OSAGE BEACH, Mo. -- Making a living catching bass is something that most weekend bass fishermen dream about.
Problem is, to be very good at it you have to be able to catch fish.
Catching fish is something Dion Hibdon is very good at.
He's been fishing tournaments since the tender age of 12 and turned pro at the age of 18, right out of high school.
Today, this Missouri pro who grew up on Lake of the Ozarks, has pushed past 40 but he has left some heavy tracks in professional bass fishing.
He won the coveted BASS Masters Classic, the 27th annual at Birmingham Ala., and also has a FLW World Championship win.
I knew fishing with Dion would be a real learning experience as it had when I fished with his dad Guido a couple of years ago.
This father/son professional bass fishing duo have reached nearly every pinnacle in the sport. And, they continue to compete.
"I'm fishing the FLW tour and the FLW Series and its going good so far," Dion said as he guided the bow mounted electric around another boat dock. "I've had six tournaments and made money in five of them.
"I'm having a phenomenal year," he smiled. "I'm just tickled to death."
His tournament season began at the end of January and he's been on the road pretty much since.
"It will slow down a little during the summer," he says. "The championship will be at Lake Murray at Columbia, S.C., in August. I've already qualified for that."
The Hibdon's travel the tournament trail in a 40-foot motorcoach driven by his mom, Stella. He and his dad trailer their boats.
"We don't have the expense of staying in motels, but then there's the gas it takes to run the coach."
And gasoline is, by far, Dion's greatest expense.
"I put on about 40- to 45,000 miles a year fishing tournaments," he says. "It's getting to be more and more expensive. "If I drive a 15 hour day, I'll spend close to $300 on gas. And that's just getting to where I'm fishing. Like the other night when I drove home from South Carolina, I spent $270 on gas.
"You figure that two ways and gas for your boat and you can see that cost is a big issue," he adds.
Although Dion gets to fish some phenomenal lakes, his home lake is certainly no slouch.
"We've lived within 10 miles of this lake my entire life," he says. "And I sure have enjoyed it. It is a great fishery. It always has been and it has always been a great all around fishery. It's one of the best in our part of the country, bar none.
"We start whacking the bass here in February," he says. "This year was an exception because the water came up so quickly and got dirty, but normally any other spring, by the end of February, is an awesome suspended jerkbait bite. And the good bass fishing holds up all the way through November and December. In fact, November and December can be some of the best bass and especially crappie fishing we'll see all year long. And I have seen it good right through the winter. It all depends on the weather."
There are probably no other fishermen who know Lake of the Ozarks as well as Guido and his son Dion. The family has literally made their living on the lake for three generations.
Hibdon's grandfather was a well-known guide on the lake and his sons all became guides as well. Guido began guiding at the age of 14.
"My dad and my grandfather and all of my uncles were guides on the lake, primarily in the Gravois arm," Dion said. "I started guiding when I was 13 or 14 years old in the summertime and on weekends.
"We would guide summers and then hunt and trap and guide for deer or ducks or whatever," he says. "We're not just fishermen. We're outdoorsmen. We do everything.
"I've said if it walks, flies swims or crawls in the state of Missouri, I've shot at it, killed it, trapped it or fished for it," he adds. "That's just like this morning. We're out here to catch bass, but the bass aren't bitting very well so we are catching a mess of crappies and that's something the fellows I fish against can't do anymore.
"They are one dimensional," he continues. "They are bass fishermen and when I grew up you couldn't be that way. If you had a guide party that wanted to go catfishing, you went catfishing."
Yet, even his uncles had favorite fish.
"All of my uncles had specialties," Dion says. "If somebody wanted to catch walleyes, they'd pawn them off on one of my other uncles or if somebody wanted to catch catfish, they'd do the same.
"My dad says in no uncertain terms that he was not the best bass fisherman out of his brothers," he continues. "That's hard for me to believe because he's done everything there is to do as a bass fishermen, He's won everything in the world there is to do in this sport.
"I guess all these other guys are lucky some of my other uncles didn't fish bass tournaments," he says. "In fact, my uncles cussed bass tournaments. They just got in their way. The anglers would follow them around and try to fish their spots. Same with my dad. He didn't fish tournaments at a young age. He didn't start until he was in his mid 30s."
Dion, however, did start at a young age.
"I've been doing it for 24 years, ever since I got out of high school" he says. "I've never done anything else except fish bass tournaments.
"Sometimes that's good, sometimes that's bad," he laughs. "It ain't always been good, that's for sure. But, I've supported my wife and kids and we're not rich, but by golly we are having fun."
Most professional fishermen have a method of fishing at which they excel. Dion is no different.
"I'm a pretty decent all-around fisherman," he says. "I can do a little bit of everything, but I am an extremely good jig fisherman.
"I won a tournament here year before last in October fishing a one-ounce jig in 35 to 40 feet of water," he says. "Jigging is my favorite way of fishing.
"I've won two world championships and both of them have been on a jig," he says. "My dad told me years ago you'll never win very many tournaments on anything you don't think you are the best at. And when it comes to a little jig, I think I can hang around with the best of them.
"I won both the BASS Masters Classic and the FLW Championship and both were on a 1/4- and 3/8-ounce jig," he says. "Every now and then you'll get lucky and catch them on something your not good at, but that happens very seldom."
During the off season, Dion spends a lot of time giving fishing seminars and attending sport shows nationwide. His wife Jill runs the family's outdoor company, Hibdon's Outdoors and raises their three sons, Payden, Lawson and Connar, all of which, by the way are fishermen and enjoy fishing the local tournaments with Dad.
And for this outdoor family, it's kind of how it all started back around grandpa's time.
The Hibdon name may be synonymous with professional bass fishing for quite some time.
Larry Myhre is outdoor editor of the Journal. Reach him at (712) 276-5965 or email at: firstname.lastname@example.org