Hibdon’s heritage - Major League Fishing

Hibdon’s heritage

For Dion Hibdon, bass fishing success is just a way of life
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January - February 2001
December 31, 2000 • Rob Newell • Archives

On Sept. 16, 2000, Dion Hibdon stood atop the professional bass fishing world. As he hoisted the oversized FLW Tour Championship Visa check over his head, he was presented $250,000 for winning, the richest purse of the season.

Just months before, Hibdon also laid claim to the inaugural Ranger Cup incentive bonus program worth $50,000. The contingency cash bonus was put up by Ranger Boat Company to reward the Ranger-sponsored angler who proved to be most consistent in both the FLW Tour and the B.A.S.S. Top-150 circuit.

After 12 long months and 13 grueling tournaments, Hibdon found himself in 23rd place in the B.A.S.S. Top-150 point standings and in eighth place in the Wal-Mart FLW Tour points race. Those combined point totals proved that Hibdon was the most consistent performer among his Ranger-sponsored brethren and allowed him to capture the Ranger Cup.

Indeed, it was a spectacular end to a remarkable season for Dion Hibdon. It now appears that the 33-year-old Hibdon might very well be on his way to building a fishing career as legendary as his father’s. Recently, Dion Hibdon took some time to reflect on his professional bass fishing career, the importance of a positive outlook on life, having Guido as a father, and the meaning of family and the outdoor experience.

Out with the negative, in with the positive

The FLW Tour Championship was not the first time that Hibdon had been on the crest of the bass fishing world. In 1997, he won the BASSMaster Classic on Lake Logan Martin in Alabama. When word got out that Dion had been to a sports psychiatrist just two weeks before his win, some wondered if the young Hibdon had discovered an expedient method of winning bass tournaments. But Hibdon is quick to point out that his single appointment with a sports psychiatrist was not a magic pill for winning bass tournaments. The visit simply reminded him of what he already knew to be true.

“She did not tell me anything that I did not already know,” Hibdon relates. “These were things that my Dad and my wife had been telling me for years. Simply having somebody else tell me these same things really confirmed what I already knew.”

What the sports psychiatrist did do for Hibdon was help him become acutely aware of his thought patterns at all times. This allowed Hibdon to recognize and arrest negative thought patterns before they snowballed out of control and consumed him.

“There is a lot of adversity in this sport. In that respect, positive thinking slips away pretty easily. Negative thoughts come creeping in, and it all happens without us realizing it. What the doctor did for me was simply make me consciously aware of when positive thoughts were turning to negative thoughts.”

En route to winning the FLW Tour Championship, negative thoughts tried to derail Hibdon at least twice, but he snuffed them out before they even got started. On two occasions Hibdon lost big fish: one on the first day of competition, and one on the last day of competition. In both scenarios, Hibdon simply shut the open door to negative thinking with a more positive approach.

“The first day I lost a big fish,” Hibdon remembers. “But instead of getting down in the mouth, that fish really excited me. It was the biggest fish I had bite since I had been on the Red River, and that told me I was on the right track.”

On the last day of the championship, while fishing against only four other contestants for $250,000, Hibdon broke off the very first fish that bit. It was bigger than the one he lost the first day. The chance to fall into a negative thought pattern of lost opportunities was greater than ever, but again, Hibdon resisted. “That fish told me that I was still dialed in on the bigger bite, and I still had plenty of time to put it together.”

Hibdon points out that thinking positive and avoiding the negatives are not just reserved for the inside of his bass boat. He has learned that such a paradigm is applicable in every facet of life. Knowing when to allow his mind to tend to which thought has brought a great deal of focus to his fishing.

“Everything has a time and a place. I do not think about sponsor business during a tournament day, and I do not think about a tournament day while doing sponsor business,” Hibdon says. “Being consciously aware of my thoughts at all times has become a way of life. It has made me a more focused, upbeat person with a better outlook on life.”

Dad’s proverbial shadow

“If you have a gut feeling, act on it. Don’t think about it. Just do it.”

These are treasured words of wisdom from fishing legend Guido Hibdon, Dion’s father. Dion was exposed to such priceless advice at a very early age. Despite hearing these insightful tidings on a continual basis, Dion could never grasp what they really meant. That is, until he won the BASSMaster Classic in 1997.

“`Trust your instincts,’ dad would say. But he completely understood it because he had won major tournaments,” Dion relates. “It was not until I won the Classic that I knew what it meant to truly trust your instincts.”

After his Classic win, Hibdon found that conditional phrases such as “would probably work” and “might be good” were nonexistent when a genuine instinctive feeling was taking place. “I used to run down a lake and say, `That’s probably good,’ with some hesitation,” he says. “Now I say, `That is good,’ and I pull over and fish it with a true conviction that bass live there. If it does not work out, I do not beat myself up about it. I stay positive and move on.”

Some of the places Hibdon caught fish during the four days of the FLW Tour Championship were places he had never laid eyes on before. He trusted his gut feelings and acted on them immediately – just like his father had told him to do so many times before.

Of course, having such remarkable wisdom and ageless advice about bass fishing at your fingertips comes with a price: being the son of a professional bass fishing icon can lead to some questions about who the fishing success should be attributed to. Such questions and comments about the father-and-son duo have become almost cliche to the Hibdons. Dion insists that becoming his own fisherman has never been an issue between the two.

“When I won the Classic, people made a big deal about me becoming my own fisherman and getting out from beneath my father’s shadow. We just do not see it that way and we never have,” Dion says. “If you want to think about this in terms of proverbial shadows, then what people need to realize is that Dad casts a pretty big shadow. There are a lot of fishermen under my father’s shadow and we are going to be there for a long time. We can only hope, as bass fishermen, that one day we are half as good as he is. I am proud to be under his shadow.”

Discussions about who should claim the credit for Dion’s success is idle banter to the Hibdons. Dion knows he is his own fisherman and Guido has never viewed him in any other way than his own fisherman. What Dion finds more poignant about being raised by one of the greatest professional anglers in history is how special his own childhood was.

Finding solace in family and the outdoors

“We were always together as a family, and we were always outdoors,” Hibdon remembers vividly. “There was never any time for mischief because we were always hunting or fishing. During those special times, Dad taught me a lot about the outdoor world and instilled in me a passion for nature.”

It is a way of life that Hibdon is determined to pass on to his three sons Lawson and Connar, who are 5-year-old twins, and Payden, who is 9. The entire Hibdon clan travels together when crisscrossing the nation competing in professional bass tournaments. When they are on the road, Jill, Dion’s wife, home schools the boys. Of course, fishing is included in the lesson plan; each son gets to spend one day of practice with Dion at each tournament. It was the same way Guido trained Dion when he was a youngster.

“Watching my own boys grow up now, I can appreciate the remarkable upbringing I had with Dad. I really understand how important family and the outdoor experience are for the kids,” Hibdon says.

In fact, Hibdon professes that having his family travel with him is what enabled him to win the Ranger Cup. His wife and three boys provide a bright, positive atmosphere for him to lean on when he gets off of the water every day.

“My boys are tickled to death to see me every day and it does not matter if I caught 30 pounds or nothing. I can sit down and tell my wife if something is bothering me. My family is my support group. To have them along is a true blessing because they help keep things in perspective and keep me on an even keel.”

Dion was especially proud to have his entire family present when he won the FLW Tour Championship. Guido smiled upon his son with great pride, the boys looked up to their father with affectionate admiration, and somewhere between them stood Dion Hibdon, amazed by it all.