Don’t let a few of the numbers fool you, Hank Parker is one of bass fishing’s all-time greats despite the fact that he “only” won a little more than $400,000 in his 13 year career on the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail. A closer look tells you all you need know about why Parker is a semifinalist in the Greatest Angler Debate. Before he left to focus his attentions on a television career, Parker was one of the brightest stars in the sport.

The Greatest Angler Debate presented by John Deere started with a list of 35 top anglers from the world of competitive bass fishing. That list was pared down to the sport’s 10 best in January. Fan voting began in January and ended in March. The process ranked the pros third through tenth. The top two candidates will face-off in a second round of voting that begins June 15.

Two weeks ago, the countdown began with angler number 10, Mark Davis. Since then, ninth ranked Gary Klein and eighth ranked Jay Yelas have been profiled. This week it’s Hank Parker’s turn at number seven. He’ll be profiled on Saturday, April 30, at 9:00 a.m. ET on ESPN2.

The CBS Morning Show once described Hank Parker as “the rod and reel answer to Michael Jordan, in popularity and talent.”

Parker’s professional fishing career began in 1976 with the National Bass Association. He won their championship in his first season. The next two years he fished both National Bass Association and American Bass Association (both now defunct) events with great success.

In 1978, Parker “graduated” to BASS events, and his impact was immediate. In his first full season on the BASS trail, Parker never finished lower than 30th. In his first Classic, he ranked ninth.

The next season, Parker picked up right where he left off, eventually winning the 1979 Classic on Lake Texoma. The victory propelled him to superstardom and the world of outdoors television.

Parker won his second Classic ten years later, picking up a CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year award along the way (1983). He was the first angler to win the so-called Grand Slam of Bass Fishing, which included the Classic, Angler of the Year and a BASS SuperBass tournament.

Parker earned a check in 74 percent of all the BASS tournaments he fished, despite the fact that the pay list was much shorter and the checks decidedly smaller during the early days of his career. He finished in the top 10 in more than a quarter of those BASS events and never failed to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic in 13 years as a professional angler.

“Hank Parker is the only top pro to retire at the peak of his career,” said Bassmaster Magazine Senior Writer and “Greatest Angler Debate” commentator Tim Tucker. “He made the most of his 13 years on the trail and had an even brighter future ahead of him when he decided to leave competitive fishing.”

Parker was a pioneer of what modern anglers have termed “power fishing,” a philosophy involving the use of fast-moving baits like spinnerbaits, crankbaits and jerkbaits to cover lots of water and elicit reaction strikes from bass.

“He was one of the first guys who really focused on covering lots of water,” Tucker added. “He’d put the trolling motor down, turn it on high and run the juice out of it. He was an absolute master with a spinnerbait and crankbait.”

Had Parker not retired so early – at just 37 years of age – there’s no telling what he might have accomplished as a tournament angler or how high he could climbed on this list.

On Saturday, April 30, at 9:00 a.m. ET on ESPN2, BASS Saturday will profile Hank Parker. Fans will find stats and stories on the Greatest Angler Debate in the pages of Bassmaster Magazine, BASS Times, and on the weekly ESPN Outdoors radio show. On June 15, the debate heats up again as the fans choose between the top two anglers during a second round of voting on

The debate will conclude in Pittsburgh — at the 2005 Classic — when two champions are crowned. One will be given the Classic trophy and the other – or perhaps even the same angler! – will be hailed as the greatest angler of all time.

Since its inception in 2001, ESPN Outdoors has strived to inform and entertain anglers, hunters, campers and people of all ages who enjoy the outdoors. ESPN Outdoors is committed to increasing awareness of outdoor activities, a direction best exemplified by daily television programming totaling nearly 1,000 hours annually on ESPN and ESPN2.

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