A classic without Clunn
By By Mike Giles / outdoors writer
July 26, 2002
The annual world championship of fishing, otherwise known as the Bassmasters Classic, is currently being held in Birmingham, Alabama. A new champion will be crowned once again. However, knowledgeable bass anglers and fishing fans are already lamenting the fact that the most successful fisherman in the history of competitive fishing will not be present. A classic without Clunn? Can it be true? Say it isn't so!
Rick Clunn had fished in 28 consecutive world championships. With the caliber of fishermen and anglers that we have today, that is unheard of. Just imagine a prize fighter competing toe to toe with the best fighters in the world for 28 years. It just doesn't happen.
Picture how dominant the New York Yankees have been in baseball. They have won more championships than any other team. During different eras they have fielded teams that were very near dynasties. However, none of those teams even came close to matching Clunn's record. Just imagine the Yankees in the World Series for 28 straight years. It just doesn't happen.
During the early years the Classic was held in the fall. At one point during that time Clunn was the odds-on favorite every year to win the year-end event. In fact, he even won a record four Classic championships. During these fall tournaments, Clunn would literally dissect the water with crankbaits, while utilizing skills as precise as any surgeon. Clunn had no peer when it came to fishing crankbaits in the fall.
Can you envision any sport changing the rules of the game because one team was so dominant? That is just what happened in the sport of fishing. Clunn was so dominant in the fall championships that the tournament was moved to the summertime! Who knows how many championships the man might have won if the Classic had continued to be held in autumn. Clunn was sport fishing's Mr. October!
Lark or labor?
They call competitive fishing a sport now. Many people don't think fishing is working for a living. However, anglers have to be in top physical shape to endure the rigors of day-to-day tournament fishing. Clunn has been mentally and physically fit for all 28 years. While battling, cold, wind, rain, heat and all manner of weather conditions he has continued to stay sharp.
Competitive anglers are usually up at 3 a.m. every morning for days at a time, while fishing tournaments and living out of hotel rooms. Standing in the front of the boat for hours on end will test the endurance of anyone, even in ideal conditions. To compete on a championship level for 28 consecutive years in all kinds of conditions is truly amazing and remarkable!
Local angler Bruce Roberts once spoke with Clunn while he was signing autographs at a Classic weigh-in. When asked by Roberts how he was able to stay on such a competitive level and keep a keen mental and physical edge, he replied simply "Bruce, I just look at the alternative!" Nothing more had to be said. For Clunn there was simply no other alternative than being a champion fisherman.