By Steve Graf
Now let’s take a look at the impact of the 1980’s and 90’s, just to see how big bass fishing has become. Ray Scott (who passed away this past May) was the man who had the greatest impact and should be given the credit for everything professional bass anglers have today. Ray, from the very beginning, had a vision and wanted the sport to be on the same level as professional baseball or golf. He wanted anglers to have a career and be able to make a living while providing for their families. It was during the 80’s and 90’s that the sport of bass fishing progressed the most.
In 1980, an Oklahoma boy by the name of Jimmy Houston kissed his first bass and, according to his wife Chris, she got used to smelly kisses from that point on. Jimmy, of course, became a household name with his successful fishing career and the TV host of “Jimmy Houston Outdoors,” still airing today as one of the longest running outdoors TV programs ever. But in 1985, there was a shakeup at the top of which was America’s favorite fish to pursue. After a national survey by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife, it was determined that the largemouth bass was now the most popular fish to catch, dropping panfish to number two.
In 1987, working from his garage, Herb Reed created a new bass lure that took the fishing world by storm and created a whole new category for soft plastic stick baits with his creation of the Slug-Go. This was the first of its kind and would later be followed by another bait that just might be the greatest bass lure of all time…the Senko. This one was created from the mold of a Bic Pen by the legendary Gary Yamamoto. This bait has many tournament wins to name. It’s a bait that when professional anglers are asked if they could take a bait from today and go back in time, what bait would it be? Ninety five percent will say a Senko. This versatile bait catches fish all year long, in all types of conditions, and has become a staple for all serious bass fishermen.
Moving into the 90’s, Berkley Bait Company introduces the “Power Worm” with a built in scent that fish will bite and won’t let go. The success of their scented worm encouraged other companies to do the same. It’s also a time when scent became all the rage that some thought, and still think today, is a key to catching fish. Some anglers think it’s a hoax and others believe it really works and won’t fish without adding it to their baits in some form or another. One day I asked Michigan’s Kevin Van Dam, who many consider the greatest angler of all time, if he thinks scents work. He told me, “It doesn’t matter what others think, do you believe it works?” I told him “Yes” and he said, “Then that‘s all that matters. Anglers should always fish with confidence and with things they believe in. This is what makes an angler great….confidence.”
In 1992, Arkansas’s Larry Nixon, the greatest worm fisherman ever, became the first pro angler to earn over $1 million in B.A.S.S. events. To compare, Kevin Van Dam has won over $6 million since the late 1990’s. The closest angler to Kevin is California’s Skeet Reece who is #2 on the “All Time Money List” at a little over $3 million in winnings.
Next week, we’ll look at how the TV cable station, ESPN, changed the landscape of professional bass fishing forever. This one move to primetime TV changed the lives of professional anglers forever and exposed Americans to the sport in a way never seen before. Till next week, good luck, good fishing and don’t forget to set the hook!
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