UPCOMING EVENT: TACKLE WAREHOUSE PRO CIRCUIT - 2020 - Harris Chain of Lakes

A Hoot from the holler

A Hoot from the holler
From rural Arkansas comes Hoot Gibson, a man with a common nickname (he says), but a very uncommon knack for catching fish.

From rural Arkansas comes Hoot Gibson, a man with a common nickname (he says), but a very uncommon knack for catching fish.

It seems that wherever William D. Gibson goes he finds someone who shares his nickname and surname. Finding his fishing equal is a little tougher.

W.D. "Hoot" Gibson says that as far as he knows his nickname was derived from a silent movie cowboy star who shared his last name. He believes that origin is likely true as there seem to be quite a few Hoot Gibsons out there.

"I run into guys named Hoot Gibson all the time," he says. "My brother was even called Hoot, so I guess it's a pretty popular thing."

There are even two Hoot Gibsons fishing Operation Bass events: W.D., who resides in Bryant, Ark., and another from Philadelphia, Miss. Gibson's Mississippi counterpart, a retired school teacher, says he is often mistaken for the Arkansas angler who has been hitting huge paydays from the backs of various boats along the Wal-Mart FLW Tour and the EverStart Series.

Gibson has six top-10 finishes and two wins as a co-angler in recent months, and was the top finisher in the EverStart's Central Division in 1999.

W.D. Gibson says that he has learned a great deal from his co-angler seat while fishing with some of the country's greatest professional fishermen, but his experience and finesse-bait prowess account for his success.

"I really feel like I can fish most any bait if I have to," he says. "But I definitely prefer finesse fishing. That's my specialty. I will switch to what my partner is doing if that's the only way to catch fish, but if I have my druthers, I'll be holding a spinning rod with a Zoom trick worm tied on."

Gibson admits he sometimes struggles on murky waters but manages to hold his own and live for the paydays that come when conditions are clear.

Born in a small town in Spartanburg County, S.C., Gibson spent most of his adult life in law enforcement in and around Little Rock, Ark. He worked for the Little Rock Police Department for more than 20 years and was an officer in the court system another 10 before finishing his career in the sheriff's department. He even spent some time as a motorcycle officer. Now retired at age 64, his days are less dramatic, but he has time to wonder about how things might have been different if he would have chosen another path.

Gibson began fishing tournaments in the late 1960s at the local level. He had immediate success in local Thursday evening tournaments, boating impressive stringers from a flat-bottom boat with stick steering. Although his recreational softball team was filling some of his need for competition, he felt a strong desire to take his fishing up another level. Gibson entered the most competitive regional series in Arkansas at the time, the Mister Bass of Arkansas Series. In his first Mister Bass tournament, on Lake Ferguson, Gibson won. As he had on Thursday evenings, Gibson found himself cashing checks for his fishing prowess, only larger ones.

"Back then, that was probably the toughest series around," he said. "I thought about the national tournaments, but, to be honest, I didn't really know if I was good enough. I didn't really know if I wanted to try it from a making-a-living standpoint. I had too much responsibility at home."

Ironically, that career that put his life in jeopardy on a daily basis also offered too much security for Gibson to make the leap. He and his wife, Mary, were raising a young family that would grow to three children and his regular salary and lucrative retirement package as a police officer made the down-to-earth Gibson's decision an easy one. He continued to fish in local and regional series, play a little softball and answer the alarm clock every morning.

Gibson's been retired for about six years now. In 1996, with the opportunities provided by co-angler status on some of the nation's top fishing circuits, he decided to test the waters of big-time bass fishing. He hasn't gotten out since.

"When I retired, I just decided I was going to enjoy (fishing)," he said. "I'm still highly competitive though, so I get after it, and I love fishing these FLW events. I love the elimination format and starting each round at zero. I just really, really enjoy this."

Despite having her husband away from home a great deal, Mary enjoys it, too. She works at Wal-Mart as a customer greeter and heads the store's community service program. The Gibson children - Donald, Cindy and Ben - are grown and on their own, but they still travel quite a bit with their parents to tournaments. Usually Gibson will travel with anglers Greg Carpenter and Eddie Woody, and Mary will come for the weekend if her husband makes the cuts to the final round.

Hoot Gibson shares a story with Wal-Mart FLW Tour host Charlie Evans onstage at Shreveport.Gibson seems very content with the life he is leading after his career in law enforcement. Softball is gone, replaced with friendly dime-a-hole rounds of golf. Fishing remains, and Gibson has no plans of slowing down. Having earned more than $62,000 since 1996 - with about $46,000 coming over the past two seasons from the Wal-Mart FLW Tour - he is happy with his niche in bass fishing.

Gibson recently took a trip down memory lane and fished in a Mister Bass of Arkansas event. He won the tournament and earned $2,400 - a far cry from the $300 events he used to dominate. Still, he feels that his time to work at fishing has passed, and he is enjoying the friendships, the competition and the money as a co-angler.

"The guys who are trying to fish professionally today can flat get it," he said. "They work so hard at it, and they're good at it. Physically, I don't think I could handle what they go through to compete.

"When you're a co-angler, it's pretty much the luck of the draw sometimes. I've learned a lot and had the chance to fish with some great fishermen. I'm just out here having fun. If I miss a cut, I just go whistling back home. But if I make the cut and am in that top 10, it's a whole new ballgame. I believe I can win, and I go out and act like it."

Tags: clay-walker  magazine-features 

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