From the Oct. 17, 1975 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

It was the last day of the 30th Bass and Bluefish derby. The final weigh-in was to end at 2 p.m., and it would be only a matter of minutes before it would all be over and the tournament winners would be announced.

Fish scales dotted the floor of the derby’s Oak Bluffs headquarters like white paint chips. Older women were accorded respect and the only seats inside, the park benches that are donated each year by the town’s park department.

It was difficult to determine if the afternoon crowd was so large or the building so small, but fishing enthusiasts overflowed onto the sidewalk while they awaited the final tabulations. Fish stories and recipes were swapped. Children hung over the railing separating the scales from the crowd. Parents instructed them to stop poking and wrestling.

Then the brass bell rang. Ted Hartman, nearing his 20th year as the derby’s official weighmaster, performed the ritual — for the last time, he swears.

“You’ll be back next year, Ted,” comes a cry. “No sir,” Ted replies, “Gotta be somebody else, not me.”

Wooden crates holding a dozen or so bluefish each were emptied to serve as the podium for Daniel Hull, executive secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, sponsor of the event.

Mr. Hull cited warm waters and unpredictable weather as two reasons why this year’s catch fell short of recent seasons.

“The fish were slow in coming in,” he said.

But everyone was awaiting the ceremony announcing the tournament winners. Herbert Hancock got it all, or most of it.

He took his first walk to the podium as the recipient of the James P. Catlow Memorial Award for “sportsmanship in the best spirit of the derby”. He returned as winner of second place in the tournament for the largest boat bass — and once more for the first place in boat blues. That 17-7 fish also gave him the grand prize.

Either before or after Christmas, the chamber doesn’t care which, he and Jean will spend eight days on Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas.

It won’t be the first trip for the Hancocks that has been paid in full by the chamber. In 1972 Jean netted a No. 1 fish that took her and Herb to Key West.

Roger T. Sylva of West Tisbury never lost the lead in boat bass. His early 53-14 catch remained on top for the month-long contest. An engraved Paul Revere bowl is part of his prize in the Gov. Michael Dukakis award fir largest bass,

“The bass are bigger this year than normally,” said Mr. Hull, “and the proportion of bass to blues was somewhat higher.”

The derby manager noted a rise in competition in the flyrod category, and he said he imagines more emphasis will be placed on that phase of the competition next year, particularly for flyrod blues.

A fund for the four outstanding junior fishermen in the derby was established this year in memory of David Simmons of Oak Bluffs. United States savings bonds of $25 denomination were awarded to Robert Rose II of Oak Bluffs for his 40-14 bass; to Jeffrey Maida (“a derby veteran”) of Chilmark for a 27-14 boat bass; to Mark Hern of Burlington for the largest junior shore blue of 12-8; and to Linda Amaral of Oak Bluffs for a boat blue of 13-13. Robert and Linda also won the Island Country Club award for the largest bass and bluefish caught by a junior.

Mr. Hull said a special chamber committee will be formed this winter to reexamine the rules and regulations of the derby, which he sees as “clearly out of phase with the prize structure.”

The language of the derby rules was rewritten four or five years ago, but Mr. Hull will recommend to the chamber’s directors that the whole derby be studied. He foresees a need “to restructure the derby from top to bottom, modernizing it and eliminating the unfairness and kind of problems that came up this year.”

The problems were not anticipated. Roger Sylva brought in two large fish in one day during separate weigh-ins. Both fish would have won top billings in the weekly prizes, and threatened to stay on top for both key slots for the final tournament awards. The rules committee voted to count just the single, largest fish for the bigger prizes. The new interpretation though, says Mr. Hull, “promised more headaches and unthinkable complications”.

One tradition that is likely to remain was the donation, started this year, of excess fish to the Island’s Council on Aging and needy Vineyard families by the fishing club. Mr. Cerreiro, president, figures 1,500 meals were made of the fish by 600 recipients, and says the retail value of the fish was approximately $3,000. Mr. Carreiro estimates 50 to 60 pounds of fish was filleted at the end of each derby day by members of the club.

Registration improved in this 30th derby, but the number of fish fell about 600 short of last year’s total and about 400 behind the catch in 1973: 3,478 fish were landed this year - 931 bass, 2,455 bluefish, and 92 weakfish.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox