A Look Back at 2008

Paul Elias
Paul Elias

The beginning of one year seems the perfect time to look back at what happened in the previous year. It's a great opportunity to bask in the highlights and mourn the lowlights of 2008.

In countdown fashion, here are the Top 5 bass fishing stories of 2008:

No. 5

Paul Elias crushes BASS tournament weight record

First there was Dean Rojas on Lake Toho and his 108-pound, 12-ounce catch in 2001. That held the record for about five years until Preston Clark posted a 115-15 at Santee Cooper.

Clark's record lasted just a year. When BASS went to Clear Lake in 2007, two anglers surpassed him, topped by Steve Kennedy's 122-14.

In 2008, BASS went to Falcon Lake in Texas for the first time. During the practice period, word got around fast that records would fall, but it could never live up to the hype, could it?

It turns out it could ... and did. In all, 12 anglers topped the century mark at that tournament — everyone who fished the final round! Who knows how many more might have made it if BASS didn't cut to 12 for the last day?

When it was over, Paul Elias had bested a group of exhausted and elated anglers who all agreed that Falcon was the best bass lake in the world. His 132-8 meant that the average fish he brought to the scales for those four days weighed 6 pounds, 10 ounces. It was a week of unprecedented fishing that saw Elias establish a mark that could last for decades. (Story)

No. 4

Dottie found dead

She thrilled us in 2001 when she weighed 20 pounds, 12 ounces, wowed us in 2003 when she weighed 21-11 and completely blew us away in 2006 when she weighed an astounding 25-1!

Her name was Dottie, a sobriquet earned by some pigmentation on her gill plate, but most know her as the biggest bass that ever lived. She died in May 2008 at her Lake Dixon, Calif., home where she was found by park rangers.

Dottie represented the best chance at fishing history and the most important sportfishing record in the books — George Perry's all-tackle record largemouth bass of 22 pounds, 4 ounces that has stood for more than 76 years. With her passing, Perry fans breathed a sigh of relief and record chasers went looking for another body of water capable of producing a leviathan to rewrite the record books.

No. 3

KVD claims 4th AOY

When Kevin VanDam claimed his fourth Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title in 2008, he moved past some quality company and into the realm of the truly special.

VanDam earned his last AOY title in 1999, and though he had come close several times since, it seemed that he, like Mark Davis and Bill Dance before him, might be stalled out at three championships. But VanDam is truly special and certainly the greatest tournament angler of his generation.

With his fourth AOY, only the legendary Roland Martin sits above VanDam on the list, and since Martin has nine titles, it's unlikely that will ever change.

No. 2

Bassmaster Classic: Extreme Makeover Edition

For 38 years the Bassmaster Classic has been the exclusive province of men. All 1,514 qualifiers between 1971 and 2008 were men, but in 2008 a woman fought her way into their ranks when Kim Bain won the Toyota Tundra WBT Angler of the Year title.

Women have been fishing on the Bassmaster Tournament Trail since 1991, but to date no woman has ever won the professional side of a BASS coed event. Nor has a woman ever qualified to fish the Elite Series.

Bain's stellar performance in WBT events (two wins and never lower than 6th in five tournaments) paved her way to the Classic and to the toughest competition she'll ever face.

Luckily for Bain, she'll have some help. Her husband, Andre Moore, is a two-time Classic qualifier and an outstanding tournament professional in his own right. Bain will doubtless get good advice from home.

No. 1

Court shuts off access

In October 2008, the Supreme Court of the United States dealt anglers the biggest blow yet in the fishing access wars when it decided not to hear the case (Parm v. Shumate) of a group of Louisiana anglers arrested for fishing waters of the Mississippi River that had risen onto a landowner's property during a period of high elevation.

By not hearing the case, the Court effectively upheld a lower court ruling that there are no state (Louisiana) nor federal rights to fish on private property when it is covered by a navigable waterway of the United States.

The ruling removes untold miles of shoreline and surface acres from public use and enjoyment and subjects anglers and hunters to arrest for trespass if they venture beyond the main channel of a creek or river. This means you could be arrested for trespass if you use the shoreline in any way.

The next battleground will either be a river or stream in another judicial district, where the court will likely rely upon the Parm case as persuasive authority, or the legislatures in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., where laws could be passed setting the matter straight and formally granting rights that have been assumed for longer than there has been a United States.