Congratulations, Rick!

One of my heroes just won the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on the St. Johns River. Rick Clunn earned his 15th career B.A.S.S. win, a total that includes four Bassmaster Classics.

When I was young and just getting into the sport, numbers like that really impressed me ⎯ they still do in a way ⎯ but the things that I admire most about Rick have nothing to do with his many trophies and everything to do with the way he carries himself on and off the water.

It’s true that I’ve learned a tremendous amount from watching Rick Clunn on television and in videos and by reading about his methods and theories, but I’ve learned even more by watching him with fans, fellow competitors and sponsors.

His loyalty to sponsors is well known among the pros. His respect for the fans is evident everywhere he sees and talks with them. I’ve learned at least as much from Rick when he didn’t have a rod and reel in his hands as when he did.

Another of the things I really admire about Rick is that you know where you stand with the man. There’s nothing false about him. He speaks the truth irrespective of how it might come across, and he treats people with respect.

It’s because of who he is more than what he’s accomplished that brought out such big crowds to support him at the St. Johns. It’s why fellow pros were taking his picture and wishing him well. When he’s in contention to win, it seems like fans of the sport come out in force to watch and root for him.

Rick Clunn doesn’t need to win or even fish another tournament to be one of the sport’s greatest champions. He’s just that good of an angler and just that good of an ambassador for our sport. We’re all chasing him and trying to follow his lead in that regard.

So I’m thrilled for my friend just not because he won, but because we need him in the sport of bass fishing, and it’s great to see the spotlight shine on someone so deserving.

Seeing Rick Clunn lifting an Elite Series trophy with his family at his side is a great way to start the new Elite season.

Congratulations, Rick!