Inside the laptop bag I take to every Bassmaster Elite Series tournament is the current copy of the B.A.S.S. Media Guide.
Along with vital information on all of the current Elite Series anglers, the handy-dandy little book has a timeline listing tournament trail and organization highlights from the 1960s through present day. It has records for all of B.A.S.S.’s top tournament trails and a long list of winners for every major event B.A.S.S. has ever held.
In other words, it houses history — and that makes it one of the more precious documents I have.
As the sport of professional bass fishing evolves, what could be more important than where we came from? I’m proud that B.A.S.S. has never lost sight of that, and I suspect the people who made history with B.A.S.S. feel the same way.
Do you remember Mike D. Bono’s win in the Toledo Bend Invitational in January 1970?
But if he’s still around, I’m guessing Bono does — and so do all of the people he was important to.
Somewhere on this planet is the plaque he received for winning the 14th tournament B.A.S.S. ever held.
It says “B.A.S.S.” on it — and that still means something today.
John Farr has a similar trinket from his win on Clarks Hill in 1974. Jerry Knicely has one he collected at Cherokee Lake in 1981, and Mike Folkestad has one he picked up at Harris Chain in 1992.
The shapes and sizes of the trophies have changed, but two things remain the same — the powerful brand of the organization that provided them and the spot in history they guaranteed.
In 1985, Herschel Walker set an all-time pro football record with 2,129 rushing yards in a single season. The problem is it happened in the long-defunct United States Football League.
If he’d done the same thing in the National Football League, which is still alive and flourishing, Walker would have been a first-ballot NFL Hall of Famer. But because it happened in the USFL, it’s a football footnote that you basically have to already know if you hope to find info about it.
Walker is one of the greatest to ever play the game. But when people think of him today, they don’t remember a guy who ran wild over the USFL in 1985. They think of him as a guy who spent the prime years of his career playing in a league that no longer exists.
Stories like his highlight just how important a rich history can be — and in professional bass fishing, there are none richer than the one here at B.A.S.S.
When someone wins a Bassmaster Classic, that person is forever known as a former Classic champion. Anglers are measured not only by how many Classic victories they’ve had, but how many Top 10s they’ve had in B.A.S.S. events, how many times they’ve qualified for and had the honor of fishing the Classic and how much money they’ve earned over a long, sustained career.
At the end of this season, a hectic 2020 will have given us nine new Elite Series winners, eight Opens winners and a new B.A.S.S. Nation champion to celebrate.
As time marches on, some people won’t even remember their names.
But B.A.S.S. always will.