All the Family

Despite his medical condition, Cliff Bakkom still enjoys the sport he loves

WAUPACA, Wis. — A caring son-in-law has helped a Waupaca Bass Club member keep fishing tournaments with his club.

When he and his wife, Debby, rented a lake cottage in northern Wisconsin for about 10 years, Tom Ehrenberg frequently got a chance to fish with his father-in-law, Cliff Bakkom, who has been in the Waupaca Bass Club since 1982. Bakkom's tenure in the club was threatened about three years ago when he developed blood clots in his lungs and had to start taking anticoagulant medication.

"The family was very concerned about him going out fishing because, being on an anticoagulant, he could be a bleeder," recalled Ehrenberg. "So they wanted him to quit fishing with the club."

Debby and Tom always hunted and fished together throughout their marriage, but Debby decided to give up her fishing time with her husband so Tom could join the Waupaca Bass Club in 2005 and keep Cliff fishing.

"He knew why I joined the club," said Ehrenberg. "It was more or less to watch over him, but we told him it was so I could spend more time with him. So he was a pretty proud peacock because he had a son-in-law in the bass club."

Despite living 90 miles away from Waupaca, Ehrenberg still made every meeting and tournament and eventually became the club's president. He is also the secretary for the Wisconsin B.A.S.S. Federation Nation.

Because the club holds draw tournaments, Ehrenberg made an arrangement with the rest of the club members when they draw the 88-year-old Bakkom as their partner. "All the guys in the bass club know that if something happens, they all have my cell phone number," disclosed Ehrenberg. "I told them that if it comes to the point where Cliff has to go to the hospital, I will switch partners with them and take him to the hospital."

Last year, Debby told Tom she was losing too much fishing time, so she decided to join the club and became its first female member. "When Debby joined, Cliff was really grinning from ear to ear because he also had a daughter in the bass club," said Ehrenberg, who has drawn his wife and father-in-law as partners in a couple of club tournaments.

Ehrenberg has placed in the Top 5 in at least one club tournament every year and has finished as high as fourth in his club's Angler of the Year standings. Debby finished ninth in the club's Angler of the Year standings last year.

Ehrenberg said his father-in-law has a good time fishing as a nonboater and on some occasions shows up his boater partners.

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