Years after winning the biggest award in his sport, Bo Dowden inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame | Sports
Publisher’s Note: This is the first in a series of stories about those inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2021. Induction ceremonies are in Natchitoches on August 28th.
Bo Dowden’s scream of joy that day along the troubled St. Lawrence River in New York State could be heard almost as far as Natchitoches.
The professional angler had just caught a 6-pound, 6-ounce largemouth bass for his fifth and final fish on a stormy, rough day on the water – earning his first win at a professional bass fishing tournament.
It was also at the sport’s most prestigious event – the 1980 Bassmaster Classic.
“I was really happy when I put my thumb in this fish’s mouth,” said Dowden. “When I grabbed it, I knew I had won the damn tournament. Nobody could catch me back then.”
Yes, it was a little embellishment that someone in his hometown Bos heard “YAHAAHOOOOOOOO”. While it would make a good fish story, it was a lot more than that since Dowden had just won the Super Bowl of Fishing.
“It was pretty amazing,” said Dowden, who beat 40 of the country’s top bass anglers for the coveted title of bass master champion. “It was one thing I always wanted.”
Dowden will receive another prestigious honor when he is inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches on Saturday, August 28, to crown a three-day induction ceremony.
Dowden’s love of fishing began as a young child who grew up on the corner of Williams Avenue and Sirod Street in Natchitoches.
He was taught how to fish by his grandfather, VS Pugh, as the two of them spent many afternoons and weekends fishing on nearby Black and Saline Lake.
Dowden used a stick rod to grab the early fishing lines before moving on to rod and reels.
Young Dowden instantly fell in love with the sport – and the difficulties that came with it.
“It was a challenge,” said Dowden, who started fishing at the age of 4.
“You had to stick with the program,” he added. “You couldn’t be lazy out there. I didn’t care if it was the goo or the channel catfish, I just loved being out on the water.”
Dowden’s passion for fishing continued to grow – sometimes even dropping out of Natchitoches High School, where he graduated in 1959.
In fact, fishing was so important to Dowden’s life that it helped make him attend Northwestern State University.
“The campus was 30 minutes from Saline Lake and the Duck Blind,” said Dowden.
Dowden graduated from Northwestern State with a degree in Industrial Arts in 1965, but his quest to become a professional perch fisherman did not come immediately.
His first pro bass tournament took place at Lake Sam Rayburn in 1972.
After that tournament, Dowden became addicted to becoming a professional fisherman while at the same time running a successful shipping company and raising three children with his wife, Gladys.
That meant there were many weekends when Bo was out of town for tournaments, but the Dowdens made the Patriarch’s passion a family event.
“I’ve always seen it as an opportunity,” said Gladys. “Our three boys were allowed to travel a good bit with him. They saw this country from one end to the other and got to know people. It was a great education for our children.”
Within a few years, the slow-speaking Dowden gained a reputation for being one of the best and most respected professional fishermen in the United States.
Dowden competed in 14 Bassmaster Classics, including third place in 1982. By the time he retired from competitive fishing in 2001, he had accumulated career profits of $ 235,261.79 in sanctioned BASS events.
ESPN Outdoors and BASS ranked him among the 35 greatest anglers of all time in 2004.
Now he’s inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, joining his good friend – the late Grits Gresham, an icon of Natchitoches.
“I was pretty amazed,” said Dowden of joining the state’s sports shrine. “Most of the people I know who got in were basketball or football players. It’s really an honor.”