I can’t say that I like finishing second to anyone, even a legend like Rick Clunn. We’re competitors. We don’t like losing. Still, the first Elite Series tournament of 2016 on the St. Johns River brought back lots of fond memories and sentimental thoughts from the past.
The year was 1984. The month was August. It was a Saturday.
My dad took me to the last day of the Classic on the Arkansas River. Rick Clunn won that event with a record-setting weight, but the weight didn’t impress me and it’s not the part of that day that sticks in my mind. It was the money.
At 11-years-old I thought $40,000 was all the money in the world. I remember it like it was just the other day, standing in the crowd when they announced how much money he’d won. I couldn’t believe a guy could make all that money by going fishing.
My family fished – we even had a small bass boat – but we didn’t fish tournaments. We fished for fun, and for free.
In the spring we fished for bass for fun. My mother liked to crappie fish so we did that when it warmed up a little. Then, when it got hot, she didn’t want to go anymore so the rest of us went back to bass fishing.
The thing is, though, I never got that money out of my head. In the fall I fished my first tournament, a youth event. I haven’t stopped since although I’m long out of the youth category. It seemed to me at the time – and still does – that fishing bass tournaments was the only sensible thing to do. I mean, how else could you make money and do something you loved at the same time?
I remember some other things about that trip to the Classic, too. When we went into the arena to watch the weigh-in they gave everyone a special copy of Bassmaster Magazine. I thought that was pretty neat. I still have my copy.
And, I remember a new Ranger bass boat being there. It was inside the arena, and it was for sale. The price was $15,000. It said so right on the tag. There was a guy around us who was bragging that he could buy that boat and tow it with his $1,000 pickup truck.
Maybe then, but not now.
That same boat would probably retail for around $75,000 today, and you sure wouldn’t make it very far in a $1,000 pickup. Of course, the boats and trucks of today are far and away more advanced than they were in 1984, inflation notwithstanding. Nevertheless, that boat was the best available in its day, and the guy’s pickup probably wasn’t all that bad.
And so, when all is said and done and despite my disappointment at not winning, I left the St. Johns with a smile on my face. In a very real way, Rick Clunn is responsible for the direction my life took after that Saturday in August of 1984.