone star with 9.9 Johnson. He assisted with the catch. Largest bass caught at Lake Cisco that year (1964) or through July of that year. Picture made the local newspaper there.

PS.. it was delicious! roflmao

You were a fine looking young man, Lconn. What the heck happened?

Re: early years of bass fishing and bass tournaments [Re: beartrap] #13453148 02/27/20 01:16 PM
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My first boat I fished out of was my dads stick steering boat that I pretty much wore out fishing on Lavon and at our lake house on Whitney. Watching my dad fishing in that boat going down the banks with a spinnerbait was awesome in the 70's but the thing I really liked was listening to him tell stories about his fishing when he was younger in the 50's before there were many baits and not even plastic worms. He still had an old glass rod and reel combo with some old braided line on it that he used hanging around the garage. He said he mostly used old wooden topwater lures. He mainly fished the Whitney or Possum Kingdom areas and said he mostly fished out of an aluminum jon boat but when he would get to his fishing spot he would get out of the boat in waist deep water and have a rope tied to the boat and it was tied around his waist pulling it behind him. He said this was so he could get better casts to the cedars he was fishing. He said probably his biggest fish during that time came with a topwater next to a stump in the back of a cove one time that he said was probably in the 8 to 9 lb range. I was lucky enough to take him on our last fishing trip together where he caught his biggest fish ever out in front of Vals Landing on Fork on a black buzzbait that went 9 3/4 lbs which I still have a picture of. I was down at Fork a while back and made a trip over to the parking lot and ramp and just sit there for a while looking at the area reliving that awesome memory of me and my dad fishing and all of the times I spent there throughout the 90's and beyond.

Last edited by TBassYates; 02/27/20 01:17 PM.

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Re: early years of bass fishing and bass tournaments [Re: beartrap] #13453167 02/27/20 01:34 PM
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Nice write up!

This post has some good timing with the "electronics, when will it be enough?" post because technology has been advancing on the water for years and like you said, it really advanced faster in years past than it currently is. Mechanical Technology doesn't move as quickly as it did 30 years ago but the digital side with electronics is moving faster than ever!


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Re: early years of bass fishing and bass tournaments [Re: beartrap] #13453217 02/27/20 02:21 PM
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Excellent memories of those first experiences. I can relate to everyone of them and your posts have taken me back in time. Wish I could add some new stuff; but this was exactly how it was. It was hard work coupled with what you learned from the Old Timers of the days before. We fished the Tenn. River during the 60's and the Oxbo Lakes along the KY. side and ILL. side of the Ohio river out of Paducah, KY.. There was thousands of acres of Public Use Land in those River Bottoms that held many Oxbo Lakes surrounded by Cypress trees. We started a Bass Club in the 70's out of Paducah that only fished those lakes. We carried our aluminum boats in the back of our pickups. I was so inspired and loved the Western KY. fishing and hunting; that I wrote a book for the Chamber of Commerce. It was called Where To Go In Extreme Western KY. It was loaded with our pictures of the day and hand drawn maps of how to get to all my secret spots in the Barlow Bottoms of Western KY.. I still have a copy or two laying around the house. Thank I will find one today and just take a walk back in time.


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Re: early years of bass fishing and bass tournaments [Re: beartrap] #13453279 02/27/20 03:10 PM
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I too grew up fishing what I have oft called the golden years of bass fishing.. When we were some of the only ones out there in pursuit of bass.. Living in Medina county just west of San Antonio, we fished Medina Lake a lot.. I caught my biggest bass to date out of it in 1963.. Six pounds, five ounces.. And I have fished that lake hundreds of times and have still not boated a bigger fish there..

When Braunig Lake was declared public domain in the late sixties, we were some of the first ones over the fence.. I remember dragging our 14 foot Lone Star hundreds of yards thru the brush to get it in the water.. We had a Evinrude Fastwin 15 HP motor and let me tell you that was a stylish machine back then..

I remember the day I first saw a plastic worm.. We were wade fishing Braunig and I saw an old man walking out of the water.. (He was probably 40) He had a stringer of five pounders hanging over his shoulder as he headed towards land.. Of course we all ate everything we caught back then.

I said something like, "Hey Mister, how did you catch all those big fish?" He spat out about a pint of chewing tobacco juice and bit a "Purple worm" off the end of his rod and gave it to me.. And said go throw that out there on the end of that point and reel it in slow..

I did and caught two of the biggest fish I ever saw, Probably four to five pounders before a fish took the worm from me.. But I remember telling my Dad, "We gotta get some of them purple worms.." And we did..

We fished Canyon Lake and launched off a old highway before it officially opened.. I caught a five pounder there on my first trip.

We fished Choke Canyon off the bank before it officially opened off the bank as well..

We came to Falcon once or twice as year as possible.. But it was a long way in a 56 Chevy back then..

Back in the Sixties and seventies we ate everything that was legal.. My Dad and uncle were kids of the depression and you did not waste food, and damn sure did not return it to the lake if it was a legal fish, no matter the species..

When we caught a big fish, (Pre-Floridas) we would always stretch the decapitated head over the mouth of a Wide Mouth Mason Jar and keep it on the shelf in the garage.. Remember it like it was yesterday..

I do think I remember every fish I have ever caught..

I know there is no going back.. But looking back is something I will always do, and thank God my Daddy and Uncles were crazy about the outdoors.. So I come by it honestly.. And I think it is more contagious than the Corona Virus.. And it is up to us Old Timers to keep the past alive, and pass on the traditions to the young'uns..


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