1972 Bassmaster Classic Percy Priest Reservoir - Nashville, TN, Oct 25 - 27, 1972

Classic Countdown: 14, then to the top

The Bassmaster Classic is where legends are made in the sport of bass fishing, but it's not a tournament with a lot of 11th hour come-from-behind victories.

The Bassmaster Classic is where legends are made in the sport of bass fishing, but it's not a tournament with a lot of 11th hour come-from-behind victories.

Of the 38 previous Classics, 25 of them were won by anglers who were in the Top 5 in the standings after the first of three days. Only 13 times has an angler lower than 5th in the standings after Day 1 gone on to win, and, of those, only two were ranked lower than 10th.

But this story is not about the number 11, 38, 25, 5, 3, 13, 1 or even 10. It's about the 14, which represents the greatest comeback from a first day deficit in Classic history.

It happened in the early days of the championship — 1972, to be exact. It was still a "mystery lake" event back then. Ray Scott would load the competitors on a plane bound for unknown territory and reveal their destination only after takeoff.

That year Scott's charter was a lot shorter than in 1971 when the plane landed in Las Vegas. This time he was headed for Nashville, Tenn., to fish the waters of Percy Priest Reservoir.

The news that they were headed for Tennessee must have been quite welcome to several on board the plane who called Tennessee home, including the legendary Bill Dance of Memphis and smallmouth expert Billy Westmorland of Celina.

Five anglers in the 24-angler field called Tennessee home, but few had ever spent any time on the 14,400-acre reservoir named for a former U.S. Representative from the area.

On the first day of the tournament, the lack of home water advantage showed in a big way. Although Tennessee led the way with five competitors, they didn't fare very well. The leader was Ricky Green from Arkansas. He was followed by anglers from Alabama, Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma. The highest ranking angler from the Volunteer State was Stan Sloan, who lived in nearby Nashville.

Green dominated the competition that day. Not only was he the only angler in the field who boated a 10-bass limit, but his 15-pound, 12-ounce catch was nearly double that of his closest competitor.

Way back, in 14th place and having caught just two little bass weighing less than 3 pounds total, was Don Butler of Tulsa, Okla.

Butler had already earned his wings as a BASS angel several years earlier. Not only was he BASS' first member and first life member, but he also loaned Scott $10,000 to fund a direct mail campaign to drive membership.

Had Butler done nothing else in his years with the organization, his position as a key player in the history of our sport would be secure.

But he was also a fine fisherman, and that fact became apparent on the second day of the 1972 Classic when he stormed into the lead with a limit catch weighing 20-14, leapfrogging 13 competitors in the process and taking nearly a 2-pound lead.

On the final day of the tournament, Butler again posted the best catch of the day. His 10 bass weighed a modest 14-14, but it was enough to give him his first BASS win by a whopping 13-7.

Only one other angler has ever come from as far back as 14th to win the Classic. His name is Rick Clunn (you may have heard of him), and he did it in 1990, but we'll have more on that when we get to the number 10.

Tomorrow we count down to 13 and find exactly that many Classic rookies who want to overcome that number's jinx.

advertisement

advertisement