BassWestUSA - November/December, 2009, Page 34

ber seeing the bass boats, and their goofy looking jumpsuits with patches on them carrying 15 fish stringers to the scales,” said Clunn. “One of their members, named ‘Big John’ saw me watching the weigh-in, and came over and invited me to come to their meetings; I fished my first tourna-

ment about a month later in 1969.” He fished his tournament with the Houston, Tex. Based Pasa- dena Bass Club first tournament on Toledo Bend Reservoir out of a 16 foot aluminum boat. “I was basically getting blown around and was bouncing off of trees,” he remembered. “It wasn’t too long after that I bought my first bass boat.” In 1970 he fished the Earl Golding tournament, which was lauded as the largest tournament in the country. Golding was the Outdoor Editor for the Waco Tribune-Herald, and his tourna- ment reportedly drew between two and three thousand entrants across several divisions. “I fished the individual division, and finished in 3rd place,” said Clunn. “It made me feel like I could compete in this game, so I kept going.” Initially his learning was by trial and error. “I was an avid note taker, I did it religiously after every tournament,” he said. “After awhile, I learned how to ask the right questions, and once they figured out I wasn’t going to trespass, the guys in the club became pretty good about teaching.” Three years after he start- ed fishing the club, Clunn would become the club champion. After that, it wouldn’t be long before he would resign from his job at Exxon, where he was a part of running one of the world’s largest computer rooms outside of NASA, and head out to compete on tour full time.

He entered his first Bassmaster event on Sam Rayburn in March of 1974, and finished 24th, taking home a check for $275. A promising start for a rookie amongst the anglers he had fished against, but it would be some time before he would reach a level of earnings that would allow him to meet all of his needs. In his first 19 entries, spanning nearly three years Clunn cashed a check 12 times, however, the total amount of his winnings over that period equaled $7850. Nearly half of that total was a result of his second place finish at the 1976 Ten- nessee Invitational, on Cordell Hull Reservoir, where he earned $3,482. Then came the 1976 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Gunters- ville in November, and the Clunn reputation for being at his best in big events began to take shape. “I won that Classic, and my instant thought was relief that I would get to stay out on tour a little longer,” said Clunn. “I wasn’t thinking of it as a defining mo- ment at the time, and it took me three or four days to really have any emotional moments regarding the accomplishment.” The taste of success would settle in, as Clunn would go on to win the Bass Champs Tournament on Percy Priest Reservoir in Nashville, Tenn. in April of 1977. He would cash checks in all but one event, and follow up his Bassmaster Classic win with repeat performance on Lake Toho in Florida. In claiming the $25,775 winner’s prize, he had brought his season’s total earn-

ings to $37,357; only $443 less than he had earned in the previous three seasons combined. A competitive mon- ster was unleashed, and Clunn would set out to col- lect paychecks in 41 of his next 54 BASS events, culminating with his re- cord setting performance at the 1984 Bassmaster Classic on the Arkansas River. His BASS earnings during that period to- taled $139,037. During that time he also won his first U.S. Open, and he punched out a string of 28 consecutive ap- pearances in the Bass- master Classic that stretched from 1974 to the 2001 edition on the Louisiana Delta.

The early Days on Tour

Clunn positioned himself to be at his peak in the Bassmaster Classic. “I knew how a lot of the Angler of the Year titles were won back in those days, and I didn’t want to owe my success to anyone else,” he said. “While guys were getting help from the best locals for regular tournaments, the Classic was different, you had to do the work all by yourself; and I wanted to prove I was the best at relying on myself.” His self reliance proved to be key, as for the first several years, the anglers did not know where they were going to be fish- ing the Classic until they were airborne on the chartered plane to the event, then Bassmaster Founder Ray Scott would notify them were they were going. In those years, Clunn had a knack for being around the win- ner’s circle in the Classic. His career record includes his four wins, two 2nd place finishes, a 3rd place, two 4ths and a 5th place finish. All told, he has 15 top 10 finishes in Bassmaster Classic competition, meaning that nearly half the time he has been in the field; Clunn has been in sight of winning the tourna- ment.

Clunn holds the U.S. Open, a tournament he won two times, in high regards for what it did for the overall learning curve of anglers everywhere. “The U.S. Open, without the intent of doing so, created an explosion of learning,” Clunn opined. “It brought the best anglers from the west and the east together, with some international anglers, and we all learned as a result.” He also ranks the U.S. Open as the toughest tournament in the world to win, for a variety of reasons. “Along with the fact that it had the best anglers in the world, the time and place add to its degree of difficulty,” Clunn said. “Lake Mead in the sum-

ClassiC Domina- Tion

The u.s. open

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November/December 2009