Billy Westmorland Dies
Bass fishing lost a legend when Billy Westmorland died Sept. 29 after he suffered a seizure at his home. Westmorland, who made his reputation specializing in smallmouth bass, was a three-time B.A.S.S. winner in the 1970s and fished his way into six consecutive Classics, from 1972-1977.
"Billy Westmorland was a legend in bass fishing, one of the pioneers on the BASSMASTER Tournament Trail," said B.A.S.S. publications director and BASSMASTER Magazine editor Dave Precht. "He was a favorite source of information for articles in BASSMASTER Magazine on the subject of smallmouth bass, his specialty. Few knew more about what he called 'them old brown fish' than he did, yet he excelled at catching largemouth bass, too. Billy will be missed by readers of BASSMASTER."
During his entire 14-year career in professional fishing, reigning BASSMASTERS Classic champion Jay Yelas has only driven one brand of boat - a Skeeter.
As a young man in college at Oregon State University, Yelas fantasized about a career in tournament fishing and was attracted to Skeeter because of its dream team of pros in the mid-1980s. Among the Skeeter pros were Rick Clunn, Larry Nixon, Tommy Martin and Ken Cook.
"That was THE team back then," he said. "There was no other boat company that had a pro team quite so star-studded."
Yelas became a low-level Skeeter pro in 1988.
"My longevity with one boat sponsor is kind of like a professional ballplayer spending his whole career with one team," he said. "It's kind of rare these days.
"I don't have any desire to ever change."
GO EAST, YOUNG MAN
Mark Rizk recently followed fellow California pro Aaron Martens' move East, making Alabama his new home. The former Classic runner-up has moved from Redding and relocated his family in the small town of Arab to be more centrally located for the BASSMASTER Tour and Open circuits.
"You're going to see it happen a lot," Rizk said. "Aaron has already bought a home near Birmingham.
"There are times when I could leave home and stay gone for a month, and there were times when I'd be on the road for two months at a time. There were times when I would drive out for a tournament and then drive straight home. My truck is two years old and has 111,000 miles on it. ... I just got tired of it."
Rizk explained that Alabama was a drawing card for other reasons.
"I really like Alabama, and this is a good place to raise a family," he said. "The state is pro bass fishing. You don't find that in a lot of areas. The state really promotes the whole tournament deal and I appreciate that."
Indiana pro Koby Kreiger, who won the New York BASSMASTER Northern Open on the St. Lawrence River, has been home only 22 days since last November.
DID YOU KNOW?
California pro and three-time Classic qualifier Dave Gliebe has won 44 boats, two trucks and a Cadillac during his career.
Mark Davis (39), Tony Couch (52) and Gary Klein (45) all share Oct. 11 as their birthday. Two days later, Carl Maxfield and Marty Stone turn 50 and 37, respectively.
IF I HADN'T BECOME A BASS PRO...
Veteran North Carolina pro Guy Eaker, 62, would likely still be working as a supervisor at Carolina Freight in Cherryville.
THEY SAID IT
"My parents were disgusted when I failed out of engineering school at the University of Maryland and went into biological science. Then when I announced that I wanted to be a professional fisherman, they saw some hare-brained drunk of a guide. I was considered a failure." Nine-time B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year Roland Martin.