OKLAHOMA'S FIRST BASSMASTERS CLASSIC WIN? THE BUTLER DID IT


If you know your CLASSIC history, you know that winner of the 2nd annual Bassmaster Classic in 1972 has been called Ray Scott’s “guardian angel”. The fact is, there’s no doubt Don Butler came to the rescue a number of times when Scott was giving birth to the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.). It was Butler who convinced his friends and fellow Tulsa Bass Club members in 1967 to each put up $100 entry fees and help make the first tournament organized by Scott a success.

Butler later explained that if he could get Ray fired up it would inspire him to get the idea of a tournament series going. Months later, Scott was struggling to grow B.A.S.S. Butler talked with him over the phone and convinced him to buy a mailing list from Abu Garcia and mount a direct mail campaign. Scott did not have the $10,000 ABu Garcia wanted for the list, but the next day he received an anonymous Western Union Telegram directing him to go to a local bank. When he did, he was shocked to find an account with $10,000 in his name. The bank told him the money was from an unknown donor, but that donor later proved to be Butler.

Butler was a topnotch angler and an entrepreneur. When spinnerbaits were just starting to catch on, Butler designed and introduced the “S.O.B.”-Small Okiebug Spinnerbait. With that bait, Butler won the 1972 Bassmaster Classic on Percy Priest Reservoir at Nashville, TN. He fished a total of 26 tournaments finishing in the top 10 in half of them, including one win.

With his nose for business opportunity, Butler founded the Okiebug Distributing Co. One of his early customers was an up-and-coming B.A.S.S. pro who was trying to start a retail business. That angler was Johnny Morris, who filled up a U-Haul trailer with Butler's bass tackle and haul it back to Springfield, Missouri, to stock his Bass Pro Shops store. When Scott mandated catch-and-release at B.A.S.S tournaments, it was Butler who designed the first aerated livewell. Butler died in December 2004 after a long battle with cancer. He was 74.

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