If you missed the previous two articles about the North Louisiana High School Bass tournament on Lake D’Arbonne this week, check them out. Then this one will make more sense.
In 1977, year three of the first-ever organized high school bass tournament changed a bit. Instead of doubles, it became a singles event where fishermen still fished two to a boat, but weighed their own fish separately. Lake D’Arbonne was again the host of the event, and by this time, there were lots of helpers, volunteers and fishermen. There were 224 fishermen, one of the largest fields ever for the tournament. They came from high schools all over Louisiana.
Also, the scope expanded from “North Louisiana” to the Louisiana Open High School Bass Tournament, complete with patches, bait packs for all the contestants and a High School Bass Fishing seminar on the Thursday night before the tournament that was required attendance for the fishermen. If you weren’t around in those days, a “tournament patch” on your fishing shirt meant you knew what you were doing!
Here’s the report form year three of the tournament on May 8, 1977 (as taken from wonderfully written old Monroe Morning World newspaper accounts):
* Kevin Welker and Mike Smith of Ouachita caught a boatload of bass and took home the two top places in the tournament. Welker, a sophomore became the first individual champ with 10 pounds, two ounces. Smith was second with 8-6.
* Welker’s first place prizes included a $100 Ramglide trolling motor, a $135 paid entry fee into the big professional Rivers’ Ford bass tournament, a big lure packet and a trophy. Smith took home a new depth finder, fishing rod, bait packet and trophy. Awards to the the top 20 totaled more than $1,000. Move over Bill Dance…this was the big-time!
* Midway through the morning, the duo’s boat broke down and someone towed them back down to the bridge, close to the weigh-in. Welker told me recently that is why they won. They fished around the bridge pilings just in front of the old Jake’s Boat Dock with a six-inch mean green Mister Twister Phenom worm and caught most of their fish within 100 yards of the weigh-in.
* David Finley of Neville was third with 8-3 followed by Mark Price of Cedar Creek with 7-10, Corky Davis of Neville with 7-4, Jim Armstrong of Ridgedale with 7-3, Mark Antley of West Monroe with 6-13, Keith Terry of Cedar Creek with 6-9, David Johsnon of Ruston with 6-6 and Chris Greer of Ouachita with 6-0. Ray Smith of Ouachita caught the big jackfish.
* Welker, Smith, Randal Estep (who caught big bass at 3-5) and Greer caught 29-9 total to win the school team championship. Neville was second followed by Cedar Creek and West Monroe.
* 214 high school fishermen from 17 different schools as far west as Shreveport and as far south as Alexandria took part. Entry fee went up to $5 per fisherman!
* Stan Johnson and Pat Antley of West Monroe continued their winning ways in the coaches division followed by Don Jones and Andy Long of Sterlington and Ed White and Frank Zametto of Bastrop.