That is because the 1996 ring holds a doubly special meaning. Inside its beautiful blue original stone, Cochran's Classic ring sports a 4 1/2-carat diamond that symbolizes more than a casual observer could ever know.
When Cochran's father, Ed, died of cancer in 1994 at the age of 72, he passed on his impressive Mason's ring to his son. As a tribute to his father, last year, Cochran asked fellow pro Dave Smith, owner of Midwest Trophies in Oklahoma, to mount its diamond into the heart of his Classic ring.
"I decided that I wanted to put my dad's ring inside of my champion's ring, which makes it doubly important to me," Cochran said. "It means a lot to me.
"My dad grew up in the depression, and he wanted me to get a good education and become a businessman like himself. He was in the car business for 30 years. And he believed in one thing — working seven days a week, 15 hours a day. I said, 'Dad, all I want to do is hunt and fish.' He said, 'Get that out of your head. There's no money in hunting and fishing.'
"He threw a fit about me fishing tournaments. He thought I was wasting my time. When I started fishing Bassmasters, I had to hide it from him. My wife and my mother would cover for me when I went off at a tournament. If they had told him I went fishing, he would have said, 'Fishing! He needs to get that out of his head.'
"When I made the '87 Classic in Louisville, he wouldn't even go. He said, 'He's wasting his time.' I was leading the tournament going into the last day and my mother called him and told him, 'If you don't get up here and watch George win this world championship, you might as well find another place to live.' So he got on a plane to Louisville, and he got to watch me win that Classic. When I won that $50,000 and it enabled me to become a full-time pro, I never saw my dad cry before in his life, but I saw him cry that day.
"He said, 'I'll never bother you again. You follow your dream. I'm an old man and I never dreamed you could make a living fishing. But you are evidently very good and I'll support you from now on.' "
TERRIFIC LURE CAUSE. To hear the words of the final speech by basketball coaching great and ESPN broadcaster Jim Valvano is to realize how special the man was — and how insidious is the disease that took his life. Wracked with pain from his advanced form of cancer, Jimmy V courageously reminded us all to cherish every moment of every day.
A replay of Valvano's now-famous speech at the recent Southeastern Outdoor Press Association conference in Fayetteville, N.C., put the exclamation point on a terrific project that benefits The V Foundation's fight against cancer and deserves every angler's support.
Lure for a Cure is the result of a collaboration between lure-maker PRADCO Inc., the Kissimmee-St. Cloud Convention and Visitors Bureau and professional fishermen Tim Horton, Sam Swett and Terry Seagraves. It revolves around a special lure pack that includes three specially designed Heddon Super Spook Jr. topwater baits. The pack, which costs $12.95, is available through www.lurenet.com, Gander Mountain retail stores and select Bass Pro Shops stores.
A portion of proceeds will go to The V Foundation, which has raised more than $27 million since it was created by ESPN in 1993.
SCHULTZ'S SHOW. Florida pro Bernie Schultz will be sharing his love of old tackle collecting on Nov. 1 by promoting the Antique Tackle Show in his hometown of Gainesville, Fla.
More than 100 exhibitors will be displaying vintage lures, reels, rods and other memorabilia by collectors from across the Southeast. For more information, contact Schultz at 352-495-2746.
DID YOU KNOW? With his 14th BASS victory this fall, Denny Brauer's all-time leading career money total is now $1,706,351.90.
PRO BIRTHDAYS. Three-time BASS Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam turns 36 on Oct. 14. California's Mike Tyler will be 31 on Nov. 1. Missouri pro Tim Sainato turns 43 on Nov. 10. North Carolina's Guy Eaker, who becomes 63 on Nov. 23, keeps charging ahead.
IF I HADN'T BECOME A BASS PRO… Six-time Classic qualifier Mike Wurm of Arkansas says he would have pursued a career as a golf pro.
THEY SAID IT. "It's like winning the World Series. It's a life-altering thing. So, obviously, I've been busy. When you win the Classic, you're presented a platform to really express something and to get something done. And my platform this year is to take the sport to a new level, to bring it to new people that normally don't see the sport and to young people. And along with ESPN and BASS, I really believe that that's going to happen this year. So I've taken a little different path than past winners in that I'm really taking the steps to try to elevate this sport personally." Reigning Classic champion Michael Iaconelli