Revisiting Lake Havasu – 1985

Rick in the Champions jacket, awaiting the signing of the check. photo by Rodney Boyd/FLW Outdoors.

Rick in the Champions jacket, awaiting the signing of the check. photo by Rodney Boyd/Operation Bass.

When the Bassmaster Elite Series anglers take off Thursday morning on Day 1 of the second arm of their Western series swing, this time on Lake Havasu, there will likely be some strong memories for several of the anglers. One of those will certainly be Rick Clunn. It was 30 years ago when Rick won the RedMan All-American, and the resulting $100,000 prize, his first such six-figure check. Back then, even the Bassmaster Classic only paid $50,000.

The magazine of Operation Bass at the time was called CAST Magazine, and they covered this event in their January/February 1986 issue at great length. Anglers took off each day from under the London Bridge – THE London Bridge from childhood song. The story of the bridge itself is rather fascinating. According to a Lake Havasu tourism website;

In 1967, the Common Council of the City of London began to look for potential buyers for the London Bridge. Lake Havasu City founder and entrepreneur Robert P. McCulloch placed the winning bid of $2,460,000 on April 18, 1968. McCulloch came by this figure by doubling the estimated cost of dismantling the structure, which was $1.2 million, bringing the price to $2.4 million. He then added on $60,000 – a thousand dollars for each year of his age at the time he estimated the bridge would be reconstructed in Arizona. Each block was meticulously numbered before the bridge was disassembled. The blocks were then shipped overseas through the Panama Canal to California and trucked from Long Beach to Arizona. Following reconstruction of the London Bridge, Lake Havasu City rededicated it in a ceremony on October 10, 1971.

As to that All-American win, Rick won in an area known as Blankenship Bend, a large turn in the river well uplake, primarily throwing a Stanley Vibra-shaft spinnerbait and a Stanley jig with a craw worm trailer.  A few more details of note from the coverage in the 1985 CAST Magazine follow, along with a few pictures from the story.

  • Rick's beached Ranger on the final morning. photo by Rick Fletcher/FLW Outdoors.

    Rick’s beached Ranger on the final morning. photo by Rick Fletcher/FLW Outdoors.

    Rick Clunn ran aground on a dry sandbar at 7:45 on the final morning while running 50+ mph and thought his day was over. However, four other contestants’ boats, along with a local boat, pulled up within minutes, and the anglers along with all their press partners were able to literally drag Clunn’s boat off the sandbar in 15 minutes.

  • One of the first boats to arrive at Rick’s grounded Ranger was Joe Thomas, who offered to take a ‘zero’ for the day and let Rick take his (Joe’s) boat to continue fishing.
  • Rick Clunn's winning speach, with runner-up Danny Walden. photo by Rodney Boyd/FLW Outdoors.

    Rick Clunn’s winning speach, with runner-up Danny Walden. photo by Rodney Boyd/FLW Outdoors.

    Runner-up Danny Walden, just 9 ounces off of Clunn’s winning total, came in one day with the 7 fish limit, but fearing that one of those fish might be short, decided to release it at the ramp before weighing. If that little “keeper” had measured, he likely would have won the event.

  • While tournament director Dan Grimes was checking and bagging up Rick’s final day fish, Rick leaned over and told Dan to make sure and “measure that small fish close – I’d hate to beat a guy out of $85,000 with a short fish.”
  • Beside the $100,000 first place check, the winner also received the Red Man All American Champion jacket (red in pics), a diamond/14-karat gold ring awarded by Humminbird, a Fenwick Hooksetter rod series, and a Minn Kota electric motor with Maximizer.
  • The boats provided to all the contestants were Ranger 371V bass boats on Ranger trailers, and equipped with Evinrude XP-150 outboards, Humminbird LCR 4000s and flashers, Minn Kota 599 electric motors, and Exide batteries.
  • Other anglers of note in the field included Carl Maxfield (3rd), David Fritts (7th), Terry Thomas (8th), Larry Williams (10th), Don Rank (11th), Stacey King (18th), Shaw Grigsby (26th), O.T. Fears, III (28th), and Joe Thomas (33rd). Of particular interest, note that of those names, Shaw Grigsby will be another angler who was in that All-American field fishing nearly 30 years ago. Also of note, both David Fritts and Stacey King  are still active in professional fishing on the FLW side 0f the sport.
  • Rick Clunn with the winners check next to Mike Whitaker. photo by Rodney Boyd/FLW Outdoors.

    Rick Clunn with the winners check next to Mike Whitaker. photo by Rodney Boyd/FLW Outdoors.

    Operation Bass president Mike Whitaker asked Clunn on stage point blank about a “pro” fishing this circuit and winning the title. Rick stated that he thought that the Red Man tournament trail was one of the toughest circuits in the country with having to beat out almost 19,000 other anglers to qualify, and noted that the year before, beside himself, Tommy Martin, Larry Nixon and several other pros all tried to make the Championship and failed by not going beyond the regioanl. He also stated, “I wouldn’t be here if I thought there was any way that I’d hurt this sport. The fishermen that I fish against are too important to me, because I was one of them…We can play word games all we want. Nobody’s ever told me what a professional is or what an amateur is in the sport of fishing.”