Oh, those were the days!
I wasn’t a member of the West Plains Bass Club, but I heard my share of the stories.
I’m writing about the Bass Club of the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s.
Some notable fishermen during that era were Fred Hale, Kelly Wallace, Junior Stewart, Bob Frey, Bob Garner, Junior Willard, Wayne King, Leon Carroll, David Thompson, Melvin Linthicum, Leamon Coldiron, Dale Baxter and Ron “Hammer” Dixon.
The boys fished in a tournament once a month for years. The competition was highly competitive! Pre-fishing a tournament was fishing once, twice, three times before the tournament, depending on where the fishing would take place.
The Willard Brothers car lot on Broadway, next to Suds N, was a favorite gathering spot. Kelly Wallace, a favorite friend to all of the fishermen, had a mechanic shop in the back and on the side. Both businesses accommodated about 20 or so members each weekday at noon.
And then the week of the tournament itself, and the week that would follow, were full of fish stories and camaraderie.
Leon Carroll was a great storyteller. Leon said, “When it came to fishing, Wayne King wasn’t God, but he was close.” On a fishing trip, my brother Junior was partnered with Leon Carroll. They were in the boat and Leon said, “Willard, where did you get that good-looking woman? You know you’re not that good-looking yourself.”
On one of the trips, several men stayed together in a cabin and one of them, I’m thinking Junior Stewart, was snoring loudly. Junior Willard picked up a shoe and threw it hard against the wall and woke Stewart up.
Junior Stewart always had the nicest boat and the fastest. A new champion boat at that time was around $35,000. Today the cost would be $55,000 to $60,000, maybe more.
I never heard drinking, gambling or womanizing ever mentioned. It was all about fishing, fun and competition. An awards banquet was held each year, and to be a top five finisher was quite an honor.
Junior Willard and Bob Garner were close friends and fishing buddies. Junior, my brother, liked to fish when the moon was out, andBob liked to fish when the moon wasn’t out. I was with them one night and it was pitch-black, completely dark. I thought I had a bite, a good one, and Bob shined his light on my pole and I had reeled my lead-head and plastic worm up to the tip of my rod. Junior and Bob had a good laugh.
I’m sure some of the fishermen in the club and their wives, like Susy Wallace and Donna Frey and Debbie Woods, daughter of Leon Carroll, could tell some great stories.
This I remember.