Oklahoma has three Bassmaster Classic champions and seeks more
BY KELLY BOSTIAN World Outdoors Writer
Sunday, February 17, 2013
2/17/13 at 6:28 AM
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The Bassmaster Classic is just about due to have another Oklahoma champion.
As this state's most recent champion, Ken Cook (1991), put it, "Yes, it is about time. Part of that's probably my fault, but trust me, it wasn't for lack of effort."
Cook, from Meers, retired in 2009 and still is recognized as one of the top anglers of all time over his 300 career tournaments, which include 14 Classic appearances, six tournament wins and numerous brushes with Angler of the Year status - which he missed by a hair's breadth to Roland Martin in 1984.
Oklahoma lays claim to three Bassmaster Classic champions. Coincidentally, three Oklahoma anglers are competing in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic this upcoming weekend on Grand Lake O' The Cherokees: Edwin Evers of Talala, Tommy Biffle of Wagoner and Jason Christie of Park Hill.
Cook and Oklahoma's other champs all are notable in addition to holding that Classic Champion title.
The late Don T. Butler of Tulsa won the second annual Bassmaster Classic in 1972. He was the first member of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, a close, lifelong friend to BASS founder Ray Scott, Okiebug lure inventor and also the man who held the patent for the first bass boat livewell system.
Charlie Reed followed with his victory in 1986. Reed came late to the game at age 50 but won the Classic in his second year. At age 51 he was the oldest to have won the Classic, until Woo Daves, at age 54, won in 2000. In fact Reed's only career tournament win was the Bassmaster Classic. Reed and his wife, Vojai, are the only husband-wife anglers to hold championship titles, he with the 1986 Classic and she with the 1984 Women's World Championship of Bass Angling.
"We've got something we can brag about," Charlie Reed said from their home in Hochatown on Wednesday.
At 78, Reed is fighting through a bout with lung cancer he said is called bricklayer's cancer. "They say it's from the masonry dust, and I've been breathing that stuff all my life," he said.
Reed made his living in the masonry business and only fished for fun. After his children were grown, he was drawn into competitive bass fishing with his wife's success. She won the women's championship in 1984 and he entered BASS the next year. They traveled the tournament circuits together.
A soon as he's strong enough, he will be out fishing Broken Bow Lake again, he said. "I'll tell ya, the cure is a whole lot worse than the disease," he said of chemotherapy treatments. "My boat's sitting out here, battery charged and gas in it, just looking down the road waitin' to go."
Reed doesn't watch BASS competitions too closely anymore. He spoke of the competitions as a kind of addiction. "I know it sounds kinda bad to talk about it that way, but when I got out I had to quit it completely," he said.
That doesn't stop him from enjoying the memories, however, and he can describe every step he took to win the 1986 Classic on Chickamauga and Nickajack lakes in Tennessee. It was a narrow victory, which he says mirrors many narrow losses he experienced.
"I had some other tournaments that I was right there knocking on the door," he said. "One more fish and you won, one more fish and it made your whole year. It's always that one more bite you need. ... That's the whole thing about the competition - it's concentration and paying attention all the time, you miss one bite and you just lost the Bassmaster Classic."
Cook knows about those narrow margins all too well. His victory in 1991 on Chesapeake Bay ranks among the closest in history, although the 1997 contest won by Dion Hibdon on a 1-ounce margin due to another angler's 4-ounce penalty for having a dead fish is the closest ever.
Cook still believes he won, in part, due to his confidence. "The only time during the whole three days that I was not 100 percent confident I was going to win was waiting to weigh in on the last day. That time waiting was really stressful," he said. He was in 10th place the first day, fourth place the second, and thought he passed the group the last day.
An organizer backstage had looked at all the fish and short-guessed Cook's bag and sent another angler on stage first. Cook was the last to weigh in. "Mine weighed about a half-pound more than they thought, and I won by three ounces," he said.
The tournament just happened to work out perfectly for him. "Any time you win, your ducks just have to be lined up in a row, everything has to fit the mold because always things can happen and be slightly different and you would not have won," he said.
One fish, a small difference, a right place, time, ducks all in a row; maybe it's waiting in the stars out there a week from Sunday, when Oklahoma again has a chance to land a Bassmaster Classic champion.
Ken Cook of Meers celebrates his 1991 Bassmaster Classic win on the Chesapeake Bay. KEN COOK/Courtesy