April 1975 – The First Muscle Shoals Bass Rodeo

The Muscle Shoals Bass Rodeo was one of, if not the first, sponsored bass tournament in Northwest Alabama. The event was a great success.

The tournament was sponsored by the Muscle Shoals Chamber of Commerce and the Muscle Shoals Bassmasters. Supporting sponsors were the Retail Merchants Committee and the Tourism-Convention Committee of the chamber. The inspiration and concept of the “Rodeo’ was originated by Ronnie McDonald, then a member of the Muscle Shoals Bassmasters. 

The original tournament brochure.

The tournament was a partner event and awards for the top placers. There was no boat type/size or age restrictions. Only artifical lures were permitted with the exception of pork rinds, strips etc. No trolling was allowed. Each boat was given a numbered flag that must be displayed during the tournament (for identification of participants from non-conteatant fishermen) and must be returned at weigh-in. No fishing was allowed within 50 yards of the starting area (Fleet Harbor) and no fishing within 50 yards of another competitor. Contestants were also not allowed to leave the boat to land fish as well as remain on Wilson Lake. Partners were to remain with each other during the tournament. Tournament time was 6 AM TO 4 PM.

There was a limit of ten bass per person in the boat and all fish must measure at least 12 inches. Violation of this rule resulted in the biggest fish of the contestant being disqualified. Of course, no fish that appeared to have been mangled, mauled, appeared to have been frozen or other wise altered would not be weighed. The rules also stipulated that one pound of caught fish would be deducted from a weight total for every minute late for checking-in with the control boat at the mouth of Fleet Harbor. Contestants would be disqualified after failing to check-in within 10 minutes of the deadline. Any violation of the rules resulted in disqualification.

The entry fee was a whopping $15 per boat.

NOTE: Bass fishing tournaments were new to many sports reporters so weights were not considered as important as the winner’s names so the weights were missing from the newspaper story and official, original weigh-in documents have long been lost.

A rainy and windy morning greeted the eighty boats entered in the first Muscle Shoals Bass Rodeo but sunshine prevailed by weigh-in time.

Back in those days the start of a tournament was called a “blast off”. True to the name, all contestants “blasted off” at the same time. Was a wonder there were no collisions! Another method for starting tournaments was for the boats to line-up on the lake the width of Wilson Dam and waited for a star cluster to be fired. Then it was hammer down.

First place in 1975 was won by Larry Smelly and D.H. Tidwell who took home big first place trophies and Humminbird depth finders. Bob Ashley and Derrell Willis took second missing first place by by ounces. Finishing third was Mike Keeton and Johnny Bryon. Bobby Hamilton and wife Linda placed fourth. Fifth place went to the team of Gary Wood and Jimmy Isbell.

James Patterson and Joe Romans won sixth place with John Morrison and E.W. Brockwell coming in seventh. The Jimmy Vogel Memorial Trophy for the biggest bass of the tournament was won by Bobby Hamilton. The Jimmy Vogel Memorial Trophy was in honor of an outstanding local bass angler Jimmy Vogel that had recently passed away due to a heart condition. His wife Wanda and son Denny presented the trophy.

Reportedly, most of the bass caught was from noon until quitting time.

Monroe and Grover Tidwell took first place in the 1976 Muscle Shoals Bass Rodeo with a total of 19 pounds. Jim Long and Dickie Wallce placed second with 13-7. The team of Britt Warren and Larry Robertson place third (no weight shown). Truett Bayless won the Jimmy Vogel Memorial Trophy for the biggest bass of the tournament, a five pound fourteen ounce hawg.

Other popular area tournaments around this time or shortly thereafter, was the Quad-Cities Bassmaster sponsored tournament and the Sunshine Mills open tournament.

We hope you have enjoyed this trip down memory lane with us. If you were around bass fishing during the seventies you will recognize many of the names that were known as very good bass anglers. Hopefully, many of those names you see will read this recount of their bass fishing skills.

One Comment


    Love reading about years gone by that paved the way for the future bass fishing.Good Job and thanks.