Any casual fishing fan can name the marquee figures of the sport – tournament champs like KVD, media kings like Mark Zona, and innovators like Gary Yamamoto – but behind the scenes there exists a network of “connectors” who bring the whole deal together without sharing in any of the glory. My friend Clifford Wiedman is one of those “glue guys.” If you want to know about Anthony Gagliardi’s newest sponsor deal, what Keith Combs had for lunch, or where to get the absolute best rod blanks on the market, he’s your go-to source.
I first met Clifford at the beginning of my writing career about a decade ago. In an attempt to jumpstart my efforts, at the end of each year I’d send the pro-staff directors from a wide variety of companies a list of the articles that I’d written with their anglers, along with an offer to send them any articles that they requested. Some thanked me for the letter and promised to send ideas going forward, but many ignored me. Clifford, who was then working for Kistler Rods, bucked the trend and picked up the phone to give me a call.
I was pulling into the parking lot of my hotel at Buggs Island after a long day of practice when the phone rang from a Texas number. I answered and the unfamiliar voice at the other end asked, “How would you like to try the same model of rod that Steve Kennedy used to win at Clear Lake?” I didn’t know who the caller was, but the offer was one that I couldn’t refuse.
He’s no longer with Kistler, but he remains closely tied to the fishing industry and the players within it, often giving me not-yet-breaking news and insight into some of my article sources, especially when it comes to the East Texas Mafia. He really helped me to develop friendships and working relationships with Combs and Lonnie Stanley, even when there wasn’t anything in it for him. For that I owe him a tremendous amount.
During last week’s trip to Texas, he joined me and Clark Reehm on Rayburn Wednesday morning for a couple of hours before he had to go into work. I would’ve loved to have bought him dinner that night, but he was headed to the State of Washington to fish for salmon with the crew from Batson. That’s one of the other things that’s part of the Clifford experience: his quest for new species, or old species in new places. He’s fished for bass in Italy and landed over 100 different types of fish. I’m making it my goal to get him a Potomac River snakehead next summer.