Inside BASS: Mark Davis Recalls His First BASS Roadtrip

Although he's now a three-time BASS Angler of the Year and former CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion, Mark Davis will never forget his first Bassmaster Top 100 tournament.

It was in December of 1988 when Davis and new wife, Tilly, traveled to Florida's Lake Okeechobee.

"To go to that tournament, we took the last money we had out of the bank," Davis recalled recently. "It was right before Christmas and there was no guiding in Arkansas in December.

"My wife had all the faith in the world that we would go down there and win some money. Here we are taking our last nickel - maybe not our last, but money was tight. We'd just gotten married that summer, and it was our first winter together.

"Anyway, we take off for Florida. We're in a hurry. We're running late, need to get there, and I spilled Coke all over my lap. This is before we get out of Hot Springs, Ark. This is going to be a terrible trip. I'm soaked with Coke. We drive and drive and drive straight through to Okeechobee non-stop. We get down there and can't find a room. There's no rooms. Wore out from driving 22 hours or so. Finally find a little place right there on the highway - right on the side of it. I mean it wasn't even an arm's length from the road. Those sugar cane trucks were right outside our window all night long, going back and forth. We didn't get any sleep.

"What I forgot to tell you is we pull up there and unhook the boat, and here comes this German fellow. He could barely speak English. And he's drunk. He comes up and he just climbs right up in the boat, and I couldn't get him out. I'm just wore out, and I'm irritable. I'm tired. I'm broke. And on top of all this, they'd had a hurricane down there and a cold front. And Okeechobee is a chocolate brown color.

"So we get out there the next morning fishing, and Tilly is asleep in the boat. It's about 10 o'clock when I look over there to this little bitty island with grass around it and I see a guy laying out there in the weeds. All of sudden he sees me, stands up and doesn't have a stitch of clothes on. It was that old drunk gentleman. I said, 'Tilly wake up. You've got to see this.'

"The fishing was bad. I caught one fish the first day at practice, and you talk about fussing - I was fussing. The second day, I fished and fished and I didn't catch anything. The only clear water I'd seen was in the rim ditch. So I decided I was going to go by there and fish that rim ditch. There had never been a tournament won out of the rim ditch. But the last day of practice I caught a 4-pounder and a 7- or 8-pounder on a jig. And nobody threw a jig on Okeechobee back then.

"I started the tournament right there and caught seven bass off of this one log in about 10 casts the first morning. I went on to finish third right there. We won $40,000 or so. That fed us up for the winter.

"I'll never forget that tournament. We don't know what happened to the drunk. That poor fellow, the alligators probably got him."

FEDERATION VIGNETTES. The BASS Federation will be the subject of a new series of mini-shows during the ESPN Outdoors weekend morning television block. The vignettes are designed to familiarize more people with the Federation's history, conservation and youth initiatives, and tournaments.

JM Associates, which also produces "The CITGO Bassmasters" for ESPN, will be in Montgomery, Ala. this week to tape interviews with BASS Federation Director Don Corkran, BASS Conservation Director Bruce Shupp, BASS founder Ray Scott, and Federation member Jim Howard of Eufaula, Ala.

NIXON RECOVERING. Legendary Arkansas pro Larry Nixon finally did something about an injury that has hampered him for the last couple of years.

Nixon recently underwent surgery on his right hand and wrist. Surgeons fused two small bones that connect the hand to the wrist. That area had created enormous pain for him when he moved his thumb and had become immune to cortisone injections.

Today his casting hand/wrist is in a large cast and will be immobile for six to eight weeks. But he expects to make a good recovery in time for the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Tour season.

ANOTHER HONOR FOR ROLAND. All-time BASS tournament winner and nine-time BASS Angler of the Year Roland Martin will be inducted to the prestigious IGFA Hall of Fame on Oct. 28. He is the first BASS pro to be awarded that honor.

"I'm excited about it," said Martin, 63. "Getting inducted into the IGFA Hall of Fame means you're a highly accomplished all-around angler, not just a bass fisherman. That's a big deal."

BASS AND GOLF. Connecticut pro Lee Bailey recently fished with some PGA pros at the Woodlands Nemacolin Resort and Spa as part of the 84 Lumber Bass Classic.

"What a great time. It was nice to give all the golf pros and their families an event for them to just have some fun and unwind," the former BASS winner said. "We stocked the pond with 75 tagged fish. These along with the pond's resident fish allowed for a great time.

"It is promotions like this that will continue to grow not only our sport, but all sports we work with. I know that the demographics of our sport cross over into many different venues."

DID YOU KNOW? The 2004 Classic in Charlotte will be the fifth world-championship event staged in North Carolina. Greensboro and High Rock Lake hosted three previous Classics. The 1975 Classic was played on Currituck Sound.

PRO BIRTHDAYS. Mark Davis (40), Tony Couch (53) and Gary Klein (46) all share Oct. 11 as their birthday. Two days later, Marty Stone turns 38.

IF I HADN'T BECOME A BASS PRO... Florida pro Chuck Economou would likely still be working as an accountant in Michigan.

THEY SAID IT. "BASS, we've got the fans. And they support us. I want to see what happens when we've got a full capacity (at Classic weigh-ins) in Charlotte and they're looking at 1,000 people in Birmingham. And it's not because the people of Alabama won't support bass fishing. They will. They're the greatest fans in the world. But that's just it - they're fans of B.A.S.S. fishing. I think at the end of the day, the FLW folks are going to wish they hadn't done this." Outspoken North Carolina pro Marty Stone reacts to news that the season-ending FLW Championship in Birmingham has been scheduled on top of the 34th CITGO Bassmaster Classic.

For more information contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit