1933 Leesburg National Bass Tournament

4 Aug

Down to the wire! The 1933 Leesburg National Bass Tournament

You can’t beat Shick!

That was most likely the thoughts of a lot of the contestants in the annual Leesburg Florida National Bass Tournament of 1933. J.B. Schick was the dominant player in the early years of the event, capturing the largest fish to date. However in 1933, things would change.

In that year, some the rules had changed from previous tournaments.  Now, Florida residents could participate in certain categories and win prizes as well.

first nat 1

The categories were:

  1.  Largest Bass on artificial lures (non-residents)
  2. Largest Bass on live bait (non-residents)
  3. Largest Bass trolling (open to all)
  4. Largest Bass casting artificial or live bait (residents)
  5. Largest Bass woman (resident)
  6. Pickerel (non-resident)
  7. Catfish (open to all)
  8. Perch (non-resident)
  9. Junior Bass (all up to 16 years)

RL Stevens from the fire department was the official weigh-master, and all fish had to be weighed on the fire department scales to keep it fair. The tournament had some major sponsors in 1933 as well. The sponsor list included: The Builders of Leesburg, First national Bank, the Magnolia Hotel, Lakeview Hotel, and Harris Hardware.

Harris Hardware Window Display

Harris Hardware Window Display

Magnolia Hotel Brochure that promoted tournament

Magnolia Hotel Brochure that promoted tournament

The tournament lasted 2 months, from January 15th through March 13th, and contestants could fish as much as they liked, but were contained to the lakes that resided in Leesburg; Harris, Griffin, and Silver Lake.  Charles Abele was a longtime Leesburg wintering resident, and did most of the promotion for the tournament. Mr. Abele got national attention, and pulled the best anglers from all over the Northeast and Midwest. J.B. Shick was one of the “big name” fisherman from LaPorte Indiana. Shick had caught the largest bass in the in the history of the tournament, a 12 pound 8 ounce gorilla in 1928. Schick competed every year and was well known amongst all the anglers competing.

The grand prize for the tournament was the envy of all the participants and local enthusiasts……the infamous “Silver Cup”.  Shick had his cup, and another noteworthy angler named T.H. Farmer from Martin Tennessee, was hungry for his. Farmer had fished all 5 of the events since the tournaments inception in 1928, and came within 6 ounces in 1932 when he was edged out by George Miller on the last day.

Farmer was determined this year, and fished 14 hours a day 6 days a week, only taking off on Sundays. He had a respectable 9 pounder, but nowhere near the 12 pound 2 ounce fish that was in the lead. In fact, the lead was shared by two gentleman,  both from Florida, P.B. Alsobrook and L.P. Fussell. The Leesburg Commercial from the day before the close of the tournament read:

“Tournament This Year a Walkover, It Seems, for Natives”

Most believed that headline, since no one had come within 2 pounds of the two Floridians that were in the lead. Farmer was more determined than ever on that final day. He was at his boathouse at 5 AM and was ready to give it one more try. But…… as fate would have it, his outboard would not start……. He called the local mechanic and finally got the motor started at 10:30 and was off to give it his best shot.

Farmer did the impossible that afternoon. He came to the Fire Department scales with a behemoth fish of 12 pounds 15 ounces, eclipsing Shick’s record, and taking the Silver Cup!

Farmer indeed proved that when stricken with adversity, and with pressure on the line, that all you can control is the lure on your line…… and having patience and determination will win out in the end!

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