Despite his outward persona, fans and followers of the sport who only see Clark as a loudmouth are missing some of the picture. Actually, they’re missing most of the picture. They don’t see the Clark who spends hours on social media sites helping out fans he’ll likely never meet with fishing tips and information. And, unlike some pros, who have their wives or “agents” craft their tweets and Facebook posts, everything you see on his feeds comes directly from him. The fans who think he’s just a brash kid likely also don’t know that he’s an accomplished graphic designer. He doesn’t advertise this because he’d rather be known as a “fisherman with a background in graphic design” instead of a “graphic designer who fishes.” Still, if you follow pro fishing at all, you’ve definitely seen his handiwork – in boat wraps, jersey designs and logos, far more of them than you can imagine. He’s also an ultra-devoted dad to his two-year-old son Ash (middle name: Rayburn, of course), who can probably already cast better than most of you.
If you didn’t know any of that about Clark, your best exposure to his generous and gracious side probably came during the Elite Series event on Falcon last month. On Day Three, tournament leader and eventual winner Keith Combs had mechanical difficulties and might have lost most of his afternoon had Clark not picked him up. Clark let Keith pick the spots and made sure he got back to weigh-in on time. Combs also caught his limit fish out of Clark’s boat with 15 minutes left to go. Ultimately, that fish didn’t make the mathematical difference between first and second place, but who knows what would have happened had Clark not given up his afternoon to help out? Maybe Keith would have spun out mentally. Maybe something would have prevented him from getting back to weigh-in. None of us know, but what’s certain is that Clark plummeted in the standings from Day Two to Day Three as a result of his generosity. He could have used that time to help himself, but instead he helped someone else.
That’s not as trivial or inconsequential as it sounds. Sure, Clark still got a $10,000 check, but those lost points could mean the difference between making the 2014 Bassmaster Classic versus working the Classic Outdoor Expo. They might cost him some Toyota Angler of the Year money. At this point in his career, with five plus tour seasons and two Classic appearances under his belt, he really can’t afford to give up either, but he did so freely. When I asked him about it the next day, and gave him the chance to say off the record that he was conflicted when making the decision, it was clear that he hadn’t hesitated a moment.
As a result of the Falcon redemption, Clark got a lot of positive press and enough Facebook “likes” to carry him into the next century. As I thought about what he’d done, I realized that it shouldn’t have surprised me in the least.
Prior to the 2012 Classic, Clark told me about a private trophy lake in Texas called Camelot Bell, and we arranged to spend a day fishing there with owner Mike Frazier. The night before we were to leave Lake Fork for “The Bell,” all I wanted was for Clark to give me four rods and a few baits to rig up. We had to leave by 4 a.m., so I wanted to get to bed early. I couldn’t find him. I walked to the tackle shop (closed), the restaurant (open, but no Clark) and around the parking lot; I eventually found him in the hotel room next to ours explaining to some fishermen from West Virginia places where they might launch on Fork to get out of the wind, giving them some prototype baits, telling them how to rig them, and generally sharing freely in a way that many of his peers might not. That’s the good Clark, the one not often seen. It pissed me off at the time because I just wanted those rods but in hindsight I should’ve known that he was giving of himself. I was the one being selfish there.
Our trip to Camelot Bell had been postponed a day due to torrential rains. Frazier has a dirt ramp, and he wasn’t sure if he could get a boat launched. As we drove to the small town of Coolidge, we still didn’t know if we’d be able to fish. On top of that, conditions were worsening. We had consistent 30-mph winds that day, with gusts much stronger. The temperature gauge never crawled above 40 degrees. None of this is ideal for finicky fish derived from the Florida strain. Still, this was our one and only chance, so we were going to make the most of it.
I’ve fished with a number of tour level pros over the years, both in competition and for fun, and even in the latter circumstance most of them can’t ratchet down their intensity. On a media outing to a noted big bass factory, one pro completely blocked me from getting a good cast all day. He didn’t just take the first and best casts, he actively worked to get the second, third, fourth and so on. By contrast, Clark put me in the front of the boat and worked hard to make my day on Camelot Bell one to remember.
As it turned out, the miserable conditions crippled the fishing. We had two bites all day – a 3-pounder that I lost and a 12-pounder that I landed. My previous best largemouth was 8-12. I was elated and in shock at the same time.
Still, my elation couldn’t hold a candle to Clark’s puffed out chest. It seemed as if he was happier for me than if he’d caught the big fish himself. That’s rare and can’t be faked; and when we returned to Fork for dinner that night, he told and retold the story of that fish with pride. That’s what I remember about that day, and every time Clark and I disagree about something, or he makes a decision that I consider unwise, I remind myself that Clark is a work in progress. He’s gotten so much more mature since the birth of Ash, but all along the truth is that he is a genuinely good person, raised right. You can’t fake being raised right.
Outwardly, Clark and Randy may seem like polar opposites. Clark is exceptionally blunt and usually loud. Randy, while occasionally opinionated, is soft-spoken. Clark’s career is full of risks. It has no guaranteed salary. Meanwhile, Randy worked to rise through the ranks in a stable career field and retired with benefits. Despite those outward differences, Clark Reehm is his father’s son. He is imbued with his parents’ best values in a way that doesn’t always shine through, but when it does it comes from the heart.