Remembering Barry Gibson’s 23 Years at SWS

West Coast Editor Jim Hendricks shares fond memories of Salt Water Sportsman great Barry Gibson.
Barry Gibson
Barry Gibson had an excellent grasp of the written word, but that was second to his abilities with a rod. Jim Hendricks

Barry Gibson served for 23 years as a beloved and well-respected editor of Salt Water Sportsman magazine. His recent passing at the age of 72 stunned many of us in the angling community, including me.

While I worked for many years as a freelance writer and photographer with Gibson while he was at the helm of the publication, it was his early days at Salt Water Sportsman that I cherish the most. I can still remember reading the announcement about Gibson joining the staff by then-editor Frank Woolner, who penned that although the new associate editor held a degree in English, he was pretty sure that he could write in American.

Soon after he started with the magazine in 1977, Gibson took a chance on an aspiring 24-year-old who hadn’t even graduated from college yet. I sent in a short piece for the Shore Angles department on surf fishing in Southern California. Gibson bought it—marking publication of my first national story—and he asked for more West Coast shore-fishing ideas. His confidence in me spurred confidence in myself, and the next year, Barry asked me to develop a full-blown story on California shore fishing—my first national feature.

Eventually, a decision was made to phase out coverage of shore-based fishing in Salt Water Sportsman, and I remember Gibson writing me to say he disagreed with the move, but he was out-voted. But while Shore Angles was washed up, my contributions to Salt Water Sportsman surged, thanks in huge measure to Gibson’s unyielding trust in my ability to deliver quality copy and imagery.

Fact is, Gibson bought every feature-story idea I ever pitched to him. And he challenged me even further, sending me on assignment around the world, including the wilds of Australia’s Northern Territory to fish for barramundi; the blue waters of St. Thomas in the American Virgin Islands to pursue blue marlin, yellowfin tuna and wahoo; and Cabo San Lucas (on many occasions) to chronicle the spectacular fishing for dorado, roosterfish, sailfish and striped marlin. It seemed that Gibson believed in me when sometimes I did not even believe in myself. His guidance helped me hone my craft, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Yes, I am deeply saddened by the passing of my friend, Barry Gibson. But I will always look back fondly on our relationship, especially the early years, and his professionalism in mentoring and building confidence in this then-aspiring young writer. His legacy will live on in the hearts of readers, colleagues, friends and family. And I am proud to continue his legacy as West Coast editor of Salt Water Sportsman today. Godspeed, Barry.