My first visit to the St. Lawrence River was to cover the 1979 New York Invitational, based upriver from Waddington, N.Y., out of Alexandria Bay. Ranger Boats founder Forrest Wood won that three-day event with 47 pounds, 3 ounces. Two days and two hours into the Huk Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River presented by Black Velvet, David Walker has 65-9. What a difference four decades makes.
B.A.S.S. visited the river three other times in the olden days, and the best winning weight was by Roland Martin in 1978, when he had 59-13 for nearly a 20-pound average. The top weight, though, doesn’t tell the whole story of a fishery.
The 1980 Classic here was won by Bo Dowden with 54-10, but second place went to Martin with 44-1, an average of 14-11 a day. To make the 50 cut yesterday required more than 19 pounds a day. Weights dropped off precipitously in Classic X. Guido Hibdon was 10th with 26-2, Bobby Murray was 27th with 10-5, and four of the 38 contenders didn’t weigh a single keeper in three days of fishing.
And get this — everyone at that time considered the St. Lawrence one of the hottest smallmouth fisheries in the nation. Of course, that was before zebra mussels and round gobies and “video game fishing.”