In the early 70’s I came up with the Gator Grip Replacement reel handles and began to promote them. One of the ways I used was to fish a couple of the newly formed B.A.S.S. tournaments and I joined our local affiliated IBF bass club. In the fall of 1973, the then IBF President, Carl Coddington asked me to set up a simple tournament trail for the following year. Since the only experience that I had was with the National B.A.S.S. Invitational tournaments, I followed in their footsteps and used most of their rules, changing only those that needed to be changed.
The first year we conducted four tournaments with and entry fee of $35.00 per person per event and had about 50 total fishermen. We ended the first season with a Classic held at a site that was not revealed to the top 20 fishermen until a few days before the event. The first IBF classic was held at the Gibson Generating plant near Vincennes. The first year top fishermen was Jack Peters Jr. and the first Classic winner was his father, Jack Peters Sr. Jack Jr. was awarded merchandise prizes from our limited sponsors worth about $500.00 and his father as winner of the Classic won $500.00 cash which he promptly donated back to the IBF tournament trail as seed money for the following year.
The tournament trail grew with the help of my immediate family who went with me to every event and took care of the paperwork and getting the equipment ready for drawings and weigh-ins. And award presentations, and to the group of people that were always there when you needed them to help with the cleanup and equipment.
The IBF Board wanted to expand the tournament trail and voted to go to 6 tournaments and a classic in 1976 and it was done. At this time there were many issues that the federation was involved with. One issue that the IBF Tournament Trail was involved with, was the property owners and some of the lakes we fished didn’t want the fishermen on their waters with the big loud boats or didn’t want the fishing to start until 10:00 AM. The Indiana B.A.S.S. Federation took the lead and attended many meetings all over the state and was instrumental in resolving the tissues to allow us to allow us to have tournaments on these waters. A second issue came up about paying state fees per fisherman to hold a tournament. When these fees were first proposed to IBF by the State of Indiana, they wanted $25.00 per person per day for tournaments. After much discussion and several meetings with the State, the fees were $1.00 per event per person which remained that for several years.
In the late 70’s several things were going on, the first Leukemia Benefit tournament was held. Over the next several years that tournament netted over $100,000dollars to the Leukemia Foundation through the efforts of the IBF. This effort and the success of our tournament trail garnered the attention of some national manufactures such as Ranger Boats and Bass Pro Shops and the IBF began to work hand in hand with them. Ranger Boats and Forest Wood have remained stalwart supporters of the IBF to this day. It would be hard to go back and determine the number of Ranger boats that have been awarded as classic prizes and through ticket sales at the annual Boat Sport and Travel Show in Indianapolis. This was quickly followed with Boy Scout Benefit tournament held on Lake Monroe annually for several years, raising several thousands of dollars for the Boy Scouts.
During my years as IBF president, I was most proud of the fact that the Indiana BASS Federation turned its attention to making the lakes and reservoirs better places to visit. Several clubs made access improvements to various sites around the state and the board of directors along with many volunteers financed the building and installation of toilets on Lake Monroe. Those facilities are still in place today.
The Indiana BASS Federation went on to win national recognition through the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society for tournaments, community involvement, and several individual achievements. Indiana was the first State to go to computerized tournaments and federation records.
Briefly, I have tried to recap my recollection of some of what went on in the beginning. None of it would have been possible without the efforts and cooperation of the IBF Board and its leaders, the fishermen and the members of the group that worked together to make the Indiana Bass Federation the leader of the nation. When it was first started, it took the determination, hard work and dedication of the whole to see it through. We must not forget those that went before and strive to keep working and pulling together to continue to excel in this ongoing adventure.