Rick Clunn won his fourth Bassmaster Classic title in 1990, a record he now shares with Kevin VanDam. It was an outstanding performance, as he vaulted forward from 10th place (a deficit of nearly 10 pounds) after Day Two to claim the title.
Clunn’s personal effort on the James River was certainly noteworthy, especially considering the depth of the field, which included seven other Classic winners – George Cochran, Woo Daves, Hank Parker, Guido Hibdon, Ken Cook, Larry Nixon and Tommy Martin – in the 41 man field. Daves was a hometown favorite and both Parker and Hibdon had already won Classic titles on the James. Clunn’s 18-07 bag the final day was the largest limit weighed in during any of the three consecutive James River Classic.
However, there was one “outsider,” an angler whose credentials and background were different than all the rest. Can you guess who it was? For a hint, look to the bottom of the scoresheet.
Hank Gibson of Keswick, Ontario, was not only the first (and only) Canadian to fish the Classic, but he was also the first non-American. Since that time, we’ve had various representatives from foreign countries, including Gerry Jooste (South Africa) and Japanese nationals such as Takahiro Omori, Toshinari Namiki, Norio Tanabe, Kota Kiriyama and Morizo Shimizu.
His last-place Classic finish notwithstanding, Gibson had a mixed record at BASS. He earned a check in 15 of the 39 events he fished (38%), but his overall winnings were just over a thousand dollars per entry. He fished his way into the top ten on two occasions, both after his Classic appearance, and both times on the St. Johns River, another tidal body of water. He was 10th there in 1991 and 4th there in 1992, albeit 21 pounds behind winner Peter Thliveros. Gibson’s last BASS entry was the 1994 Alabama Invitational on Eufaula. He died from cancer a few years later.
These days there is a Canadian Federation Nation event known as the “Hank Gibson Provincial Qualifier.” This year it will be held on August 26-27 on Sturgeon Lake.
Jon Bondy was the first (and only) Canadian angler to qualify for the Elite Series, and of course BASS master of ceremonies Dave Mercer is from north of the border.
Tanabe was the first foreigner to win a BASS event – a 1993 Invitational on Kentucky Lake. For a few bonus points, can you name the first Canadian angler to win one?