Former Classic champion David Fritts announces retirement from B.A.S.S.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — After a career that spanned parts of five decades, decorated professional angler David Fritts of Lexington, N.C., has announced his retirement from B.A.S.S. The 1993 Bassmaster Classic champion and 1994 Bassmaster Angler of the Year said his declining health and the rigors of the various B.A.S.S. schedules were the major factors in his decision.

“I had COVID-19 in 2021, and I still have what they call ‘long COVID,’” Fritts said. “I still can’t smell anything. I never got all of my energy back, and it sort of messed my heart up a little bit. My bones and my joints still work pretty well, but I just don’t quite have the stamina or energy I used to have.”

Though Fritts said he may still explore a less rigorous schedule, he doesn’t think he has it left in him to pursue the Bassmaster Elite Series or the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens.

That puts a cap on a star-studded career that began with the 1986 Georgia Invitational on West Point Lake and ended with the 2023 Elite Series event on the St. Lawrence River. Between those dates, he became one of the few anglers to win a Classic, an AOY title and the FLW Tour’s Forrest Wood Cup.

“Winning the Bassmaster Classic makes your career, and to follow up with the AOY in 1994 was really something special,” said Fritts, who had five victories and earned more than $1 million with B.A.S.S. “Winning the Forrest Wood Cup in 1997 was also a really big moment for me. All of those things were big stepping stones and building blocks for my career.”

After winning the 1993 Classic on Alabama’s Logan Martin Lake and then winning AOY the next year, Fritts came within 7 ounces of winning the Classic again at Logan Martin in 1997. He said that’s the one near miss that haunts him the most.

“I had my hands on the winning fish twice and watched it slip away,” he said. “For me, that tournament will always be like the 200-inch deer I shot and never found. I only think about it every two days or so.”

Besides his many victories on the water, Fritts, who is highly regarded as one of the best crankbait anglers of all time, had a major hand in designing some of the most popular crankbaits ever brought to market. His work included models for Poe’s Crankbaits during the 1980s, the mega-popular DT Series for Rapala and nearly every model of hard bait produced by Berkley, including the highly regarded Frittside.

“I like to think my work has helped a lot of fishermen,” he said. “The younger generation probably knows me more for the Frittside than they do for anything else — and that’s fine by me. That’s a bait that will literally catch anything that swims.”

Fritts said he believes he’s better at designing crankbaits than he’s ever been, and he hopes to keep doing that in some capacity. Likewise, he says fishing will always be part of his life.

“Fishing’s been good to me,” he said. “The last 10 years haven’t been great, and the last two have been especially tough. But overall, I’ve been blessed.

“The picture for the lock screen on my phone is me and Ray Scott when I won a B.A.S.S. tournament at Buggs Island. Ray did so much for me and promoted all the fishermen the way we needed to be promoted. Dave Mercer is great at it too. I can’t say enough about B.A.S.S. They made my career for sure.”