I’ve been associated, in some way, with professional bass fishermen maybe longer than anyone. I was messing with it just before Ray Scott kicked off B.A.S.S. and here I am, still hammering away at it.
In between those days back in the late 1960s, and up to the 90s, I wasn’t as active as I am today in the sport, but I did keep up. Many of the anglers became, and always will be, close friends.
I’ve always made the point that these pros at the top were tremendously talented, and because they could make it look so easy, people didn’t really realize what kind of talent this high level took.
It would also frustrate me when someone would suggest that they weren’t athletes.
One of the negatives to professional bass fishing though is this; it is physically demanding. The long hours of practicing, the 1,000 cast days, and rough boat rides, can take its toll. Especially the boat rides.
A sad part of this conversation is the fact that, at this time, these guys in many cases are on their own when health issues come along or when they think of retiring. We have to remember that whereas most pro sports -- golf, tennis, baseball, etc. -- are 100 years old or more, bass fishing is still a baby at 50.
Someday I hope pro bass fishing gets to the point where the participants can count on benefits, but for now, it’s not available.
Let me switch gears for a bit now.
Back in 1968, a young angler from Arkadelphia, Ark., had saved up his dollars and entered a B.A.S.S. event. I should know for sure, because I was there, but I think it was on Sam Rayburn Reservoir.
The angler was Ricky Green and I’m ashamed to say that because he was such a quiet youngster, and I was always a little standoffish myself, we never really met early on, even though we were both from Arkansas.
I remember feeling bad for Ricky at his first event. Most of the anglers had what amounted to be the best bass boats for those times and Ricky, I think, had a small metal flat bottom.
I also remembered regardless of the boat he fished out of, he beat my pants off. Matter of fact with the exception of a handful of anglers, Ricky Green put it to everyone in that first tournament.
At the time, I probably thought that he was just lucky and maybe he was, but when he continued to be at the top, and even lift the first-place trophy at times, you have to blow off that “lucky” stuff.
Ricky Green qualified for 14 straight Bassmaster Classics and finished second twice. I’m sure that if you added up all of his Bassmaster finishes, his points, his top 12s, etc., he would be right in the mix for the best dozen anglers of all time.
After his competitive career was over, he and I did a television show on a Mexican lake where he was guiding, and he was still a quiet, very humble man. Ricky Green was a class act, and he needs our help now. I mean right now. Today.
You see this incredible man, who chugged away from the Sam Rayburn take off in his little flat bottom boat many years ago, needs a lung transplant. He’s fighting a severe case of COPD and is on a waiting list for a new lung.
Thursday Sept. 19 , there will be a big night in Hot Springs, Ark, as his friends and family are throwing a party called Hook, Line and Legends. Its purpose is to raise money for this lung transplant. As I said earlier, a retired professional fisherman has very few benefits.
Larry Nixon will be at this event along with Jimmy Houston, Mark Zona, Bobby Murray and George Cochran. If you live in the area, the tickets are cheap and you need to be there as well.
If you can’t be there, make a donation, say a prayer. We’ve got to get this taken care of because Ricky Green is one of the good ones.