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Midwest Finesse

The fishing and family life of Guido Hibdon

by Ned Kehde   |  December 1st, 2012 0

On July 10, 1946, Mamie Rose Hibdon gave birth to her fifth child.  It was her fourth son, and he was named in honor of his father, Guido Clinton Hibdon Sr., who was nicknamed Big Gete, and Guido Clinton Hibdon Jr. was nicknamed Little Gete.  His Little Gete moniker was so deeply rooted in some friends and family members’ minds that it lasted into the 1970s, and well after the death of his father on November 27, 1968.

In the eyes of many astute observers, Little Gete eventually became one of the finest multispecies anglers the world has seen, and he possessed an extraordinary knack for catching black bass and winning bass tournaments.¬†During¬†the past quarter of a century, many of his colleagues in the professional ¬†bass fishing world have ¬†lauded his mastery. For example, ¬†Rick Clunn of Ava, Missouri, called Hibdon one of his angling heroes and said: “He’s very honest and I admire him.” ¬†¬†After the second day of the 2011 Classic, Kevin Van Dam of Kalamazoo, Michigan,¬†¬†paid a tribute to Hibdon‚Äôs angling prowess by saying: ‚ÄúI remember getting beat by somebody who was the ultimate hole-sitter. A guy like Guido Hibdon, you could put him in a creek that had 10 bass in it and if you gave him a little time, he’d find a way to catch all 10 of them.¬† I’ve learned that when you do find a special spot, it’s worth hanging around and grinding it out.” Peter Thliveros of Jacksonville, Florida, said that Clunn and Hibdon are his angling heroes, and he called Hibdon a true sportsman, an honorable man, the finest angler to ever wield a jig, and a wizard at employing a variety of soft-plastic baits.¬† In 1991, Roland Martin of Naples, Florida, hailed Hibdon as the consummate model for all tournament anglers to emulate.

Family is an inherent and important ingredient in the way that Guido Hibdon lives and fishes, and it’s impossible to understand his manifold and great piscatorial talents without examining some parts of his family tree.

Hibdon is humbly grateful for the kudos that Clunn and others have uttered about his angling talents.   But he notes that none of them ever saw his father wield his piscatorial wizardry. His father had an uncanny ability to establish a synchronicity with all of the fish that inhabited the Ozark waterways, which allowed him to know when, where and how to catch them.

Consequently across his four decades as a guide on the Lake of the Ozarks, Big Gete and his clients caught untold numbers of largemouth bass, spotted bass, crappie, white bass, walleye, blue catfish, channel catfish, flathead catfish, and big ones to boot. If he needed to catch some suckers, carp, buffalo, gar or other species, Big Gete could find and catch them too. He was a multispecies angler par excellence.

He was such a gifted angler and guide that Harold Ensley, Virgil Ward and numerous other knowledgeable raconteurs regularly anointed him king of ¬†the guides in the Ozarks region. And to this day Hibdon says: ‚ÄėMy father was by leaps and bounds the greatest fisherman that I was ever around.‚ÄĚ Hibdon notes that he and his brothers incessantly tried to find an error in their father‚Äôs piscatorial ways, but they could never discover one.

The passion for fishing and guiding is a Hibdon trait. That link commenced with Little Gete’s grandfather John Clinton Hibdon Sr. who was a fishing and hunting guide on the Osage River that courses across the northern Ozark region and merges with the Missouri River east of Jefferson City, Missouri. Then when the Lake of the Ozarks impounded the Osage River in 1931, Big Gete began his guiding career, rowing his clients around in a wooden boat for $5 a day.

Even though the Hibdons relished all of the hours they spent in Mother Nature’s realm, it was a hardscrabble way to make a living for 365 days a year. Sometimes it was impossible to get their daily bread; thus, they had to trap fox, raccoons, and beavers and sell the pelts, set trotlines and sell catfish, spend cold winter nights gigging suckers and selling them.

Little Gete’s brothers Teen and Gail guided, too.  Little Gete joined the family’s guiding ranks at the age of 13. Until Little Gete finally acquired an electric trolling motor in the 1970s, he and his family spent countless hours either rowing a boat or walking the shorelines while they fished and guided. They also employed an anchor or two to keep the boat correctly positioned on a fruitful lair, such as a point or a brush pile or submerged house foundation

For decades, the Hibdons‚Äô forte for catching bass revolved around employing live crayfish, which they caught and trapped in local creeks. At times, they also used creek chubs.¬† In the spring — especially during various phases of the spawn — the Hibdons used the crayfish and creek chubs on a cane pole adorned with a bobber. They dipped them around stumps and boulders along the shorelines. On Little Gete‚Äôs maiden guide trip in the spring of 1960, he and his clients walked several shorelines, using cane poles and creek chubs, and they caught oodles of spawning crappie. During the rest of the year, the crayfish (and occasionally a creek chub) were wielded on baitcasting tackle, and the Hibdons would cast them around and across points and other bass lairs. On the crayfish and creek-chub rigs, they affixed a small split shot 12 inches above a No. 4 claw-styled hook. The crayfish was impaled on the hook through its tail‚Äôs first segment, running it from under the tail out through the back without piercing the vein that runs up the middle the tail. ¬†The creek chub was affixed either through the lips or behind the dorsal fin.

In the 1950s, Little Gete remembers accompanying his father and one of his brothers on outings to Bull Shoals Lake on the Missouri and Arkansas border. This was the heydays of bass fishing at Bull Shoals Lake. Before such an adventure, they would catch hundreds of crayfish, and then they would fish until they ran out of crayfish.  To this day, Little Gete says that it was an enchanting and educational experience.

Versatility and experimentation lies at the heart of the Hibdons’ methods. Therefore, crawfish and creek chubs weren’t the only baits that they used. They were virtual artists at employing such artificial baits as a Heddon Midget Digit, Heddon Super Sonic, Bayou Boogie, Pico Perch, and a variety of topwater lures.

In the 1950s, Harold Ensley and Virgil Ward introduced Big Gete to the virtues of a black hair jig dressed with a black eel, and from that time on, a skirted jig and its various trailers have played a preeminent role in the Hibdons’ bass fishing repertoire. And as Peter Thliveros noted, Little Gete eventually became a jig maestro, dressing them with chenille and marabou, bear and deer hair, live rubber skirts, tubes, plastic worms and various other plastic creations. He even created a jig that would swim and glide to the left on a retrieve and another that would move to the right. He designed it for fishing around the thousands of floating docks that speckle the shorelines of the Lake of the Ozarks. One of his rods sported the left-swimming jig and another rod sported the right-swimming model, and when he fished the right side of a dock, he worked the left-swimming one, which would swim under the floating dock, and when he fished the left side of a dock, he used the right swimming jig. To this day, a jig, in its many manifestations, remains Little Gete’s favorite lure.

Initially, the Hibdons weren‚Äôt enamored with Nick Creme’s rubber worm, which was created in 1949. ¬†Eventually Little Gete‚Äôs brother Teen was the first Hibdon to work with it, and he employed it on the same split-shot-and-exposed-hook rig they used with a crayfish. ¬†As Teen tinkered with his worm rig, he discovered that a twisting and turning worm would often inveigle more bass than a perfectly straight one. To keep the line from becoming too twisted, he placed a swivel about a foot above the worm. Once Teen perfected this rig and showed his father and brothers how effective it was, it became a significant tool for all of the Hibdons.

As his father’s health began to fail and his brother Gail guided elsewhere in the mid-1960s, Little Gete became the elite guide and fisherman at the Lake of the Ozarks.

And after he and Stella Conners eloped and got married in Miami, Oklahoma, on Oct. 28, 1966, Stella became the caretaker of the extended Hibdon family, helping them to endure hardships and to appreciate and celebrate minor and major accomplishments. It’s a role that she still relishes and adroitly performs.

As the premiere guide and angler at the Lake of the Ozarks from the late 1960s and into the late 1970s, Little Gete helped Harold and Dusty Ensley with their television show, entitled ‚ÄúThe Sportsman‚Äôs Friend,‚ÄĚ several times a year. ¬†Ultimately all of the televison exposure made Little Gete virtually a household name across several Midwestern states

As a byproduct of Little Gete‚Äôs association with the Ensleys, he was one of the first anglers to wield a Reaper on a jig for bass. Harold Ensley initially created his five-inch Reaper on a jig as a lake trout lure, and in the early 1960s Ted Green at the Marlynn Lure Company of Blue Springs, Missouri, began to manufacture it, and he acquired a U.S. federal trademark registration for it on May 28, 1965. And by the late 1960s, the Ensley Reaper had become a noted bass lure in a number of waterways across the Heartland. ¬†After fishing with the Reaper affixed to a jig, it wasn‚Äôt much of a step for Little Gete to start utilizing a Creme Lure Company’s Scoundrel worm on a jig, and since then, the jig worm has paid him enormous dividends.

Throughout the 1970s, Little Gete’s fame spread. Other TV shows featured him, outdoor journalists wrote about his abilities as a multispecies angler, and as the bass tournament scene began to unfold, a number of tournament anglers got wind of his bass prowess and  hired him to show them how and where to catch bass on the Lake of the Ozarks. During these years, he gradually became Guido Hibdon rather than Little Gete.

Hibdon never considered entering a tournament until a friend began to coax him to compete in one. When he resisted, his friend asserted that Hibdon was afraid, fearing that  he couldn’t catch enough bass to win a tournament.

In Hibdon’s eyes, however, it was a financial problem, not fear of failure. He couldn’t afford to miss a day afloat as a guide. What’s more, he didn’t want to cough up the entry fee. To ally Hibdon’s financial concerns, his friend contacted several other friends, and this contingent of friends offered to pay Hibdon’s entry fee and compensate him the money he would have lost by not guiding.  His friend also offered to loan Hibdon his bass boat so he didn’t have to use his guide boat, which was a big, rather well-used johnboat.

Eventually  Stella and his mother encouraged him to enter the tournament. It was a Bass Casters Association event at the Lake of the Ozarks in the spring of 1978, which Hibdon handily won by wielding a jig. After that maiden event, he fished two more BCA tournaments that year and qualified for their championship.  Then in the spring of 1979, he used a jig worm to win the 1979 BCA event at the Lake of the Ozarks.

His BCA endeavors paved the way for his first Bassmaster’s tournament, which was the Bassmaster Missouri Invitional/West tournament at the Lake of the Ozarks on April 23-25, 1980. During the three days of competition, Hibdon caught 56.4 pounds of bass to win that event and garner $10,500, and unbeknownst to the other competitors, his most fruitful lure was a black Guido Bug affixed to a black-skirted jig.

After that win, he went on the road, competing at three of the seven remaining 1980 Bassmaster events, where he found the fishing trying. For example, he finished in 104th place at Guntersville Lake, Alabama, catching only 6.12 pounds of bass, and at Toledo Bend Lake, Texas, he eked out only 21.14-pounds of bass to fishing in 95th place.    At the Bassmaster Classic at St. Lawrence River, New York, however, he fished a touch better, and his name appeared on the leader board at 10th place, and his 26.2 pounds of bass earned $1,000.

When Hibdon won the 1980 Lake of the Ozarks event, Forrest and Nina Wood congratulated him. And Forrest Wood told Guido to give him a call if he ever needed any help.¬† As Hibdon‚Äôs road miseries on the tournament circuit compounded, he eventually gave Wood a call and confessed that “he was a simple hillbilly who had become bewildered and cockeyed as a lost pup.” ¬†Upon hearing that, Forrest invited Hibdon to visit him and Nina in Flippin, Arkansas. Hibdon decided to make that visit, which he described as a miraculous decision, noting that it ‚Äúturned out to be the big break for me, and I‚Äôve been a pro and a Ranger man ever since. I‚Äôve been very fortunate to have some good people get behind me. There was always somebody there to help me along.‚ÄĚ ¬†¬†Therefore once Guido and Stella Hibdon became prominent figures in the tournament world, they extend a similar helping hand to young, struggling tournament anglers that Forrest and Nina Wood extended to them in the early 1980s. In fact, the Hibdons practically adopted Shin and Miyu Fukae of ¬†Osaka, Japan, and¬†Palestine, Texas,¬†¬†in 2004.

Some Hibdons initial woes also changed when Bassmaster returned to the Lake of the Ozarks for the Missouri Invitational/West on April 15-17, 1981. At this affair, he wielded a brown jig that was bedecked by a brown Guido Bug with reddish pinchers and caught 51.2 pound of bass, which put his name at the top of the leader board, beating Gary Klein by two pounds, and earned him $11,700.

After his 1981 victory, he wasn’t able to keep the Guido Bug sub rosa, and scores of anglers yearned to get their hands on some of them.

The original Guido Bug was a byproduct of Dion Hibdon’s school science project in 1977.  Dion is Guido and Stella’s son, and after that initial creation, the Hibdons, along with Stella’s brother Virgil Conner, handcrafted thousands of Guido Bugs.

One of the thousands of Guido Bugs that Virgil Conner, Guido Hibdon and Dion Hibdon hand-poured.

From Hibdon‚Äôs perspective, the Guido Bug‚Äôs flat bottom gives it an alluring action as it falls, and it does a better job of emulating the natural movements of a real crayfish than any artificial crayfish he has tested. The Hibdons created two Guido Bugs: a 3 3/4-incher that he used on a 3/16-ounce and bigger jig, and a 3-incher that he used on a lightweight jig and light line. In Hibdon‚Äôs eyes, the most fruitful colors have been black, brown and green, and the claws sport a variety of hues: blue, red, orange, chartreuse, etc. They are always enhanced with rattles ‚Äď except when he is fishing Bull Shoals, and that‚Äôs because most Bull Shoals‚Äô bass are repulsed by the rattles.

For a short spell Bobby and Judy Ditto of Ditto Lure Company  manufactured the Guido Bug for the retail trade, as did Gambler Lures.  Nowadays it’s manufactured in by Luck-E- Strike Lures USA of Cassville, Missouri.

In 1981, Hibdon started traveling the long and twisting road that led him to becoming a legend in the tournament world. For a few years, he continued to guide when he wasn’t competing, and during the winter he even trapped and sold pelts.

For 20 years he plied the Bassmaster circuit, competing in 163 events, winning its  Classic in 1988 and Angler-of-the-Year Award in 1990 and 1991. His name graced the top-50 portion of the leader board 110 times. He garnered a check 99 times.

During this 20-year span, he also competed on the U.S. Bass Fishing Association circuit and Operation Bass’ Golden Blend Diamond Invitational events, and he won Golden Blend’s angler-of-the-year honors in 1990, which was the same year he won it on the Bassmaster circuit

In 1982, ‚Äė83 and ‚Äô85, he ventured as far west as Lake Mead, Nevada, ¬†to compete at the U.S. Open, where he finished second in 1982. At the 1983 U.S. Open, he was paired with Bobby Garland, who introduced Hibdon to the Gitzit, which is a tube bait. After Hibdon‚Äôs delightful and eye-opening day afloat with Garland, he subsequently introduced the tube to the bass at various waterways across the Heartland, Southeast and Northeast.

Eventually the Hibdons, with the helping hands of Virgil Conner, created and handcrafted their own tubes, which they called the G series that ranged in length from two to four inches. The body of the Hibdons’ tubes had a tapered design that trapped air and exuded air bubbles when anglers retrieved it.  At times scores of professional anglers, such as Peter Thliveros, would call Virgil, asking him to air-mail them a 100 or more tubes.  Luck-E-Strike used to manufacture them in three sizes, but they no long manufacture them. So now, when the Hibdons need some tubes, they handcraft them.

Besides the national tournament venues, Hibdon also fished an assortment of  regional and local tourneys. For instance, at the invitation of Al Lindner, he and Dion fished Kenora Bass International tournament at the Lake of the Woods, Ontario, where they used their G series tubes to bedazzle the smallmouth bass and many of their fellow competitors.

In 1996, he began fishing FLW events, and since 2000, it has been his primary focus. During the 2011 season, his grandson Payden, who is Dion’s son, joined him and Dion on the FLW Tour. Dion, by the way, has been touring with his dad since 1985.  Now at the age of 66, Guido Hibdon participates only in the FLW Tour events, but he, his sons and grandsons occasionally fish together at crappie, white bass and black bass tourneys on the Lake of the Ozarks, which reflects the Hibdons’ multispecies talents.

Since the mid-1980s, thousands of words have been penned and published about Hibdon‚Äôs prowess with light line and light lures, as well as his sight-fishing talents. In the minds of most observers he is the spinning-tackle guru. Hibdon readily admits that he relishes wielding spinning tackle and light lures, but he is and always was too versatile of an angler to use it when other tactics would be more effective. Therefore, even during his heydays, when he was portrayed by the media as the titan of the tiny tube and micro jig, Hibdon employed baitcasting tackle 70% of the time and spinning tackle only 30% of the time. ¬†When he won the Classic on the James River, he caught the bulk of the bass on a 3/16-ounce Stanley Jigs’ black-and-blue metal-flake jig affixed to a black-and-blue Guido Bug, which he wielded on casting tackle spooled with 25-pound-test line. Nowadays, however, his versatility has been compromised by arthritis, various joint pains and¬† 66-year-old body parts, which have forced him to wield spinning tackle at least 50% of the time.

Back in his prime Hibdon was regularly called the father of sight-fishing for bass. But across the last 15 years he has lost interest in it.¬† One reason for that is his eye sight isn‚Äôt as keen as it was in the 1980s and ‚Äė90s. Now he only does it recreationally on several Ozark reservoirs.¬† He also disapproves of the modern sight-fishing tactics that most anglers employ. He says the new school of anglers uses crude power tactics to intimidate and anger the bass into striking rather than the finesse and sporting tactics that the original school of sight-anglers used to employ.

Across the years several serious health tribulations have complicated Hibdon’s legendary career. Nine days after he won the Classic in 1988 he suffered a heart attack. In November of 1999, he was beset with throat cancer, and consequently, he fished only three FLW and one Bassmaster events in 2000.  He had another heart attack in 2001. Thus, it is logical to assume that his legendary career would have been even more spectacular if those serious health problems hadn’t afflicted him.

But all of the awards and successes in the world of tournament fishing aren’t as important in Guido’s mind as is the fact that his family continues to fish together as they have been doing for more than two-thirds of a century. But the Hibdon family went through tough spell from about 2005 through 2011, which centered upon Dion and Jill Hibdon’s martial woes. Eventually they were divorced in 2011, and then Jill Hibdon died in an automobile accident on Dec. 7, 2011.

During 2012, the Hibdon family began to recover from those woeful  years.  Dion married Amy Donran of Versailles, Missouri, who is a special-education teacher, and they and six of their children live in Versailles.  The state of the recovery is reflected by the fact that Dion fished well enough to take ninth-place honors at the FLW Forrest Wood Cup at Lake Lanier, Georgia, on Aug. 9-12, 2012.  Then at the FLW EverStart Central Division tournament at the Lake of the Ozarks on Sept. 13-15, 2012, Guido competed against Dion and Dion’s two sons, Payden and Lawson, as well as 91 other anglers. Guido finished in seventh place, Lawson finished 17th, Dion finished 18th and Payden was in 70th place.

(This photograph and the one of Guido Hibdon below are courtesy of www.facebook.com/guido.hibdon)

The year was capped when Guido, Dion and Payden staged the first Hibdon’s School of Fishing on Oct 20 and 21 at which they taught anglers about the ways that the  Hibdon family has caught bass at the Lake of the Ozarks and at other waterways since the 1930s.They anticipate that there will be more Hibdon schools in the years to come.  For more information see:  http://www.hibdonsschooloffishing.com/.

Guido Hibdon

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Footnotes

(1)  Stealth and quietness have always been integral elements in Guido’s pursuit of bass.  He once wanted to create a totally silent bass boat.  There were times when he never turned on his sonars. Occasionally he didn’t put his trolling motor into the water; instead he would allow a mild-mannered wind to propel his boat along a shoreline or around a point in total silence.

(2) Spinnerbaits: Patience, versatility, methodicalness and ingenuity have been Hibdon trademarks across the years.¬† Thus, he could win a tournament by any way that it could be won — even by wielding his least favorite tool, which is a spinnerbait.

For instance, when he won the Classic on the James River in 1988, he caught his biggest bass, which weighed three pounds, 14 ounce, on a spinnerbait. At other events across the years, a spinnerbait has helped propel his name to the top of the leader board.

One of his favorite spinnerbaits was one that his brother Gail designed when he was a guide at Pomme de Terre Lake, Missouri, in the 1960s. It was manufactured by Ted Green of Marlynn Lure Company and was called the Pomme Special, and it sported an Ensley Reaper as a trailer. In the Hibdons’ eye, it was the finest wake and gurgling spinnerbait ever made.  Another favorite was Bass Buster Lure Company’s quarter-ounce Scorpion.  Now Guido rarely wields spinnerbaits because they afflict too much pain on his aging and arthritic joints.

(3)¬†Crankbaits ¬†The last tournament that Hibdon won occurred atLake Eufaula,Alabama, on April 4, 2009. It was a Walmart FLW Series Eastern Division event, and his four-day catch weighed 83 pounds 9 ounces. On the last day of the event he caught his bass on a copper-perch Lucky Craft RC 2.5 square-billed crankbait, and he controlled the depth of the crankbait by varying the size of line he paired it with.¬† At one main-lake point, Hibdon said that he made 40 casts to the same big rock, and it paid off, yielding him a five-pound and six-pound bass. In short, he said: ‚ÄúThis was just a classic case of an old man slowing down and fishing real slow. ‚ĶTrust me, I do that really well.‚Ä̬† During the first three days of competition Eufuala, Hibdon used a jig, as well as a worm affixed to ¬†aCarolina rig.¬† Again, his tackle selection and tactics at this event exhibits his versatility.

To this day, his boat is loaded with scores of jigs, Guido Bugs, and tubes, which are his all-time favorite baits.¬† He also relishes wielding a small chugger-style topwater lure.¬† On many outings he always has a square-bill crankbait at the ready ‚Äď especially when there are schooling bass present, and then he prefers to work with one that doesn‚Äôt rattle. He also works with a variety of soft-plastic lures that are rigged in a variety of ways — even on a drop-shot rig and a Scrounger.

(4) Guido Hibdon’s Guiding Service:  Guido Hibdon recently obtained his United States Coast Guard guiding license, which allows him to return to his family’s roots as a multispecies guide on the Lake of the Ozarks. He  hopes to be joined by his son, Dion,  and grandson Payden.  These three talented and versatile anglers will teach their clients how, when and where to catch a variety of species. In many ways it is an appendage of the Hibdon’s School of Fishing. To arrange a trip, anglers can call 573-230-3065.

 

 

 

 

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