Rip Nunnery is not exactly a household name among bass fishing fans. Among his contemporaries — Bill Dance, Roland Martin, Jimmy Houston and Tom Mann — all had more illustrious careers.
But on July 10, 1969 at Lake Eufaula, Nunnery had the best of all of them. In fact, he had what may have been the greatest day of tournament bass fishing that any angler has ever enjoyed.
The tournament was the Eufaula National on Alabama's Lake Eufaula, and it has the distinction of being the tournament with the heaviest winning weight in BASS history. North Carolina's Blake Honeycutt won the event with an astounding 138 pounds, 6 ounces.
Of course, this was back in the days of 15-bass limits, so Honeycutt could have brought as many as 45 bass to the scales over three days. Still, it's an impressive number.
On the first day of the tournament, Nunnery, who finished in third place, was paired with Gerald Blanchard, a talented pro from Tennessee who won the second BASS event and qualified for the 1972 Bassmaster Classic.
Worm fishing in 18 to 20 feet of water, Nunnery and Blanchard accomplished the unfathomable. Blanchard boated 15 bass that weighed 81-7 — good enough for just third place!
Nunnery had the better day. His 15 bass were too heavy to bring to the scales without help. The stringer (this was before the days of catch-and-release) had to be wrapped around a boat paddle which broke en route to the weigh station. When his limit hit the scales, it weighed 98-15!
It was good enough for first place. Bill Dance was in second with 83-0.
Amazingly, Nunnery and Blanchard caught all of their bass that day from a single spot. That's more than 180 pounds of bass — averaging better than 6 pounds apiece — from one hole!
To say that the hole dried up for Nunnery over the next two days would be an understatement. He caught just five more bass weighing about 18 pounds and finished third behind Honeycutt and Dance.
The catch, and Nunnery's technique, became famous. It's still the best single day weight any angler has ever posted in a BASS event, and it will likely never be surpassed unless creel limits change dramatically.
And the "Nunnery Jerk" was all the rage among plastic worm fishermen for a while after the story appeared in the Fall 1969 issue of Bassmaster Magazine.
When competitors learned that Nunnery missed only one bass of the 31 that struck his worm on the first day, he was asked for a demonstration of his technique. Here's how it was described in Bassmaster:
"After he [Nunnery] feels the lunkers take the worm he lurches over like he is about to jump out of the boat and into the water, watching his reel all the while to keep from moving the tip of his rod. Then he starts reeling and doesn't stop when the line gets a little tight but keeps his hands, which are hungry to feel a bass, making revolutions until they can't possibly make another turn. Then comes the clincher.
"He lets loose with a mighty snatch of his rod rearing back out of his crouched position"
The Nunnery Jerk would never again be tested in BASS competition. The 1969 Eufaula National was the only BASS event that Nunnery ever fished.
Ironically, it was also the first BASS tournament that legendary angler Roland Martin ever attended ... and very nearly his last.
"When I saw the record string come in, I didn't think I was capable of competing," Martin said. "I thought, 'I need to leave. I don't need to be here because that's more than I can catch.'"
For nearly 40 years, it's been more than anyone else could catch, too.