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Carl Dyess
A Hero At Classic ‘09

Wednesday, April 1, 2009
by Ray Scott

I have been taken to task by some BassFan readers for not commenting on the recent Classic in Shreveport/Bossier City, La. I apologize, because as usual there were some interesting back stories for me.

Let me say up front that Classic ’09 was one of those events you look back on and just experience a surge of good feelings. It was an outstanding Classic in my opinion, with one of the best-orchestrated welcomes in my recollection, from signs and billboards to the hotel doorman and restaurauteurs. And the crowds at both the outdoor show and the weigh-in were right in the spirit as well.

I can’t say I was too surprised because when the state of Louisiana puts “Sportsman's Paradise” on its license tags, they ain’t kidding. I’ve never met a Louisianan who didn’t love to hunt or fish – usually both – and not only that, could tell you how to perfectly cook whatever they caught or killed.

Photo: Ray Scott Outdoors
Carl Dyess, winner of the first official BASS tournament in 1968 on Lake Seminole, was honored at the Bassmaster Classic in Shreveport, La. this past February.

The old Red River cooperated as well, producing limit after limit of nice, healthy bass. And the competition was fierce with a nail-biting finish that put Skeet Reese in the lead by a mere 11 ounces., a befitting victory after his heartbreakingly close loss 2 years ago.

But one of the most exciting moments for me came a few days after the Classic when my right-hand man Jim Kientz brought me a hard copy of an article he had pulled off the internet, written by a Texas journalist by the name of Jason Bryant. I did not know Jason Bryant, but by the time I read the article I knew I would soon get to know him because Jason captured in perfect prose a behind-the-scenes story of the Classic that few know about. It got just a little coverge in ink and on TV. But for me personally it was "the story" of the 2009 Classic.

It was at Shreveport when I decided it was time to honor the winner of the very first BASS-sanctioned tournament on Lake Seminole, February of 1968 – Carl Dyess.

I wrote about Carl on this website several months ago. Just to recap, he was one of the earliest and most dedicated tournament competitors on my BASS trail and a great supporter of the organization. There was nothing I did that Carl did not support and promote. He was the kind of disciple that any start-up organization can only dream of having and it came from his heart. He is an outstanding bass fisherman and loves the sport with all his heart.

Carl is not in good health, but his brother Tom brought him to the Classic venue from their home near Mobile, Ala, and on the final weigh-in day, he joined me in his wheelchair on the floor of the CenuryTel Center arena. He wore his decades-old cotton tournament jacket emblazoned with patches – including a lot of BASS tournament patches that I hardly remember.

Once he was on the floor, I made a game of approaching unsuspecting media types and collected dollars for the privilege of having a “unique experience” – money-back guarantee if they weren’t satisfied. Then I asked the trivia question that usually stumps everyone: Who won the first-ever BASS fishing tournament? History buffs usually say Stan Sloan, who did win my first-ever Ray Scott pro fishing event at Beaver Lake in l967, but that was before I founded BASS in January, l968. Some guess Bobby Murray, who won the first Classic at Lake Mead in 1971.

Then I told them about Carl, who was sitting quietly off in the shadows in his wheelchair and grinning, knowing old Scott was up to something again. I asked the media types: Would their dollar be worth meeting this historical BASS figure in person? It was. Word got out and from that moment, Carl was greeted by journalists, Classic insiders and well-wishers and sat patiently for pictures, half-embarrassed, half-pleased.

Then I introduced him from the podium as I made a few introductory comments to the crowd before the weigh-in. I told the story – short and simple. The spotlight zeroed in on Carl and he gave a shy smile and made a winner’s fist. Frankly, I didn’t know how the audience would react to this little history lesson – there were a lot of new generations sitting in those bleachers. But to my amazement, the crowd rose from their seats and roared.

I won’t lie; there was a big lump in my throat.

Here’s the rest of the story. Unknown to me, a writer – Jason Bryant – had carefully observed this entire little drama. Indeed he himself had made a “donation” (which I turned over to Carl) and it was his perceptive account that found its way into his article. He didn’t miss an angle. He knew exactly what was going on, and nailed the importance of this moment for one Ray Scott.

I treasure his account. I e-mailed it to my best friends who shared the early days. I got ahold of Jason in the Houston area. We chatted and then I casually asked him: how old was he? The astonishing answer: 27. I think I experienced stunned silence. I thought surely the piece was written by some old salt who had been around bass fishing and tournaments for umpteen years and knew about me and Carl.

The article was flattering to me, and I appreciate that. But more, Jason saw what I was trying to do. He understood the history that was involved, like the audience that gave a standing ovation for Carl.

I feel great when I think about the ’09 Classic because of Jason and that crowd in Shreveport. Because like a nation that remembers its history and its heroes, a sport that remembers its history and its heroes is on a firm foundation.

To read more about the inspiring story of Ray Scott and the multi-billion-dollar sportfishing industry he created, order Robert Boyle's 368-page biography, Bass Boss, at, or call (800) 518-7222.

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