Charlie Reed, a former Bassmaster Classic champion, died on July 12 at the age of 78 following a battle with lung cancer.
Reed attained fishing fame in August of 1986 when he won the very first Bassmaster Classic in which he competed. The tournament was held on the Tennessee River out of Chattanooga, and Reed was a long shot going into the third and final round.
He was in fourth place and nearly two pounds behind the leader, Jerry Rhyne, going into the last day of competition. Reed posted the heaviest catch of the day and overtook the leaders for the win and fishing’s most prestigious tournament title. At the time, it was the biggest comeback in Classic history and Reed was the oldest champion at 51.
Reed came to professional fishing relatively late in life. His first full season was 1984-85 at the age of 50. In a 2012 interview with B.A.S.S. contributor John Neporadny, He said starting so late was his biggest fishing regret.
“I just wish I would have been younger, but I waited until I could afford it,” said Reed. His masonry construction and land development businesses financed Reed’s tournament efforts. Winning his first Classic put Reed on the map.
“It is fun to win and (winning the Classic) was kind of a glory trip no doubt about it,” he said. Though the championship brought him sponsorships and notoriety, cashing in on his celebrity was not a part of his personality.
“I already had a little money, so the money wasn’t all that important,” he said. “I didn’t turn it into as much money as I could have done. I don’t care to do personal appearances and things like that. I did do quite a few of them but I didn’t do as many as I could have done to make extra money.”
Vojai, his wife of nearly 60 years earned her place in angling history by successfully competing on women’s angling tours in the 1980s and ’90s and becoming the first woman to fish a B.A.S.S. event in 1991, finishing 58th out of 244 anglers at the Missouri Invitational on Truman Lake. When she stopped competing a year later, Reed lost his traveling partner and his drive to fish the pro tour.
“It just got to be a hassle fighting that traffic and pulling a boat across country,” he said. “I had no problem with the fishing and competition end of it, but the getting from Point A to Point B just got irritating and it wasn’t fun. I always said once it wasn’t fun I was going to quit.”
Reed’s last B.A.S.S. event was the 1997 Alabama Bassmaster Top 100 on Lake Neely Henry, where he finished fifth. After that, he returned to the land development business and never fished another tournament.
“There have been times that I would have loved to go back,” he said last year. “I don’t watch it on TV much because I kind of get excited when I see it, so I just as soon would not watch it.”
In all, Reed competed in 127 B.A.S.S. events and posted six top 10 finishes, but his only win was in the 1986 Classic. Though he qualified for four other Classics, his best finish was 26th in 1989. He earned more than $200,000 in his B.A.S.S. career.
Reed is survived by his wife of nearly 60 years, Vojai, a son and two daughters.