How the Hibdons Take Missouri's Fall Bass

Guido and Dion Hibdon are the standard bearers of Missouri's first family of bassing. Their methods of targeting fall bass in the Show Me State will put fish in your boat, too.

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

By Doug Smith

When the editor of Missouri Game & Fish called on me to write this article, I knew it was going to be interesting. The assignment was to talk to Guido and Dion Hibdon about bass fishing. This father-and-son duo are the only double generation to have claimed bass fishing's top honor - each winning the BASS Masters Classic in 1988 and 1997, respectively. Perhaps even more crucial to this story, both generations of anglers cut their teeth on Missouri bass waters and still live in the Show Me State.

A conversation with Guido Hibdon is a lesson in "get in, buckle up and hang on." This Lake of the Ozarks region native has more knowledge about Midwest bass angling - or angling anywhere in the world for that matter - than most entire fishing families combined. And if that isn't enough, he tells me that his son, Dion, is the real smart one when it comes to bass fishing. What's more, Dion's three boys - Payden, Lawson and Connar - are quickly learning the family trade. In fact, Guido jokes that his grandsons will likely be the "next generation of butt kickers" in professional bass angling.

Growing up, Guido spent his time fishing in and around Lake of the Ozarks and the Osage River. He became a professional angler in 1980 and secured his spot in history when he won the 1988 BASS Masters Classic. He then followed that feat up by taking home BASS Angler of the Year honors in both 1990 and 1991.

Guido's son Dion turned pro in 1985. He won the BASS Masters Classic in 1997 on Alabama's Lake Martin, making the Hibdons the first and only father-and-son duo ever to achieve such an accomplishment. It was a touching moment to see the look on Guido's face when he knew that his son had followed in his footsteps and made a dream come true.

Both Guido and Dion have turned bass fishing into a profession and a way of life. They spend much of the year dividing their time between fishing tournaments and giving seminars on bass fishing that help to promote the sponsors that have worked with them for years. They also promote their own line of soft-plastic baits, most notably the Guido Bug. But it's what they do when they're back at home between tournament and fishing show outings that interests us here. That's when you can find either or both of them out on their boats fishing the waters of Missouri. This is where they put their new concepts into practice before giving them the acid test on the pro tour.

"I've never done anything else," Guido said of fishing. He grew up angling under the tutelage of a father who used to make a living by taking fisherman out on trips on the Osage River, and eventually the Lake of the Ozarks after the river was dammed to provide electricity to the region. Guido earned his first dollar when he was 12 years old by taking a fisherman out on a guided trip. It was a family tradition. After all, his father, uncle and brothers all guided.

Guido spent his teen years and young adulthood guiding both anglers and hunters on and around "the lake." He still enjoys hunting today, and remembers pointing hunters to hotspots for duck, quail and deer as well as big lunker bass. "Lake of the Ozarks is still my favorite lake," Guido said. "It's home, and it's still a good lake."

For Guido and Dion, fishing is much more than just tournaments. Had it not been for a strange twist of fate, Guido would never have won all the major titles he's accumulated; he'd just be another fishing guide working quietly on Lake of the Ozarks. In fact, the lake itself is a major reason that the Hibdons are so well known around the bass fishing world.

Growing up on and around Lake of the Ozarks, Guido knows the water here like a hand knows a well-worn glove. In fact, he once fished the lake 150 days in a row! It's no surprise, then, that it was at the lake that he fished his first big tournament, which was at that time put on by the Bass Caster's Association. When an even bigger national tournament organization started to come to Lake of the Ozarks regularly beginning in 1979, Guido was the right man at the right place at the right time. These tournaments on the lake quickly became known unofficially as "The Guido Hibdon Benefit" in token of his habit of winning there and besting dozens of well-known national tournament pros.

"I was a good fisherman," Guido said of those days. "I've always worked extremely hard."

By the late 1970s, Guido had secured his place in the directory of top fishing guides at Lake of the Ozarks. And while guiding for a living may sound like a dream come true for many amateurs, Guido and his wife Stella were working, scrimping and saving so they could send Dion off to college once he graduated from high school. It was only after he graduated from college that Dion announced he wanted to try to follow in his dad's footsteps and give professional fishing and guiding a try.

Guido entered his son in the U.S. Open bass tournament on Lake Mead, just outside of Las Vegas. One of Guido's sponsors provided Dion with a boat, and he was on his way. To absolutely no one's surprise, he did well in the tournament and another generation of Hibdons was launched on the cast for cash circuit.

Dion still does some guide work on Lake of the Ozarks through the family business, Hibdon Outdoors. A devout family man, he spends as much down time as possible fishing with his three sons and wife Jill, usually around the family's home in central Missouri. Still, father and son get plenty of fishing time together. Guido and Dion usually fish together on the last day of practice before a tournament.

"We fish hard, and we never fish behind one another," Guido said. "Sometimes we don't talk our plans over well enough, but we usually straighten things out in a hurry, and we usually have a pretty good plan going into a tournament."

"I've seen guys throw up at (tournaments) because of being so nervous. Dion and I just don't get that worked up over (an event). We've practiced together and we usually have some idea of what we're going to do and we just go in there and do it," Guido said.

The Hibdons are probably best known to the angling public for their finesse fishing prowess. Whereas for most anglers, finesse fishing is simply using small baits and light lines, the Hibdons have made it an art form, designing a line of baits and rods for the fishing methods they have m

astered over the years. And whether they're sight-fishing for shallow water bass with tube baits or skipping crawdad imitations into tiny openings around boat docks, the Hibdons spend a lot of time using light-action spinning gear to give bass fits.

But while they've earned reputations as finesse experts, both men say they'll do whatever it takes to get the job done when bass fishing, and they're always looking for ways to improve the line of soft-plastic baits and lures to which they've loaned their expertise - and in some cases their names - over the past couple of decades. The first and perhaps best-known offering produced by the two was the original "Guido Bug," a plastic crawdad imitation first made by Dion as a sixth-grade art project. The innovative young angler used a real crawdad and poured a plaster of Paris mold around it, separated the mold and removed the real crawdad, put the mold back together and poured it full of melted plastic. "Since then, Dion and I have used that crawdad to make a living," said Guido.

Guido was so impressed with the crawdad imitation that he began fishing with it and found that it actually caught fish! By 1979, the father and son were hand-pouring plastic into molds to make copies of the Guido Bug. The bait's namesake used those copies to win bass tournaments that same year. The next couple of years saw production ramp up as they put the manufacturing of the Bug into the hands of professionals and made and sold millions of the soft plastic imitations.

Since the development of the first Guido Bug, Dion has introduced a number of other baits to the family's line of lures, including spinnerbaits, shad imitations, plastic worms and a crankbait that Guido insists is the best shallow-water crankbait on the market today. The duo even designed their own rods for a time, but they have since turned that enterprise over to American Rodsmiths.

The past two decades have found Guido and Dion working hard to make continual improvements to their namesake crawdad - now known as Guido's Original. Gambler, which now produces the crawdad imitation, recently bulked up the main body so that it can accommodate a rattle. The claws have been widened and built up to aid in keeping the lure in good order during shipping. It's this attention to detail that keeps Guido's crawdad in the forefront of professional bass angling.

"Nothing ticks me off more than opening a package of plastic lures and finding that several of them are deformed," Guido said. "Consumers shouldn't have to tolerate that."

A day in the life of Guido Hibdon - at least when he not competing on the tournament trail - often means hunting or fishing and sometimes both in the same day. "I trap-shoot and hunt. We deer-hunted all over the country last fall, then came home to three days of crappie fishing," he recalls.

Guido and Stella and Dion and Jill travel between fishing dates in a pair of motor homes. "We enjoy it. We enjoy every day. It's not work," Guido said. He tells how an outdoor writer called him in late April and relayed a rumor that the aging angler was retiring from the fishing game. "What the hell am I going to do - retire and go fishing?" he reacted with a laugh. "I can't see me ever getting tired of fishing," Guido said.

A day at home can mean looking in on the business office, handling matters at home or taking Stella fishing. "She fished a husband-and-wife tournament with me once," Guido recalls. "She practices with me occasionally. Jill (Dion's wife) is a good angler, too. Stella practiced with Dion at Lake Martin and he won."

It's easy to see the seasoned angler's deep appreciation for his mate of so many years and what she means to him. "I couldn't have ever done this without Stella. She's the pro fisherman's best friend. She's always there for me. If she's not on the dock, they're asking where she is." He also gives credit to his children and business secretary Joyce Cox, who handles matters when the family is on the road. Joyce's husband Jerry builds molds for new products and keeps an eye on the house while the couple is away in their travels.

Early 2003 marked some important milestones for the Hibdon family. While fishing success may have seemingly come easy for the generations in the past, staying healthy hasn't always been the case. Now both generations seem to be mastering their health concerns better than before. Guido was slowed and surprised a while back when he was stricken with a heart attack immediately following a tournament. In time, he regained his strength and continues to watch his health closer than before.

Only four years ago, Guido battled a different fight, this time with throat cancer. He was very fortunate to have good medical attention and is counting this as another year of success over the deadly disease. When asked about any "work"-related injuries experienced over his career he said he has an occasional problem with his left wrist, which affects his spinnerbait casting. He said he has difficulty using a casting rod, and chalks that up to countless years of fishing and making millions of casts in all types of weather conditions and situations.

Dion had a few more warning signs when dealing with his health issues. While fishing a tournament on Kentucky Lake at the age of 20, Dion noticed undeniable signs that something was wrong. He was quickly growing exhausted while fishing at the same pace he had easily maintained through the earliest years of his career. A short time later, at the urging of his wife, he visited a doctor and was diagnosed as having juvenile diabetes - and a severe case at that!

The next four years brought insulin shots and doctor's visits as Dion fought at the same time to maintain his busy schedule of tournaments and personal appearances. By the time he won the Classic in 1997, he was back to living a fast-paced life with the benefit of an implanted insulin pump in his stomach. Now, Dion fishes hard - just like old times - while a tiny pump regulated by a computer chip works to maintain his blood-sugar level.

"I want people to know that diabetes is something that you can live with," Dion said. "It's something that I'll have forever. But with the insulin and a good diet and exercise, it's something that I can handle."

"Dion looks like the picture of health," Guido said going into the 2003 tournament season. He credits the insulin pump for putting the younger Hibdon back onto the deck of his boat without having to deal with the ups and downs of an unstable blood-sugar level.

Health matters behind them, both Guido and Dion plan to spend their fair share of time fishing Missouri impoundments this fall. Dion still offers some guiding services on Lake of the Ozarks, when his schedule allows. Guido only guides good friends these days, choosing to divide his off-the-water time between attending the larger fishing shows and donating his efforts to a number of charities, including St. Jude's Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., and things like emceeing a tournament to benefit kids held this year at Smithville Lake in northern Missouri. He'll

also be heading back to Japan for a Special Olympics event being held there. "It's time to pay the sponsors back. They've been good to me, and now I can give something back," he added.

Guido is viewed as often opinionated, usually grizzled and someone who always states his mind. These are compliments in his eyes. "The good thing about Guido is 'What you see is what you get.' It's not always pretty, but it's honest," he said.

So whether you're watching this consummate professional angler check in fish during a tournament, or listening to his on-air running commentary on a television fishing program, you know that he'll be speaking the truth of the matter.

Perhaps that honest and straightforward approach to everything, including fishing, is another trait of growing up in the Midwest. If that's the case, the angling public can't wait for Dion's boys to grow into that next generation of bass fishing "butt kickers."

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