Pro angler Hibdon will be missed
The Bassmaster Classic world championship tournament is the high water mark of the year in professional fishing, but the competitors and fans in Greenville, S.C., this weekend are gathered with heavy hearts.
They are mourning the passing of Guido Hibdon, one of the good guys of pro bass fishing and arguably the most naturally talented angler to ever cast for cash. He was 72 and had battled cancer and heart problems.
Hibdon will be remembered as the soft-talking Missouri Ozark who learned to fish as a guide with his father and uncles and went on to win the 1988 Bassmaster Classic.
He made his mark on bass fishing in many ways – none of them ostentatious – and it’s a safe guess that many of the pros fishing the Classic this weekend on South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell have their own fond memories of the legendary Hibdon.
I had the good fortune to ride with Guido on two occasions. The first was a practice day for the 1986 Classic at Lake Chickamauga in Chattanooga, Tenn. The other was during the final warm-up for the ’88 Classic on the James River out of Richmond, Va.
He went about his business of scouting for the fish that might serve him well during the three-day Classic competition. But one would never see even a drop of stress-induced sweat on Hibdon’s brow, despite the fame and fortune that was at stake.
On the James River, in 90-degree heat that only those who have visited Tidewater Virginia in August can fully appreciate, Hibdon was as cool as a cucumber as he picked off a number of largemouth bass with a simple Texas-rigged soft plastic bait.
While others fretted about the tide schedule, lunar and solar influences, water temperature, wind velocity and a plethora of other variables, Hibdon just “went a’fishin’.”
I didn’t know it until three days later, but the ol’ pro was putting together the pieces of a complicated puzzle.
Frankly, he made it look easy.
Pro golfer Ernie Els is known on the PGA Tour as the “Big Easy.” Hibdon could easily have earned that nickname in pro bass fishing. He was a big man with a big heart who was generous in the guidance he shared with those who entered his circle.
From my perch on the back deck that hot day up in the Appomattox River not far from its confluence with the James, I observed as Hibdon effortlessly pitched ribbon-tail worms and the prototype of the crawfish lure that would soon be marketed as the Guido Bug. His precise presentations enticed a bunch of bass.
Later that day, he admitted strikes were hard to detect. “About half the time, I just set the hook on a hunch,” he confided.
Hibdon played his hunches well. He went home to Missouri with a big check and the title of world champion. Despite his good fortune, Hibdon remained a man who just liked to go fishing. His contributions to bass fishing, however, are considerable.
Son Dion also won a Classic and today, Guido and Dion still are the only father-son world champs. The Guido Bug became a best-selling lure. He also popularized the tube baits that today are a staple for millions of anglers. And he was known as a genius in the art of sight-fishing.
The day I shared with Hibdon in steamy Virginia was supposed to be for an article I was writing. I got that and plenty more.
To this day, I still heed his advice and fish easy with an open mind about setting the hook just when I have a hunch. I think that would make Guido smile.