Memorializing Mentors

Clem picked up the phone and, though he didn’t know it, he was about to receive a monumental surprise. Moments after I spoke to him “long distance” from Colorado to Wisconsin, FTR founder Clem Dippel was inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame.

He accepted the honor in front of friends … no, family … gathered for dinner at Little Bohemia restaurant in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin. Clem also happened to be celebrating his 80th birthday.

“There is no one that I have met in my 20-plus years in the industry like Clem,” recalls friend and current St. Croix Director of Marketing Jesse Simpkins. “I am not sure he realizes the contributions he has made. From providing guidance to once fledgling brands that are today’s megabrands to illustrating the importance of the people in the business equation to mentoring.”

Clem celebrated his 80th birthday in style

Simpkins hit home. Clem has been a friend and mentor to him for years now, just as he has for many others along the way. But this story isn’t entirely about Clem … it’s about mentors like him and those in your life and career.

When I think about Clem, I think about retailers like the Birdseys in Creede, Colorado. In a small town hidden deep inside the San Juan Mountains, the Birdseys found a love of the sport from their own mentors—a small town teacher and superintendent who founded the tackle store that feeds their family today. It all started when those founders—the Cole’s—took a young Shane Birdsey into their fold in 1976.

When I think about Clem, I think about FTR Managing Editor Ken Duke, who I first met on the floor of the ICAST New Product Showcase (sponsored by Fishing Tackle Retailer) nearly three years ago. Ken took a little-known basketball writer under his wing and introduced me to anyone and everyone in the fishing industry.

When I think about Clem, I’m reminded that this business is defined by mentors.

It’s defined by the founders, by the people like Clem Dippel and Ray Scott and Alton Cole who have the gumption to go out there and do it on their own. It’s defined by people who take the time to nurture younger generations into new roles. It’s defined by the people like Lew Childre and Bill Lewis and James Heddon; by the writers like Homer Circle and Louie Stout and yes, Ken Duke.

The tackle industry—the sport of fishing—is defined by living legends who take time to care about the future. And my hunch is that somewhere in the history of your store, a legend took the time to teach you.

If that’s true, write in to us. Tell us their names. Let me know their tale, because it’s people like that who deserve to have their story told.

It’s people like that who deserve to have their name on a plaque in gold.