[In past entries on the Bass Fishing Archives, we’ve discussed numerous articles from old fishing magazines, as well as some coverage of the sport outside of our usual orbit. For example, on two occasions we’ve examined Sports Illustrated’s treatment of bass fishing (click here and here) and we’ve also examined how the topic has been addressed in the New York Times. To date, though, we’ve dedicated little space to how and when publications that would seem to have nothing to do with bass fishing have covered angling. Obviously, magazines like Life and Time have on occasion chronicled the sport in general or certain aspects thereof, and we may cover those later, but today we’re going to look at an article from a periodical that you’d never expect to provide any space at all to competitive fishing – Details magazine.]
Details, founded in 1982, has historically been devoted largely to issues of men’s lifestyle and fashion, with a sprinkling of sports and popular culture. It was purchased by the Conde Nast group in 1988 and in some respects acted as a “little brother” to GQ, another title in that family. On occasion the magazine has published some content deemed offensive and has been the subject of widespread scorn.
By 1992, professional angler Randy Blaukat was no stranger to media coverage by writers from outside the bass world. He had played a substantial supporting role in Nick Taylor’s book “Bass Wars” several years earlier, as Brian explained back in November. While Taylor’s book exposed some of the soft underbelly of the sport, it generally treated its characters with kid gloves, either omitting, ignoring or failing to see some of the rougher edges of the participants and the circuits they fished.
There would be no such softballs in an April 1992 article in Details entitled “The Fisher King,” and subtitled “Devilish Doings and True Religion on the Professional Bass Fishing Circuit” by Erik Hedegaard, which featured a picture of a nude Blaukat standing on the deck of his Ranger as the lead-in photo.
In addition to writing for Details, Hedegaard worked for other outlets including Rolling Stone, to which he most recently contributed a profile of Charles Manson in 2013 . He has also penned features about Glee, Charlie Sheen, Donald Trump and Snooki, so obviously he does not shy away from controversial subjects, as the bass world found out in ’92.
The article, primarily reported from the 1991 South Carolina Bassmaster Top 100 at Lake Murray won by David Wharton, is less about a particular tournament than about a culture clash the author witnessed during his reporting. Specifically, he contrasted the so-called “New Age” crew, purportedly led by Rick Clunn and Gary Klein, of which Blaukat was arguably a member, with the Christian anglers ministered to by Terry Chupp, including Jimmy Houston, Lendell Martin and Randy Dearman.
A choice quote meant to illustrate this chasm came from Lendell Martin: “I don’t want you to say that Lendell Martin says Randy Blaukat’s going to hell, but either you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior or you don’t. And if you don’t, it’s just point blank you’re going to hell.”
Similarly, Jimmy Houston was quoted as saying, “Hypnotism and humanism and all that stuff, I’m just totally against it. That’s my opinion. I’m a Christian and I’m just against that kind of fishing.”
Meanwhile, it was reported that Clunn “read books about quantum physics and breakthrough thinkers like Michelangelo, Mozart, Louis Pasteur. He read the Bible and the Holy Koran. He studied the practices of the Native American Indians and their shamans. In tournaments, he tried to let his rational, controlling mind slip to one side and his intuitional being take over, and he won or placed more times than made sense. He told Blaukat all he could of these things, and Blaukat began to study them on his own.”
According to Hedegaard, Blaukat stated that when he came in second to Clunn at the 1991 Missouri Invitational on Truman Reservoir, “[t]he Christians had noodled it around in their brains and apparently someone in their camp finally came up with an answer. It was let out, on the circuit, that Clunn and Blaukat were going to lengths to ensure fishing success. Things had transpired, under the cover of darkness, in their motel rooms, with the use of lit candles and not a few squawking live chickens. They were worshiping the devil. They were burning the chickens at the stake.”
How much of this was true, and whether the antagonism was real remains a subject of conjecture, but no doubt any peaceful feelings between the parties were complicated by the author’s portrayal of Blaukat’s roommates, 1986 Classic runner-up Danny Correia and two-time Classic qualifier Bob Pastick. Both were from Massachusetts, and both were described as enjoying pornography and talking “constantly about scoring with any available local talent.” Pastick was also given to using foul language and leaning heavily on Budweiser (the king of beers), the latter of which led to his near constant greeting of “King me!”
For example, in describing an encounter with Larry Nixon meant to partially refer to the gap between the haves and the have-nots, Pastick was quoted as saying: “I mean, it was just me, Mr. Budweiser, and who was I talking to? Larry ‘Mr. MegaBucks’ Nixon! Larry ‘Rumdum’ Nixon whoring up information from the Kingmaster. King me!”
Not surprisingly, the article was not met with great kudos from the anglers described in it. On April 12, 1992, Ray Sasser of the Dallas Morning News claimed that while the picture of Blaukat buck naked on his boat described as “getting in touch with the environment….[was] certainly not the first time a bass pro has shown his behind to the world, but it’s apparently the first such literal exposure.”
Sasser stated that the author “create[d] the illusion of a rift between new-wave bass pros such as Rick Clunn, Gary Klein and Blaukat and Fellowship of Christian Anglers Society members such as Jimmy Houston, Randy Dearman and Lendell Martin who, despite their philosophical differences, get along just fine.”
Likewise, he quoted Blaukat as indicating that he’d been misled: “I thought that magazine was going to stress a conservation/environmental statement,” Blaukat stated. “Eric took a lot of quotes out of context to make it all seem more controversial that it really is.”
Jimmy Houston also claimed that the controversy and alleged antagonism had been drummed up: “it upsets me because it emphasizes a lot of negative images about tournament fishing. This is not what tournament fishing and tournament fishermen are all about. This is not what Randy Blaukat is all about.” It was also noted that Cliff Shelby of Ranger stated that “[t]he story doesn’t represent us in a good light at all.” Notably, over 20 years later, Blaukat remains a Ranger pro.
Hedegaard’s original article can be found on his website or in a Kindle book aptly entitled “Real Life Fishing Stories That Really Piss People Off.”