A Timeline of U.S. Bass Fishing

Since the late 1700s, technological advancements have helped accelerate the popularity of bass fishing in the United States.

The history of bass fishing in the United States can be traced back to the early 1800s, when technological advancement was peaking during the industrial revolution. It started with the construction and enhancement of fishing reels, and from there, the sport’s popularity skyrocketed. Wealthy merchants and anglers like Samuel Tisdale began unofficial, yet successful stocking programs as early as 1850, and by 1893, the United States Fish Commission had stocked largemouth and smallmouth bass in 29 states. Over time, the sport grew in popularity on a national and even global level. This U.S. bass fishing timeline highlights the key inventions and technological innovations that have helped to develop the sport into the $70 billion-a-year industry that it is today.

Black bass were originally stocked as a food fish for people to feed their families at a low cost.

1770: British reel maker Onesimus Ustonson advertises the first multiplying reels, the predecessor of today’s baitcasters.

1897: William Shakespeare Jr. invents a level wind device for bait casting reels, making them much easier to use and more popular.

1902: James Heddon receives his Fish-Bait patent for a floating wooden lure carved from a barrel plug.

1909: Ole Evinrude unveils a 1.5-horsepower outboard that becomes the first commercially successful engine.

An illustration of a largemouth bass by Sherman F. Denton done for the Forest, Fish & Game Commission of New York State in 1907.

1932: George Perry lands the still-standing world-record 22-pound, 4-ounce largemouth in Georgia.

1938: Spinning reels are introduced in the U.S., and along with monofilament, make casting much easier for the average angler.

1948: Skeeter unveils a boat specifically designed for bass fishing, creating a new category of watercraft.

1949: Fiberglass rods are introduced and quickly replace bamboo rods.

1957: Carl Lowrance develops the first sonar units for anglers, capable of detecting both structure and individual fish.

1967: Ray Scott hosts his first fishing tournament. Bill Dance catches the first fish, a 2-pounder, within a minute of the start.

1968: Bill Dance launches the first televised TV show dedicated to bass fishing, Bill Dance Outdoors, on an ABC affiliate in Memphis.

2000: According to B.A.S.S., 20 million people fish for black bass. The impact of bass fishing on the economy is estimated to be between $50 and $70 billion annually.

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