LAS VEGAS -- By today’s professional bass angling standards, Guido Hibdon had a tiny amount of lures at his disposal when he won the 1988 Bassmaster Classic on the James River in Virginia.
“When I won the Classic,” Hibdon said recently at the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST) in Las Vegas, “I went into that thing and luckily they bit it because I sure didn’t have much else in the boat.”
Times have changed.
Today’s pro bass anglers carry cases of lures, plugs, jigs, worms, grubs, spinnerbaits, swimbaits, buzzbaits – and they’re constantly looking for more.
“New products are what push this industry,” veteran lure manufacturer Joe Renosky said at ICAST. “These guys have a tacklebox full of stuff, but they want new stuff all the time. The more we give them, the more they want.”
In addition to being one of the top pro anglers throughout his career in the 1970s through the 1990s, Hibdon, 67, also continues to be an innovative lure developer. It’s an industry, he said, that continues to evolve.
“It doesn’t make any difference if it’s baits or boats, motors,” he said. “We reached a point 20 years ago when I didn’t think you could come up with something different. I’m sure a lot of us were that way. It’s come a full circle. We’ve got baits now that will catch ‘em when nothing else will.”
For the 1988 Classic, Hibdon put together a short-armed spinnerbait with the help of Luck-E-Strike. Another lure he used, he admits regrettably today, was created by a competitor in the industry.
“I hate to say it, but it was a Lonnie Stanley little 3/16 jig,” he said. “The reason it worked so good was because it was light with a black and blue Guido Baby Bug on it, and it did something nobody else was doing.”
The baits that worked in the past still do the job, Hibdon said.“The old baits still catch them,” he said. “The old jigs and Guido Bug still catch them just as good now as they did then. But you got to come up with something new all the time.”
Stephen Browning, a veteran on the Bassmaster Elite Series, said the older anglers and bait manufacturers cleared the way for today’s pros, as well as the weekend anglers, by providing a full arsenal of baits for every scenario and condition.
“I have a lot of respect for that older generation,” Browning said. “Now you have to look at it, I’ve been out here for 18 years. When I first started, your Rick Clunns, your George Cochrans, those type guys kind of started from scratch as far as what they had to fish with.
“What they have brought and what they have taught us over the years, you can’t do anything but respect those guys.”
“All of the work has been done for them,” Hibdon said. “I still have some that come and pat me on the back – Ricky (Clunn) does, too. They pat us on the back and thank us. Now there’s some that don’t have no respect for nobody, and I don’t want a pat from them.
“It’s been made easier for them. Electronics, boats, baits, all the bugs are worked out. Now all they’ve got to do it get in the boat and go fishing.”
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t new innovations, even from the old guys.
Renosky, 69, began making lures as a 10-year-old, selling trout spinners at his mother’s workplace, three for a buck. Over the years, his more popular innovations have included the Banjo Minnow and Bionic Minnow. He continues to deliver new creations, showing off several at ICAST.
“We’ve got things we’re working on now for next year,” he said. “It’s the good Lord’s business to me. He instills it in my brain, and I work on it. Then I spend a lot of time on it. I fish it probably six months before I put it out there.”
Guido Hibdon shows some soft plastics during ICAST. (Bassmaster.com photo)
Testing lures is an ongoing process. Hibdon said he and his family – including his son Dion, the winner of the 1997 Bassmaster Classic on Logan Martin Lake in Alabama – will work with lures for up to a decade before putting them on the market. There are even some he’s tried to keep in his bag.
“It’s kind of like the Guido Bug was,” he said. “We keep it quiet forever and then the first thing you know, I’ve got a guy in the boat with me and I didn’t know he was press. He took pictures of it.”Browning said the quality of lures today are much better – “More durable, for sure,” he said. At ICAST and other conventions, there are plenty of gimmick lures to wade through.
“There’s always those products that are designed to catch fishermen instead of fish,” he said. “That’s part of the game.”
But the manufacturers quickly realize these gimmicks don’t have much shelf-life if they’re not catching fish.
“I think the industry people are trying to get into the fish’s mind instead of the fisherman’s mind,”
Browning said. “You’re seeing bait sizes and bait shapes that are really trying to mimic what the fish are feeding on. Even though the fish’s mind is no bigger than a pea, he’s pretty smart. He knows when something is not right.”
While that helps the angler, it’s not always enough for the lure manufacturer.
“Some of them, they just don’t sell,” Hibdon said. “There’s been a couple different ones, we still use them, but for whatever reason the public just didn’t buy them. That’s part of it.
“I had a frog that I handmade. I carved the mold out myself. When it hits the water, it hits perfect – never upside down. And that’s a fish-catching son of a gun. But it never sold. I may bring it back one of these days.”
Hibdon then gestured toward Renosky.
“The best popper that’s ever been made, he made it,” Hibdon said. “And it’s not in any catalog.”
“It will be,” Renosky said. “You and I are going to resurrect it.”
And the innovations continue.
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