Game-Worn Jerseys


One of the highlights of the annual Bass Fishing Hall of Fame dinner is the chance to bid on items that are – as they used to say on TV – “not sold in any store.” Yes, there are screaming deals to be had on jackplates and flipping sticks and raingear, but typically the highlights of the auction are the trips with famous anglers to incredible places.

The big earner at last week’s banquet was a Michigan smallmouth trip with KVD, sweetened by the addition of some of his wife’s famous cookies. As the bidding approached $10,000, VanDam offered up two trips if both of the remaining contestants would pony up that amount.

That contest was too rich by a couple of zeroes for me, but the item that fascinated me most was a late addition to the slate – a Pop-R donated by Stacey King. Since you can get one of your own for about six bucks just about anywhere, what made this one so special? Well, as Stacey explained to the crowd of luminaries and hangers-on, he had gotten this particular Pop-R from KVD back in 1997 during a tournament at Buggs Island.

This was an era before many of us knew of the Rico or the Splash-It or the Yellow Magic, and VanDam had learned at the knee of Zell Rowland how to properly sand down a popper for maximum impact and success. As KVD excelled during practice and King struggled, the young pro kindly offered to provide his elder with a perfectly-sanded Pop-R. Hours and hours of careful work with a Dremel, and King had one of his own. He went on to finish a respectable 31st in the tournament and took home a check.

Meanwhile, VanDam, who had just turned 30 earlier that month, won the derby, the fourth of his 25 Bassmaster victories.

As he rushed to the microphone to point out, he won it on a squarebill, so while this particular lure may not have brought home the $40,000 check, it had a story with it. Those are the things we’re losing as our Hall of Famers and their contemporaries leave the sport, lose their memories, or pass away. Obviously, we all appreciate nice clean jerseys and signed lures and other memorabilia, but the items that really matter are the pants with a bit of Yankee Stadium dirt on them from a sliding catch to save a run; or a guitar pick Keef used on the Sticky Fingers tour; or a horse shoe from Secretariat. In my function as a Board Member going forward, I’m going to do my best to make sure that more of these items become available – because while I can’t match Gary Clouse’s winning bid, I nevertheless want to hear the stories.