BassWestUSA - November/December, 2009, Page 19

Clark recalls, “When I grew up, bass fishing was trolling down the bank with a rod in my hand and a lure dragging behind it. That was just what my dad and grandparents did. They didn’t try differ- ent presentations to figure the fish out. It wasn’t until I went fish- ing with a high school buddy that I learned what fishing was really like. He showed me how to skip docks and trees, when to change line, and how to use different lures. He basically taught me how to catch bass in different situations. Once I caught on, that was when I really fell in love with bass fishing.” With his bass-catching world suddenly expanded, Clark’s de- sire to learn more about fishing was never greater. He chopped firewood throughout high school to save enough money to pur- chase his first bass rig, a 1966 Duckhawk powered by a 33-horsepower Johnson. The boat allowed him to spend even more time on the water, while experimenting with new techniques and developing his fishing mechanics. By the time he had turned eighteen, Clark’s love for the out- doors inspired his pursuit of a wildlife and fisheries degree from Texas A&M Uni- versity in College Station, Texas. Outside the classroom, he studied waters close to campus, including Gibbons Creek Res- ervoir and Fayette County Reservoir. He quickly became known as a local fishing expert. “Gibbons Creek opened in 1985, so not many people knew about it. When fishing there, I got to know a lot of the people around the lake. I met outdoor writers, other local fishermen, and started entering tournaments. All those things helped me to gain some notoriety and it kind of snowballed from there.” With an established network of local contacts, Clark started to receive requests to guide on area lakes. He jumped at the prospect, and before long referrals trick- led in. Guiding provided not only a steady income but also added time spent on the water. His confidence in locating and catching bass soared, and he became a regular competitor in local tournaments. The more he participated, the greater his love for the sport grew. He wanted, more than ever, to make it a career. “I just kind of knew of tournament fishing at first. It wasn’t really something that I necessarily followed, but knew some of the guys, like Roland Martin and Rick Clunn, were professional tournament an- glers. It was just kind of something that started for me. I loved the competition, so I just aspired to become a professional fisherman.”

he decided to enter the Red Man Tournament Trail, the largest amateur-level fishing circuit in Texas at the time. Those first years, he learned new bodies of water, and the strategy and nuance of organized competition. “The Red Man’s were where you started at. Even back then, it was the way the process ought to be. You had to prove that you could catch them at one level before moving up. That is what hap- pened for me. From the Red Man’s, the next place to go was to fish the Bassmaster Invitationals, and that was the path I followed.” With four consecutive years of increasing success, he was on the threshold of a breakout season. That season materialized in 1992 when he qualified for and won the Red Man regional event.

STarT oF a CarEEr

Clark got married in 1989, roughly the same time he graduated from Texas A&M. With the support of his wife, Patti,

November/December 2009