Where to begin? Well many moons ago – no scratch that. Back in the day – no scratch that too. How about this? It was 1992 and Laurie and I were stationed in California at Beale A.F.B. I was an aircraft pnuedraulic mechanic with a passion for bass fishing. Laurie was a house wife trying to keep our three daughters healthy and making good grades in school. Laurie had a lot of spare time on her hands and was always trying to come up with a way that she could turn that time into some extra funds.
When I was younger my old man taught me how to make plastic worms, it was nothing more than a hobby and I would sell them to our local bass club members that I am sure only bought them to be nice to the kid, but it helped pay for the plastic and some new colors to experiment with. With this knowledge and Lauries desire to do something from the house that would make money, we started Corks Custom Crawlers; custom hand poured worms.
Over the next year this business slowly grew and by the next spring we had 7 stores stocking our products and individual sales were doing very well. However we werent making a lot of money, some spare spending money but definitely not contributing to the retirement fund.
That summer Laurie and I fished a couple invitational tournaments on one of our local lakes, Oroville in north central California. While we were doing well and taking a check pretty regular, Laurie thought that this would be a great avenue to advertise our worms. So the next event we showed up with hundreds of little baggies with samples of our products in them and passed them out to every fisherman that showed up to register for the tournament. Well the director didnt think that was such a good idea because he had sponsors that paid to be able to have hand outs at the tournaments and our products conflicted with those. That made sense and I thought oh well it was a shot, not Laurie she thought Okay then, we will just hold our own tournament.
In 1994, the tournament circuit Team Bass was born. It was a circuit that fished only one lake and fished it once a month for eight straight months with a championship tournament at the end of the year. It went over very well and by our second season we were drawing over 80 boats a tournament and businesses were coming to use to advertise their products! Corks Custom Crawlers took off and we were pouring worms as fast as we could and still not able to keep up with the demand. We had store owners from 150 miles away making orders along with the personal business that would pay extra just to get moved to the top of the line. Laurie developed a color that was called Green Sands, and it became a main stay in everyones box just like a junebug worm!
We are finally making some serious money and having a blast doing it. We didnt get to fish much over the next two years because we were always working the business but it was worth it because we were doing something we enjoyed and we had our finger on the pulse of the bass fishing world. Most weekends were spent trying to catch up from the previous weeks orders. Finally we hired a couple people to pour the simple colors for us and that freed up some time to get back on the water.
In 1996 the Air Force decided that I needed to move and gave me orders to Osan Korea and after a year there I was to report to Barksdale A.F.B. Louisiana. This was the demise of Corks Custom Crawlers and Team Bass. Fortunately we were able to finish our final tournament of Team Bass before I had to go, and we sold the worm business to a California man that wanted to make a go at it.
Did my time in Korea and finally got home to Laurie and the kids, but now we are in Louisiana and Laurie has found a 9-5 job to keep here busy but she really isnt enjoying it at all. One day in 1998 Laurie meets me at the Burger King on base for lunch and she has had a bad day and really doesnt want to go back. As we are talking about life she asks What about a tournament circuit here? Could be fun lets research it? Well after some in depth research there is only one team tournament circuit in the area and most folks are really not that happy with it at all. So the fall of 98 we held a couple open tournaments to see what kind of draw we would get and to be honest it was kinda poor. We didnt take into account that the south is full of hunters and in the fall most of them put the rods up for the riffles and shot guns. This is something we didnt have to contend with out west in California. So disappointed but not discouraged. Laurie built a schedule for the 1999 season and we thought for days and had several different names, but the one she decided on was Ultimate Bass Team Trail. She spent her winter advertising it in all the local boat shops, dealers, and tackle stores. Come February it was time to have our first tournament, not a spectacular turn out but enough to make it worth having. We had 22 teams show up to fish. Threw that entire season we had our ups and downs with many learning curves and lessons learned. But threw all our troubles, Laurie impressed the hell out of the few fisherman we had with her honesty, fairness, and sticking to her rules no matter what. Word got around about the Tournament Lady and how you didnt want to cross paths with here at 4:30 in the morning. You better have your money ready and sign up with out any hassle or she would kick you right out of the line.
The 2000 season was a blast with two divisions, one on Saturday and one on Sunday and a championship tournament at the end of the year that took 25 boats from each division. We are now drawing between 50-60 teams per event and everyone is having a great time. Our only problem was that the mailing list was killing us in postage; we had to come up with a cheaper way to get results and news to the members with out having to build a flyer, get it copied, fold and stuff it in an envelope, carry it to the post office, and pay for postage. Laurie, in here spare time, had been playing with building websites on Geo Cities because it was free and something she had an interest in. Well low and behold she was a natural and the more she read about Web Design the more she wanted to read, before long she paid for space on a server and was building the Ultimate Bass Team Trail web site so that our members could go there to see the latest standings and tournament schedules and this was the birth of UltimateBass.com. Nothing spectacular but it was Ultimate Bass and the members loved it.
The 2001 season grew even more with the addition of a Husband/Wife division that Laurie and I got to fish as well. It wasnt huge but it was a lot of fun. Our membership was well over 500 and the events were a blast to run and be involved in. Everyone looked forward to the next event; I was even getting to be a real ham on the microphone! We had sponsors giving us so much tackle that I couldnt give it all way between the final member to weigh and the time that Laurie would have the payout ready. Ultimate Bass Team Trail had a definite strong hold on the tournament market here in North Louisiana and everyone loved it.
On September 11, 2001, along with thousands of others, our life was turned upside down. After the attacks of that day, my unit was setting up to deploy and do our part for the nation. Thankfully my unit was not the first out the gates and it gave us time to finish the 01 season. But it was inevitable that I would not be around for the 2002 season. Laurie and I had long talks and conversed the with many good friends we have and decided that in the best interest of Ultimate Bass Team Trail we needed to not put out a schedule for the upcoming season and see what life dealt us for the following year. Sure enough I was shipped out to the war and had no idea when I would be back.
Over the next seven months Laurie got involved more and more with the website building and had figured out how to run a message board. She though this would be great for the tournament circuit when we got it started back up. So she built it and started playing with it. When I got back from the war we got to playing with it more and I got our local bass club involved and we posted fishing reports on it and shared fishing advice. Basically it was a club message board and it was doing well with the 25 or so members we had, although most conversation was between Mike Noble and Laurie, there got to be several lurkers watching for the latest fishing report for the area. One of the biggest lurkers we had you all know very well now, FOGY! He would check the site out weekly if not daily but would never post? Finally one day several months later Fogy posted a fishing report about Bisteneau Lake and he hasnt turned back since.
Over the next year Laurie was having a ball building websites and maintaining the message board. She had picked up a couple clients and was getting paid for something she loved to do. Again we werent adding to the retirement fund but she was enjoying it! In her exploring and learning she found the Forum based message boards and they were neat. You got to have signatures and titles, it was easier to follow, and the data base was pretty simple to run. So she converted the message board over to a forum. We had all these cool controls and we could build categories and boards with in boards, now what to do with all this new space and organization ability?
This is what grew Ultimate Bass into what you know it as today. With all these new abilities Laurie wanted to take the site national and get fishing reports from around the United States. If we could get this going we would be able to draw sponsors that would help pay for the server space and it would pay for its self! Well, that was a long hard road, sure building it was easy but getting it advertised, getting people to visit, and getting them to post was a different story. We went threw all kinds of advertising campaigns from emailing every club president around the country to spending hours and hours with search engines trying to figure out what was best to optimize the site for better rankings. Laurie literally spent the year of 2003 sleeping maybe 2-3 hours a day and the rest of it right there on the computer building the site, advertising the site, learning everything she could form informational websites, and testing different possibilities.
Low and behold we got a couple lucky breaks, with the idea of holding a weekly contest we found advertisers that were willing to give us products to give away in exchange for advertisement on the site. With that the membership started growing, why not you could win something for free. This was a two fold idea, not only did it get us a few more members but in order to win you had to answer a question as many different ways as you could. Each time you posted an answer you got an entry into the contest, this created content for the site. A question might be Post a bass fishing tip. This actually turned into a nightmare. We would post the question on Tuesday night at 7pm and you had two hours to post as many responses as you could. The whole time we were watching the thread and writing the name of the poster on a raffle ticket and putting them in a box for the drawing that would happen at the end of the two hours. We ended up with so many people posting as fast as they could that I could not keep up with the thread. We had two of our daughters writing while I shouted out the names. The thread got so busy at times that the members couldnt get a post in. Members on dial up were not getting but one post every twenty minutes to go threw. Something had to change, our Tuesday nights were becoming dreaded, so we changed it to once a month and gave out 4 weeks worth of prizes at a time. Well still this wasnt working to well. Buy the time we got the contest complete and all the prizes drawn and awarded it was getting to be 10:30 to 11 PM for us in the central time zone and even later for the folks in the Eastern Time zones. Thats when we decided to go to the way the contest is run now. Folks can enter at their convenience and the giveaway can start at a reasonable time for everyone.
Its the spring of 2005 and Ultimate Bass is growing at a phenomenal rate and our server is having trouble keeping up. We are seeing peak times creating a slow site and our new membership is starting to fall, members are complaining, and Laurie is having to constantly work on the site just to keep it up and running. At this time we dont have any cash paying sponsors and the site desperately needs to go to a dedicated server which is very expensive monthly. That summer we had our 2nd Annual Ultimate Bass Club Shoot Out on Grand Bayou in Louisiana. Legend Boats wants to bring a couple boats down to the event and let folks test drive them. In exchange for this Legend Boats brings a grill and enough hot dogs and hamburgers to feed an army. While everyone is test driving the boats Legends President, Randy Qualls, is grilling up lunch and set out chips and soda for everyone. No sales pitch just a thank you for letting us bring our boats to you and they packed up and left. While everyone was out playing in the Legend Boats, Laurie was talking with Randy and discussing business needs, trends, and just general chit chat that might go on between two business owners, no sales pitches what so ever between the two of them. Two weeks later Randy calls Laurie and that was the beginning of a great relationship between Ultimate Bass and Legend Boats. Currently Legend Boats is a large contributor towards the monthly server fees and probably the only reason Ultimate Bass can afford the server we are on now. Not only do they build an outstanding boat but they are also great people with a very down home country store attitude about life and business.
Thats the history of Ultimate Bass as you can see it was a chain of events that we had no idea of the out come. We just rolled with the punches and here we are! Although we were never able to start the tournament circuit back up because of my military deployments, the future of Ultimate Bass has a definite direction unlike its past. With a goal of being the #1 visited bass fishing site on the web, we have lots of ideas on how to get there and are implementing them daily. Above all else our most important resource is our members without our membership we would not be where we are today. With that said it is the members of Ultimate Bass that will make it number one by posting fishing reports, contributing to the on going threads about techniques, products, services, boats, information, tips, etc. By generating information members will also be generating interest in other bass fisherman around the world and they will want to add their inputs as well. It is a snow ball effect that will with out a doubt put Ultimate Bass at the top of every search engine out there. Laurie and the staff at Ultimate Bass work very hard everyday, but the help of the membership by posting, putting stickers on vehicles to advertise, and talking the site up with friends and acquaintances is what will make Ultimate Bass #1 in the world wide web. Thank You for making Ultimate Bass what it is today, but we have a lot of work still yet to do.