Club History

by Don Gowen

The “Sport” of bass fishing did not exist, as we know it today, until the late 1960's when a young fisherman by the name of Ray Scott decided to have some fun and make some money with his favorite “pastime.” Certainly, early bass anglers enjoyed the fight of the black bass in the 1800's and early 20th century, however, the passion had not garnered the “respect” such as that of the trout angler derived from such old country streams as those in the Cotswolds of England and the clear streams of dear ole Ireland. While enjoyment was to be had in a lazy afternoon on the bank of a creek or in a leaky old flat bottom boat chasing the bass, most of bass fishermen were intent on “putting meat on the table.” Most “bass fishing” was based on “stream” fishing until the advent of the dams on the Tennessee River and other streams by the TVA and other governmental agencies for the purpose of hydroelectric generation and flood control - the dams built the lakes, the lakes contained the bass, and the dawn of the bass angler rose.

While friends would gather, a boat or two for a weekend of fun, “bass tournaments” as such was a new development in the early 1960's — a way for an angler to show his skills – and win a little money. In 1968 we heard of a young fellow by the name of Ray Scott who was trying to put an organization of “bass fishermen” together and hold a schedule of tournaments. Interest was shown, however, most anglers took a “wait and see” attitude. Ray was determined and during a five year period of observation, many of us became “believers” in B.A.S.S.

On a cold night in January 1973, a group of friends and fellow fishing buddies gathered at the home of Bob Hull located just at the top of the mountain above Guntersville on Highway 43l to organize the Lake Guntersville Bassmasters. On March 20, 1973, a Certificate of Membership was issued by Ray Scott, President of Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, to the club for affiliation in the Alabama B.A.S.S Federation Nation, Inc . Membership was limited to 30 members and we were off and running. The original Charter Members of the club were:

Bob Hull President Ronald Canfield Jesse W. Williams
Don Gowen Vice President Bennis Scott Kerwan M. Burgress
Jack Lester Secretary/Treasurer Eddie Skaggs Randall P. Wallace
Don Gilbert Tournament Chairman Johnnie A. Lynch Jimmy D. McKelvy
Huey E. Saint   George Rudd Gerald Ray Green
Bill Woodson   Steve Little Fred Steinman
Richard Fleming   Billy Lester Elzo J. Stovall
Larry W. Johnston   Theldridge (Cooter) Teal Dennis Dickerson
Donald Edgar   Benny J. Robinson Robert M. Hunt

Like all good things, memories of old fishing buddies are sometimes all we have left of some of the “original” group who started the Lake Guntersville Bassmasters. Bob Hull was killed in an auto accident and was carried to his final resting place by casket bearers of the club...in his fishing attire and with a rod and reel to keep him company. Jack Lester passed away in the afternoon after he had made his last trip to Guntersville Lake in the morning. Long time bass buddy Clyde Holmes kept his bass boat in the garage - full of gas and the batteries charged - for years - even though he could not hit the water - until he passed away. He always said, “a guy should be proud of what he catches, not what he did not.” Others will follow...............

Lake Guntersville Bassmasters started with a Bang - and the club has been going strong ever since. On October 14, 1973, we staged the First Lake Guntersville Championship and attracted 264 bass anglers for the event. Milfoil was in its prime, a 14' bass boat with a 85 HP was a top rig, and anything under 8 lb. was not worth talking about. The winner of the tournament was Donald Wilkerson of Albertville who brought to the scales 25 lbs. - 13 oz. Al Malcom of Gadsden was 2nd place with 15 lb.-6 oz., and Jack Moneyham of Blountsville was third with 12 lb. - 2 oz. The winning lures - a purple Cordell Spider and a shad Sputterfuss (got any in your tackle box?).

Lake Guntersville Bass Masters has always been a club that liked “to fish around”....see new waters, test different fishing methods, and enjoy the fine world the good Lord has provided us with. We were the first to fish Miller’s Ferry when the dam was closed and the lake backed up....bass under every willow tree....spinner baits....hang on folks. Lake Martin, Smith Lake, Lake Harris, Logan Martin, Jordon, Tims Ford, Lake Talquine, Lake George, Wheeler, Pickwick, Wilson. Wiess, Neeley Henry.......and the list goes on. Lures like Hot Spot, Mann’s Worms, Sputterfuss, Pink Eyed Hellbenders, Mud Bugs, Rattle Traps, Byoue Boogie, Nip-Di-Di, Big O, the pearl Bandit......and a tackle box of others. Times change, and men and lures with them, but principles never change. The Lake Guntersville Bassmasters live on.

The club is family orientated. We have our annual Summer Picnic with buddy tournament and Annual Banquet for awards presentation. The club is always open to new ideas, new bassmasters, and we take pride in teaching our youth the enjoyment of bass fishing. My son Blake Lee Gowen became a club member at age 16 and fished his first Federation Tournament the same year. He has now served the club as President and Secretary/Treasurer. His name is listed on the Lunker Hall of Fame Trophy, and I have a grandson on the way which I expect to have his name added at some point in the future. We believe that the family and our resources must be valued or at sometime they will be destroyed - and the same goes for our bass club.

We believe Lake Guntersville Bass Masters is one of the finest clubs affiliated with B.A.S.S. and we issue an invitation to anyone who likes to bass fish to come and join us and have some fun. And always remember “when an old fisherman dies, the world loses a valuable resource, because of the wealth of knowledge and information that they had to share with you.”

Don Gowen
Lifetime Member - Lake Guntersville Bassmasters