Daily Limit: Clunn’s Ruthian blast

James Overstreet’s photo (above) of Rick Clunn after his victory Sunday is reminiscent of the epic shots of sports heros from bygone eras, and truly fitting.

March came in like a lion for B.A.S.S. – the season-opening month has been heralded in by loud roars.

Legendary angler Rick Clunn, 69, considered the best tournament angler of all-time by many, came from nowhere to capture the first Elite title just two Sundays after Edwin Evers posted a dramatic come-from-behind victory in the Bassmaster Classic.

At the same time Evers’ final-day heroics of a 29-pound, 3-ounce bag played on the ESPN2 show chronicling the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro, Clunn began his attempt to close out the Bassmaster Elite on the St. Johns River presented by Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels on Sunday.

Clunn’s win was emotional for many, especially a lot of self-proclaimed “old farts” who watched Sunday’s early flurry on Bassmaster LIVE. Yet Clunn’s best friend, Jerry McKinnis, couldn’t watch. He cried Saturday when Clunn surprised everyone with a 31-7 bag to jump 6 pounds ahead of his nearest competitor.

Although he said he’s waited for the day a long time, McKinnis said that watching Sunday would be too stressful on him. He would work moving rocks all day then check the outcome on his computer afterward, saying “I’m such a baby.”

When he did find out, he cried again. Clunn’s Ruthian feat sent shockwaves all around the bass fishing world, especially among anglers who look at him as their idol. Clunn is the No. 1 hero to many of the current pros. He’s even more to guys like Skeet Reese, who see him as a father figure. Clunn’s also a mentor, a zen guru, a sage soothsayer. Like EF Hutton, when Clunn talks, anglers listen.

James Overstreet and the guy who employs him as a photographer, Steve Bowman, have waged words of war over who should be assigned the task of taking on-the-water photos of Clunn. JO got the nod at Falcon, when Clunn vied for the title. It was Bowman’s turn this time, and it meant the world to him.

“This wasn’t the best gallery I’ve ever shot, but it was truly a special gallery for me,” said Bowman, who’s reported on close to 30 Classics and has developed Internet coverage of fishing. “Rick Clunn is an icon of this sport and to watch him win this event at 69 years old will go down as one my career highlights.”

And the victory is important to Clunn and his family. Saturday’s flight of his wife and son to get to Florida and the weigh-in was late, but Clunn had other anglers stall for him. He wouldn’t weigh his fish much less bag them until his son, River, arrived.

“I just kind of waited,” Clunn told Davy Hite for First Look. “I kept telling all the guys to tell longer stories than you’ve ever told before – most of the time, it’s ‘Get off the stage.’ They got here about 15 minutes before I weighed in.”

Bowman said he certainly understood Clunn’s desire to have his son see him win, and he thought it also inspired him.

“He is more determined to win than any event that he’s ever fished because of River,” Bowman said. “And that’s it. It’s not about beating 11 guys and making 100,000 dollars. It’s about winning for his son. We as parents, we get that.”

Clunn did explain the victory will hold more meaning for him and his family.

“It will because – you’ve been through it,” he told Hite, “it took me four Bassmaster Classic wins for my daughters to realize I had a real job. My sons were not going to get that opportunity.

“They hear about your history, but that’s just like reading a book or something. This is more important as a family.”

Clunn last won an event in 2002, a couple years before River was born and while Sage, now a senior in high school, was young. River certainly enjoyed the experience, first telling tournament emcee Dave Mercer a victory would be “pretty friggin’ cool.” He stood next to his dad after his 15th B.A.S.S. win, and said “I’m speechless.”

Then Clunn spoke, leaving everyone, especially those up in years, with a provocative thought.

“Never accept that all your best moments are in your past,” he said. “I’m not in my peak, everybody knows that, but that doesn’t mean you’re still not going to have great moments.”

Courtesy of Clunn, Sunday certainly was among the greatest moments in the history of B.A.S.S. And after an epic Classic, this March might end up being the all-time king of the jungle.

A huge crowd (below) came to the Palatka Riverfront in hopes of seeing Clunn crowned.


Leave it to Jerry McKinnis, who told stories on The Fishin’ Hole for about a half century, to best assess what the bass fishing world has in Clunn.

“In all sports, like baseball and football, etc., the Stan Musials and Ted Williams have been gone for some time. Today’s players have only heard about them. Never seen them … Bass fishing is different. Our ‘Babe Ruth’ is right here, right now, playing every day, just like everyone else.

“You might see him out in a boat, or bump into him at the launching ramp. (If he says something to you, you’ll probably want to go write it down so you won’t forget), but I think it’s a true blessing for the B.A.S.S. organization, the anglers who compete against him every day, and the fans all over the world, that Rick Clunn is still standing tall and trying his darnedest every day to become a better bass fishermen and a better person  … can you believe that?”

Yes, yes we can.


The LIVE crew made note of how Clunn, as usual, wasn’t very demonstrative in his emotions on stage when his Day 3 big bag was announced. Usually an angler’s celebration is a bit more than simply lifting their arms over their head.

But those close to Clunn, physically and mentally, could tell he was excited.

“A lot of times, things are not what they seem on the stage,” Mercer said to the LIVE audience. “I was a foot away from him and I could hear his heart beating … his hands were shaking.”

Bowman also noticed something different in his demeanor, which is usually steady as the rock he is.

“He’s a stone cold killer,” Bowman said, “but I could see the emotion in his body. I could see his whole hand shake. I’ve never seen him do that. I could tell he had a whole lot of emotion. And it just emanated among the whole crowd.”

Below, Overstreet captured some of that emotion from Clunn 


Seconds after Bassmaster LIVE concluded on Sunday, Mark Zona said his goodbyes to the crew in Little Rock, which he’d seen far too often for far too long.

Zona had been in Little Rock nearly every day of the past two weeks working in studio on all the ESPN2 shows from the Classic to LIVE.

“I’m going to not go talk for nine days,” he pronounced as he packed his things to head back to Michigan.

Whether he’ll sit in a dark corner of his pain cave, go hunt chupacabra or take his twin boys fishing – and never bother to yell ‘set the hook!’ – is anyone’s guess. All he knew was his voice felt like burnt toast and he needed to scrap off a few layers then butter it generously.

Z, it had to be that chupacabra sound you made during LIVE. It looked like it hurt … sounded like it hurt. Sure hurt to hear.

Rest up, Z, LIVE doesn’t gear back up until the Huk Performance Fishing Bassmaster Elite at Winyah Bay, April 7-10.


There were 11 other guys fishing on Sunday, not that anybody took notice. Mercer pointed out during a LIVE segment that, from looking at all the posts on social media, almost everybody wanted to see Clunn win.

“Guys I feel bad for right now are the other 11 fishing against him,” Mercer said. “They’re kind of going in the Keith Combs department.”

Not that anyone had anything against Combs, but he denied Clunn a chance at victory in the 2013 Elite event on Falcon Lake. Greg Hackney posed the biggest threat Sunday after an early flurry, including a 6-pounder on LIVE where he pronounced he was even with Clunn.

“If Hackney wins, they’re going to leave here mad,” Mercer said, adding anyone who would dare leapfrog the legend. “They’re all in that unenviable position … but their families and wives are not rooting against them.”

You’d sure hope. Especially since Clunn began the day with a 6-pound lead, Bowman said he thought all the competitors would gladly accept seeing him hold the trophy.

“There’s a not a guy in this Top 12 that leaves this thing disappointed if he wins,” he said.


  • Some soundbites on Clunn. From Bowman: “This is not a legend. This is the legend. Guys who look up to Clunn include (Bass Pro Shops founder) Johnny Morris, Jerry McKinnis, (B.A.S.S. founder) Ray Scott.
  • From Zona: “My kids don’t know what Joe Montana, what Walter Payton, (among others) have done. That is same scenario of the field that fishes against Rick Clunn.”
  • From Bowman: “You’ve got to give it to Rick Clunn. He’s not the usual 69-year-old man. A lot of these guys just don’t get how he dominated for so long.”
  • A viewer who goes by blueridgemopper on the LIVE chatroom is a huge Lynyrd Skynyrd fan, and he said the band’s lead man Ronnie Van Zant lived just off the St. Johns River in Green Cove Springs and that many of the band’s hit songs were written nearby.
  • Which Skynyrd songs come to mind when thinking of this area and fishing? “Simple Man” and “Swamp Music” seem somewhat pertinent, but how about “Don’t Ask Me No Questions.” Mopper, you better answer on the chat next time.
  • The Smithwick Devil’s Horse prop bait is used by many an angler in Florida, but the locals know tricks. Terry Scroggins, who took seventh this week, told Zona he moves the two front hooks forward a quarter inch so the bait lays flat in the water, not with its tail lower.
  • Scroggins added that another tweak he does is bend the blades to burp and spit and to make it more look like a needlefish, among the main baitfish there.