Clunn Returns to Scene of his Second Classic Win

Legendary pro Rick Clunn will return Feb. 24-26 to the scene of the second of his record four victories in the CITGO Bassmaster Classic — Lake Tohopekaliga — for the 36th annual world championship event.

The 59-year-old Missouri pro will be making a record 30th Bassmaster Classic appearance, and it is fitting it will be in Kissimmee, Fla. —site of his victory in the 1977 Bassmaster Classic. It was in October of that year Clunn caught 27 pounds, 7 pounds of bass to top Larry Nixon (25-11) and become the first angler to win consecutive Bassmaster Classics.

Things certainly have changed since then.

The 1977 win helped fashion Clunn’s unrivaled resume and put $25,775 in his pocket. A Bassmaster Classic win in 2006 would further cement his status as the fan-selected ESPN Greatest Angler and add a whopping $500,000 to his already hefty bank account.

Clunn was asked what he remembered most about his heroics in that Bassmaster Classic nearly three decades ago.

“That I was so lost on how to fish Florida,” Clunn replied. “Fortunately for me, I think everybody else was, too. The only guy there that should have known how to fish Florida was Roland (Martin). Nobody else had a clue about how to fish Florida. We were all lost.

“You pride yourself that luck doesn’t control your destiny, and I feel like that has been 90 percent true throughout my career. But that was one event where I would have to be honest and say I got lucky.

“My intention that first morning was to go to Lake Kissimmee,” Clunn continued, “but I got lost in the fog and could not find the lock. I ended up finally just giving up and running into a grassline, and just said, ‘I’m just going to start fishing right here until the fog lifts.’ Then on my third cast with a buzzbait I caught a 7-pounder. I ended up catching almost 18 pounds that day right there in that little area.

“And I didn’t catch (much) the rest of the tournament. But I ended up winning the Classic.”

Everything will be vastly different this time around on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes — from the experience of the field to the quality of the fishery.

“There’s going to be a lot more knowledge about how to fish Florida waters in this coming Classic, by far, than there was then, because we’ve had so much more experience now than we did almost 30 years ago,” Clunn said. “We’ve had 30 more years of fishing Florida, and that means a lot. Back then, I probably hadn’t had three or four tournaments in Florida. It’s a little different breed (of pro), and we all know that.

“I was fortunate with two things: I just got lucky and stopped in the right spot; and nobody there really had more knowledge or confidence about how to fish those waters than I did.”

Then there is the vastly improved quality of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, which has been the focus of more fisheries and habitat restoration work than any other Florida system during the past three decades. Clunn’s winning weight in the 1977 Bassmaster Classic would barely qualify for a good February five-bass limit these days.

“This year it could do just the opposite of what Pittsburgh did, when we broke the all-time low (Classic-winning weight last summer),” Clunn said. “We certainly could break the all-time high catch in this one.

“That just depends on conditions. We know what happened with the Dean Rojas deal, but we also know that hasn’t happened since. Even in the local tournaments that hasn’t happened. You’ve just got to have everything go right to do something like that.”

In January 2001, Rojas destroyed the BASS record book at Lake Toho. Rojas set records for the heaviest five-bass (45-2) and four-day (108-12) catches.

BIG STAR. More than 90 million viewers watched the Super Bowl on Sunday. Those who turned in to the commercials saw a plug for Mobile ESPN, which features various sports stars, including CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series pro Skeet Reese.

Mobile ESPN is a new cell phone service that provides instant scores, statistics, sports alerts, video and more. To launch the service, more than 20 professional athletes were involved in the commercial, including Chicago Cub Juan Pierre and Indy car racer Dan Wheldon.

“ESPN tried to find representatives from as many sports as possible to be a part of the commercial, and they chose me to represent bass fishing,” Reese said. “To be present on the set of this shoot with some of the best and most well-recognized athletes in the world was humbling.

“My wife got to go with me to Los Angeles for the shoot, and she was starstruck like a kid, at times. I went into the whole thing perceiving that I’d play some secondary role, behind more recognized athletes. Instead, I was surprised to learn that they gave me the same amount of face time as more-famous athletes. I think it will definitely make bass fishermen who are watching the Super Bowl very proud.”

MORE COMING ATTRACTIONS. The season opener of the new CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series on Texas’ Lake Amistad can’t get here fast enough. We keep hearing reports of phenomenal fishing on the United States-Mexico border lake that have the pros predicting big things for that March tournament.

A recent one-day local tournament was won with five bass totaling just short of 40 pounds. And Oklahoma pro Jeff Kriet and a friend caught 74 quality bass in a four-hour period during a recent visit.

“It’s awesome,” reigning CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year Aaron Martens recently reported from the lake via cell phone. “It’s like Lake Mead with big fish in it. It would be like Lake Mead if Mead was flooded and had grass and trees.

“It’s real easy to get 20, 25 pounds right now. I had one today about 10 pounds follow my bait to the boat. There’s a ton of 2- to 4-pounders.”

WEIRDEST CATCH. Missouri pro Mark Tucker once had a bass catch itself in a non-BASS tournament. He was allowing his jig-and-pork chunk to hang over the side of his boat in the water, to keep the pork from drying out, when a 5-pounder suddenly inhaled it. Tucker released the fish.

DID YOU KNOW? Believe it or not, no home state angler has ever won a Bassmaster Classic held in his state.

PRO BIRTHDAY. Florida’s Charlie Youngers will blow out 54 candles Feb. 25.

IF I HADN’T BECOME A BASS PRO … Bassmaster Classic contender Chad Morgenthaler would still be a firefighter. He was a captain in the Carbondale (Illinois) Fire Department before resigning in 2001 to pursue a career as a full-time professional fisherman.

THEY SAID IT. “When Tommy Martin won the Classic in ’74, that’s when I started thinking about it. I was guiding full time then, and a couple years later I decided to save the money up to fish a tournament and see if I could do it. I guess it worked out OK.” - Larry Nixon, who will be making a remarkable 25th Classic appearance in 2006, recalls the decision-making process that led to his tournament career.

News exclusives, audio and video clips of bass fishing's biggest stars, loads of discounts and more are all part of BASS Insider, an exclusive membership, now available at

BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.

BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry's widest array of services and support to its nearly 550,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208. To join BASS, call 1-877-BASS-USA or visit