The first national bass tournament, part 2


Once known to bass anglers throughout Florida and beyond was the coveted "Silver Cup."

In part 1 of this column, I began the story of the “National Fresh Water Bass Tournament” that took place in 1928. Some history buffs believe it to be the first-ever, organized national bass competition.

Editor's note: Read part 1.

That event was restricted to the waters of Lake County, Fla., and hosted by the City of Leesburg — the county seat. Enterprising council member D.E. Bovines saw it as a good way of attracting tourists to the area. To further encourage participation from out-of-state anglers, rules were set to prevent Florida residents from entering the competition — in theory, eliminating any local advantage. 

Anyone interested in competing had to prove his or her non-residency, pay a $1 registration fee and possess a valid fishing permit. Later, as the tournament grew in popularity, the rules were amended to include a division for Florida residents.

So, with the eventual participation of resident and nonresident anglers, was this truly the first “national” bass competition?

The answer is … it depends.

Some historians would argue that the famous challenge between Ans B. Decker and Smilin’ Bill Jamison was the first, as that competition took place in 1910. 

A battle of baits

Decker and Jamison were tackle industry titans, and both considered top-tier bass anglers of the day. Each manufactured his own brand of lures, and that sparked the battle.

Jamison believed his “Coaxer” could outperform any artificial lure on the market and issued a nationwide challenge to prove it. That challenge sat unmet for two years until Decker — with his “Decker Bass Bait” — accepted.

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