Watson's good-luck token, Preuett’s dream and Clunn’s classic timepiece

BRANSON, Mo. — Carrying a good luck charm is nothing unusual for many fishermen, pros included. What is unusual, though, is the token carried by James Watson, winner of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open presented by Allstate.

His good karma comes from a grandfather’s artificial eyeball. Read on before you think that is a grotesque form of flattery.

Watson’s grandfather was a World War II veteran. You might even call him a hero. Sometime in 1944 the 21-year-old U.S. Army solider was on a mine clearing exercise in France.

“He came across an unexploded ordinance, picked it up and turned to throw it off the roadway,” recounted Watson. “A buddy was standing there so he turned and threw it the opposite direction.”

The mine exploded in midair and near the soldier’s face. The resulting injuries required amputation of both hands. He also lost an eyeball. Back then the job involved handling the explosives by hand.

Watson received the prosthetic hands and artificial eyeball at the wish of his grandfather upon his death. The two shared a special bond following the war, fishing and hunting together in southwest Missouri.

The experience influenced the grandson to also join the Army. Watson served nearly nine years, quickly gaining the rank of staff sergeant. He earned his Sapper Tab and membership in the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club.

By far what he enjoyed the most were his duties as a Basic Combat Drill Sergeant.

“What I miss more than anything is calling double time cadence,” he said. “I could call it for miles and the louder I hollered the more it motivated me and my guys.”

Watson this week cast into cadence the Table Rock bass. He now is headed to the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.

Part II, living the dream

Last year Brett Preuett lived every collegiate angler’s dream. In 2014 the University of Louisiana-Monroe student won the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series. In doing so he earned a trip to the 2015 GEICO Bassmaster Classic. Preuett also won the use of a 2015 Toyota Tundra for a year, a NITRO Z8 with a 225-horsepower Mercury Optimax ProXS, as well as $7,500 from Carhartt for tournament expenses, as well as entry fees into all nine Opens.

Preuett fished the Central, Southern and Northern divisions is now poised to live another dream. Preuett is on the Top 5 short list of Central Opens anglers eligible to gain entry into the 2016 Bassmaster Elite Series. He earned that right after making two Top 12 cuts at Table Rock and the first event. That was held in March and he finished eighth, fishing on the final day with an ugly case of the flu. He finished sixth at Table Rock.

“I’m so nervous right now I can hardly stand it,” he said, moments after wrapping up the season with a sixth-place finish. “Making the Classic was a dream come true.”

“To fish the Elite Series is beyond my dreams.”

At ULM he earned an MBA in business administration and undergraduate degree in management.

“I hope that I don’t need to use the MBA anytime soon,” he said.

Preuett was an original founder of the ULM bass fishing team, now a solid competitor in the B.A.S.S. collegiate league.

Clunn’s classic timepiece

View the Saturday epic photo gallery of photographer James Overstreet and find a wristwatch hanging from the right side waist of Rick Clunn.

The timepiece isn’t a fashion statement. How long he’s worn it is unknown, even to Clunn. The watch is held in place with an engraved piece of fitted leather.

“The watch has outlasted the leather, several times,” he said. “I’ve had a leather maker retool a new piece more than once.”

Clunn knows the watch dates back at least to the childhood of two daughters, Brooke and Cortney. Both are grown and have families, putting the watch in use for at least two decades.

Count the number of tournaments and it possibly dates back to Clunn’s last Classic victory in 1990.