I met a lot of characters over the years as an outdoor writer. Outdoor types are for the most part, pretty much free spirits who pursue their interests with passion. Some might call the passion Crazy.
Cliff Shelby was one of those dudes. I knew Cliff when we both lived in Monroe 100 years ago and were in the middle of all kinds of things outdoor related. I was a young podunk outdoor writer for the Monroe newspaper. Cliff was a well-known artist and illustrator, mostly because he drew the cartoons for the “Harry and Charlie” series in BASSMaster Magazine each month. When I got my magazine, I didn’t race to read what Bill Dance had to say about catching fish or who won the latest tournament. I looked at the index, found “Harry and Charlie” and read about what they had been up to. Cliff’s masterful use of illustrations brought it to life. Hey, I had been there.
One day I was sitting in Cliff’s meager office back in 1979 and he asked me what I was going to write about in Sunday’s column. I told him it was a satirical look at why bass fishermen have so many baits. He whipped out a piece of cardboard and a pen and in two minutes, handed me the artwork you see above. He told me to use it with the column instead of one of my photos. At least this, he said, would be in focus. It still sits on my desk right above my computer as I write this.
Cliff passed away last week, quietly at his last home, Maumelle, Arkansas. While he was a “character”, he was also a great guy. He always encouraged me. I won’t go into a tribute to him, but will just steal this outstanding one from his son Blake’s Facebook page:
“On Saturday morning I got the news that my Dad had passed away. Most of his friends didn’t even know he was sick. That’s partly because the cancer was very aggressive, but mainly because, even though he was a very public person, he wanted to keep his passing very private. He wanted people to remember him for the way he was, a father, husband, artist, avid outdoorsman, advertising and marketing executive, legend in the fishing industry, gun expert, historian, writer, comedian and without a doubt the most talented person I have ever known. I’m going to honor his wishes and just leave it with this. Daddy, I love you and I know you are with Jesus now. I will see you again and we will explore God’s heavenly creation.”
You can also read an online tribute to him by BASSMaster Editor in Chief Dave Precht here: