Clarence Bumgardner is accustomed to success -- he's been selling real estate in the Tri-Cities for more than 50 years and has watched many of his vacant lots blossom into booming commercial developments and residential blocks.
But no matter how he prospered in the business world, one victory consistently eluded the 83-year-old Pasco resident.
Figuratively, the big one kept getting away. That all changed earlier this month.
Bumgardner first entered the Westport Charterboat Association's daily fishing derbies in 1957 while on his honeymoon after marrying his wife, Leona.
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For 57 years, Bumgardner has headed west a few times each summer to try his hand at the competition in Westport.
And for 56 of those years he failed to reel in the biggest fish of the day.
But Bumgardner's luck changed Aug. 4 when he landed a 21-pound, 4-ounce chinook salmon and claimed the day's $495 bounty.
He received an oversized check to accompany the oversized fish, although the money easily was outweighed by the sense of accomplishment.
Before leaving for Westport that day, Bumgardner made a proclamation.
"The day we headed out ... I said, 'I just hope this is a winner because I want to win this damn thing before I die'," he said.
Mission accomplished. Bumgardner caught the fish while aboard the Advantage, a 56-foot charter owned and captained by Bumgardner's longtime fishing buddy, Geoff Grillo of Westport.
Grillo has been taking part in the fishing derbies since 1978 and said he's fished with Bumgardner for 25 to 30 years.
"He thought that was really cool; he was really happy," Grillo said. "He gave a pretty good hoot after catching it."
Bumgardner's persistence, developed by working reels and real estate deals, finally paid off.
"If a task was once begun, never leave it til it's done. Be the labor great or small, do it best or not at all," Bumgardner said.
And while this particular task appears done, Bumgardner said he's not ready to leave it alone.
"Now I'll go for number two until I die," Bumgardner said with a laugh.
-- Drew Foster: 509-582-1513; email@example.com