The Passing of a Legend
Ken Cook of Meers, the 1991 Bassmaster Classic champion and one of Oklahoma's greatest anglers, died Friday in Oklahoma City of an apparent heart attack.
He was 68. Cook was born in Wilburton and lived in Oklahoma his entire life. He earned a zoology degree from Oklahoma State University and was hired by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation as a fisheries technician and then a biologist.
But he quit that job in 1983 after winning the Super B.A.S.S event on the St. John's River. That launched a pro fishing career which eventually landed him in the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame.
Cook won $100,000 in that tournament, a huge payday at the time, and used the money to buy his beloved Tarbone Ranch near the Wichita Mountains, where he lived for the past 20 years.
He won that tournament by fishing a Golden Eagle spinnerbait. He became the spinnerbait king, and would win more than $1 million in his professional bass fishing career, most of it by fishing spinnerbaits.
He captured pro bass fishing’s biggest prize, the Bassmaster Classic in 1991 on Chesapeake Bay, Md., by fishing a spinnerbait that he designed.
Cook had 35 top 10 finishes on the B.A.S.S. tour in his career, winning six times, including victories in the 1983 Missouri Invitational and the 1987 New York Invitational. He was a 14-time qualifier to the Bassmaster Classic.
"The ’80s was my decade," Cook once said. "I caught 80 percent of the fish I weighed in at tournaments on spinnerbaits. Most of them came on lures that I designed."
His favorite bass bait was a spinnerbait that had a gold blade with a white, chartreuse and blue skirt, the one he used to win the 1991 Bassmaster Classic.
Gary Giudice, owner of Blue Heron Communications in Norman, roomed with Cook on the professional bass fishing trail and was a close friend.
"He just loved fishing so much," Giudice said of Cook. "He loved it as much now as he did then (when fishing professionally). He had the fishing spirit as much as anybody else you will find."
Cook was a great teacher, communicator and ambassador for the sport, Giudice said.
"Being an ex-biologist, he was able to take that information and not only use it in his fishing but talking to people at seminars or at the boat ramp," Giudice said. "He really had a way to explain fishing to people."
No other Oklahoma angler has won the Bassmaster Classic since Cook's victory in 1991.
Gary Klein, a professional bass angler from Weatherford, Texas, fished with Cook for almost three decades on the B.A.S.S. tournament trail.
"Ken was a friend of everybody’s," Klein said. "Ken had a tremendous passion for the sport of fishing and a tremendous passion for the outdoors. That is something that bonds all of us."
Klein called Cook a phenomenal teacher.
"That is one of things that I really enjoyed about Ken, his willingness to share his experience and expertise with other fishermen.
"Ken was the same way with hunting. Ken taught me how to turkey hunt and introduced me to bow hunting. It was all because of Ken that I enjoyed those experiences. I tell people all the time, if I was ever in the woods and needed someone with me, I would bring Ken Cook. He was just a great outdoorsman."
In 2005, Cook was selected by B.A.S.S. as one of the top 35 anglers of all-time. He retired from professional bass fishing in 2009 and was inducted into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame in 2010.