The Alabama River has an interesting history in the annals of professional bass fishing. On one level, it starts in 1968 as the birthplace of B.A.S.S. Because Ray Scott was born, raised and lived in Montgomery at the time, the city became home to B.A.S.S. and remained its headquarters until 2005.
But it wasn’t until 1981 that the Alabama River hosted a B.A.S.S. tournament. The fishery was a little small to host one of the early Invitationals, which often had fields of 300 anglers (and half that many boats), but it was a good fit for a smaller field, so it became the site of back-to-back Bassmaster Classics in 1981 and 1982.
Back then, they didn’t call it the Alabama River. It was known as Lake Montgomery for marketing purposes, and the 1981 Classic was the first to have an indoor weigh-in and tackle show. Stanley Mitchell won that championship at the age of 21, becoming the youngest Classic champ ever — a title he still holds.
Three current Elite anglers fished the ’81 Classic. Rick Clunn was fourth; Paul Elias was seventh; and Gary Klein was 27th. After Day 1, they’re 59th, tied for second and 86th, respectively.
A year later, Elias won the Classic on Lake Montgomery (the Alabama River) and put kneeling a reeling on the bass fishing map. Rick Clunn finished 23rd in that championship.
It would more than 20 years before B.A.S.S. would return to the river.