Ray Scott, Vice President George H. W. Bush, Rick Clunn, and Harold Sharp all wait for Sharp to call out the final weight of Clunn's final day catch. Photo: Fort Worth Star Telegram Thusday August 23 1984 Bob Gwizdz.

It’s Classic week, and today in BASS Masters Classic 1984 we continue the celebration of Rick Clunn’s 50th year on the Bassmaster Trail and his four Classic wins during that time.  By this time in his career, Clunn either held most of the Classic records or had held them at one point.  To date, August 1984, here are the records he held prior to the start of Classic XIV:

1) Only angler to win back-to-back Classics (1976 and 1977)

2) Overall largest weight for a Classic win (1976, Lake Guntersville, 59-15)

3) The largest one-day weight in a Classic (1976, Lake Guntersville, 33-05)

4) The first angler to win a Classic Wire-to-Wire (1977, Kissimmee Chain)

There was also one record that he’d recently been tied in and another he’d recently been beat in:

5) The angler with the most Classic wins (2) was tied by Bobby Murray in 1978

6) The angler with the smallest overall Classic winning weight (1977, Kissimmee Chain, 27-07), beat by Larry Nixon (1983, Ohio River, 18-01)

When it came to the Classic, Clunn owned the records, and although it’d been seven years since he’d won, he’d placed 2nd in 1978, 3rd in 1979, and 4th in 1981.  He was still a threat anytime the big show came to town.

Let’s get on with the practice rounds

Classic Practice

Classic Week started off on Tuesday August 14 with 1 1/2-day of practice followed by the press conference held on the afternoon of the 15th.  At the press conference anglers were predicting a good event but few were giving any useful information.

Larry Nixon, the winner of the 1983 Classic said he’d caught a 5-pound bass during practice and Ricky Green, was predicting that the overall weight record could be challenged.  This would be a difficult task because the old record was from the 10-fish limit days and Clunn, who owned the record, weighed in 26 bass over the course of three days.  This event would be observing a 7-fish daily limit.

Other talk at the press conference was the odds placed on anglers and their chances to win.  George Cochran, an Arkansas native with years of experience on the Arkansas River, was the overall highest ranked to win the event with Roland Martin coming in a close second.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram writer Bob Gwizdz interviewed some of the Texans in the mix and didn’t receive too much confidence from any of them.  Here’s what a few of them had to say:

Larry Nixon: “I’ll either do good, or nothing at all.”

Tommy Martin: “It’s tough.”

Rick Clunn: “I can’t catch 45 pounds.  If it takes 40, I might be in there.  I feel like I can catch 36 to 28 pounds, but I won’t really know until tomorrow.”

The other consideration anglers had to come to grips with was where to fish.  With 94 miles of water available, 37 miles upstream from Pine Bluff and 57 miles downstream, anglers had a lot of water to cover.

Day One

While most anglers in Classic XIV headed anywhere from 10 to 30 miles away, Rick Clunn motored his boat three miles away into the biggest backwater of the Arkansas river.  It was here he commenced throwing a crankbait on a spot no bigger than 50 yards long and a few boat lengths wide.  A spot that, from the surface, didn’t look any different than any of the other water around it.

But below the surface there were stumps and brush that didn’t break the surface.  To top that off, there was a ledge that went down into 13 feet.

Within the first hour, Clunn had caught 10 bass and had his limit in the boat.  He caught five more fish during the day to cull up to  his 24-12 limit to take a commanding lead on day one.  It was at this point Clunn set the new record for a 7-fish daily limit.  But bigger things would come.

Almost six pounds behind Clunn was Classic rookie Dr. Greg South of Virginia.  South weighed in a limit of fish that dropped the scales down to 18-15.  In third place was Hank Parker with a limit for 15-09, Denny Brauer held down the fourth spot with 14-08, and Randy Dearman rounded out the top-5 with 12-13.

While Clunn wouldn’t talk about how he was catching his fish, South revealed he was throwing a buzzbait in the morning and switch to plastic worms after the fog burned off.

Rick Clunn with two of his fish from Day 1 of the 1984 BASS Masters Classic on the Arkansas River out of Pine Bluff. Photo: The Clarksdale Press Register Friday August 17, 1984.

Hank Parker and Denny Brauer were both amazed at the weight Clunn brought to the scales.  Parker said, “I was really surprised to see that big a string caught today. I think it can be overcome, but I’m going to totally change my strategy.”

Brauer comment was more doom and gloom. “The key to the tournament is that Rick’s going to have to have a bad day.  Rick doesn’t have very many bad days.  He’s going to be awfully hard to catch.”

But Clunn’s day was not just filled with glory.  He’d heard that his father was in the hospital in critical condition with a bacterial infection.  After having a conversation with his family, it was conveyed to Rick his father would want him to stay and compete.

At the daily press conference, Clunn was asked about his day.

“This is what you dream about,” he said. “This doesn’t happen very often.

“If I have another day like this, the tournament is over.  The Fish were really hitting good when I left. It seemed like there were a lot of fish in there.”

Day Two

Clunn would not disappoint on day two of the event.  He drove his three miles into Pine Bluff Harbor and continued pulling bass after bass from his small obscure spot.

Although he didn’t catch the weight he brought in on Day 1, he still slapped 23-08 on the scales bringing his total to 48-04.  Dr. Greg South brought in only 13-13 to bring his two-day total up to 32-12, putting him 15-pounds, 8-ounces behind Clunn.

South’s comments after weigh-in were, “Frankly, I think Ricky’s got it won.  As far as me catching him, I don’t think that’s very likely.  Unless he oversleeps tomorrow and doesn’t fish, there’s no way anyone can catch him.”

Denny Brauer sat in the third spot with 30-05 and was an ounce off being 18 pounds behind Clunn.

Rick Clunn lips another good fish into the boat on Day 2 of the 1984 BASS Masters Classic. Photo: Birmingham Post Herald Tuesday August 21, 1984.

His words about the deficit were, “I could have the best day of my life and Rick could have a mediocre day and I still couldn’t catch him.  We’re fishing for second place.”

Hank Parker dropped one spot to fourth place with 27-07.  Always up for a bit of comedy, he said, “I don’t like to tell Ricky this but I found a place where there are 12 and 13 pounders schooling.  I’m going in there tomorrow and catch a limit and win this thing.  I really hate to use this place, so maybe I won’t after all.”

Clunn reported that his day hadn’t gone as easy as the first day.

“I really didn’t think I’d have as good a day today as I did yesterday,” he said. “It’s getting a little tougher, but it wasn’t as tough as I thought it would be.  I feel if I can get bit five times and catch them, nobody can catch me.”

Clunn also reported he had a limit by 10:40 am and that he’d stayed in his hole a lot longer than the previous day.

Rick Clunn running to his spot on Day 2 of the 1984 BASS Masters Classic. Photo: The Tampa Tribune Sunday August 9, 1984.

Day Three

As the final day of competition would down, it wasn’t a question of who would win, but how much would Rick Clunn win by.  When Clunn approached the scales, his sack of bass answered the question.  He’d win by a lot.

In the presence of Vice President George H. W. Bush and Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, Clunn handed Tournament Director Harold Sharp his bag of bass.  Seven fish that would tip the scales down to 27-05.  This would not only become the 7-fish daily limit record for a Classic it would give him a total of 75-09 for the overall Classic weight record.  He broke his 1976 record from Lake Guntersville by 15-pounds, 10-ounces.

Second place angler, Dr. Greg South, was only able to bring in a total of 50-01 but for his first ever BASS Masters Classic, he was happy with the result.  Hank Parker finished in the third spot with 43-02, Denny Brauer finished in fourth with 35-13, and Federation angler Larry Lazoen rounded out the top-5 with 34-08.

The Morning Call Tuesday August 21, 1984.

Along with Clunn’s winning weight record, Bassmaster recorded records for the most fish weighed (462) as well as most weight (930 pounds) recorded in Classic history.

During the final press conference, Clunn finally revealed where and how he caught his fish.  He revealed that during pre-practice a month earlier, he’d found a place back in Pine Bluff Harbor that was no longer than 50 yards in length and a few boat lengths wide.

The spot had water from 2- to 3-feet deep that then met a dropoff down into 13 feet of water.  The spot wasn’t obvious at all yet had stumps and brush on it that was below the waterline.

He was throwing a shad-colored Bomber 7A crankbait and switching it up with a Rapala Shad Rap.  He also stated he caught a few fish on a worm.

His tackle consisted of an old 7-foot glass rod and 15-pound Maxima line.  For those of you who don’t know or remember, this was the start of anglers going back to fiberglass rods for cranking.

Although this was the biggest blowout in Classic history, it could not have been easy for Clunn knowing his father was in critical condition in the hospital.  Here are his words how he got through the event.

The Palm Beach Post Sunday August 19, 1984.

“My first memories of fishing were being in my underwear, wading down a creek in southeastern Oklahoma with my father.  He gave me the will to be something more than average in life.  I felt like if I was ever going to be the best in something it was fishing and my dad raised me that way and once I started professional fishing, he became my biggest fan.

“These victories were probably more important to him than they were to me.  But I knew that if I dropped out and went home and, hopefully, he’ll get better, he’d look at is as being a burden to me for the rest of his life.”

Clunn also had several other quotes from this event that have been held in high regard over the decades since he won.  Here are a few of them.

“Awards and honors are meaningless.  The important thing in life is to strive for perfection and I’ve come close to perfection in this tournament as any time ever.  You can never attain perfection, you can only strive for it.”

And probably his most repeated quote over the years.

“We are fortunate to live in a country where there are no limits, and where a man can go as far as he wants.  Nowhere else in the world could someone chase little green fish all across the country and make $40,000 in three days.”

What a win, and what a winner.

More pictures are down below in the Gallery.  Click on the first image and use the arrows to scroll through the gallery.

Click the links to read the first two posts about Rick’s wins in the 1976 and 1977 BASS Masters Classics.