MARBURY -- Early on, the list of leaders in the Kmart Bassmaster Top 100 pro-am tournament was sprinkled with familiar names -- Martin, VanDam, Eaker, Houston, Fritts, Grigsby and Guido Hibdon.
But the man of the hour in bass fishing, Hibdon's son, Dion, who won the BASS Masters Classic in Alabama a few weeks ago, was far down the board on the pro side of the standings.
So far down, that Mike Terry, a pro from Tennessee in 25th place after Day 1, was more than 2 pounds ahead of the Classic winner's 12 pounds, 2 ounces.
But no matter, the younger Hibdon said. His mark is made for this season, at least, and perhaps for several years to come.
Qualifying for the Classic, which this season will be held on High Rock Lake near Greensboro, N.C., is considered a benchmark of success, an achievement that attracts the interest and sponsorship of tackle, boat and motor manufacturers.
And major sponsors pay big bucks for personal appearances and product endorsements. Hibdon already is learning something about the whirlwind of offers that encircle a Classic winner.
"It's been busy, extremely busy these past weeks," said Hibdon, married and the father of three. "There's all kinds of things going on -- people calling on the phone trying to book show dates and stuff like that.
"I really have no idea what's going on with it all right now. I've had it run off me the last few weeks."
Rick Clunn, the Texas pro who has won the Classic four times, estimates winning it guarantees five years of top earnings in the bass-fishing world.
Hank Parker of Denver, N.C., won the Classic twice and said he earned more than $1 million in the year after he captured his first Classic title.
Hibdon, 30, said he doesn't expect to rest on his laurels. But he expects his tournament results will fall off somewhat this season.
"Oh, winning the Classic is going to hurt fishing. But that's why I get to go to the  Classic already," said Hibdon, who qualified by winning the competition on Lake Logan Martin.
"I'm the only one that's sure he's going to High Rock right now. So I don't have to worry about fishing this year."
Hibdon said he doesn't intend to abandon the trail of tournaments that leads to High Rock next August. He does, however, plan to fish the competitions differently than in past years.
"I personally think this is the year when I can really catch 'em and do good," he said. "After you win the Classic, you don't have nothing to lose. You don't have to go out there every day and scratch around to catch your limit. You can go try to catch just big fish if you want."
On the Potomac River last week, Hibdon and other top pros were confused by the change in tournament waters since last year. The highly productive grass beds of the main river channel had virtually disappeared, and many of the creeks were choked with vegetation.
But while the rest of the field scrambled to unscramble the change in the river, Hibdon was taking it in stride.
"I think this is a little easier, because you don't have the pressure every day. You don't have to try to win every tournament," he said. "You can fish just for the big ones. You can go for the fence every time."
Hibdon finished in eighth place with 42 pounds, 6 ounces and captured the big bass on the day yesterday with one weighing 4-13 and worth the $1,000 daily prize.
Pub Date: 8/24/97