The Rick Clunn influence

“Never accept that all your best moments are in your past.” — Rick Clunn

My journey to a pro fishing career began in 1975 when I bought my first copy of Bassmaster Magazine off the newsstand as a 15-year-old.

In those days, Bassmaster produced an annual for the newsstand.

As a farm kid I liked to fish, but this opened a whole new fishing concept to me. I became a subscriber and read every issue, cover to cover.

And then in the fall of 1976, Rick Clunn won his first Bassmaster Classic. I remember getting the January 1977 issue that had him on the cover holding up two big bass.

I still have that issue along with the first one I bought on the newsstand. It was then that Rick became my fishing hero, and he remains that today.

I absorbed everything written about him. I learned fishing techniques, but even as a teenager, I was intrigued by his unique approach to the mental side of the game.

I remember him saying that an angler should try to control everything in his power, such as keeping his tackle fresh and ready and to maintain his focus every minute on the water. It was critically important, he said, because there are so many things with Mother Nature and on the water that you can’t control.

That stuck with me.

There were parts of the mental game I didn’t quite understand as a youngster, and I’m still working on that today.

I became so much of a Rick Clunn fan that I had his picture on my bedroom door while living at home.

As my experience grew, I began to have success in tournaments, and Clunn’s influence played a big role in that.

When I was in my 20s, I fished a big Skeeter tournament and Clunn, who was sponsored by Skeeter at the time, was there. They had our boats assigned to us in alphabetical order so my boat was parked next to him.

I remember like it was yesterday. He asked me where I was from, and we chatted. I was blown away by how nice he was to me. As a side note, today he lives 13 miles from where I grew up. I used to swim in the creek adjacent to his farm.

We met a few other times when I fished Bassmaster Opens early in my career and had a few casual conversations. Then and today, I walk away with something that makes me look at things differently every time I talk to him.

I admit I was star-struck, and at age 61, remain that way today.

Rick Clunn is the Cal Ripken of our sport. The fact he’s 75 yet still loves what he does and works hard at it is not only remarkable, but an inspiration.

I figure if a guy who is 14 years older than me can still do it then I should be able to do this for a long time.

My respect for him grew even more three years ago when Rick won my first Elite Series tournament at the St. John’s River. That was so cool ... my idol won the first Elite tournament I ever fished.

At Lake Fork last fall, Rick weighed in 29 pounds and I had 9. Nervously, I told him that of all the people to beat me by 20 pounds, I was glad it was him.

And I meant it.

Fast forward to this year at the St. John’s River.  I weighed in 25 pounds, and as I was walking down the dock, Rick stopped and fist bumped me.

“Remember what you told me at Lake Fork when I had 29 and you had 9?” he asked. “Well, I zeroed yesterday and you had 25 pounds and I was happy for you. I see how hard you work at it.”

That was a huge moment for me.

I will never achieve the greatness of a Rick Clunn, but I will continue to strive to be the best I can be.

The fact that someone like him, who has had such a profound influence on my life and career, took time to show mutual respect, it meant the world to me.