The eight anglers competing in the Bassmaster Legends Tournament last Sunday during Toyota Trucks All-Star week averaged 68 years of age. During a break in the action, 65-year-old Rick Clunn reflected on what these men, and others, have meant to the sport.
“It seems like every month or so, somebody is writing an article about who is the best bass fisherman ever,” Clunn said. “There’s no right answer to that question. We are all a sum of other parts. I’m part Bill Dance, part Guido Hibdon and part Tommy Martin.
“Hopefully, you take something from them and add a little to it. But there’s nobody out there that isn’t a product of somebody else.
“In any profession, it’s really hard to innovate. You can improve what’s already being done but it’s hard to innovate.”
The other anglers competing in the Legends event were Bill Dance, 69; Guido Hibdon, 65; Tommy Martin, 70; Jerry McKinnis, 75; Guy Eaker, 71; Ken Cook, 64; and Bobby Murray, 65.
Clunn is the only one who is still competing on the Elite Series. He enjoyed being one of the “youngsters” for a change.
“This is the nice part,” said the four-time Bassmaster Classic champion. “I’m young when I’m out here fishing with these guys. The rest of the year, I’m always hearing about being the old man in the tournament.”
Eaker Still Anxious to Compete
Guy Eaker left the Elite Series after the 2010 season but he hasn’t lost the desire to fish competitively. He demonstrated that Sunday by catching all the bass that he and Ken Cook used in their five-fish limit that totaled 19 pounds, 3 ounces.
“I don’t understand it,” said Eaker, who lives in Cherryville, N.C. “I gave Ken the same bait I was using. That’s just the way it is sometimes. If he’d caught them, it would have been fine with me to be the net man. He caught a lot of fish; he just didn’t catch any good ones.”
Eaker continues to fish Professional Anglers Association tournaments. He would still be competing on the Elite Series if not for the health of his wife, Pat, who is suffering from fibromyalgia.
“I don’t like to say she’s the reason I quit but that has a lot to do with it,” Eaker said. “She’s been loyal to me. We’ve been married 51 years. The least I can do is be loyal to her.”
Eaker recalled one season on the Elite Series that started with two tournaments in California, then moved to Texas for two more events.
“I left the house on March 1 and didn’t get home until May 1,” Eaker said. “I was gone two solid months.”
Cook Getting Healthy
Ken Cook last fished the Elite Series in 2009. Since then he has been getting healthy and growing big deer on his Tarbone Ranch, located in the Wichita Mountains of southwest Oklahoma, near Lawton.
“I’ve spent most of the last year getting my body back in shape,” Cook said. “I let myself go for a long time. Both my knees needed to be replaced, and I got that done. I’ve got to have some hand surgery next week. I’ve got a thumb that doesn’t work very well. Then I’ll quit letting them cut on me for awhile.”
Cook books hunting trips at his ranch, which also includes elk and bison. A whitetail deer killed with a bow on Cook’s ranch last year scored 181 5/8ths Pope & Young points.
(If you want to book a hunt at Tarbone Ranch, contact Cook at kencookoutdoors.com)
Martin Still Active
Tommy Martin, at age 70, appeared to be the most physically fit of the Legends. He isn’t competing on any B.A.S.S. circuits anymore but he said he still enters 12 to 15 tournaments a year. He spends most of his time guiding other anglers, either on Toledo Bend Reservoir, near his home in Hemphill, Texas, or at Falcon Lake, located near Zapata, Texas, on the Rio Grande River. Falcon forms part of the Mexico-U.S. border.
Martin said that prior to his arrival in Montgomery last week, he guided two anglers who caught 22 bass weighing over 8 pounds apiece on Falcon. When the Elite Series went to Falcon in 2008, Paul Elias set a B.A.S.S. record for a four-day, five-bass-per-day tournament with 132 pounds, 8 ounces. But Falcon’s recent history has included a few violent incidents that have scared away anglers.
“It’s been about six months since there have been any problems,” said Martin, who guides there two to three weeks every other month. “The Border Patrol and Mexican police are there in numbers. Fishing pressure has picked back up. We’re not catching a lot of fish over 10 pounds, but it’s full of 8- and 9-pounders.”
Martin appeared to be gearing up for Falcon when he tied on his first lure of the day – a 13-inch purple plastic worm. The 100-acre private reservoir where the Legends were fishing has produced an 11-pounder; and the previous day, Travis Johnson, one of the Hope for the Warriors competitors, landed an 8-7. But Guy Eaker’s 6-4 was the big bass Sunday.
(If you want to book a fishing trip with Martin at either Toledo Bend or Falcon, call him at 936-676-8394.)
Bill Dance and Jerry McKinnis finished third in the Legends Tournament with 19-0, only 3 ounces behind Eaker and Cook and only 1 ounce behind Clunn and Martin. However, if there had been an award for best trash talkers, Dance and McKinnis would have taken it easily.
You could tell the competition was being taken seriously when Dance was standing on the bow of the boat, running the trolling motor and calling out depth changes to McKinnis. Neither angler took a seat in the first hours of the event. When they noticed Guido Hibdon and Bobby Murray were sitting down from the start, that prompted some smack talk.
“We’d kill to beat Bobby Murray,” Dance said.
“And have,” replied McKinnis.
“I’ve always despised that kid,” Dance said.
When informed that his longtime friends were bad-mouthing him and had noticed him sitting down all day, Murray said, “How many times have you seen Bill Dance on TV?”
The answer was “hundreds.”
“How many times have you seen him standing up while he’s fishing?” Murray asked.
The answer was “none.”
“See there,” Murray said. “We’re graduates of the Bill Dance school of fishing.”
Later in the day, the 90-degree-plus heat was taking its toll on the Legends – all of them. They had been told a horn would sound at 1:30 p.m. and all lines must be taken from the water at that time.
Around 1 p.m., two sweating, red-faced Legends trolled by the weigh-in dock and one of them said, “Blow the damn horn!”
That comment produced a peal of laughter from the spectators.