- Tim Tucker
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Perhaps the most recognizable face and certainly the most recognizable laugh in fishing belongs to longtime tournament competitor and television show host Jimmy Houston. The personable blonde pro has long been an icon on the BASS scene.
In fact, now in his 38th season, the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series pro is enjoying the longest-running active career in BASS history.
It began with a sixth-place finish in Ray Scott's Eufaula National tournament in June 1968, in the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society's infancy. Since then, Houston has competed in 242 events, collected two CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles (10 years apart), won two tournaments and made 15 appearances in the CITGO Bassmaster Classic.
With little left to prove, the Oklahoma pro, who turns 62 on July 28, was asked why he continues to compete.
"One of the things about it is I do over 100 personal appearances a year," Houston said. "The one thing that I have at a BASS tournament is (wife) Chris and I get to spend the week together. She practices all three days no matter what kind of weather and what kind of fishing. Then I fish the tournament. So we really get to spend the week together. That's a bonus because I work so hard."
Off of the water, Houston is likely the busiest of the Bassmaster Elite Series pros.
He runs a television empire in Cookson, Okla., that produces 52 weeks of programming each year. He oversees six Ranger Boat dealerships, runs a tackle store, and he operates a large travel agency.
Is tournament fishing at the highest level still fun after all these years?
"Oh yeah. If you catch them it's fun," he said. "It's not really a whole lot of fun if you don't get a bite. But I still like the tournaments."
Houston has endured routine injuries like tennis elbow and carpal tunnel in his wrist. But he still stays in top physical shape that allows him to match casts with his 30-year-old competitors. He was asked his secret to maintaining his health.
"I run stairs and, of course, I fly incessantly, and if you fly you can do a tremendous amount of walking every day, which I do," he said. "I never take escalators. I walk stairs at the airports and I don't do the trams or anything. I walk. If I have to change in Atlanta from (terminals) E to A, I walk it.
All in the family
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Greg Gutierrez of Red Bluff, Calif., was introduced to tournament fishing by fellow fireman Steve Klein, brother of Elite Series angler Gary Klein. He spent five years competing as Steve Klein's amateur partner in northern California tournaments before going pro.
Ever wonder how much effort goes in to covering a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament for ESPN2's The CITGO Bassmasters? Here's the answer:
Generally, there are about 14 cameramen (including one aboard a helicopter) who shoot about 200 tapes. In the process, they capture 100 to 150 hours of footage, which are quickly edited into a one-hour show. Also involved is a crew of about 25 professionals that includes sound technicians and field producers.
"It's a huge undertaking," ESPN Outdoors senior coordinating producer Dan Bowen told the Tulsa World newspaper recently. "The biggest production challenge is the fact that the story we're trying to follow the story of the anglers catching fish is fanned out over such a vast expanse of water."
You don't have to be a Bassmaster Elite Series competitor to run a wrapped boat. Ohio's Brent Broderick, who competes in the CITGO Bassmaster Northern Tour, recently traveled to Jacksonville, Fla., to get his Triton aluminum boat and vehicle covered by JaxWraps, a new sponsor.
"With Janet Parker, another Triton pro (and a Mercury Marine Women's Bassmaster Tour presented by Triton Boats competitor), they're wrapping our trucks and boats right now," he said. "They've always been in the saltwater business doing kingfish tournaments and redfish. They're trying to bust into the bass market, and they've chosen us young anglers to represent them. And I'm grateful to be that guy."
Broderick's colorful wrap features jaxwraps.com, Mercury and Triton logos, as well as that of his own branding (Brody of the Lake).
It was while fishing her home Arkansas River system that Sheri Glasgow snagged the weirdest thing that she had ever reeled in. Actually, it snagged her.
"It was a freshwater mussel," said the Women's Bassmaster Tour pro from Oklahoma. "It clamped on my bait, a plastic craw. I thought I had something at first, but then it was just a dead weight on the end of my line. I couldn't figure out what it was."
Did you know?
Here's a trivia question that only the most dedicated BASS fan will be able to answer: Name the angler who won the first fish-off ever held at a BASS tournament?
The answer: Jerry Knicely, a hometown fisherman, was tied with fellow Tennessean Alex Fancher at the end of the Bass Champs invitational in July 1981 on Cherokee Lake in Morristown, Tenn. The two competitors were sent back out on the lake, where Knicely caught a bass that earned him the $11,700 top prize.
Gerald Swindle is the newest angler to advance into the final round of voting of the Hottest Rig Running contest. Swindle's CITGO boat design took in 35 percent of all votes last week, while Kevin VanDam finished in a distant second with 18.7 percent of the votes.
Fan's can vote for Swindle's boat in the final round on July 10-16. VanDam will go into a second-chance round on July 3-9.
Texas Bassmaster Elite Series pro Alton Jones turns 43 on July 13. BASS record-holder Dean Rojas of Arizona will be 35 on July 31.
If I hadn't become a BASS pro
Jimmy Houston graduated with degrees in economics and political science with an eye toward a career in the legal profession.
"It turned out to be a good deal," he said. "As it turned out, when I got out of college I was just tired of being broke and I just wanted to go to work, which I did."
Like BASS founder Ray Scott, Houston fashioned a career in the insurance business before becoming a professional angler.
The said it
"All I knew was horse racing. The hardest transition was that you're in the limelight so much, and all of the sudden it goes away. That's a hard acceptance. I was sitting out there trying to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life."
CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series pro Kevin Wirth told the Augusta Chronicle that after being a Kentucky Derby-status jockey (and before that a junior national roller skating champion), BASS tournaments became the vehicle that re-channeled his competitive fire.
Perhaps the most recognizable face and certainly the most recognizable laugh in fishing belongs to longtime tournament competitor and television show host Jimmy Houston.