Mike Jones - KEEPING UP

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Thursday, January 17, 2019
Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Westward Ho!
This is the time of year when everyone feels the need to represent their home team wherever home may be. It makes sense, after all, home is where we grew up, it’s what we know to be true. I’m proud to be from the West and certainly enjoy a spirited conversation when the spirit involved is based on fact, not something else.

Sports can bring out the worst in these discussions or the best if the participants have any grasp of history. The history in question can be a day, week, year, decade or generation old. It doesn’t matter unless the history is either ignored or skewed for purposes of argument. While politicians can get away with alternative facts, fishermen cannot. The fish will tell you otherwise. Had a great day on the water? Okay, now repeat it, over and over and over until others take note. If they start duplicating what you started, color yourself a trendsetter.

So, what if you were the first to do a certain thing? To create something or modify it or simply showcase it? What if you changed how fishermen fished? I would call that special. It’s what qualifies you for hall of fame status. However, in an era where fame can mean a lot of things other than greatness or excellence or genius, I have a problem with these halls because they sometimes reflect celebrity more than contribution.

What can be lost on these career rewards programs is that people who may be a little cantankerous, opinionated or resistant of the group dynamic are often overlooked. And, it certainly doesn’t help if the person in question did his or her work a thousand or more miles away from the opinion makers which, for westerners, means towards the setting sun.

For example, freshwater bass anglers and pioneers from the West generally have to contribute something so overwhelming in scope or longevity to be considered. Dee Thomas has been inducted into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame and for obvious good reason. He gift-wrapped his flippin’ technique to the good ’ol boys at a time when bass fishing was beginning to hit its stride.

Dave Myers, the tech guru largely responsible for the collapsible rod design, however, was not included.

Nor was Dave Gliebe, perhaps the most enigmatic and accomplished bass angler of his or any other era, a name likely to be lost to the scrap heap of time.

Obviously, some are easier to overlook than others, especially when a sport like bass fishing has always been promoted from a southern perspective.

Case in point would be Bobby Garland. Although born a southerner in Arkansas, Garland eventually moved west and began his lure-making legacy. If he had stopped with his tube-like Mini-Jig for crappie, Garland could have found angling immortality by that alone. Instead, it merely served as a launching pad for a bass lure that, by the mere mention of its name, carbon dates any western fisherman. If you say you caught them on Gitzits, there’s some gray on your temples. To a younger generation, it’s a tube bait.

As the story goes, Guido Hibdon fished with Garland at the U.S. Open in 1983 and headed back east. Soon thereafter, his tournament exploits, along with those of Shaw Grigsby, took what we knew to be a Gitzit and turned it into a generic tube jig.

I considered Guido a friend and still count Shaw among that group, confident they both would point to Bobby Garland as their inspiration.

Trouble is, a lot of other people, wouldn’t. Even more disturbing is that whomever is responsible for bestowing these lifetime achievement awards are often members in good standing of The Church of What’s Happening Now. In addition to appearing historically tone-deaf, business, friendship, politics and yes, regional bias, also seems to be part of the program.

To me, Bobby Garland would be an obvious choice. Others like San Diego’s Bill Murphy require more dedication to the cause of history. Granted, this big bass savant was no promoter, in fact, some might say he was just the opposite.

At a time and in a place littered with big bass liars and scoundrels, Murphy kept to himself. By the time Murphy’s accomplishments and insights became public, he had already been overshadowed by the likes of Glen Lau and Doug Hannon despite having done his research in the deeper, heavily pressured waters of southern California, not the clear and shallow backwaters of a bygone Florida.

While Murphy didn’t make it easy for a national audience to appreciate his contributions, those in the San Diego area have little excuse for ignoring one of their own. Except, of course, that shortly before his death in 2004, he made it clear he wanted no posthumous recognition from people who didn’t embrace him in life. So far, he’s gotten his wish.

Others who have been ignored are tougher to explain. Despite being what some might call a lovable curmudgeon, Don Iovino was also as ferocious a tournament competitor as he was a tireless promoter of finesse fishing, most notably his vertical “doodling” technique. While others focused on big baits and Castaic fame, Iovino set about pioneering what morphed into a radically new bass fishing discipline, one that fueled a market for finesse rods, reels, accessories and terminal tackle. From shaky heads to drop-shot rigs, much of the finesse DNA can be traced back to Iovino. And, meaning no disrespect to the likes of an Aaron Martens, anyone who has benefited from finesse is standing on the shoulders of guys like the Godfather. Or Bill Murphy. Or Bobby Garland.

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