By Steve Graf
Today we’ll continue to look back at the history of bass fishing by looking at the 60’s and 70’s, which might be considered the most significant period of bass fishing history. This was without a doubt a time in which bass fishing was taken to another level. It was during this time that the greatest names in bass fishing made their mark. It was a time that the sport became something an angler could actually make a living doing. Anglers that became household names and legends were Roland Martin, Bill Dance, Ricky Green, Tommy Martin, Larry Nixon, Rick Clunn, and too many more to mention here in one writing.
We’ll start with the 1960’s, where in 1967 Tom Mann introduced the Jelly Worm which is still one of the most popular and best-selling soft plastic worms ever. That same year, the late Ray Scott hosted his first fishing tournament (The All-American Invitational) at Beaver Lake Arkansas and announced that bass fishing would become a major league sport. Just so you know…Bill Dance caught the very first bass one minute after the tournament started. The following year, 1968, Ray Scott created the B.A.S.S. (Bass Angler Sportsman Society) to unite America’s bass anglers and elevate the sport. B.A.S.S membership has grown from a little over 100 anglers in 1968 to more than 600,000 today! One more thing happened in 1968 as well… Bill Dance hosted his first television series dedicated to bass fishing, “Bill Dance Outdoors,” on ABC affiliate in Memphis, Tennessee.
The 1970’s was when bass fishing really took off. A man by the name of Johnny Morris borrowed $10,000 from his father and stocked a few shelves in the family liquor store with bass tackle. Three years later, the first mail order catalog was sent out. You might have heard of this store, Bass Pro Shops…now an empire! Johnny now owns Ranger Boats, Triton Boats, and Cabela’s. He has done more for the fishing world and conservation than any other human alive today. In 1972, Ray Scott once again made his mark by starting a nationwide campaign called “Catch & Release” which was adopted by pretty much all tournaments across the country and is still practiced today.
Let’s stay in the 70’s, as a company by the name of Mister Twister burst onto the bass fishing scene with the introduction of the first curly tail worm. This was the first soft plastic worm that had built-in action which fish could not resist. Then in 1973, Don Butler recognized that with “catch & release” tournaments anglers needed better live wells. So, he designed and filed a patent for the first live well that was put into a bass boat.
As you can see, the 1970’s were truly the golden years of bass fishing. Tournaments, bait designs and some of the greatest names to ever wet a hook came from this era. Next week, we’ll look at the 80’s and 90’s where things really heated up for bass fishing. Till next week, good luck, good fishing and when in doubt….set the hook!
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