I was saddened to learn of Guido Hibdonís continuing struggle with cancer. Hibdonís legacy makes him seem a little bit older than his 70 years; a fishing-family tree running back through his grandfatherís generation at the turn of the century.
Even more impressive than their accomplishments as legendary guides and tournament pros is the Hibdon familyís link to the land. Living and working in the Ozark mountains since the days before the impoundments, the Hibdonís sustained regardless of things like gas shortages, recessions or weakening housing markets. When things got tough, the woods and waters were their survival.
A GoFundMe account has been set up for Guido to help with his current struggle. Letís face it: no one saves up for cancer.
Guido Hibdonís tournament prowess is incredible, though hidden by a lack of promotion. Through the late '80s and early '90s, Hibdon was likely one of the best anglers in the world. Heís one of only three men in history to win back-to-back B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year titles. Possibly even more impressive is the fact that, in the 10 Bassmaster Classics he qualified for, Hibdon placed in the top-10 six times.
Despite Hibdonís mega-success on the tournament trail, heís likely reached more anglers through lure design and instruction than anything. He is a master sight-fisherman and finesse angler. He brought the tube lure to nationwide big-money competition, and helped design the bass industryís most famous plastic crawfish of all time, the Guido Bug.
Like the Jelly Worm before it and the Senko after, I doubt any bass angler in America didnít have a Guido Bug in his tackle box at one point or another. One would think such success in the lure industry alone would have bankrolled a designer for life. A few fishing fans have even chimed in with such an impression.
Unfortunately, things arenít what they seem in the world of product design and royalties in the fishing world. Take it from me.
While I never had my hand in something like a ChatterBait or Mannís Classic Spinnerbait, I was behind several ideas that went to market and gained considerable exposure as a technique or product. Others flopped.
After a couple decades of trying to make it work, I finally decided to forego any claim to fame in design and development, and instead, work to help others interested in my opinions. As I sit on the sidelines, I wonder how those still involved can even stand it.
Guidoís bug is a case in point. While there were other soft plastic craws on the market at the time, Hibdonís was different due to its overall profile and flat underside. Today, a search for plastic craws on Tackle Warehouse results in about 120 different lures. A search for the Guido Bug anywhere on the Internet turns up empty.
Weíve seen this to a larger degree with other lures. The Sweet Beaver and the Senko are probably tied for the title of most ripped-off lure in history. Today, weíre quickly seeing the same phenomenon with the Ned Rig.
Throughout history, someone is always creating a design or rigging technique and bringing it forth to the public, where it changes fishing forever and makes corporate America millions of dollars, and the designer gets very little. This is a result of a very difficult, and incredibly costly, patenting process for products like fishing lures. Itís simply cost-prohibitive for the vast majority of creators to protect their ideas.
This will never change. In fact, as the fishing industry as a whole is whittled down to fewer, larger companies, the chance for the little guy to protect his game-changing idea is now about nil.
Iím encouraged to see companies like Z-Man protecting its ChatterBait like a pit viper and Jerry Rago challenging the status quo of production baits ripping off boutique designers. Ragoís cohort in the swimbait industry, Benno Heune over at Little Creeper Ė designer of the Trash Fish, which became Berkleyís Sick Fish Ė can likely offer a few words of caution on the subject.
In short, think of guys like Guido this week. Theyíre the originators of this whole thing. The fathers who took us fishing for anything that bit, and kept it. The granddads that showed us how far we could stretch a deer through the winter.
Their contribution to the industry didnít come through a lab coat or trips to China. It came from the real world, on the other side of the office window.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)