Lake Whitney was impounded in the early 1950’s, just as urbanization began to spread and families moved to the city following World War II. Many of these city dwellers became interested in bass fishing as a leisure activity. With its central location and few natural lakes in the state, Lake Whitney immediately began to draw fisherman from a wide area. Coffee-shop arguments about who was the best bass fisherman in Texas ensued, and word of these reached Earl Golding, outdoor writer for the Waco Tribune-Herald.
Golding decided that there was just one way to settle this, so he got the permission of his editor to stage the world’s first bass fishing tournament on Lake Whitney in 1955. He invited 75 teams of well-known anglers to settle the argument, and 73 showed up a month later for this first "Central Texas Invitational" tournament. It was a friendly competition. There was no prize offered - just bragging rights as the best bass angler in Texas.
In the weeks after the tournament, Golding began receiving phone calls and letters from other anglers who wanted to be sure they would be included in the next event. Recognizing the widespread appeal, he opened it to all state residents the following year and renamed it the "Texas State Bass Tournament."
Little did he know that what he started back in 1955 would eventually grow into a sport where prizes can now reach hundreds of thousands of dollars. Kids start young at the annual Youth Fishing Tournament at Lake Whitney State Park, where they fish for free while learning about boating and water safety issues.
The world’s first bass fishing tournament and the beginning of the sport has since been recognized with a Texas Historical Commission marker on the shoreline at Lake Whitney State Park. The tournament is still an annual event today, traveling around the state to different lakes. It has never offered prize money, just trophies for the winners of highly competitive team, individual, and couples divisions, along with senior and adult/child divisions. Even so, hundreds of anglers show up for the Texas State Bass Tournament each year hoping to earn the right to be called "State Bass Fishing Champion."