The idea of holding a Tournament of Champions came about in 1982. Allen Tatum of Southland Bass Club proposed the idea to club President David Patrick. David, also serving as the San Diego Council of Bass Clubs President, presented the idea to the Council. After much discussion, the council approved the event and scheduled it at Lake Elsinore on December 1st, 1982.
The weather during the tournament was cold and rainy and slowed the fishing considerably. Allen Tatum caught four small largemouth bass and won the tournament. Dennis Kolander managed a single keeper and finished second. All ten of the other competitors came in without a single keeper. That was the start of the Tournament of Champions.