Southern Bassin’

Southern Bass Tournament Association is relatively a new around here and it sure has caught on to anglers in Texas and Louisiana. The association was introduced to the public at the Houston Summer Boat Show of 1993 and fishermen did not hesitate to join in the competitions. Bill Miller, the owner of Southern Bass and a tournament fisherman himself, had been organizing tournaments in the Lake Conroe and Lake Houston area for four years under his own name prior to forming Southern Bass. These tournaments were just called Team Tournaments and were strictly local. In the spring of ’93, several national companies including Skeeter Boats, Bill Lewis Lures, Storm Lures, Cast-Away Rods, Lake Systems and CCSI persuaded Miller to start an East Texas tournament series, and Southern Bass was born. The organization began with one employee, Miller, who also works full-time for Continental Distributors of Houston, an auto parts distributing company. Now, almost a year after its conception, Southern Bass boasts a staff of eight. Miller’s daughter, covers the phones three days a week and Miller himself uses his weekends to promote tournaments. Unlike many other tournament associations, Southern Bass offers individual tournaments. There are nine dates scheduled this year for the Individual Tournament Circuit in Texas and first place pays $1600. The entry fee is a mere $100. Another practice of Southern Bass’ that’s uncommon for tournaments is the 80% payback policy on all of the organization’s tournaments. Seventy per cent of all money collected is paid at the lake, says Miller, while 10% goes to the championship tournament winner at the end of the year. And Southern Bass is the only tournament association offering a bonus money program according to Miller. It works like this: All the late entry fees go into a pot that all contestants are eligible to win. When a contestant’s name is drawn, he wins the whole thing – as much as $400 a tournament so far this year. Southern Bass is the exclusive distributor of Okie Lite Lures in Texas. Okie Lite is a fishing tackle manufacturer in Oklahoma. Okie Lite products include spinner baits, jigs, plastic craws and plastic trailers. The 1994 Team Tournament competition hosted by Southern Bass in Texas has nine dates scheduled and the entry fee is $125 per team. First place on this one pays $2300. The Louisiana Team Tournament circuit this year also has nine dates and the entry fee is $75 per team. First place is expected to pay $1400. Miller tries to take July and August off every year “to keep the fish kill down.” He says it’s easier for fish to die out of water in these hot summer months. Out of 731 bass caught by Southern Bass tournament contestants as of early April this year, only three died. All of the Southern Bass tournaments are officiated from a unique 8′ X 20′ stage that is transported to each tournament. Miller himself personally weighs the fish and helps the contestants get the entertainment value they expect. Miller says, “everything we do is first-class. People want to be associated with a winner, and that’s what Southern Bass is.” the weigh-ins, mail-outs, membership lists and other information of the association is done by computer. On June 5th, Southern Bass is planning a tournament on Lake Conroe to benefit the River Plantation Lions’ Club. This tournament has a $75 entry fee, is open to anyone, pro or amateur, and will be held at Anchorage Marina. In ’95 Miller plans to open up more regions to tournaments in Texas, Louisiana and other states. He is looking for tournament directors in other areas of Texas (north of Lake Richland Chambers, west of Lake Palestine and south of the Houston area) and other states. He prefers that they live in the area that is to be considered. Miller also plans to give away several fully rigged bass boats in ’95. Southern Bass Tournament Association may be a newcomer to tournament circuits around these parts, but Miller says, “we’re here for the long run – not just the first or second year.” If you look around, you’ll probably find you know at least one Southern Bass tournament angler. Randy Dearman has even picked up the team tournament circuit this year. Miller feels very good about the future of Southern Bass. He says, “we’ve grown faster than we’ve anticipated and that’s why ~I feel positive about our future plans.”

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