Don Basore's Bass That Changed his Life

Don Basore
Don Basore

In 1967 I lived in Indiana, and my fishing was confined mainly to strip pits and farm ponds with occasional trips with other fishermen to reservoirs in their runabout ski or cartop boats. I had never heard of a slip sinker worm rig. We couldn't buy them. We were as likely to use live bait as artificials, and we kept a lot of our catch to eat.

I was contacted by Ray Scott, who got my name from taxidermist Archie Phillips. I gambled on this new venture by sending $100 for a life membership. My charter certificate is dated October 8, 1968.

The 8-pound, 4-ounce Indiana bass Archie mounted in 1967 changed my life. Bassmaster taught me how to Texas rig a worm (I had to clip the wire out of a bass swivel weight for worm weights) and on that weekend's trip to a strip pit I caught so many bass I couldn't believe it.

Soon a group of us formed the Indianapolis Bassmasters. Our club tournaments and challenges with other clubs taught us a lot quickly. I had my turns as president of our club. We were of course a part of the BASS Federation and worked with other clubs in Indiana.

I remember Billy Burns and others from the Lexington, Ky., club. Wow! We learned how to swim a crankbait through cover, how to fish a jig, how to work all depths, etc. We had a lot of fun and won our share in these events.

The first BASS National tournament I fished was at Eufaula (Ala.). What nice guys I met! Blake Honeycutt crawled under my boat and positioned my transducer so it would work while my boat was on plane. Ed Totenbier took me out on a practice day and showed me how to work topwater plugs.

I was so very underequipped. Up north, my Ouachita with front seat stick steering and a 33-horsepower Evinrude always brought the question, "Why such a large motor on a fishing boat?"

But at the shotgun start out of Florence Landing Marina I almost got swamped by the big boats and engines. After bailing out, I went directly across from the start and caught a quick limit of big fish on Stan Sloan's Aggravator Spinnerbait, then coached my boat partner, lending him a lure till he had a limit of his own. We came in around noon and were told that weigh in wasn't for three more hours.

Of course, our fish were kept on stringers, and they were dead by weigh in. There, we stuck them on nails on a big board. I did well enough to get a free entry to the next tournament on Sam Rayburn. Immediately I bought a Ranger bass boat.

At the Rayburn tourney I found the biggest school of huge bass I have ever been on, catching one on almost every cast to an isolated hump on a huge flat. The spot was way out of sight of land. I made a strategic mistake by entering as a non-boater (I wanted to fish with the top pros).

Unfortunately, on Day 1 I drew a guy with a little stick steering boat, and we couldn't get to my fish.

The next day I drew Elroy Kruger, who knew Texas fishing. It took a lot of talking, but I finally got him to go to my spot. It was very hard to find in those pre-GPS days, but we finally got on it and when we got to the weigh-in we had stringers you had to tie to an oar to carry on your shoulders. Elroy got the big bass award.

My next day partner had played for the Dallas Cowboys, and was he ever happy to learn that those were my fish. He bought me a big shrimp cocktail, steak dinner, dessert and drinks the evening before. The next morning we headed straight for my spot, where on every cast we hooked a big bass. However, the wind immediately kicked up washing a wave over us, and we had to leave. We found out later that Roland Martin (who had been scared to fish against us at Eufaula) had installed five bilge pumps on his boat to compensate for the waves washing in. What a smart competitor.

There was a rival to BASS formed in Illinois called Bass Casters Association (BCA) kind of like FLW now. They paid more and fished closer lakes. I won a national BCA tournament in 1971 on Lake Monroe in Indiana With the money I was able to make a down payment and buy a ranch style home on a couple of acres with a pond. The next tourney I placed 5th and couldn't recover my expenses, so decided to keep my day job with a credit union association. I was able to retire in my early 50s.

I filmed a Fishin' Hole show on Monroe with Jerry McKinnis, who introduced me to Tom Mann. I became a field tester for Mann's, and I later added Bill Norman, Bagley, Shakespeare, Lew Childre and Shimano to my list of sponsors. Tom brought me a prototype Humminbird made from a Heath Kit at the Indianapolis Sport Show, where I gave a presentation on the main stage in the coliseum.

I cherish the many friendships I established with characters like Bill Dance, Jim Bagley and Tom Mann and his brother, Don. I enjoyed doing seminars and in-store promotions, sports shows and the like, plus fishing with Bagley on the Mormon lakes in Florida (Jim took me there in his helicopter). All these things I never would have done with out BASS.

I was an early instructor in the Bass Fishing Institute that started at Indiana State University. All this time I continued with my passion for collecting old fishing stuff. This started in 1957, when I was 15, and my grandfather left me a mostly unused tacklebox with many lures still new in their original boxes.

The bass that caused Ray to contact me was later a decoration with other old fishing items on the set of the movie, Rudy. My sweetheart and I got to go to the premiere and meet the cast of the movie. That fish has done so much for me.

I've been fortunate to make fantastic field finds of old fishing items — over 6,000 lures already this year. These have been featured in several special museum exhibits and sports shows in the Midwest. Check out the world record bass display from the Creek Chub Bait Co. factory in the Macon, Ga., Bass Pro Shops, or the South Bend Bait Company and Indiana made lures in the Portage, Ind., location.

I have written a feature fishing history in Midwest Outdoors for over 20 years. Some day we plan to corral all these articles into a book.

I still fish a lot nearby, starting on my pond as soon as the ice begins to melt. I also fish lakes Michigan and Erie in the north and Toho in Florida. I've been to Lake Huites in Mexico three times this season, and traveled to Brazil for peacock bass.

Has BASS had an impact on my life? I would say so.

(Dan Basore lives in Warrenville, Ill., where he manages his historical fishing displays and fishes every chance he gets.)

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