Natchitoches native and NSU graduate Villis “Bo” Dowden is a legend in the pro bass fishing world.
He’ll soon officially become one of the state’s elite sports legends. Dowden, 80, will be inducted in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2021 being enshrined Saturday, Aug. 28 to cap the three-day Induction Celebration that kicks off Thursday, Aug. 26. Former Saints receiver Marques Colston headlines the class.
Induction festivities include a free welcome reception, a bowling party, the free Rockin’ River Fest concert Friday night, Aug. 27, featuring the popular country rock band Parish County Line, and a free youth training camp Saturday morning, Aug. 28. The final day culminates with a luncheon and the induction ceremony.
For registration for the youth camp and to make reservations for the ticketed events, and information on all events, visit LaSportsHall.com or call 318-238-4255.
Dowden won bass fishing’s most prestigious event, the Bassmaster Classic, on the St. Lawrence River (N.Y.) in 1980, highlighting 14 appearances in that event. Dowden, longtime owner of Bo’s Marine in Natchitoches, has been a Sabine Parish realtor for over three decades. He had career winnings of $235,261.79 through Bassmaster events, not including earnings from various other trails.
In the late 1980s, Dowden was one of the top six earners among all anglers. His 1980 Bassmaster Classic victory was a “wire-to-wire” triumph over three days and received network television coverage from ABC-TV’s 20/20 news magazine in a segment hosted by Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters, providing a big boost for the sport and expanding the fan base considerably.
Topped by a 6-pound, 6-ounce bass he called “Queen Bee” caught on the final day, Dowden’s 54-pound, 10-ounce haul provided a 10-pound, 9-ounce winning margin that is the fourth-largest in Bassmasters Classic history 41 years later. The weight was second-best in the 10-year history of the event and ranked sixth in its first 30 years (13th now in 51 years).
His 1980 Bass Masters Classic win was worth $41,000 and was the first career win by the Northwestern State alumnus. It highlighted an impressive stretch in the sport’s focal event – Dowden was second in the 1976 Classic and third in 1977 and 1982.
Overall, he finished second in four tournaments, third five times and was in the top 10 of 25 tournaments. He was in the money in 57 percent of the tournaments he entered, including 99 of 241 on the BASS tour. His best years on the pro circuit were in 1977 when he was second, third and fifth in pro events, and in 1981 when he had two thirds and a second.
In 2004, ESPN Outdoors and BASS named him among the 35 greatest anglers of all-time.
Photo: Courtesy Bassmasters.
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