A Look Back At The Bassmaster Classic

By Ann Dermody

Photo of George Bush, Sr. and Bill Clinton sharing the stage at the Bassmaster Classic in 1984Notice Anyone Familiar? (Photo: B.A.S.S.)

What a difference 31 years make! Back in 1984, when this photo from the Bassmaster Classic was taken on the winner's podium, two future presidents took second billing to winning angler Rick Clunn, who gave an impassioned speech about his then sick father and uttered an oft-quoted line in Bassmaster lore: "Only in America can we follow our dream of chasing little green fish."

Three decades later, the photo is more interesting for the fact that it was likely the first ever where George Bush, Sr. and Bill Clinton shared the same stage, in this case at the Pine Bluff Convention Center in Arkansas. It's hopefully the only one where they sport '80s trucker hats. Like most classic photos, this one also boasts a backstory, as remembered by writer Joe Mosby, the former Outdoors Editor of the Arkansas Gazette. During his 30-year tenure there, Mosby covered 26 Bassmaster Classics from 1974 to 1999.

Though it's not quite clear how then Vice President Bush came to be at the Classic final (although he has long been an avid boater and fisherman), he did arrive, according to Mosby, in shirt sleeves, with an entourage of Secret Service agents in suits who seemed ready to melt in the sweltering August heat. Friction allegedly arose at a back entrance to the convention center when federal agents told then Governor Clinton he needed to walk through a metal detector. His accompanying state policeman took issue, stepping forward and warning, "This is the governor of Arkansas."

A heated exchange ensued, and federal agents talked into their coat sleeves, radioing for instructions. A ruling finally came down from on high: The governor could bypass the metal detector. There would be no escaping those hats, it seems." 

— Published: February/March 2015

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