Mr. Consistency

When I was a kid (joining B.A.S.S. at the age of 14 in 1976), Arkansas' Ricky Green was already a standout in the bass fishing world. He finished second in the 1972 Bassmaster Classic (to Don Butler on Percy Priest Reservoir) and third in 1976 (behind Rick Clunn and Bo Dowden on Lake Guntersville). Bassmaster Magazine touted the former chemist as one of the very best in the world with a spinnerbait, and no article on that lure type was authoritative without a quote or two from him. He also had a well-deserved reputation for catching lunker bass.

In the mid 1970s, Green's most notable accomplishment (at least to the mind of one bass-loving teenager) was catching the biggest fish in Bassmaster Classic history. His 8-pound, 9-ounce largemouth came on Day 2 of the '76 Classic.[1] It was one of the most memorable days in the championship's lore for several reasons: Rick Clunn posted what is still the heaviest daily catch in Classic history (33-5 with a 10-bass daily creel limit) and had the biggest bass (7-13) until Green came to the stage.

Green's lunker anchored a bag that weighed 27-13, and his success was notable since he had failed to boat a single 12-inch keeper on either the lone practice day or the first day of competition. His big bass fell to a Strike King spinnerbait that he worked along riprap near the bridge in Brown's Creek. He went on to finish third, more than 17 pounds behind Clunn and about 14 pounds back of Dowden.

Green would come closest to winning the sport's biggest championship seven years later when he finished just 10 ounces behind Larry Nixon on the Ohio River in what was then the stingiest Classic in history. He also finished fourth in 1974 and fifth in 1979.

That Green is not a household name in contemporary bass fishing circles is partly due to his having fished his last B.A.S.S. event in 1997 and partly to the fact that the sport's biggest titles (the Classic and Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year) eluded him. His five top 5 finishes in the Classic are the second most of any angler who never won it.[2] He finished in the top 10 of the AOY race seven times — third most of anyone who never won the award[3] — including a runner-up finish (to Bill Dance) in 1974.

But he wasn't always a bridesmaid. Green won two B.A.S.S. events: the 1972 Rebel Invitational on Ross Barnett Reservoir in Mississippi and the 1974 Texas Invitational on Sam Rayburn Reservoir. At "The Rez," Green used a topwater popper to edge local favorite Bob Ponds (father of Elite pro Pete) by one ounce,[4] vaulting up the standings from seventh place with the best string of the tournament on the third and final day.

In his heyday, Green had a reputation with a spinnerbait and for catching big bass.

Two years later at Rayburn, Green did it again, jumping into the winner's circle with a 10-bass limit weighing 27-10 after entering the final day in 21st place. He anchored that catch with a 7-6 largemouth that took daily big bass honors.

Green also tied for the top spot at the first of B.A.S.S.' fly rod tournaments that preceded a trio of Invitationals in 1975. The events were B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott's way of promoting fly fishing among the Micropterus crowd.[5]

Between 1972 and 1985, Green qualified for every Bassmaster Classic — 14 in a row. It was a record at the time[6] and went a long way to earning him the nickname "Mr. Consistency."

In 2001, Green's son Keith qualified for the Classic, making them one of just nine father-and-son combos to compete in the Super Bowl of bass fishing.[7]

Now 69 years old, Ricky Green has serious health problems. Earlier this summer it was made public that he needs a lung transplant. Benefits and fundraisers have been held, but more financial assistance is needed. If you'd like to help, donations can be made to the Ricky Green Transplant Fund at Regions Bank, 4441 Central Avenue, Hot Springs, AR 71913 (Attn: Lisa Austin).

[1] It was finally eclipsed at Florida's Kissimmee Chain of Lakes by Preston Clark's 11-pound, 10-ounce giant on Day 1 of the 2006 Classic.

[2] Gary Klein has six.

[3] Tommy Martin was in the top 10 ten different times, and Shaw Grigsby has posted nine top 10s without an AOY title.

[4] Ponds released a bass in the final round that barely measured 12 inches in his boat. He wasn't sure the bass would measure up in the hands of tournament officials and decided to avoid the risk of a penalty by releasing the fish.

[5] Anglers earned points for the fly rod events that counted toward AOY. About the only rules for these one-day tournaments were that you had to use a conventional fly rod and reel and cast in a conventional fly-fishing manner. Lots of anglers unaccustomed to fly fishing used the long rods to throw small plastic worms and jigs.

[6] Rick Clunn tied Green's record in 1987 and broke it the following year on his way to 28 straight Classic appearances. Green's 14 in a row is currently tied for the sixth longest streak in Classic history.

[7] The others are the Denny and Chad Brauer, Woo and Chris Daves, Bo Dowden and Bo Dowden Jr., James and David Dudley, Guido and Dion Hibdon, Van and Steve Kennedy, Bob and Pete Ponds and Bill and Greg Ward.

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