The B.A.S.S. world lost a pioneer a few days ago. Don Corkran, who to this day is the longest-tenured B.A.S.S. Nation Director, passed away from complications of cancer.
On a personal note, I have known Don most of my life. I was 6 years old when my father, Trip Weldon, went to work for B.A.S.S. in 1991. Don was there then. He was known as “The Federation Director” until ESPN purchased the company in the early 2000s.
Don and my paths started crossing on the job in 2006 when he tabbed me to be a College Angler liaison for JM Associates. That ultimately led to a role for me with B.A.S.S. in 2011 with him being my boss, and together, we started the Bassmaster College Series. That led to the formation of the High School and Junior Series as well.
All of these platforms have Don’s fingerprints on them. He retired in 2014 and enjoyed those nine years of retirement. I could tell so many good stories about him and the kind of man he was.
Once the world learned of his passing, several tributes and memories started rolling in via the various social spheres. One in particular personified Don better than anything anyone else could write. Former B.A.S.S. CEO Helen Sevier wrote a beautiful description of Don and what he meant to B.A.S.S. and our memberships, but more importantly who he was. If you knew Don, you will nod along with this. If you didn’t, I hope this paints a portrait of him.
Don, we will miss you. May you rest in peace and catch a big one up there for all of us!
A few words from Helen Sevier…
Once again the B.A.S.S. family is grieving over the loss of one of its members, Don Corkran. Less than six months ago, Don was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. And, during that time he shared with us his treatment and journey as he bravely fought this dreaded disease. He knew he had hundreds of friends who were concerned and wanted to know how he was doing.
Don joined B.A.S.S back in 1990 as an assistant tournament director. He had just retired after 22 years from the Army as a Command Sergeant Major … one of the youngest in the service to reach that rank. He was quickly tapped to assume the role of B.A.S.S. Federation Director in 1991.
When Don took the job, the Federation system, a network of local fishing clubs, was suffering under poor leadership. (Without a doubt, it was one of the hardest jobs but most gratifying at B.A.S.S.) I must admit I was somewhat concerned about his military background and how he would handle these independent, strong-minded and strong-willed people in the clubs.
Well, Don showed us he could herd cats. He quickly got the situation under control and the Federation system thrived.
From the military, and his inner core, Don brought a sense of right and wrong, a loyalty that reaches up and down, and duty bound to B.A.S.S. and his mission. Don was direct. Bluntly honest. Smart. Caring. A great listener and speaker. Skillful salesman. Fair. Hard working. Planner. And yes, a leader. The list could go on.
Like so many at B.A.S.S. he believed in the vision of the organization and loved the sport of bass fishing and the outdoors. Like others when he joined corporate B.A.S.S., his fishing days were reduced because his efforts were refocused on making good things happen for fishermen and the resource.
It would be hard to place a value on what Don accomplished to the benefit of grassroots bass fishing tournaments, conservation programs and youth activities. The grassroots clubs grew to more than 45,000 members in 2,500 chapters/clubs in 47 states and several foreign countries.
His leadership fostered the planting of conservation directors and youth directors in every state federation and local club. He implemented youth programs and the Bassmaster Casting Kids that touched millions of youngsters in a punt, pass and kick program for fishing. At the Bassmasters Classic he hosted thousands of kids with a local fishing event where, yes, you would find Don directing volunteer workers and encouraging children to have fun and go fishing.
And, all the time he was doing this he was winning friends and gaining the respect of those inside and outside B.A.S.S. Don was unique. I’m sure there were rumbles, but I never heard complaints from inside or outside.
Then, there was his family. He loved and was devoted to them. From high school, Jeanne was just the right partner. And, not only did he love his children, MarJean and Don, but he was proud of their accomplishments and respected them for who they are.
In addition to all of the above, he was a patriot. Again, I’ll use the word respect. Don earned that honor from his peers and his family.
Like his fellow B.A.S.S. family members, I loved Don. We’ll miss his warm smile, his genuine hugs and his presence. So, with love and respect we salute Don for who he was and for what he meant to his entire fishing family — not just at B.A.S.S., but throughout America.