Editor’s note: 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of B.A.S.S. As part of our celebration we’re publishing stories, videos and photos about the history of the sport, including the one below.
Following his All-American Bass tournament held in the fall of 1967 on Alabama’s Smith Lake, Ray Scott knew he was on to something. For the second time in four months, he convinced more than 100 die-hard bass fishermen to pay 100 bucks apiece to compete in what was billed as an exclusive, invitation-only tournament.
While promoting the tournaments, Scott kicked around in his mind the idea of creating a membership organization fueled by the competitive spirit of bass fishing. The first move was to give his farfetched idea a name. After Nashville outdoor editor Bob Steber suggested that Scott call the organization B.A.S.S., the abbreviation for the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, the name stuck, and Scott went to work.
“All I knew was that I was going to print a magazine,” Scott recounted. “I was going to have the first issue ready before I tried to sign up the first member, because I knew I had to offer something more than a patch and a handshake to join B.A.S.S.”
In the first issue of Bassmaster, Scott wrote: “It is my plan that we lift bass fishing up to public par with golf, bowling and pocket billiards. It’s high time the public found out we exist.
Fifty years later, mission accomplished. These events molded a fledgling sport into a multibillion-dollar industry, and turned the pastime of a few into a lifestyle of millions.
Don Butler becomes the first B.A.S.S. member after paying $100 for a life membership in January. The first issue of Bassmaster is printed that month. The first of five B.A.S.S. invitational tournaments is held in February, or less than one year following the 1967 All American.
The Chattanooga Bass Club becomes the first to affiliate with the B.A.S.S. Chapter Federation. The move adds 19 anglers to a membership consisting of only Oklahoman Don Butler. Addressing water pollution at the grass-roots level is the first mission. Conservation initiatives and youth programs are the cornerstones of today’s B.A.S.S. Nation, with affiliated clubs throughout the U.S. and abroad in 9 countries.
Ray Scott enacts a rule requiring tournament contestants to wear a secured personal flotation device when the outboard is running. The rule influences the U.S. Coast Guard law requiring a PFD for each passenger aboard a motorized vessel.
A tournament angler rigs what becomes the first kill switch. His peers adopt the invention as a means of disconnecting the outboard ignition if the boat driver goes overboard. The concept becomes a B.A.S.S. rule still followed today.
Bob Cobb, outdoors editor of the Tulsa Tribune, becomes the first full time B.A.S.S. employee and editor of Bassmaster.
The B.A.S.S. conservation movement begins when B.A.S.S. takes 250 water-polluting companies to court for allegedly violating the seldom-used Federal Refuse Acts of 1899.
Ray Scott launches a seminar tour with rising stars Bill Dance, Roland Martin and Tom Mann as the speakers. The group travels in a RV from Bangor, Maine, to Los Angeles, conducting 101 seminars in 10 months. The tour is credited for adding 10,000 new B.A.S.S. members.
Harold Sharp is hired as tournament director and Helen Sevier becomes director of marketing. Sharp’s ideas and rules shape tournaments for the next 17 years, while memberships in the 1990s grow to 650,000 under the marketing genius of Sevier.
Bill Dance becomes the first Bassmaster Angler of the Year. Forty-eight years later there are 22 anglers on the list. Roland Martin’s name appears the most at 9 times.
A jetliner leaves Atlanta with 24 anglers for the first Bassmaster Classic, destination unknown. The plane reaches cruising altitude, and Ray Scott announces the destination is Las Vegas. At Lake Mead, Bobby Murray wins the first Classic and its $10,000-prize purse.
The “Don’t Kill Your Catch” campaign is launched out of concern for the future of conserving bass populations.
B.A.S.S. establishes Anglers for Clean Waters, a nonprofit arm to combat water pollution and habitat loss.
Roland Martin wins the first of his nine Bassmaster Angler of the Year awards.
The first catch-and-release tournament is the Florida National. Innovative pros rig crude aerator systems fashioned from garden hoses and sprinklers to conform to the new catch-and-release rule. Aerated livewells become standard as bass boat manufacturers embrace the idea of conserving the resource.
Don Butler, B.A.S.S.’ first member, wins the Bassmaster Classic on Percy Priest Reservoir in Tennessee.
Roland Martin won another Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.
Ray Scott testifies in Senate hearings against user fees on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes. Congress overturns the charges after overwhelming response from B.A.S.S. members and anglers.
Roland Martin wins his third consecutive Bassmaster Angler of the Year award.
Rayo Breckenridge claimed the Bassmaster Classic title on Clarks Hill Reservoir in South Carolina.
George Perry, who caught the 22-4 world record largemouth in 1932, dies in plane crash near Birmingham, Ala.
Bill Dance was back on top with a Bassmaster Angler of the Year win in 1974 with pure consistency. In claiming his second crown, he was the first AOY champion who didn’t win an event that season.
Tommy Martin took the Bassmaster Classic win on Wheeler Lake in Alabama.
Using a 7 1/2-foot rod with precision accuracy to swing baits into tight cover, Californian Dee Thomas catches 35 pounds of bass from Arkansas’ Bull Shoals Lake to win the Arkansas Invitational. He calls the technique flipping; the news is printed in Bassmaster, and the rest is history.
The Bassmaster Angler of the Year Roland Martin is all-time leading money winner with $47,823.
Bill and Gregory Ward become the first father and son to compete against each other in the Bassmaster Classic. Tom and Don Mann become the first brothers to compete against each other in the Bassmaster Classic. Jack Hains wins the Bassmaster Classic on Currituck Sound in North Carolina.
Ray Scott is appointed to the U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Advisory Council. He uses the post to lobby for safety reforms such as positive upright and level floatation in boats. The Coast Guard adopts the recommendations and passes them into Federal law.
Rick Clunn wins Bassmaster Classic VI on Lake Guntersville, Ala., the first of his four Classic crowns.
In 1976, Jimmy Houston wins his first Angler of the Year title, becoming the first angler not named Martin or Dance to win.
The Classic “mystery flights” end and the date and location are announced in advance. B.A.S.S. makes the move to recognize increased media and fan attention.
Rick Clunn becomes the first angler to win back-to-back Bassmaster Classics, this time claiming the title on Florida’s Lake Tohopekaliga.
In 1977, Bill Dance and Roland Martin are back atop the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. Dance wins his third and final AOY title, while Martin finishes second.
Bobby Murray wins his second Bassmaster Classic, this time on Ross Barnett Reservoir, Miss.
Roland Martin takes the Bassmaster Angler of the Year title handily over Bobby Murray and Ricky Green, both of whom are more than 30 points behind in the AOY race.
Ray Scott is inducted into the International Game Fish Association’s Hall of Fame.
Hank Parker wins his first Bassmaster Classic, taking the title on the Texas-Oklahoma border on Lake Texoma.
The Bassmaster Angler of the Year is Roland Martin with his sixth title, narrowly edging newcomer Gary Klein.
With the Classic gaining media attention, B.A.S.S. holds the world championship in upstate New York on the St. Lawrence River. Two months later, on Thanksgiving evening, ABC’s 20/20 prime time ratings hit telecasts a feature surrounding the hoopla of Classic X. Bo Dowden is the winner.
B.A.S.S. debuts Fishing Tackle Retailer, the definitive trade publication for independent tackle retailers and the industry.
Larry Nixon is a new face to the sport, and he wins his first Bassmaster Angler of the Year title in 1980.
A crowd estimated at 3,500 attends the first Classic indoor weigh-in at the Montgomery Civic Center. More history is made in the adjacent convention center with the first Classic Outdoor Show. Since then, the Classic weigh-in has had an outdoor affair only once, in 2000, at Chicago’s famed Soldier Field. Stanley Mitchell is the Classic champion.
Roland Martin came back to his winning ways in 1981, capturing his seventh Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.
B.A.S.S. launches the “Acid Rain Burns My Bass” campaign to raise public awareness of the dangers of acid rain to the nation’s fisheries.
Paul Elias adopts the “kneel-and-reel” technique to deep crank his way to Classic victory on Alabama’s Lake Montgomery. As a result, crankbaits designed to run at depths of 20 feet or more hit the market.
B.A.S.S. membership tops 400,000.
In 1982, Larry Nixon won two events, one on Lake Bistineau and the other on the Ohio River, to take his second Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.
Alfred Williams becomes the first African-American angler to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic, finishing 10th. Larry Nixon is the Classic Champion.
Oklahoma fisheries biologist Ken Cook turns pro after winning $100,000 in the first Super B.A.S.S. Tournament, the richest payout in B.A.S.S. history.
The New York Times puts B.A.S.S. and the Super B.A.S.S. tournament on its front page.
Hank Parker wins his only Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.
With mixed support from the marine industry, B.A.S.S. lobbies successfully for the Wallop-Breaux Amendment to expand the federal Dingell-Johnson Act. The legislation clears the way for billions of dollars to be appropriated for state fishery efforts.
Rick Clunn wins his third Classic title on the Arkansas River. He sets the standing record for largest margin of victory at 25 pounds, 8 ounces, and with a winning weight of 75-9. Clunn goes on to win a fourth Classic in 1990.
Roland Martin captures his eighth Bassmaster Angler of the Year title, and his season is capped with a win at Lake Lanier.
The Bassmasters TV series debuts on The Nashville Network (TNN). The next year, live coverage of the Classic is shown for the first time, and again the following year. Bob Cobb becomes executive producer.
Jack Chancellor becomes the Bassmaster Classic champion on the Arkansas River.
Roland Martin wins his ninth and last Bassmaster Angler of the Year award. It is the third time he wins the honor in back-to-back seasons.
Helen Sevier and a group of investors purchase B.A.S.S. from founder Ray Scott, who remains as consultant and tournament emcee.
The concept of an exclusive made-for-TV tournament is launched as B.A.S.S. MegaBucks after the ratings success of The Bassmasters.
Jimmy Houston wins his second Bassmaster Angler of the Year title, 10 years after his first title in 1976.
Charlie Reed claims the Bassmaster Classic title on the Tennessee River.
Kevin VanDam fishes his first B.A.S.S. event, the New York Invitational on the St. Lawrence River. The 19-year-old finishes 110th out of 311 anglers. VanDam becomes a full-time professional angler a few years later and immediately makes his presence known, finishing in the top 50 of 28 consecutive B.A.S.S. events.
George Cochran wins his first Bassmaster Classic, taking the title on the Ohio River.
Denny Brauer has emerged as a threat by finishing second in the standings to Martin in 1986, and he broke through with his only Bassmaster Angler of the Year title in 1987.
Adweek declares Bassmaster one of the “10 Hottest Magazines of 1988,” along with Vanity Fair, Parade and U.S. News & World Report. B.A.S.S. Inc. also publishes Southern Outdoors, Southern Saltwater, Fishing Tackle Retailer, and later B.A.S.S. Fishing Techniques, Guns & Gear, Bassmaster Tour and CastingKids.
Rick Clunn added the 1988 Bassmaster Angler of the Year title to his already remarkable career.
Guido Hibdon wins the Bassmaster Classic on the James River in Virginia.
B.A.S.S. Times, the newsletter for B.A.S.S. club members, is transformed into a tabloid newspaper offering “News & How-To Information for the Serious Bass Fisherman.” The publication provides comprehensive tournament coverage and environmental news.
B.A.S.S. launches the Top 100 Super B.A.S.S. Pro-Am Tournament circuit, with the Top 100 pros sharing their boats with 100 amateurs in a four-event schedule. The format is the forerunner to the current Bassmaster Elite Series. That same year, B.A.S.S. raises the bar on pro fishing by creating the Association of B.A.S.S. Professionals, which provides a retirement fund for pros.
Hank Parker wins his second Bassmaster Classic title, this time on the James River in Virgina. His margin of victory is just 2 ounces, and he is propelled to the top spot after a keeper bass is accidentally dropped into the water by runner-up Jim Bitter.
Ten years after narrowly getting beat by Roland Martin, Gary Klein wins his first of two Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles. This time, he narrowly edged out legend Guido Hibdon for the honor.
B.A.S.S. hosts 13 leading scientists in the fields of water quality, fisheries and aquatic environment at the B.A.S.S. Living Waters Symposium. Findings form the basis for the first “Living Waters” section in Bassmaster.
B.A.S.S. membership totals 525,000.
Rick Clunn wins his fourth Bassmaster Classic championship, this time on Virginia’s James River. Going into the final round, he was in 10th place, making his victory the biggest comeback in Classic history at that time. (In 2014 Randy Howell made a bigger comeback, then in 2017 Jordan Lee eclipsed Howell’s comeback record).
The early 1990s are all about Guido Hibdon. He wins the first of his two Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles in 1990 and becomes a consistent top finisher, securing a Top 5 in the AOY standings six times.
Concerned by the decline in youth fishing, B.A.S.S. holds a trial Bassmaster CastingKids contest. A decade later the program reaches 1.5 million youths, with annual events held nationwide by the B.A.S.S. Nation.
Guido Hibdon adds a second Bassmaster Angler of the Year title in 1991. His second title gave him the distinction of being the first angler after Roland Martin to win back-to-back titles.
Ken Cook takes home the Bassmaster Classic trophy with a win on Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.
Larry Nixon wins a fourth B.A.S.S. MegaBucks and becomes the first angler to earn $1 million in B.A.S.S. prizes. Fifty years later there are over three-dozen anglers in the “millionaire’s club” of cash and winnings. Kevin VanDam tops the list with over $6 million.
A young Kevin VanDam wins his first Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.
Robert Hamiltion takes the Bassmaster Classic championship on Lake Logan Martin in Alabama.
Randy Dearman wins the Texas Invitational on Sam Rayburn Reservoir using “Lynch Line,” a fishing line made of high-tech synthetic material used in bulletproof vests. His victory launches the “superline” revolution.
Tokyo’s Norio Tanabe becomes the first international angler to win a B.A.S.S. event, taking the Kentucky Invitational on Kentucky Lake.
Gary Klein wins his second Bassmaster Angler of the Year in 1993 and becomes known as one of the most consistent anglers of all time.
David Fritts wins the Bassmaster Classic on Lake Logan Martin in Alabama.
Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation angler Bryan Kerchal, a member of the Housatonic Bassmasters, becomes the first club angler to win the Classic. He dies just five months later in a commuter airplane crash.
David Fritts wins the Bassmaster Angler of the Year title in 1994 and made “Fritz Blitz” a common fishing term. This title followed his 1993 Classic Championship. In 1994, Fritts won the season opener and stayed atop the AOY standings the entire season.
B.A.S.S. offices house 160 staffers working in three buildings. The company has its own zip code: 36141. Membership exceeds 660,000.
Mark Davis wins the 1995 Bassmaster Angler of the Year and follows it up with a 1995 Bassmaster Classic victory. Davis is the first angler to ever win both titles in the same season, and this feat would not be duplicated until 2010.
First place prize money for the Bassmaster Classic is raised from $50,000 to $100,000.
George Cochran wins Bassmaster Classic XXVI on Alabama’s Lay Lake. It is his second Classic title.
Kevin VanDam would take his second Bassmaster Angler of the Year in 1996, adding to his growing reputation. As the youngest AOY in 1992, he also became second-youngest with his 1996 title.
Davy Hite broke through in 1997 with the first of his two Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles. Hite would become a consistent competitor for the title, but that first crown is probably best known for him crediting his “lucky underwear.”
Dion Hibdon joined the list of Bassmaster Classic champions with a win on Lake Logan Martin in Alabama.
Accomplished pro Denny Brauer took the Bassmaster Classic title on High Rock Lake in North Carolina.
Mark Davis would get back to the top in 1998, winning his second Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.
B.A.S.S. sanctions World Championship Fishing, a competitive format that adds boat-handling skills to traditional fishing contests.
Mark Tyler catches a 14-pound, 9-ounce largemouth bass at the California Western Invitational on the California Delta. It is the largest bass ever caught in B.A.S.S. competition.
Kevin VanDam captures his third Bassmaster Anger of the Year title. Still early in his career, KVD joins the prestigious group of Roland Martin and Bill Dance as the only three-time winners.
Davy Hite lands a Bassmaster Classic championship fishing on the Lousiana Delta.
There is still room for hungry and talented and young bass anglers in the new millennium. Tim Horton becomes the first rookie to ever win the Bassmaster Angler of the year title. His win made him the second-youngest winner in history.
Woo Daves claims the Bassmaster Classic Championship fishing Lake Michigan out of Illinois.
ESPN acquires B.A.S.S. as the cornerstone for its new ESPN Outdoors initiative, which includes the Great Outdoor Games and the network’s popular block of outdoor programming. The following year, the Classic airs live on ESPN.
B.A.S.S. doubles the first prize for the Classic to $200,000, and restructures the tournament trail with the Bassmaster Open and Tour formats, each designed to create a true professional playing field. A record $9.2 million will be paid out for the 2002-03 trail, a 44 percent increase in payout.
Dean Rojas shatters B.A.S.S. records for single day and four day catch weights at Florida’s Lake Toho. Rojas weighs 45-2 for the single day mark and an amazing 108-12 for the overall tournament win. (Both records are for five fish limits.)
Kevin VanDam wins the Bassmaster Classic on the Louisana Delta.
Mark Davis takes the Bassmaster Angler of the Year title and joins the prestigious club of Roland Martin, Bill Dance and Kevin VanDam becoming the fourth angler to win three AOY titles.
Kevin VanDam wins fishing’s first ESPY as “Best Outdoors Athlete.”
Rick Clunn’s streak of 28 consecutive Bassmaster Classic appearances comes to an end.
Jay Yelas gets a Bassmaster Classic win on Lay Lake in Alabama.
Davy Hite wins his second Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title in 2002, aided by tournament wins on Lake St. Clair and the Red River.
Jay Yelas followed the 2002 Classic championship with a Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. It was his only AOY title in 17 years on the Bassmaster Tour. He retired from fishing Bassmaster events following the 2005 season.
Mike Iaconelli takes the Bassmaster Classic trophy on the Louisiana Delta.
The first ever Bassmaster Junior World Championship is held in conjunction with the Classic. Youths compete in 11-14 and 15-17 age divisions. The champions are Bradley Roy and Sean Alarid. Roy eventually qualifies for the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2010 at age 19.
Takahiro Omori wins Bassmaster Classic XXXIV on North Carolina’s Lake Wylie, becoming the first foreign born angler to claim fishing’s biggest title.
Gerald Swindle won the Bassmaster Angler of the Year title in 2004. He became the only AOY to have never won a tournament; every previous winner had at least two wins under their belt.
BassCenter debuts on ESPN2, becoming the first program to borrow the “Center” name and the SportsCenter theme music. Rick Clunn wins ESPN’s Greatest Angler Debate. Roland Martin finishes second.
An app and technology used to track angler locations using GPS and cellular signals debuts at the Classic. Called BASSTrakk, the positioning system becomes part of the live coverage on ESPN and later Bassmaster.com.
Kevin VanDam wins the toughest Bassmaster Classic ever with a three-day total of just 12-15 on Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers. It is his second Classic title and his third B.A.S.S. win in a row, tying a record set by Roland Martin in 1981.
Young California angler Aaron Martens won the Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. Martens was already a commodity in bass fishing, having finished second in the Classic the previous year. Classic runner-up was a position he would hold three of the four years during this period.
The Bassmaster Elite Series is introduced as the world’s premier professional bass angling circuit. The concept is to bring the best anglers to the best waters at the best times of year. First place prize money for the Classic is raised from $200,000 to $550,000.
The Women’s Bassmaster Tour is launched. Tammy Richardson wins the inaugural event and later wins the ESPY Award for “Best Angler.” The WBT runs through 2010.
Luke Clausen wins the 2006 Bassmaster Classic held on Florida’s Lake Tohopekaliga.
Michael Iaconelli wins the 2006 Bassmaster Angler of the Year award.
Alabama’s Boyd Duckett becomes the first angler to win the Bassmaster Classic fishing in his home state – Alabama.
Skeet Reese finally hits pay dirt with a Bassmaster Angler of the Year title after finishing in the Top 10 of the AOY race four consecutive times.
Records are shattered at the Bassmaster Elite Series on Falcon Lake in Texas. The top 12 anglers finish with over 100 pounds apiece. The top 5 anglers enter the record books for Heaviest Total Weights (five-bass limit). Those anglers and weights are Paul Elias (132-8), Terry Scroggins (132-4), Byron Velvick (131-15), Aaron Martens (129-7) and Mark Davis (128-15).
Kim Bain becomes the first woman to qualify for the Classic in its 38-year history. Bain qualifies when she wins the Toyota Tundra Women’s Bassmaster Tour Angler of the Year award.
Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., earns his fourth Bassmaster Angler of the Year award.
Texas angler Alton Jones wins a Bassmaster Classic championship on Lake Hartwell out of South Carolina.
Skeet Reese wins the Bassmaster Classic on the Red River out of Shreveport, La. Kim Bain is the first woman to compete in the Bassmaster Classic, finishing 47th out of 51 competitors.
Kevin VanDam wins the 2009 Bassmaster Angler of the Year award, his fifth and second in a row.
Don Logan, Jim Copeland and Jerry McKinnis acquire B.A.S.S. from ESPN.
Kevin VanDam wins the Bassmaster Classic on Alabama’s Lay Lake. It is his third Classic championship.
Kevin VanDam also wins the 2010 Bassmaster Angler of the Year award, his sixth and third in a row.
Andrew Upshaw of Stephen F. Austin University in Texas becomes the first angler to qualify for the Classic through the Bassmaster College Series.
BASSTrakk becomes part of the Elite Series live coverage on Bassmaster.com. The coverage includes a live blog, photo galleries, video and features.
Kevin VanDam wins the Bassmaster Classic on the Louisiana Delta. It is his fourth Classic championship and second in a row, tying him with Rick Clunn on both counts.
Kevin VanDam also wins the 2011 Bassmaster Angler of the Year award, his seventh and fourth in a row.
Chris Lane wins the Bassmaster Classic on the Red River in Louisiana.
Brent Chapman wins the 2012 Bassmaster Angler of the Year award.
The name of the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation is changed to B.A.S.S. Nation.
The B.A.S.S. High School Nation program begins as an initiative to bridge the gap between youth and adult tournament participation, while fostering the conservation and community goals of the B.A.S.S. Nation. The first high school championship is held the next year.
Cliff Pace wins the Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees in Oklahoma.
Aaron Martens wins the 2013 Bassmaster Angler of the Year award.
Randy Howell claims the Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville in Alabama.
Greg Hackney takes the 2014 Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.
Bassmaster LIVE launches at the Classic on Lake Hartwell, bringing reality to the concept of truly live on-water tournament coverage. LIVE makes its Elite Series debut at the Chesapeake Bay event.
The B.A.S.S. High School Nation has 4,000 participants enrolled at 300 high schools. Competing in the second high school championship are 134 teams from 37 states.
Aaron Martens wins the 2015 Bassmaster Angler of the Year award.
Casey Ashley wins the Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina.
Edwin Evers wins the Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees in Oklahoma.
Gerald Swindle wins the 2016 Bassmaster Angler of the Year award.
Anderson Media, a 100-year-old family business founded in Alabama, acquires a majority interest in B.A.S.S., LLC.
Kevin VanDam scores a 24th career win at the Elite Series on the St. Lawrence River in New York. Roland Martin is second on the list with 19 career wins.
Bassmaster.com sets a record with 28.5 million total visits to the website this year. The Elite Series has continuous daily coverage from takeoff through weigh-in with photo galleries, articles, live blogs, BASSCam videos and BASSTrakk angler tracking. For the Classic and Elite tournaments Bassmaster LIVE airs 18 hours of live studio and on-water video coverage leading up to the live streamed weigh-ins, broadcast on Bassmaster.com and the WatchESPN app.
Jordan Lee wins the Bassmaster Classic on Lake Conroe. The Classic weigh-ins are held inside the Houston Astro’s Minute Maid Park in downtown Houston.
Brandon Palaniuk earns the 2017 Bassmster Angler of the Year title.