On Oct. 22, 1971, Bobby Murray made more than history — he wrote his ticket in the bass fishing industry.
As the 50th anniversary Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk approaches, Murray spoke about his victory in the first world’s championship on Nevada’s Lake Mead almost 50 years ago.
“Seems like a hundred,” he said. “One thing about being the first of anything, you will always be remembered. In the fishing side, the Classics are everything. The Classic is the epitome of our sport and I feel honored that I kind of helped lay the foundation for that.”
Murray also won the 1978 Classic on Ross Barnett Reservoir and soon after retired from competitive fishing to find great success in various business endeavors in the industry. He said it’s an honor to be introduced as the first Classic champion and one of only six anglers who have won more than one.
“I can take my first Classic ring at a promotion and slide it on somebody’s hand that walked up to the booth and wants a picture taken, you ought to see their face light up,” he said.
That first event didn’t offer much shine, but as the crown jewel of bass fishing gained prominence, what it meant to Murray became golden.
“It gave me an intro to do anything I wanted to do in the business. It opened the door. It didn’t keep the job, but it influenced getting the job,” he said. “I think me and (Rick) Clunn were the only two-time winners for a long time. It for sure is the bedrock of my career.
“At the time, though, it didn’t mean much. You got to realize there was 24 people there and about eight outdoors writers, and that was it. We had the weigh-in on the top of a floating boat dock. It wouldn’t hold 50 people. It’s kind of changed through the years.”
The Classic is the biggest event in the sport. Anglers clamor to qualify, companies vie for prime space in the huge Expo and fans flock from far and wide. Last year at Knoxville saw a record attendance of 153,809 spectators. This year’s site of Lake Guntersville out of Birmingham, Ala., was announced 10 months in advance, giving everyone plenty of time to make plans for the golden celebration.
In 1971, the 24 anglers boarded a plane not knowing where they were heading before learning of Ray Scott’s mystery locale. Murray said each fisherman was allowed four rods, 10 pounds of tackle and only one day of practice.