BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Bobby Murray gave an unexpected rousing start to the annual Bass Fishing Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Murray won the first Bassmaster Classic in 1971, and on Thursday evening he donated the trophy to the future facility, to be built in Cullman, Ala.
"I've been shining this thing for 43 years like it was Aladdin's lamp," Murray said. "It's brought lots of good luck to me. That's why I want to turn it over to the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame."
The Hot Springs, Ark., resident would win a second Classic trophy in 1978.
The banquet and fundraiser at the Sheraton Hotel was both an acknowledgement of past contributions to the sport and a look at the future — a 100,000-square-foot building in Cullman that will have fishing ponds and a stream adjacent to it.
The inductees were the legendary female angler and fishing ambassador Penny Berryman, 1973 Bassmaster Classic champion and TV show host Rayo Breckenridge, innovator, educator and communicator Doug Hannon and technology pioneer Blake Honeycutt. All but Honeycutt were inducted posthumously.
"This is one of the largest crowds we've ever had," said Hall of Fame president Sammy Lee. "We're grateful to B.A.S.S. for allowing the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame to be part of Classic week.
Berryman's induction was accepted by her daughter, Lisa Lowry, who noted, "This might be the greatest birthday present she could ever get. Today is her birthday."
Berryman was born to be a champion. Among her pre-fishing achievements, she was first runner-up for Miss Kansas in the Miss USA Pageant and qualified for three professional waterskiing national championships.
She then set her sights on bass fishing and became a full-time professional bass angler, seminar speaker and fishing instructor. Berryman enjoyed a career that spanned more than 25 years. She qualified for more than 20 Women's Pro Tour Classic World Championships, claimed three National Championship titles and won the prestigious Bass N’ Gal Classic in 1992 and the Bass N’ Gal Angler-of-the-Year title in 1997.
Berryman's career was sidelined in 2008 when, at the age of 58, she was diagnosed with cancer, which claimed her life 4 years later.
Rayo Breckenridge's son, Joey, accepted the award for his late father, and remembered a time 42 years ago when his father and mother discussed the decision to quit cotton farming to go into the fledgling field of professional bass fishing.
Breckenridge, from Paragould, Ark., qualified for the 1973 Bassmaster Classic at Clarks Hill Reservoir during his first year of competition on the Bassmaster Tournament Trail. His 52 1/2-pound total bested runner-up Bill Dance by more than 3 pounds and Breckenridge was crowned Classic champion as a rookie.
He then parlayed his $15,000 Classic purse and sudden notoriety into a long and successful TV career in which his program, "Rayo Breckenridge Outdoors," aired from 1974 to 1985 and shared programming blocks with shows by fellow BFHOF inductees Bill Dance, Tom Mann and Roland Martin.
Breckenridge, who was born in 1928 in northeast Arkansas, fished club and regional tournaments since their inception in the 1960s and competed in 62 professional events. He qualified for six Classics in a seven-year stretch between 1973 and 1979. One of the most popular and respected anglers of his time – a "gentleman's gentleman," as one of his peers described him – Breckenridge died in 1995.
Hannon's award was accepted by longtime friend and business partner Russ Riley. Hannon is best-known throughout the bass-fishing world by his nickname, "The Bass Professor." Across a career of writing, studying, publishing and education, Hannon caught and released more than 800 bass over 10 pounds.
He was also an inventor with nearly 20 patents, as well as a scuba diver, underwater photographer and musician. Alongside authorship of hundreds of articles published in newspapers and outdoor magazines, he was also co-host of an internationally syndicated TV show for more than 15 years.
Hannon patented the weedless propeller, which revolutionized the trolling-motor industry and allowed anglers to fish vast areas of previously inaccessible weedbeds. He also invented the award winning WaveSpin System for spinning reels, as well as the MicroWave line-control system – a new train of rod guides for spinning rods. Hannon died in March 2013 at the age of 66.
Blake Honeycutt of Hickory, N.C., recalled his long and winding road through the bass fishing industry that brought him a lifetime of joy. His induction also fit right in with Classic week, as he still holds the all-time record for heaviest winning weight in a B.A.S.S. tournament – set in the days of 15 bass-per-day limits – of 138 pounds, 6 ounces at the three-day Eufaula National in July 1969.
A standout angler in the seminal years of the sport, Honeycutt qualified for three Bassmaster Classics and ranked in the top-20 in half the events he entered. But his contributions to the sport run much deeper. As a teenager, he helped Buck Perry test, design and market Perry's Spoonplugs. Honeycutt later partnered with Tom Mann and Yank Dean to launch Humminbird. As the East Coast rep for Ranger Boats for 20 years, Honeycutt also helped design layouts for the Ranger TR series and developed an electric anchor for bass boats. Like his mentor, Buck Perry, Honeycutt is considered one of the fathers of structure fishing.
The Bass Fishing Hall of Fame is a nonprofit organization dedicated to all anglers, manufacturers, tackle dealers, media and other related companies who further the sport of bass fishing. In February 2013 the board of directors announced the completion of a decade-long, exhaustive quest to secure a permanent home with the selection of Cullman, Alabama as the future site of the Hall, with work to commence immediately.
The permanent Hall site will be constructed as a joint project with the City of Cullman, Cullman County and the City of Good Hope – a project that includes an adjacent civic/convention center, all of which will be housed on the 110-acre parcel known as the Burrow property.
The Hall will enjoy a dedicated 30 acres of the property, which will include ponds, gardens and an aquatic-education center. The entire project is estimated to cost in excess $17 million with structures that will encompass 101,000 square feet. Support the BFHOF by becoming a member.
(Call 888.690.2277 for more information.)