MISSOULA, Mont. -- OWAA mourns the death of the outdoor communication community's favorite uncle — Homer Circle, who died unexpectedly Friday at the age of 97.
“Hey Jaybird, how do nasty chickens communicate?”
“With fowl language!”
Groan . . .
And thus begins a typical phone call with Homer Circle, longtime angling editor of Sports Afield magazine and an OWAA member since 1946. As Fred Kesting, longtime executive editor of the magazine, once told me, “There are two things you can always count on with Homer: 1) a “G or G” joke — you’re either going to grin or groan at the inevitable joke when you pick up the phone and hear, “Oh Fritz, did you hear the one . . .”; and 2) “You can count on Homer always being there for you, in good times and bad.”
Award-winning film producer Glenn Lau told me this about Circle: “For 30 years I have had the privilege of seeing people light up when they meet this man. Everyone, from all occupations, feels honored when Uncle Homer takes the time to listen to their stories and share some of his own. He is without a doubt the finest humanitarian that I’ve ever met. He is what many of us would like to be, open and receptive to everyone.”
— Taken from "Homer Circle, Everybody's Uncle," an OWAA Legends piece written by Jay Cassell.
A member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America since 1946, Circle was perhaps best known to many as the long-time fishing editor for Sports Afield magazine, serving in that role from 1968 through 2002. He authored numerous books on bass fishing, including "The Art of Plug Fishing" (1965), "New Guide to Bass Fishing" (1972), "Worming and Plugging for Bass" (1972), "Circle on Bass" (1996) and "Bass Wisdom" (2000).
He was a host of television fishing programs, such as “The Fisherman,” “Sports Afield” and “The Outdoorsman,” and he starred in two fishing films, Bigmouth in 1973 and Bigmouth Forever in 1996.
"His is a remarkable life, with simple beginnings. While fresh out of high school, he took a job as a salesman in an outdoor store in Ohio. For the next eight years, he had the chance to see and use every new hook, line and sinker that was introduced to the market," Cassell said in his article about Circle.
"One day an editor for the Springfield Daily News came into the outdoor store where Circle worked and asked him if he knew anybody who could write authoritatively about fishing. Knowing he was the best-qualified person for the job, Circle volunteered himself — and was hired.
"The tackle industry was still in its infancy then. Not willing to limit his fishing to lures sold on the market, Circle decided to make his own instead. The result was a plug, which he called The Walnut Crab. It worked so well that he took it to the president of Heddon fishing tackle, and declared he would match his lure against any lure Heddon had to offer.
"Heddon didn’t buy the lure — but they wisely hired Circle as the vice president of advertising and public relations, both for Heddon and the Daisy BB Gun Company, the parent company. In 1964, Circle began freelancing fishing articles to Sports Afield magazine, which, at the time, was headed by Editor Ted Kesting.
"One thing led to another and the rest, as they say, is history."
The former president of OWAA (1967-68), Circle has received countless awards, including OWAA's 1965 Jade of Chiefs Award, 1975 Excellence in Craft Award and 1979 Ham Brown Award. He was also inducted into the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in 1981, the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame in 2001 and the IGFA Hall of Fame in 2007. He was also the recipient of the American Sportfishing Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996.
He is survived by his daughter, Judy McCormack, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife, Gayle. They were married for 70 years by the time she died in 2007. The family plans a private service for him, according to his granddaughter, Beth Costantino.
OWAA members and supporters are encouraged to send notes about ways he touched their lives to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Uncle Homer" as the subject line. Emails will be forwarded to family members.