BassWestUSA - July/August, 2009, Page 32

that to be really good at fishing required know- ing where to find fish, and a lot of patience; those lessons have carried me a long way in competition.” While his father taught him a lot about fish- ing and life, the elder Nixon was not a very com- petitive person, it was a job choice and a group of friends who taught him to excel in competition. Along with the teachings of his father, Nixon, who spent a couple of years in college, used to guide on some of the more storied bass fisheries in the country. Making a living as a guide required hav- ing the ability to locate fish quickly, and Nixon proved that he could find them as well as anyone. “I started picking up guide trips using the old Ranger Boat that my dad had purchased,” Nixon said. “At that time, all of the really good guides were migrating from Bull Shoals to Greer’s Ferry Lake to Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn, so that was what I did. ” It was during his time as a guide that Nixon came to know Tommy Martin, another Toledo Bend guide that would become a good friend and one of his mentors. To- gether with Martin, John Torian and Harold Allen, they would become known as the ‘Hemphill Gang,’ perhaps one of the most feared groups of anglers to ever enter BASS tournaments. Throughout the years, Nixon would travel with and compete around Martin, and it continues to be Martin’s pas- sion for fishing and love for life that sets an example for him. “Tommy still has the fire,” Nixon revealed. “He will be 69 in November of this year, and he still gets up every morning look- ing to go after it, he still guides and competes, he’s been a great example for me and friend to me all these years.” “Tommy encouraged me to enter tournaments,” Nixon said of his longtime friend. “So I saved some money from guiding and entered the first BASS Invitation of 1977 on the St. Johns Riv- er in Florida. I finished 16th in that event, and won $900, which was enough to keep fishing.” He would end up cashing a check at every tournament in 1977, and qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic. However, even with his success, things were not all they’d cracked up to be. “The sum total of all of those checks wasn’t even $4000; I was broke and on my way out,” Nixon said. “My father raised me to not be in debt, and if it wasn’t for placing 2nd (to Clunn on Florida’s Kissimmee Chain) in the Classic and getting a $10,000 prize, I wouldn’t have been able to pursue this as a career.” He took that momentum however, and would go on to cash seven consecutive checks the next year. It was Clunn that really helped him with his first major sponsor that would enable him to go even further. “Rick introduced me to the people at Glastron Boats,” Nixon reported. “Glastron provided me a boat to use, my entry fees and $300 for expens- es at each event; without Rick, and the people at Glastron, I probably wouldn’t have been able to make it one more year.” As history would later show, if that had occurred we would have missed one of the most impressive careers, and one of the true big event specialists our sport has ever seen. One event, one format, would prove to the fishing world that Nixon meant business on the sport’s biggest stages.

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July/August 2009