Dion, Guido, and Stella Hibdon allowed me to join them and their entourage of fans on Jan. 24 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. as they spent the day at the Kansas City Boat and Sport Show.
Besides allowing me to follow them around, Dion conducted a seminar that focused on cold-weather fishing at 11:00 a.m., Dion and Guido directed an open forum at 2:00 p.m., where they fielded questions from an audience of anglers, and at 7:00 p.m. Guido led a seminar about jig fishing. They also spent a lot of time conversing with some fellow tournament anglers, old friends, and an array of fans.
Since the early 1980s, the Hibdons and I have teamed up to write a number of stories about their family's piscatorial adventures and insights. In fact, the first story that we wrote was published in In-Fisherman magazine, and it focused on Guido's father, Guido Clinton Hibdon Sr., Jason Lucas, and Fred Pottohoff. The most recent stories appeared in the Midwest Finesse column on In-Fisherman's website. One of the stories was entitled "The Fishing and Family Life of Guido Hibdon," and it was published on Dec. 1, 2012. The second one was entitled "The Fishing and Family Life of Dion Hibdon," which was published on Jan. 1, 2013. In between those thirty some years, there were stories about the ways the Hibdons caught catfish, crappie, largemouth bass, spotted bass, and temperate bass, as well as how they competed in bass tournaments.
Across the years, the Hibdons have lived in various locales around the Lake of the Ozarks, such as Stover, Missouri, Gravois Mills, Missouri, Versailles, Missouri, and Sunrise Beach, Missouri. Therefore, a good many of the words we wrote were concerned with how, when, and where to catch some of the denizens that inhabit the Lake of the Ozarks.
According to Dion, his mother used to fish with his father with some regularity, but nowadays Stella is the family's chief executive officer, planner, accountant, chauffeur, and chef. Dion and Guido say their days would be in a constant state of disarray without her guidance and helping hands.
During our Jan. 24 get together in Kansas City, the Hibdons talked about some of the trials and tribulations that erupted around Thanksgiving, and how it has affected their lives.
The first eruption occurred on Nov. 19, which was when Dion and six other professional anglers who compete on the Walmart FLW Tour learned that they had lost their lucrative sponsorship with Chevrolet, and according to Stella, this was really disheartening because Dion had spent many years telling the angling world about the manifold merits of Chevrolet trucks and Suburbans as tow vehicles for bass boats. And he loved doing it.
The second one happened on Nov. 25, when Luck-E-Strike of Oswego, Illinois, informed Dion and Guido by a telephone call that they were not going to be sponsored by Luck-E-Strike in 2015 even though the Hibdons had created 15 baits for Luck-E-Strike and worked with them for many years. Stella described the telephone conversation with Luck-E-Strike as a peevish ordeal, and in fact, she was so irritated that she hung up the phone before the conversation had ended.
Thus, as the Hibdon family celebrated Thanksgiving, there were some worried thoughts and conversations about how these two woeful surprises might spell the end of their highly successful careers on the national tournament circuits, as well as the plight of Payden Hibdon, who is Dion's son and has been competing on the Walmart FLW Tour since 2011. In short, without those two sponsors, this trio of Hibdons did not have the financial wherewithal to compete at the six Walmart FLW Tour events in 2015.
What's more, Dion is in the midst of creating a television show that focuses on his family's angling prowess, and initially Chevrolet and Luck-E-Strike were going to help with the sponsorship of the show's 13 episodes. But both companies told Dion they would not sponsor the show.
By mid-January, however, the Hibdon's world wasn't quite as woeful as it had been at Thanksgiving. A family friend gave the Hibdons $18,000 to pay the deposit fee for the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour. But the Hibdons will have to garner another $59,400 to pay entry fees for the entire 2015 season. On top of the $77,400 of entry fees for the six tournaments, the Hibdons will have to pay for lodging, gasoline, and a variety of other expenses that crop up while they are at the tournaments and going to and from them. Thus, as I listened to them talk throughout the day on Jan. 24, there were still some lingering doubts about their abilities to acquire enough money to fish all six events.
Yet, despite those doubts about their 2015 tournament endeavors, there was an air of excitement that stippled their conversations about Dion's television show. Dion, Guido, and Payden, as well as Connar Hibdon and Lawson Hibdon, who are Dion's twin sons, have been working on a pilot for the television show. By Jan. 23, they had created many hours of unedited footage that featured all five of them catching crappie, largemouth bass, spotted bass, and white bass on the Lake of the Ozarks, and during the week after the Kansas City Boat and Sport Show, they were hoping to spend a day or so on the Osage River below the Lake of the Ozarks adding more minutes to the pilot by catching largemouth bass, spotted bass, white bass, walleye, and wipers on jerkbaits. Guido said that they have been catching fish galore during some of the filming sessions for the pilot. For example, at one of the sessions, Connar, Dion, Guido, Lawson, and Payden simultaneously caught a crappie, and that feat was recorded for the pilot. During one of their white bass outings, each of the Hibdons was regularly catching two white bass at a time. These tales generated a perpetual smile in the eyes and on the lips of Guido and Dion. Guido said that he has never been one of those bass tournament anglers who is seeking to catch only five big largemouth bass or smallmouth bass a day. Instead, he would prefer to catch a fish on every cast, and at times that blessed phenomenon has occurred with some regularity during their work on the pilot for Dion's television show.
Stella also noted that they were on the verge of establishing a contract with a rod and reel manufacturer, and as of Jan. 24, she said there were some positive signs that it would happen relatively soon. She said the family is also very thankful that Ranger Boats, Evinrude Outboard Motors, and Garmin will continued to support them, and all of the Hibdons will go to great lengths to show their appreciation of those three companies.
One of the most enlightening and heartening conversations that the Hibdons had at the Kansas City Boat and Sport Show occurred with Kyle Alsop of Overland Park, Kansas, Travis Blenn of Westmoreland, Kansas, and Sheldon Rogge of St. George, Kansas. Alsop, Bleen, and Rogge are members of the Kansas State University Fishing Team, and the Hibdons politely and enlighteningly conversed with this trio of young and aspiring tournament anglers for more than 45 minutes. When this conversation ended shortly before 2:00 p.m., all three of these anglers told me that it was the most informative conversation that they had ever had about angling and becoming a professional tournament angler. And I told them and the Hibdons that I was impressed, too.
Since the early 1980s, the Hibdons have told me unending stories about tournament fishing. I have also had many conversations with other Bassmaster and FLW anglers, and at several big-time tournaments, I have watched a number of noted professional bass anglers practice for hours on end. But across those many years, I have never heard many of the stories and insights that the Hibdons uttered on Jan. 24. Some were intriguing and others were quite disheartening.
Some of my favorite Hibdon stories about the tournament scene and being a professional bass angler revolve around the Hibdons' interactions with Japanese anglers. It began when Guido worked for Daiwa, which created a soft-spot in the Hibdons' hearts for the Japanese anglers who competed with them on the Bassmaster and FLW circuits. Guido said: "Whenever Diawa asked us to come to Japan, Diawa and all of the Japanese people that we met rolled out the red carpet for us. So, we thought that we should do the same thing for the Japanese anglers who came here." Several times on Jan. 24 Guido and Stella told some old and new stories about their family's relationships with Takahiro Omori of Emory, Texas, and Shinichi Fukae of Osaka, Japan, and Palestine, Texas. For instance, they said that their affinity for Omori was accentuated when he won the Bassmaster's Missouri Central Invitational at the Lake of the Ozarks on April 25 - 27, 1996. Omori won that tournament even though he didn't have enough money to purchase enough gasoline for him to venture very far away from the launching site. What's more, on the third day of this event, he was paradoxically paired with Dion, and since Omori was in first place, Dion and Guido rolled out the red carpet for Omori by allowing him to control Dion's boat the entire day, while Dion fished from the back of the boat. By the way, Dion finished the tournament in fourth place, and Guido finished in second place.
Throughout the seven hours that we were together on Jan. 24, Guido mentioned several times that he never dreamed that his tournament days would be near death's door because he and Dion didn't have sponsors. But for many years he was well aware that other anglers were struggling, and Payden was one of them. So after the great recession of 2008 and 2009 erupted, which was followed by escalating gasoline and equipment costs, Guido and Stella said the family pondered about ways to help finance Payden's endeavors on the Walmart FLW Tour. Ultimately, they began working on three fishing-related businesses: Hibdon's School of Fishing, Hibdon Guide Service, and Dion's television show.
The Hibdon's School of Fishing featured Dion, Guido, and Payden teaching anglers about the ways that the Hibdon family has caught various species of fish at the Lake of the Ozarks and at other waterways since the 1930s. It would take place in the fall well after the end of the Walmart FLW Tour season had ended and the recreational boat traffic had petered out on the Lake of the Ozarks. They staged the first session in October of 2013, but they didn't do it in 2014.
The Hibdon Guide Service began in 2013. It was designed to have Guido, Dion, and Payden guide anglers at the Lake of the Ozarks and other Missouri reservoirs, and as Connar and Larson came of age, the Hibdons hoped to incorporate them into this scenario. But to the Hibdons' dismay, the U.S. Coast Guard would not issue Dion and Payden a guiding license because they are afflicted with diabetes, and Connar is also afflicted with diabetes. Thus, Guido is the only one who has attained a guiding license.
While we were at the Kansas City Boat and Sport Show, Guido spent some time talking about all of the modern-day rigmaroles and fees -- costing nearly a $1,000 — that it takes to become a fishing guide in Missouri nowadays. During this time, he also told some intriguing tales about the good old days, when he, his brothers and father were guides. Guido said the most he ever paid for a guiding license was $2.50 a year. He remembered that it was an extremely busy and fruitful time. It was so fruitful that he thought it was a waste of time and money to take time off from guiding in order to compete in bass tournaments. He said there were times in the 1970s when he guided almost incessantly, and in fact, he said that there was one spell when he guided 126 days in a row, and most of those days were from sun up to sun down, and there were some nighttime outings, too, as well as several early morning turkey and deer hunting forays before they were afloat chasing crappie, largemouth bass, spotted bass, and white bass. Most of the folks who the Hibdons used to guide were ardent and talented anglers and hunters. But so far, the new Hibdon Guide Service has not become a reincarnation of the guiding services that the Hibdon family had from 1930 to 1980.
So instead of guiding for days on end and conducting their fishing school, the Hibdons are spending a lot of time working on Dion's television show, which will feature some of the Hibdons' hunting skills, too.
As they talked about the television show, Dion noted that all of the changes that have taken place in the fishing industry and tournament world since the turn of the new millennium have turned him and his father into something like dinosaurs. He readily admitted that the Hibdon clan is not flashy, and it never exhibits the young-gun motif that seems to appeal to many folks in the fishing industry. He described the Hibdons' plight as being similar to the demise of the great mom-and-pop tackle stories and small tackle companies of years past. Yet, even though they know that their ways are old fangled, they think that their unique ways of catching a variety of species of fish will catch the fancy of a goodly number of folks who watch television shows about fishing.
After Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, who is the outdoors editor at the Kansas City Star, wrote a story entitled "Bass fishing legends Guido and Dion Hibdon fight to stay afloat on pro circuit" in the Jan. 17 edition of the Star, a knowledgeable observer of how other professional bass anglers have adapted to the many changes that have erupted in the professional bass fishing world, such as those that have afflicted the Hibdons, responded to Frazee's story.
This observer wrote: "When the economy went bad in 2008 and 2009, the fishing industry was hit hard. Companies had to figure out what was best for them and who in the professional angling world could make them money.
"Thus, the professional anglers had to adapt and use new ways to reach out to fans and potential purchasers of baits.
"Not all of the pros are young guns and flamboyant, which makes it difficult for them to get sponsors. Therefore, they have to promote themselves by using the tools that will allow fans to hear them and see them. If the professional anglers don't adapt, they get left behind.
"The Internet has changed the way promotion and marketing happens. No longer is doing a seminar the best way to reach out. Now it is social media, such as YouTube, Facebook, and websites, which is kind of ironic because social media is free." In this observer's eyes, the Hibdons have not kept up with the times by taking advantage of the Internet.
The Hibdons disagree with some of this observer's contentions. Dion said the Internet is too impersonal. It is incapable of extending a real, tender, and helping hand, as the Hibdons extended to the three members of the Kansas State University Fishing Team on Jan. 24. It can't help folks such as Takahiro Omir and Shin Fukae. The Internet doesn't replace the hands-on experiences that the Hibdons have shared with untold numbers of people who have attended the hundreds and hundreds of seminars that the Hibdons have given across the years. Dion does agree with the idea that seminars have become passé, but he thinks they will eventually come back into fashion because the other methods for spreading the gospel about fishing are too inhuman, and to properly spread the word about the virtues of fishing and how to get started doing it, Dion said it has to be executed in a people-friendly way, and seminars are the best way to achieve that goal. Another hands-on way to help talented angler who aspire to enter the world of big- time tournament fishing, Dion says, occurs when a professional angler is paired with a co-angler during a Walmart FLW Tour event, but for some ungodly and cockeyed reasoning, the co-angler will become passé in 2016. And Guido added several amens to Dion's spiel.
Another important element that the Hibdons attempt to inculcate in their seminars (and they hope to reveal it in Dion's television show) is exhibiting the importance of integrating family life into every angler's fishing life, and from the Hibdon's perspective, the Internet is not an effective tool to use to accomplish that important endeavor.
From the 1930s to 2015, most of the Hibdon family's perspectives about fishing have gone against the grain of what the majority of the folks in angling world have deemed to be the best way to fish, or to design and make lures, or to recruit new anglers. Now the Hibdons are hoping, as do many of us who have been witness to their unique genius across the years, that a CEO or two in the fishing trade will recognize their many and great assets and sponsor them.
Towards the end of our day, Dion and Guido admitted that the world of tournament fishing can be a cruel sport, and in their eyes, it is embarrassingly expensive. What's more, if the Hibdons had their druthers every tournament would have only one day of practice and three or four days of competition. And the waterways that each tournament is staged upon would be off limits for participants for six or more months before the tournament begins, and none of the competitors could receive any instructions from noncompetitors during the off-limits period.
(1) As 2015 unfolds, we hope to post an update about what is transpiring with the Hibdon family and their many angling endeavors.
(2) Here is a link to the Hibdon's guide service: http://hibdonguideservice.webs.com/. And the phone number is 573-230-3065.
(3) Here is a link to the Dec. 1, 2013, story about Guido Hibdon: https://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/the-fishing-and-family-life-of-guido-hibdon/#ixzz3Pw8yxprV.
(4) Here is a link to the Jan. 1, 2014, story about Dion Hibdon: https://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/the-fishing-and-family-life-of-dion-hibdon.
(5) Here is a link to Brent Frazee's Jan. 17 story: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2015/01/21/4089696_bass-fishing-legends-guido-and.html?rh=1.
(6) Joe Balog, who is a columnist for BassFan.com, wrote a column on Jan. 29 that is the antithesis of the Hibdons' intuitive style of angling. The title of his column is "Revenge of the Nerds." Here is the link to that column: http://www.bassfan.com/opinion_article.asp?ID=1299#.VMudmy6gQXg.
(7) Here is a link to a feature about the Hibdons and the Fukaes: http://www.worldfishingnetwork.com/flw-outdoors/video/episode-4-sam-rayburn .