By Steve Graf
Note: This article was originally scheduled for Friday, June 10th but was delayed by production difficulties.
Time is a funny thing…it’s always changing, and it never seems to stop. But like everything, there is a past, present and eventually a future. The sport of bass fishing goes way back, and today we’ll take a hard look into the past and see just how the sport has evolved into what it is today. They say if you want to see what the future may hold, you must first look into its past.
Bass fishing goes as far back as 1791 when Naturalist William Bartram wrote an account of Indians in the American South catching largemouth bass with a “bob” and long pole in 1760. This is apparently the earliest reference, not only to American bass fishing, but also to fishing with hair bugs. Then in 1897 William Shakespeare, Jr. patented a level wind device for baitcasting reels, making their use easier and more popular. This revolutionized the fishing world on all levels for both fresh and saltwater anglers.
It was in 1948 that things really changed for bass fishing with the creation of the first bass boat designed and built by Skeeter Boats, still one of the leading boat manufacturers today. Because of this innovation, now anglers not only had good quality gear, but they had a better means to get around on larger lakes and rivers, opening up America’s waterways. The following year in 1949, fiberglass fishing rods were invented, replacing bamboo rods. Also in 1949, Nick and Cosma Crème of Akron, Ohio, melted plastic on their kitchen stove, poured it into molds, and created the first modern soft-plastic worm….the Creme Wiggle Worm.
Now onto the 1950’s with the first ever organized bass tournament put on by outdoor writer Earl Golding on Lake Whitney, Texas, in 1955. A total of 73 anglers participated in this first ever one-of-a-kind event. Then in 1957, the beginning of the sonar revolution began with Carl Lowrance introducing the first portable sonar capable of detecting both the bottom and individual fish. It was in 1959, when more than 20,000 fingerling bass were stocked in California’s upper Otay Lake, that the United States had its first fish management program. This is also where the first creel limits were set, along with season dates and the establishment of a bass lunker program. Twenty-one of the top twenty-five bass on record were caught from California waters.
I hope you’ve enjoyed a look back into bass fishing history to see how it all began. Next week, we will continue our journey by looking at the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, which had a huge impact on where the sport is today. Till next time, good luck, good fishing and don’t forget to set the hook!
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