R.I.P. Wade Bourne
By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from The Fishing Wire
He was a fine man, and he ended in a fine way.
My friend of more than 40 years, mentor, co-worker and sometimes-competitor, Wade Bourne of Clarksville, Tennessee, passed away December 15. He was 69. If you follow hunting and fishing in print, on the Internet or on radio or television, you know who Wade was. He was an iconic figure, the guy all of us in the business aspired to be. And not because of his success; because he was a man’s man, a man of honor and intelligence and ability and good humor, and also one who never took his own celebrity seriously.
Wade flew a bomber for the Air Force in the Viet Nam conflict, and never spoke of it unless you pried it out of him. When he was done with the service, he could easily have come back to a high-dollar job flying for Delta or United, but he never wanted to be anything other than an outdoors writer, and he was–as good an outdoor writer as it was possible to be.
We became friends because we were close to the same age and both hooked up with B.A.S.S. and with Southern Outdoors Magazine, and often wound up on hunting and fishing trips together along with Dave Precht, Larry Teague, Colin Moore and Bob McNally–all of whom went on to make names for themselves in the business.
Wade was one of the best anglers I ever had the pleasure of sharing a boat with, and he was also an outstanding turkey hunter and waterfowler. Flipping through my files from back in the days when media folks used film cameras and shot Kodachrome, I find shots of Wade dragging big strings of sea trout at the Chandeleur Islands, holding up an impossibly fat gobbler in south Alabama, and lining up on some fast-moving pintails overhead in a flooded pasture in central Mexico.
Wade expanded into syndicated radio and finally into TV, and did a wonderful job in those venues, too; unlike many of us who write, he was a natural on camera, and he had a deep, rich voice that was perfect for the venue. He was the voice of the largest syndicated outdoors radio show in the nation, going to over 200 stations, and a co-host of Ducks Unlimited TV for 20 years. He wrote six books, and was a strong voice for conservation and hunting and fishing access throughout his life.
He won a ton of awards for his writing and broadcasting. In 2003, he was inducted into the Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame. In 2005 he was inducted into the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame. He received the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in October 2014. In 2016, he received the prestigious Homer Circle Fishing Communicator Award from the Professional Outdoor Media Association and the American Sportfishing Association, generally recognized as the top national award for outdoors writers. I guess if there had been anything else, he would have won that, too.
Wade lived on a fine old farm that had been in his family since before the Civil War. He built his house right over the log cabin that had been the first home of the family–it became the living room–and he once told me the story of his grandfather walking home from Georgia at the end of the war, coming down that road in front of the house, and of his grandmother unable to recognize the bedraggled, starving skeleton that presented itself at the door.
Wade was cutting down a Christmas tree on that farm Thursday afternoon when he was felled by a heart attack. Though it was much too soon, I can’t imagine he would have rather gone any other way.
He will be truly missed in this holiday season by his family and friends, and by the millions who knew him through his work.
R.I.P., my brother. I hope they have pintails and sea trout in Heaven.