I like Keith Combs. He's a nice guy and a great bass fisherman. I think he's going to be a big star in our sport, and I look forward to working with him in the future.
But I'm rooting for Rick Clunn to win the Elite Series Falcon Slam.
It's absolutely nothing against Combs. I can honestly say I'm a fan of his, but I've been a fan of Clunn for almost 40 years. When I joined B.A.S.S. in 1976, Clunn was the reigning Bassmaster Classic champion, and it was the golden era of professional bass fishing. Bill Dance, Roland Martin and Clunn dominated the pages of the magazines I read.
The men who fished professionally back then didn't start their careers in the fishing industry. They were furniture salesmen, farmers, crop dusters, computer programmers, contractors and fishing guides. The logos of their sponsors — what few they had — were hand-sewn onto their clothes. They wore jumpsuits and trucker caps, and they used 5 1/2-foot pistol grip rods and reels with gear ratios as high as 4.7:1.
They slept in their trucks (some still do) and worked "real" jobs in the off-season (ditto). They were mostly self-taught because there wasn't a lot of reliable information out there, though Bassmaster Magazine worked to fill the gap, and members devoured the publication from cover to cover after pulling it from the maw of the mailbox.
Clunn, Dance and Martin weren't like a lot of the other fishermen of that era. They were thinkers, cerebral in their approach, and standard bearers in the early battle to establish tournament fishing as a legitimate sport ... a battle that's still going on if major network sports programming is any barometer.
Clunn was a favorite of mine in the mid 1970s and a favorite today — an early hero who didn't diminish upon my meeting and getting to know him. My admiration has grown significantly over the years.
I want Clunn to win because I know he's still driven to succeed even after 40 years on the tournament trail.
I want him to win because a win means an automatic berth in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville, where he won his first championship and began to build his legend. The Classic is simply a bigger and better tournament when he's in it.
I want him to win because no matter how good you are, you're not often in a position to win an Elite Series tournament ... especially when you're 66 years old.
I want him to win because he asks for and offers no quarter. His stage music ("Get Over It" by The Eagles) sums up what he's all about — no excuses, no attitudes, no exceptions.
I want him to win because there is less BS in him than anyone else I've ever met.
And I want him to win because we need a fresh dose of what Clunn — and no one else — brings to our sport.