Guido Hibdon pulled his boat into the shallows of a cove on Lake of the Ozarks and felt like he was traveling back in time.
Hibdon has fished that spot for more than 50 years, and he knows where every stump, brush pile and boulder in the area is located.
The cove in the 6-Mile area on the big lake is one of many places where Hibdon has caught big bass during the spring at Lake of the Ozarks. As he stood on the deck of his boat and peered into the clear water, he spotted the dark outlines of fish hovering over nests, and he realized that history was repeating itself.
“I guided in this cove when I was 12,” said Hibdon, 68, who has gone on to become one of the greatest pro bass fishermen of all time. “We didn’t have the big motors back in those days. I started off rowing my customers around. But we caught fish.
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“And we still do in some of these areas. For the most part, I go back to the same old places every spring. A lot of times, they’ll set up on the same stump or rock every year when they move in to spawn.”
Oh, some things have changed. There are many more boat docks and cottages in the coves than there were years ago. Hibdon often has to squeeze his boat between two docks to be able to fish some of the most productive banks.
There also are many more fishermen. There are days when every cove has at least one boat.
But what lies beneath the surface hasn’t changed much, Hibdon will tell you. The coves with gravel banks interspersed with rocks, brush and laydowns are ideal for bass, especially in the spring when the fish move in to spawn. That’s what makes Lake of the Ozarks one of the best bass lakes in the nation.
“I was very fortunate to be brought up on this ol’ lake,” Hibdon said as he launched a long cast Tuesday morning. “My dad was one of the first guides here, and he was the best bass fisherman I’ve ever seen.
“I started fishing with him when I was just a little guy, and I haven’t stopped.”
Hibdon paused to make a cast to a shaded stretch of water along the bank and started to slowly drag his plastic lizard along the bottom. When the green-pumpkin-colored lure suddenly stopped, Hibdon knew he had a big bass.
He set the hook and watched as the green fish shot to the surface and made a twisting jump. It landed with a smack and made a run to escape. But before long, Hibdon had the bass in the boat and was admiring his latest catch.
“That fish will go 5 (pounds), maybe bigger,” said Hibdon, who lives in Sunrise Beach, Mo.
That fish wasn’t a loner. Hibdon spent the rest of the morning maneuvering his boat through tight openings and fishing the gravel banks he has visited since he was a teenager. And he was reminded that not much has changed over the years.
Fishing the 6-Mile area, Hibdon and I caught and released 22 bass in a variety of sizes. Included were five that measured 15 inches or greater. And this on a day when others were complaining about how tough the bass fishing had been at Lake of the Ozarks.
A cold front had interrupted the bass’ spawning, temporarily knocking the fish off schedule. But Hibdon still found ways to make the fish hit, mainly by dragging the plastic lizard along the bottom with the help of a pencil-shaped weight that easily slid through the rocks without getting hung up.
Such prowess helped launch one of the most storied careers in pro bass fishing. Back in the late 1970s, Hibdon was a local legend — a guide whose reputation grew with every big fish he or his customers caught.
Hibdon’s customers urged him to try fishing one of the major tournaments that were coming to the lake, but he declined at first. The loss of scheduled guide trips meant the loss of income. And at that stage of his life, Hibdon couldn’t afford to lose guaranteed money.
He changed his mind, though, when his customers challenged him and offered to pay for his entry fee to the tournaments.
Hibdon won the first BASS tournament he ever competed in when he weighed in 56 pounds, 4 ounces of bass in a three-day competition in 1980 on his home lake, Lake of the Ozarks. He went on to establish a career that few can match. He won the Bassmaster Classic in 1988 and Angler of the Year honors in 1990 and 1991. He finished in the top 50 of BASS tournaments 110 times.
He later moved to the FLW pro circuit, where he found success there, too. Along the way, he has watched his family add to the legend of the Hibdon family tree.
His son, Dion, won both the Bassmaster Classic and the FLW championship. And his grandsons, Payden, Lawson and Conner, are following in grandad and dad’s footsteps, finding success in tournament fishing.
At this point in his career, Guido is more focused on taking pride in his boys’ successes than blazing new trails for himself. He still fishes the FLW circuit, though he is currently taking a break.
That gives him more time to fish Lake of the Ozarks and re-visit some of the banks he has fished for years.
From the time the redbuds are just starting to bloom until the dogwoods flower out, Hibdon knows the bass will be in the shallows to spawn. And he goes after them hard.
He uses baits suck as plastic lizards, Senkos, Flukes, tubes and small jigs tipped with Guido Bugs, the plastic bait he and his son designed, to catch the bedding bass.
There are big ones to be caught. He remembers the 11 1/2-pound bass he caught and released years ago. He also remembers the huge fish his son, Dion, caught when they were practicing for a BASS tournament.
“I had just caught a 7-pounder and he put his rod down to help me land it,” Guido said. “Something hit his lure and just took off.
“He got it in, and we were just amazed. It was the biggest bass I’ve ever seen caught at this lake.”
Guido, the guide
Guido Hibdon has returned to guiding on Lake of the Ozarks. For more information, contact Hibdon Outdoors at 573-230-3065.