- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 25, 2001

Newspaper editors abhor a writer's use of the words "living legend" because they are sticklers for accuracy and they want us to think hard before bestowing such lofty status on anybody. As a matter of fact, a sports editor I worked for in the '70s was fond of telling staffers that the "living legend" thing was an oxymoron. "I prefer my legends to be dead," he said more than once.
Having gone through all this, can we be forgiven for giving the title to two aging and still breathing professional bass anglers who are about to compete in the world championship BASS Masters Classic that takes place next month in Louisiana?
Between them, they own four of the Classic championships that are sanctioned by the international Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, 10 BASS Angler of the Year titles, 32 tour victories and 51 BASS Classic appearances.
Better yet, Roland Martin, 61, and Rick Clunn, 55, are a force to be reckoned with even if one is within reach of getting Social Security checks and the latter already meets the age criterion for senior citizen discounts at Denny's.
In a sport that is dominated by young turks who are phenomenally skilled when it comes to "reading" hitherto unknown waters and finding their quarry, Clunn and Martin might not terrorize the hearts of fellow competitors, but only a fool would ignore their fish-catching potential.
Clunn's name and bass fishing's premier event have become synonymous over the years, which is understandable when you consider that the Missouri fishing phenom has qualified every year since turning pro in 1973 winning the BASS Classic an unequaled four times. Clunn will compete for a record 28th time Aug. 2-4 on the Louisiana Delta.
"I don't think about not making it, to be honest," said the man who finished third in this year's BASS Angler of the Year race behind Arkansas' Mark Davis and Michigan's Kevin VanDam.
The oldest man in the Classic field, Martin who comes from nearby Laurel and cut his fishing teeth in local reservoirs and the rivers of Maryland's Eastern Shore already served notice that his competitive juices flow as strongly as ever. He won the point standings title in the Eastern Invitational division of the sanctioning BASS organization, which earned him a 23rd Classic invitation (second only to Clunn).
"It's been damn hard work," he said. "It's tough to make the Classic. It used to be easy, but it kept getting harder. The last couple of years, I've missed by just a few points. I remember 20 years ago saying [that] I'll always make the Classic. Now I'm lucky and relieved to make it, period."
Coming back once again at age 61 is particularly important for Martin because, despite having won just about every honor in competitive fishing, winning the BASS Masters Classic has eluded him.
Martin, who owns BASS records for tournament victories (19) and Angler of the Year titles (nine), is a true pioneer of the sport. In fact, he is the only angler in the 2001 event who participated in the first BASS Classic at Lake Meade, Nev., in 1971.
"It's been a great ride, and I'm proud of what this sport and BASS has become," he said.
Also among tournament fishing's elder statesmen in this year's Classic field is 56-year-old Texan Harold Allen, who makes his 13th championship appearance. The man who was a Classic runner-up in 1981 said, "I'm tickled to death to be fishing another one."
Forty-five Classic contenders will be fishing for a $100,000 top prize and potential residual earnings of $1 million. Bass fishing is big business, and the man or woman who wins the championship event can cash in on such a victory when tackle, boat and clothing manufacturers, as well as makers of tow vehicles and associated equipment, vie for endorsements from the champion.
The New Orleans-headquartered BASS Masters Classic is part of a weeklong celebration that, in addition to the fishing, includes a special outdoors show, children's events, banquets and entertainment, not to mention the final day's crowning of the champion inside the Superdome.

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