There are all kinds of different fish for anglers to try and catch. And sportsmen definitely like to take a crack at all of them. When it comes to competitive sport fishing, though, bass is king.
Bass fishing has been a competitive sport in the United States since the late 1960s. The popularity of the sport has only been boosted by a growing number of televised fishing shows. And there are many different circuits offering anglers the chance to compete. Following is a list of the best bass anglers of all time.
Few people in the world have done more competitive bass fishing than Roland Martin. Martin has fished in a whopping 291 tournaments, achieving great success along the way. He ended up in the top ten 94 times with 19 first-place finishes and 19 second-place finishes.
Martin is also well known for his appearances on the big screen. He has been the long-time host of Fishing with Roland Martin. The television host makes a point of talking about conservation when it comes to bass fishing.
Born in Mount Ida, Arkansas, in 1963, Mark Davis has been fishing professionally for the last 29 years. He has made appearances in a total of 234 tournaments. He won five of those tournaments and has placed in the top 10 of 45 of them.
Davis’ greatest year came in 1995 when he was named the 1995 Bassmaster Classic Champion. In addition to that championship, the fisherman was also named the B.A.S.S. Angler of the year in 1995, 1998 and 2001.
Chris Houston has been a bass fishing pioneer in a number of different ways. She became the first superstar of the Bass’n Gals circuit during the 1970’s. She also was a founding member of the Tulsa Bass Belles, the first ever all female bass club.
Married to TV fishing host Jimmy Houston, she was the Bass’n Gal Angler of the year 7 times. Houston was inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame in 2005.
Jay Yelas has not only achieved significant success on the Pro Bass Fishing Tour, he did so at a younger age than most. At the age of 41, Yelas shocked the B.A.S.S. fishing world by joining up with the competing FLW tour. He has now rejoined B.A.S.S. at 53.
During his first go-around in B.A.S.S. he finished in the top 10 53 times in only 201 starts. He also won the championship as well as an Angler of the Year award in 2003.
Al Lindner was born in Chicago, Illinois during the 1940s. He enjoyed angling for all different kinds of fish but his true passion was small mouth bass. When the tournament was still known as the Bass Tour Trail he won two major championships.
After Lindner retired from fishing in 1979, he continued to promote the sport by starting In-Fisherman Magazine with his brother Ron. The Lindner brothers ended up selling the magazine in 1998.
When it comes to bass fishing, Hank Parker is a bit like a Michael Jordan or a Tiger Woods. In 1985 he became the first bass fisherman to win the Grand Slam of Professional bass fishing.
Following his storied career, Parker went on to host Hank Parker’s Outdoor Magazine which has run for over 30 years. He has been a marketing machine and has appeared on a number of television shows and even starred in his own video game: Bassin’s Black Bass with Hank Parker.
Billy Westmorland was not always meant to be a legendary bass fisherman. His initial passion was football and he earned a scholarship to Middle Tennessee State. After a knee injury ended his football career, though, he moved to fishing full time.
He was an early star on the Bass circuit and is credited with helping the sport to achieve the success it currently enjoys. Westmorland, who died in 2003, wrote a popular book about fishing called Billy Westmorland on Smallmouth: Them ‘Ol Brown Fish.
Many anglers have become famous thanks to bass fishing and all of them owe their thanks to Ray Scott. Scott began the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society back in 1967 and it has grown into the biggest organization in the sport.
In addition to founding the B.A.S.S. tour, Scott also founded Bassmaster Magazine as well as the Bassmaster television series. Scott’s initial goal was to make bass fishing the most popular sport in America and is considered the “Godfather” of the sport.
Forrest L. Wood
While many of the other fishermen on the list have made their mark on the sport because of their angling ability, Wood is here because of his innovation. The former fishing guide founded Ranger boats in 1968.
The boats soon became the absolute favorite of bass fishermen. As an angler, Wood qualified for the first-ever Bassmaster Classic and Ranger boats were the Classic’s official boat until 2000. He has been inducted to numerous bass related Hall of Fames.
Kevin Van Dam
Unlike in most other sports, bass fishermen can take a bit longer time to achieve huge success. Kevin Van Dam was a bit different than most. He turned professional at 23 and had already won BASS Angler of the Year by the age of 25.
The tour’s all-time leading money winner, Van Dam has won four Bassmaster Classic Titles in 2001, 2005, 2010 and 2011. As of 2017 he had earned $6,261,476.33 in prize money. Often referred to as KVD, Van Dam is one of the most recognizable faces in the sport’s history.
Along with his wife Chris, a Bass’N Gal superstar, Houston was part of the first family of bass fishing. Jimmy was nowhere near as successful as most of the other fishermen on this list, but he made his impact in other ways.
Houston was the host of a popular bass fishing show that ran on ESPN for 21 years and the Outdoor Life Network after that. He has influenced generations of anglers to try their hand at the sport.
Mike Iocanelli, also known as Ike, is one of the current superstars of bass fishing. His antics while out on the water also make him a polarizing one. In 2006, GQ magazine named him one of the country’s 10 Most Hated Athletes.
But no one inspires hatred without being a true success. In 250 starts, Ike has finished in the money a total of 172 times. He is also the only angler to have won the Bassmaster Classic, Bassmaster Angler of the Year and B.A.S.S. Nation Championship
Shaw Grigsby was born in Gainesville, Florida in 1956. Fishing on both the BASS tour as well as the FLW, he has angled in a total of 352 tournaments. He has finished in the money at 190 events including nine first-place finishes and 60 top tens.
Grigsby, like many others on the list, became a popular TV fishing host. Viewers are familiar with the affable angler from his show, One More Cast with Shaw Grigsby.
Gary Klein is an accomplished veteran of the sport of bass fishing. He has competed in over 400 tournaments, finishing in the money a whopping 252 times.
There have been a number of highlights during those competitions. Klein was named the BASS Angler of the Year 2 times and also won 8 tournaments. Klein has also made a nice living in the sport as he is the all-time money winner in the World Championship Fishing organization.
Larry Nixon has taken advantage of the fact that there are multiple fishing leagues for him to ply his trade. The angler has been quite active on both the BASS Elite Series and the FLW Tour.
Nixon has achieved significant success winning the 1983 Bassmaster Classic and he also captured the Angler of the Year award on two different occasions. He has also made himself quite a bit of money and was the first angler to ever win a amass $1 million in tournament winnings.
The Canadian-born Dave Mercer is much more known for his comedic chops than his fishing ability. His place on this list is due more to his personality than anything else. He works in the sport as both a TV host and a tournament emcee.
Mercer was first hired by BASS to be the emcee of the Bassmaster Classic in 2011 and has held the role ever since. The Canadian is also the host of a popular television series, The Facts of Fishing.
Johnny Morris didn’t influence the sport of bass fishing so much as a participant but more as a supplier. The businessman began selling his lures through a catalog back in 1974.
His lures were quite popular and he expanded his offerings. Eventually, Morris opened up Bass Pro Shops. The store has grown into a massive chain and now Bass Pro Shops has a total of 64 stores across the country. Morris is also well known for his conservation efforts and received an Audobon medal in 2019.
Denny Brauer spent an awful lot of time on the water fishing for bass, 32 years to be exact. He ended his career in 2012 placing in the top 5 of a number of different bass fishing categories.
Brauer, considered a legend in the sport, appeared in a total of 319 tournaments. He won 17 of those events and currently ranks 3rd of all-time. He also earned plenty of prize money and finished his career with $2,579,393.71 in winnings.
Rick Clunn is not only one of the most successful anglers of all time, but he remains successful 40 years after his career began. In 2019, the fisherman won a Bassmaster Classic event at the age of 72.
The angler has won a total of 4 Bassmaster Classics in 1976, 1977, 1984 and 1990. The four classic wins tie him with Kevin Van Dam for the most wins of all time. And Clunn obviously isn’t done yet.
When the question of who is the most important figure in the history of bass fishing is raised, Bill Dance must be discussed. Dance doesn’t have a laundry list of wins, but some consider him the first angler to ever catch a fish on the pro bass tour.
Dance’s true impact has come as a TV host. He has been on the air since 1968, offering tips and tricks on how to best get a bass on the line. There is arguably no angler who hasn’t been a watcher of his show.