The fishing world is mourning the loss of one of its greats.

Guido Hibdon, one of the top all-time competitors in pro bass fishing, passed away March 10 after a long fight with cancer.

Guido, who lived at Lake of the Ozarks, accomplished it all on the pro circuit. On the Bassmaster side, he won a Classic, took Angler of the Year honors twice and he earned five tournament championships. Later, he went to the FLW pro circuit and found success there, too. He won two national tournaments , his last one in 2009.

But statistics tell only part of Guido’s story. A small part. I will remember him as a guy who tried to portray a gruff image but had a heart of gold.

I met him on a spring day in 1980, when I was just a cub report at The Kansas City Star. I traveled to Lake of the Ozarks to cover a BASS national tournament and Guido burst onto the national scene in unexpected fashion.

The story practically wrote itself. Guido was a longtime guide at the big lake and some of his clients urged him to enter the national tournament to see how he would stack up against the pros. They even offered to pay his entry fee.

He took them up on their challenge and ended up winning. After the tournament, he told of how he had used a plastic crawdad that his Dion had designed as part of a school project.

I immediately became intrigued by this likeable Ozarks fisherman. And so began a long friendship.

I wrote numerous stories on him over the years, shared the boat with him many times at Lake of the Ozarks and learned how to become a better bass fisherman myself. I shared in his joy when his son, Dion, won the Bassmaster Classic in 1997 and the FLW championship in 2000. And I tried to encourage him when he talked about being diagnosed with cancer.

Don’t get me wrong. We weren’t best buds or anything like that. But we were friends, and I was proud of that relationship.

I always admired Guido for his dedication to family. He loved his wife Stella, his son Dion, and his grandsons Payden, Lawson and Conner, and the family always took an all-for-one approach. As Guido’s health worsened, Dion interrupted his pro career, and competed only in tournaments a short distance from home so that he could be there for his mom and dad.

He also was dedicated to his fans. Several times, readers of mine would call to relate a story about how they were staying at a motel and ran into Guido. Instead of playing “big time” with them, they said, Guido would sit down and answer all their questions.

He was strong on loyalty and was upset when he lost several major sponsors in his last days on the FLW circuit. In a selfless display that surprised no one that knew him, he bowed out of competition for a while so that the family could pool their resources to pay for expenses for Dion, and his grandson, Payden.

The last time I saw him was two years ago when he attended the Missouri Classic fish and golf championship, in which Dion and Payden were entered.

We talked, and as I was walking away, he shouted to me, “Hey, Frazee, we’re going fishing this spring.”

That trip never happened. Guido became sick, and his fishing days were numbered.

Now he is gone. Man, how I will miss him.