Harold Sharp, a pioneer of modern tournament bass fishing and the first tournament director of B.A.S.S., died Thursday, Sept. 17, at his home in Hixon, Tenn. He was 88 years old.
Sharp was born in Oakdale, Tenn., in 1927, and spent 26 years working as a crew dispatcher for Southern Railroad in Chattanooga. After fishing the second tournament organized by Ray Scott (the Dixie Invitational on Alabama’s Smith Lake in 1967, where he finished 18th), Sharp founded the Chattanooga Bass Club. It was the first club to affiliate with the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.), which Scott created in early 1968.
Scott found an early apostle in Sharp, who was passionate about his fishing and eager to help build a national organization. While it’s well-established that Oklahoma’s Don Butler was the first person to join B.A.S.S., Sharp always maintained that he was the second. Sharp and Scott worked together to craft the bylaws for B.A.S.S.-affiliated clubs, and Sharp helped to found many of the early clubs in his native Tennessee. As president of the Chattanooga Bass Club, he filed lawsuits against numerous polluters and was instrumental in improving water quality in the area.
Sharp contributed a story to the second issue of Bassmaster Magazine. “Favorite Topwater” ran in the Summer 1968 issue, and had been solicited by Scott himself.
“I’m no writer,” Sharp reportedly told Scott, but that didn’t deter the new magazine from publishing the story of Sharp’s favorite topwater lure. He had used his homemade “Dixie Dandy” to catch the biggest bass of the Smith Lake tournament.
In November 1970, Sharp left Southern Railroad to work for B.A.S.S. and to coordinate a countrywide seminar tour designed to educate bass anglers and drive B.A.S.S. memberships. He, Scott and angling pros Roland Martin and John Powell traveled from Bangor, Me., to Los Angeles, Calif., putting on 101 seminars in 10 months.
Later, as the B.A.S.S. tournament director, Sharp — along with Scott and Bassmaster Magazine editor Bob Cobb — served as a key architect of modern competitive fishing, catch-and-release and boating safety efforts. His integrity in the role was and remains legendary and set the bar for the position. In a 1984 B.A.S.S. Classic Report, he was quoted as saying, “I’ve always been fair or at least tried to be. You can’t please everybody, but you can be as fair as possible with everybody. And the fishermen appreciate that.”
Along the way, Sharp was there for many of the most memorable moments in professional fishing history, like the first Bassmaster Classic in 1971 and the 1984 Classic when both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were on stage. Scott sold B.A.S.S. in 1986, and Sharp retired a year later, after almost 17 years with the company.
After leaving B.A.S.S., Sharp ran “Fishin’ Talents,” a business designed to help professional anglers make the most of their careers, and he continued to offer his leadership and support of water quality improvement efforts in his native Tennessee. He was an avid birdwatcher and organized a birding club near his home that has grown to more than 100 members.
To the end, Sharp was passionate about his love for fishing and the outdoors and spent a great deal of time talking and corresponding with friends about the direction professional bass fishing was taking. He was a frequent contributor to bass fishing message boards and an occasional web columnist.
Sharp is survived by his wife of more than 69 years (Cyree), daughter (Ann Ball), brother (Don Sharp), sister (Pat Austin), several nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews.
The family will receive friends from noon to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19, at Chattanooga Funeral Home-North Chapel. Funeral services will be at 2:30 p.m. in Funeral Home Chapel.