What makes a bass fisherman better than others? You'll find out through this list of the top bass anglers ever.
The competitive sport of bass fishing is a relatively young one even though catching bass is as old as America itself. In the sport of bass fishing's young age there have been a few people who have taken the sport from being one that was rarely heard of outside of the Southeast United States and turned it into an internationally followed sport and a multi-billion dollar industry.
Who has the longest lines at public fishing expos? Who gets the loudest ovation when they take the stage for tournament weigh-ins? Who is instantly recognizable from their television shows? There are lots of ways to measure who's "the best," and it's always subjective.
These 20 anglers below may not all be tournament anglers, and few can rival the tournament accomplishments of Rick Clunn, Kevin VanDam, or Roland Martin. But they all have one thing in common. They are great ambassadors to the sport of bass fishing.
Many have brought bass fishing to the living room of people all across the world and showed people that anyone can get out there and catch a big bass from a boat or from the shore. They have taught us lessons like conservation, family values and just taking a step back to enjoy the beautiful lake, river or pond you are so truly blessed to be fishing on.
It doesn't matter if you grew up fishing in Alabama, Texas, New York, Arkansas, Michigan, or Oklahoma. And it doesn't matter if you have a huge social media following or not. By a standard we've determined ourselves, here are the 20 top bass anglers of all time.
1. Ray Scott
Ray Scott founded the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S) in 1967, which later became simply known as BASS. He founded the first tournament trail in history dedicated to black bass, the BASS tournament trail.
2. Bill Dance
Best known for his TV show Bill Dance Outdoors, Bill Dance was also a successful BASS Tournament Angler in its early years and is credited by some as the first person to catch a bass on that tournament trail. He has provided tips, tricks and insight to bass anglers since 1968. His blooper reels are the stuff of legend amongst anglers. Bill is also a champion of conservation always reminding anglers to "Keep what you can use, and throw back the rest."
3. Forrest L. Wood
Forrest L. Wood is the founder of Ranger Boats and whose initials are used by the FLW tour for its namesake. (Although it now means Fishing League Worldwide) He qualified for the first Bassmaster Classic in 1967. In 1968 his boats became the official boats of the Classic and stayed that way until the year 2000.
4. Kevin VanDam
The man that is synonymous with modern day competitive bass angling, Kevin VanDam qualified for 24 straight Bassmaster Classics, racking up four first place finishes. He became the youngest angler on the BASS Elite Series to be name Angler of the Year at age 24 in 1992. He has won six more titles since that time. He is the angler who it is believed coined the term "power fishing."
5. Roland Martin
Roland Martin is the host of Fishing with Roland Martin. Along with having a hit TV show, he has had a stellar tournament bass fishing career. Roland Martin has qualified for 25 Bassmaster Classics, has won 19 pro tour events, earned second place 19 times and placed in the top 10 on tour 94 times. Along with Bill Dance, he is a strong voice for conservation amongst anglers and sportsman. His son, Scott Martin, has taken the mantle and currently fishes on the pro tour.
6. Jimmy Houston
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TV host Jimmy Houston has been putting bass fishing on the American sports map after hosting a variety of fishing shows throughout the years. He is also an accomplished tournament angler, having fished most recently on the FLW tour.
7. Rick Clunn
As a four time Bassmaster Classic winner, Rick Clunn is tied with Kevin VanDam for most Classic victories. To add to his list of major tournament wins, he has a pair of WON Bass U.S. Open Championships on Lake Mead, which has been said is the toughest tournament to win in the west. He was also the 1988 BASS Angler of the Year.
8. Hank Parker
Two-time Bassmaster Classic Champion Hank Parker has hosted his famous television show Hank Parker's Outdoor Magazine for more than three decades. The show is full of tips and techniques to help everyone from the beginner to professional angler catch more and bigger fish.
9. Mike "Ike" Iaconelli
Fish love, it’s real! This was my big fish from the last time I fished Lake Conroe, and I hope to find more like her tomorrow! #fishing #bassfishing @hobiefishing @BassCatBoats @LowranceFishing @RAMMounts @WyldGear @flambeauout @vmchooks @Gerber_Gear @ pic.twitter.com/CfW8278ivE
— Mike “IKE” Iaconelli (@mike_Iaconelli) February 12, 2019
BASS Elite Series Angler Mike Iaconelli is definitely one of the most recognizable figures in fishing right now. He has won both a Bassmaster Classic Championship and a Toyota Elite Series Angler of the Year title. He also has an obscure award bestowed upon him by GQ Magazine, in the form of being one of 2006's 10 Most Hated Athletes. Whether it's his fist pumping, yelling, or any other crazy antics that earned Iaconelli the award, the self-proclaimed "power fisherman" is certainly in the bass fishing public's eye.
10. Al Lindner
How's this for a flashback? 20 years ago today, my brother Ron and I sold In-Fisherman. Honestly, it feels like it was just yesterday.
Al Lindner could be described as a jack of all trades when it comes to fishing. He won two BASS tournaments (then the BASS Tour Trail), and after quitting tournament angling in 1979 he continued to educate anglers through In-Fisherman, which he and his brother Ron sold in 1998. Now he helps run a new company known as Lindner's Angling Edge. Al's favorite fish is the smallmouth bass.
11. Shaw Grigsby
Day 5... Almost 10lbs. Lake Toho on a Strike King spinner bait.
Shaw Grigsby is another successful outdoor TV host with a solid tournament record. He currently host's One More Cast with Shaw Grigsby. He has won nine times on the Bassmaster Elite Series Tour and has taken four top tens on the FLW tour.
12. Gary Klein
Gary Klein has been fishing both the Elite Series since 1978 and has been fishing the FLW tour since 1997. He has eight wins and four wins respectively as well as two BASS AOY titles.
13. Larry Nixon
Larry Nixon is a winner on both the FLW tour and the BASS Elite Series. All told, he has won FLW events four times and earned BASS victories in fourteen tournaments, tying him with Rick Clunn. To add to those accomplishments, he has one Bassmaster Classic and one Bassmaster AOY title to hang on his wall. He continues to fish to this day and his hard work and dedication are admirable.
14. Dave Mercer
Freeing the Freak-Panda back to Mother Erie!
The infectious laughter of Canadian Dave Mercer anytime he hooks a "triple sow cow" smallmouth bass can be heard and seen repeatedly on his show The Facts of Fishing. Dave has such an energetic personality on his show that BASS decided to bring him on as the emcee for the 2011 Bassmaster Classic. When he did such an amazing job, they kept him around and he now takes the stage nearly all season during BASS Tournaments.
15. Johnny Morris
Ordering and buying bass fishing lures was forever changed by Johnny Morris after he started selling them out of catalogs in 1974. His company Bass Pro Shops, now has sixty-four locations all over the U.S. and Canada with more stores popping up all the time. He is also credited with building the first boat outfitted with a motor on it right off the line.
16. Chris Houston
Chris Houston is married to Jimmy Houston. While appearing frequently on Jimmy's TV show, she was also a superstar on the Bass'n Gals Circuit where she racked up several points titles and won the World Championships several times.
17. Jay Yelas
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Jay Yelas is no stranger to bass fishing competition. He has racked up five wins on the BASS Elite Series tour, and earned a Bassmaster Classic win and an AOY title in 2003. On the FLW tour he has earned himself 21 top ten finishes and has been to the Forrest Wood Cup 10 times.
18. Mark Davis
Three time Bassmaster AOY Mark Davis has been fishing professionally for nearly three decades. In that time Mark earned one Bassmaster Classic victory, five regular Elite Series victories, and one victory on the FLW tour.
19. Jordan Lee
Jordan Lee represents the young guns on the pro tour, and his two Bassmaster Classic wins in 2017 and 2018 put him on the radar of bass aficionados everywhere. Prior to that, he won the Bassmaster College Series Bracket Championship in 2014.
20. Billy Westmorland
Billy was one of the guys that jetted professional bass fishing to where it is today. He is most noted for his love of smallmouth bass, which led to his authoring "Billy Westmorland on Smallmouth: Them Ol' Brown Fish." He also won three BASS tournaments in the early years. Billy died in 2002.
As you can see most of the anglers that have brought bass fishing to the main stream have been tournament anglers, but not all. Others have such enthusiasm for the sport that you yourself can't help but dream of catching big bass on your home lake, river or pond.
What do you think? Have any of these guys inspired you to get out and go fishing? Is there any other pro or even someone else that has done it for you? Please leave your comments below!