When Dave and Denise Tanner entered their first Guys & Dolls bass tournament, they had no thoughts of qualifying for a year-end championship. They simply wanted to compete with other couples in their region and share in some on-the-water fellowship. As the season progressed, however, they soon realized a championship was within reach.
“We entered the Florida circuit simply because we both like to compete, and it was something we could do together,” recalls Dave. “I ran it by Denise and she was all-in.”
Little did the pair know where that first event would lead.
“We qualified for the Guys & Dolls Championship that first year, and it was quite an experience,” said Denise. “It was an eye-opener.”
After tasting some success, the pair was hungry for more. “We fished four years straight and qualified for the championship every year,” said Dave. “In 1990, we won the Couple of the Year title. The following year, the championship was held on Lake Chickamauga in Tennessee. That’s when we hit paydirt.”
Amassing a two-day total of 21 pounds, 4 ounces, the Tanners claimed the Guys & Dolls Couples Championship — besting second place by more than 5 pounds.
Along with the Tanners, 35 other couples qualified through their respective regions — all of which were in the Southeast. Each division hosted six qualifying events, through which the top 12 couples advanced to the championship.
Dave claims it was Denise who put them over the finish line in 1991.
“She caught 14 pounds of our total weight, plus the big bass of the event — a 4 1/2 pounder. We fished the same area where I’d caught an 8-pounder in practice, and it proved to be the winning spot.”
Together, the Tanners won the keys to a fully rigged Ranger boat valued at more than $24,000. That was a lot back then, and it more than paid for the cost of fishing four years on the couples circuit.
“If you want to test your marriage, try spending a few days in a boat with your spouse,” quipped Denise Tanner. “There were challenges, but overall it was a great experience … one we would gladly do over again.”