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Studio Notes - Hibdon’s Haven

Studio Notes - Hibdon’s Haven
Guido Hibdon

With the passing of Guido Hibdon over the weekend, the sport has lost one of its founding fathers.

I was just a young man in the fishing industry when I was introduced to the Hibdons in the late 1990s. One of the first things that struck me about the family is it always had an open door, especially for those new to the sport. Their presence created a sort of home away from home for anglers – a safe haven, Hibdon’s Haven – where the only thing better than the fishing stories was Stella’s cooking.

Admittedly, I am not near as close to the Hibdons as many other folks in this industry. But that was never of any matter; if you needed something, the Hibdons were there to help.  

Over the years, Hibdon’s Haven helped dozens of young pros find their footing on the pro tours. It’s where Guido generously shared his intensive wisdom on fish behavior and was always quick with fishing tips, especially on jigs and soft plastics. Through his entertaining stories he instilled integrity and respect in young pros. He was a professor in the old-school conventions of tournament-fishing ethics, most notably: Fish your own game instead of chasing other people’s fish.

He offered advice in a very stern, yet caring way. No matter the questions you brought before him, he would deliver his candid opinion, point you in the right direction and then leave you with an analogy to chew on. But in the end, he left it up to you to fill in your own blanks.

On a couple of occasions I was privy to some of Guido’s sage wisdom. In one instance I bragged to him about owning one of his coveted signature series Team Daiwa finesse spinning rods as well as a vast array of “Gitzits” and their companion jigheads he designed to insert into the tubes.

“Have you caught a bunch fish on it?” he questioned.

I had to make a dreaded confession to the Father of Finesse: “Not really. Light line scares me.”

His eyes squinted a bit, and his beard wrinkled with concern.

“Why?” he asked. “What are you afraid of?”

“Breaking off!” I exclaimed.

He laughed.

“You have to understand that when you set hard with one of those big flip sticks on 20-pound-test line, it makes the fish mad, and that son of a buck goes to fighting and thrashing like a scalded dog.”

And in a way only Guido could put it, he continued with an allegory that went something like this: “If I walked up and smacked you with a switch and said, ‘come with me!’ you’d be fighting mad and refuse with all your might. But if I walked up to you, nudged you on the shoulder, nodded my head in a certain direction and said, ‘come with me,’ you’d probably oblige. If you ever get up the courage to battle a big bass on light line you’ll understand what I’m talking about.”

Several weeks after that conversation I ventured to Lake Eufaula during prime spawning season to do some fun fishing. I had been picking off bedders with a heavy casting rod, 20-pound test and a Texas-rigged lizard when I came upon a huge bed at the base of a baby cypress tree. I saw a 2-pounder standing guard, pitched in and caught it. After releasing it, I stood up and now saw a 6- to 7-pounder locked on with her nose right against the tree’s scrawny trunk. I was about to pitch in and winch her out hero style as well, but I stopped and instead pulled out my Guido Hibdon “pea shooter” spooled with 8-pound test and tipped with a Gitzit.

“OK, Gete,” I thought to myself, “I’m going to try this.”

I made a horrific skip-cast that hit the water, hopped over a limb and dove right back into the water and into the bed. Before I even had time to process what happened, the big girl snapped up the tubular morsel in a single breath and sat motionless. A bolt of fear shot through me as I realized the only thing tethering me to her was some cobweb-sized line, which now lay over a limb. I knew a snap hookset would only break the line, so I was forced to sort of pull easily into the fish. The big girl began to swim behind the tree, but as I applied more pressure, she turned and swam the way the line was pulling her, away from the tree. The line slipped free of the low limb, and she swam out into open water without really fighting at all. That’s when it became clear to me that she still had no idea she was even hooked.

When she swam out and saw the boat, she finally realized something was awry, and only then began to use her muscle to get away. She, and my heart, surged several times. The drag slipped for a second or two, and then came the headshakes at the surface. I thought for sure I was about to lose the battle, but I could see the tiny tube pinned securely to her upper lip.

As I pulled her alongside the boat and gripped her lower jaw, in my mind I could see Guido’s smile with that twinkle in his eye. Suddenly I truly understood what he meant by a nudge to the shoulder and a head nod in the right direction.

It was the first time I had ever caught a fish in that manner – gently leading the fish on light line instead of jarring the fish into instant survival mode with a hard hookset. It was a magical moment for me and a lesson I still use today, especially when fishing wacky rigs in precarious situations.

I tell that story to say there are thousands upon thousands of more memories that still live on in the hearts and souls of hundreds of anglers – all created from the sage wisdom acquired at Hibdon’s Haven. Thank you, Guido, and the whole Hibdon family, for all you have done for this sport.

 

Tags: rob-newell  article  2018-03-08-lake-lanier 

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