Friends and colleagues of Jim Hudson showed their love and appreciation for the fishing guide today in an article from the Clam Corp., maker of the Fish Trap series of portable fish houses and sponsor of the Ice Team, a group of topnotch anglers dedicated to spreading the gospel of ice fishing.
Hudson, 34, of Bayfield, Wis., died Saturday after his snowmobile broke through thin ice on Lake Superior. He was a member of both the Clam and Ice Team pro staffs and operated Hudson’s On the Spot guide service on Lake Superior.
I never met Hudson but I was very familiar with his name and reputation in fishing circles. I also know several of his friends and colleagues on the Ice Team staff, including Jason Mitchell, Dave Genz, Jeff Andersen and Jason Durham.
Here’s what they had to say about Hudson in the Clam Corp. article:
Jason Mitchell: “Sometimes, it’s not how long you live or how many years you’re in the business. It’s what you are able to contribute. To me, that’s his legacy. He did so much in such a short time.”
Dave Genz: “He was heading to the very top of the ice fishing industry. He was a great teacher; he was willing to teach us his methods. He would help anyone who wanted to listen. He was just a great person to have at a sports show or in-store, because he was comfortable talking to anyone.”
Jason Durham: “He was the guy you’d call up and you could hear him smiling over the phone.”
Jeff Andersen: “His humble character always put me in check and made me a better person. Every time I lace up the boots, work a sports show, or take a picture, he will be forever in my heart. I vow to keep positive in any situation, as Jim would always do.”
A memorial gathering for Hudson is set for 11 a.m. Sunday in the Bayfield Pavilion, with services to follow at 2 p.m. Judging by the mark Hudson made on friends, clients and colleagues in his 10 years as a fishing guide, a large crowd likely will be on hand.
Here’s the Clam Corp. story in its entirety. It’s worth a read for anyone who has a passion for the outdoors, a passion Hudson obviously shared with hundreds of people in a guiding career cut much too short.
Helping Us Make Memories: Remembering Jim Hudson
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Jim Hudson’s life was that, when it ended tragically on Jan. 26, there was an almost immediate connecting of all the dots he had scattered across the landscape. People who didn’t know each other read, through tear-filled eyes, social media stories that were the same ones they had to share.
The common themes were striking.
It turns out that we all knew the same guy.
It turns out that we were all helped by Jim Hudson.
To us, he was a valued member of both the Clam and Ice Team pro staffs, and one of the nicest guys we’ve ever known. But to so many others, he was a police officer who helped them in a time of need, a husband they wished to be more like, a friend who would help whenever he was called. In fact, he didn’t even have to be called. He looked around to see who needed help, and sought them out.
It’s so rare to come across someone who just does things for others without wanting or expecting anything in return. But that was Jim Hudson. He had rare skills as a fisherman, and even rarer skills as a sharer of fishing. He wanted everybody to enjoy the sport and find success, and that came across at sports shows, on television shows, and in quiet one-on-one conversations out on the water.
Calm, self-assured, knowledgeable, passionate, it was easy to forget that Jim Hudson was only 34 years old. It seemed as though he was on the fishing scene much longer than he was. “Sometimes,” said Clam pro Jason Mitchell, “it’s not how long you live or how many years you’re in the business. It’s what you are able to contribute. To me, that’s his legacy. He did so much in such a short time.”
After 10 years of pulling double duty as a police officer and fishing guide/pro staffer, Jim had piled up way too many supporters and friends on the fishing side. So a couple years ago, it was time for him to go fulltime into fishing. In virtually every instance, the people who hired him as a promotional fisherman started out as his friends.
“There’s no doubt in my mind,” said legendary fishing pro Gary Parsons, “that by the time he was in his mid-40s, Jim would be the icon in fishing in the northern part of the United States. There was just something about him. He was that kind of personality.”
Parsons, along with partners Keith Kavajecz and Pete Maina, brought Hudson into their group at “The Next Bite,” as a valued adviser and on-air talent. Hudson’s passion for teaching people about fishing, noted Kavajecz, spilled over when they were filming for television. “I would give him two minutes to do a tip,” Kavajecz said, “and because he didn’t want to keep anything from the viewers, he would inevitably talk for double or even triple the time allotted. But that was Jim; ask him for something and he gave more.”
Maina was also among those who knew Hudson as a close friend, and he talked at length about how much Jim enjoyed fishing with Maina’s father, Tex. “He really liked my dad,” Maina recalled, “and the three of us spent a lot of time fishing together. He saw how much my dad loved to fish, and he wanted to be around others who enjoyed the outdoors like he did.”
“For the first five years I knew him, we didn’t do any business together. We just had a mutual passion for fishing and the pure joy in it.”
Like so many friendships Hudson developed, there was more than just the fishing side. “He was one of the first guys I would go to,” said Maina, “if I had a tough decision to make. And you didn’t even have to say it if it was something that didn’t have to be shared. He just knew. He was a guy you could confide in, and I was genuinely interested in his thoughts on things. I gave his opinions a lot of weight.”
Mike ‘Smitty’ Smith, a longtime Clam employee, recalls that, “my relationship with Jim goes back to before he got involved with Clam and Ice Team. When I first started with Clam, a fellow fisherman, Paul Fabian, took me up there (to the Bayfield, Wisconsin area).”
“Paul introduced me to this young hotshot fisherman named Jim Hudson. Jim comes off a 12-hour shift as a policeman and immediately takes us out on the ice. I don’t know where he got the energy to do that, but he always did. He was so young, but he didn’t seem that way. He was so far beyond his age, with his experience and confidence.”
“There was an aura about him that was just indescribable. We started going up there on a regular basis and fishing with him every chance we got, which was never enough.”
Steve Geertsen, Clam Vice President of Sales and Marketing, recalls being at a media event last year called Ice Shots. It was early in his tenure with the company, and he was struck by how Jim went out of his way to welcome him to the fold.
“He came over and sat by me,” says Geertsen, “and talked about how I was part of the best sports industry in the world, how I was going to be working with great guys, and how I was going to love working with them.”
“He was contagious. Being around him, you got jacked up. You always walked away from Jimmy feeling better than you felt before, including just better about life in general.”
“He met my wife at the St. Paul Ice Fishing Show, and they talked for a while. A little later he came up to me and said we have a lot in common. I asked him what he was talking about and he said we both married way up. He loved his wife so much and wanted her to be part of everything he did. He was in awe of Hannah, just amazed at her and her talents.”
Indeed, Jim’s connection with his wife, photographer Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, has been well chronicled and for good reason. There’s is a fairy tale bond, fueled by mutual love and respect. Jeff Andersen, fellow guide and young gun on the Clam and Ice Team pro staffs, noted that he and Jim Hudson “spent many hours talking fishing, but he always talked about Hannah. Always. He loved her more than anything.”
Andersen stressed that, as his success in the fishing business developed, he found a role model in his peer. “His humble character,” Andersen said, “always put me in check and made me a better person. Every time I lace up the boots, work a sports show, or take a picture, he will be forever in my heart. I vow to keep positive in any situation, as Jim would always do.”
Dave Genz, dean of America’s ice anglers and primary driver of the modern ice fishing revolution, joined in with great praise for Hudson. “He was heading,” said Genz, “to the very top of the ice fishing industry.”
This is no small compliment, knowing who is offering it up. Genz has tremendous respect for Hudson’s fishing prowess, and for the tenacity it took to make it through “ten years of working two jobs in order to make it fulltime in fishing. That’s what it took for him to get where he was.”
“He was a great teacher; he was willing to teach us his methods. He would help anyone who wanted to listen. He was just a great person to have at a sports show or in-store, because he was comfortable talking to anyone.”
Parsons, choking up, added himself to the list of anglers Hudson helped.
“When he found out I liked to ice fish,” Parsons remembers, “he taught me how to fish for crappies with plastics. I didn’t think I could learn anything and get so fired up. I had always fished crappies in the winter, but always with live bait. He opened up a new world for me.”
That world, Parsons says, is now fundamentally altered.
“With him gone,” he said, “it’s a different place. It doesn’t just seem like it is. It is. There’s a big hole that will never be filled. Not just for me, but for thousands of people. Jim just did that.”
Parsons recalled a day Hudson took him 40 miles out from Bayfield, off the Apostle Islands.
“It was a calm, gorgeous day,” he said, “and we were the only boat out there, and we started catching all these fish. It was like it was our little secret. We were like two little kids, catching all these big lake trout.”
“We were off in our own little world and having the time of our lives. I can remember thinking, even at the time, that this is what it really is all about. It was a place he took me to, shared it with me, and it was pretty damn cool.”
Jason Durham, another Clam and Ice Team pro, has a story from a sports show at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota. “I was rooming with Jason Mitchell and Jim Hudson,” says Durham, “but I had to arrive late on the first day. The show ended at 9 o’clock and I got there about an hour later and Jason and Jim were laying on their beds. They weren’t sleeping, but they were tired from working the show all day.”
“As soon as I walk in, Jim stands up and comes over and we all start talking. We stayed up until two in the morning, just talking about fishing. He would take any opportunity to do that, with any person.”
“And here’s what else I remember about Jim. He was the guy you’d call up and you could hear him smiling over the phone.”
We could go on and on. The testimony we heard, just from the people in our fishing organization, reminded all of us that we were in the presence of an exceptional person.
“The guy had a knack,” said Parsons, “for helping you make memories. It’s what made him a great human being. He was a simple man. Simply wonderful.”
Nick Chiodo, Director of Marketing for Clam, struggled to come up with the right words to express his appreciation for Hudson and his contribution to the company and the sport.
“We’ve lost a member of our family,” said Chiodo, “and, frankly put, it’s devastating.”
Mitchell, summing up the sentiments of everyone, said, “I’d still have him lead me on and off Lake Superior.”
Hear, hear. If Jim Hudson were going out on the ice tomorrow, we’d all line up behind him and let him take us out, to make one more memory.