Had it not been for a pawn, Rick Clunn wouldn’t have been able to make the moves to become a king in the bass fishing world.
Clunn was crowned Bassmaster Classic champ the first of four times at the 1976 championship on Lake Guntersville, site of this year’s 50th Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk. It remains vivid in his mind and high in importance.
“That one turned everything around,” Clunn said. “That was the third Classic I fished. The first two I didn’t do well in. I was pretty much going broke — wasn’t going, I was already there.”
Last year after winning his second St. Johns River Elite in four years, Clunn wrote “The realities of tournament fishing.” He divulged his early struggles in the fishing world, which included losing his home and renting a small place on Lake Conroe where his guide business was foundering.
“I’ll tell you how broke I was. We had to pay our own way to the town we met in, New Orleans, before flying to the secret lake,” he said. “I didn’t have the money to get there.”
Clunn even contacted B.A.S.S. and asked to get an advance on potential year-end money awarded, but he was denied. He had one prized possession, a Browning .270 rifle purchased a few years earlier.
“I had a deer rifle that I was still hanging on to, and I hocked it at a pawn shop and I got enough money to get to New Orleans … from there I won that event,” he said, turning the $400 or so into the first-place prize of $25,000. “It was a high quality rifle. That’s why I hung onto it; it was such a pretty gun. I bought it a few years earlier before I quit my job at Exxon and went broke.”
If not for that trip to the pawn shop, Clunn, who owns numerous Classic records, might not have fished competitively again nor built his illustrious career.