July 25, 2012
By Bob Wattendorf, from FWC Florida Fish Busters
Periodically we relate commentary from staffers at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Bob Wattendorf's Fish Busters Bulletin is one of my favorites. This month he mentions John E. Phillips winning the ASA Homer Circle Fishing Communicator Award. While the two are more closely associated with other magazine titles, astute readers of Florida Sportsman may recognize those bylines. Phillips, still writing in Alabama, and Circle, who passed away this year, made occasional contributions to FS. --Jeff Weakley, Editor
- "Uncle" Homer Circle, 1914-2012
My favorite award at the ICAST show is the Professional Outdoor Media Association and ASA Homer Circle Fishing Communicator Award. This award recognizes fishing industry journalists who exemplify the same spirit, dedication to fishing, extraordinary talent and commitment to mentoring the next generation of fishing industry communicators displayed by Homer Circle during his storied career. The 2012 award went to John E. Phillips. Known as Bubba, Phillips was inducted into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame as a Legendary Communicator.
“Although John's accomplishments as a communicator are virtually unequalled, his greatest gift to our industry, as is the case with ‘Uncle Homer,' is his commitment to mentoring folks, particularly young people, who want to launch a career in the outdoor industry,” said Laurie Lee Dovey, CEO of the Professional Outdoor Media Association.
This year's presentation was especially meaningful, since it was the first since Homer Circle passed. Homer was born in 1914 and died in June 2012. Even at 97 years of age, he was pursuing his passion and fishing central Florida's famed bass fisheries just five days before he died.
Between those dates he spent a nearly unimaginable number of hours fishing across America and writing stories revealing his love for and understanding of the piscatorial arts.
Known to anglers and would-be anglers alike as Uncle Homer, his renown as a writer began in 1964 when he started selling his stories to “Sports Afield.” His acumen and prose quickly garnered him the role of angling editor, which he held for 36 years. His column, “Ask Uncle Homer,” in BassMaster Magazine was a classic that many of us came to depend upon.
Circle was awarded the ASA's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996, and is also a member of the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame and the International Game Fishing Hall of Fame. He was host of “The Fisherman,” “Sports Afield” and “The Outdoorsman,” and was featured in Glen Lau's classic film “Bigmouth.” His books included “The Art of Plug Fishing,” “New Guide to Bass Fishing,” “Worming and Plugging for Bass” and “Circle on Bass and Bass Wisdom.”
His career also took him to be a vice president of Hedon lures. According to Ken Duke and Jeff Samsel (“The Bass Fishing Vault,” 2010), his was one of the most monumentally influential bylines in creating the phenomenon that has made black bass the most popular sport fish in the world.
The Fishing Wire (theFishingWire.com) ran an op-ed immediately after Homer's death that said, “The outdoor industry, especially those who have ever picked up pens or pencils, looked helplessly at a blank sheet of paper in an aging typewriter or stared at a blank screen hoping for writing inspiration, is in mourning after losing a legendary writer, a great friend, and source of inspiration to everyone he met. For decades, Homer Circle has been fishing's favorite uncle.”
Uncle Homer was also a man of faith who wrote the following prayer, a fitting epitaph for any angler:
The Fisherman's Prayer
God grant that I may fish
until my dying day;
And when at last I come to rest,
I'll then humbly pray;
When in His landing net
I lie in final sleep;
That in His mercy I'll be judged
as good enough to keep!