Well, he did not actually invent them but the 4-time Bassmaster Classic champion popularized them and turned their use into an art more than any angler past or present.
According to Clunn, a huge part of successfully fishing crankbaits is choosing the right rod, a lesson he learned many years ago.
Already winning events with crankbaits in the 1970s, his friend and fellow pro Gary Klein asked Clunn to teach him crankbait fishing and something unusual happened.
"Gary had custom 7 foot flipping sticks made out of glass and all I had were six foot pistol grip rods you casted like a pitcher. I immediately saw he got more distance and they were much easier to cast. I had shoulder injuries from high school football so casting with those old rods was wearing me out," Clunn said.
Upon returning home to his native Houston, Clunn went to Cut Rate Tackle (now Fishing Tackle Unlimited) and found a very similar rod that was a seven-foot glass popping rod designed for speckled trout.
"I bought that rod and to this day it is the favorite rod Ive ever had for crankbait fishing."
Clunn said glass rods are not quite as sensitive as graphite and other composite type sticks and that offers a big advantage for crankbait fishing.
"Bass will start inhaling a crankbait before they have it in their mouth as they are chasing it. When the rods are super sensitive like most of the market today, you end up setting the hook as soon as the bass pushes it and misses the bite. That doesnt happen with glass rods," he said.
Clunn learned this early in his career when he qualified for the 1976 Bassmaster Classic.
Rick Clunn uses new-generation fiberglass rods when fishing with cranbaits. Photos: Chester Moore; Roy Neves
"I was dead broke and barely could afford to get to the tournament. I had to hock a Browning deer rifle to get there. A company sent all qualifiers brand new glass rods and I figured I might as well look good if I was going to be there," he said.
Clunn was in third place the first day with seven fish out of a 10 fish limit and he lost six fish.
"I didnt lose six fish in a year and here I was losing six in one day at the Classic. The next day I take the lead but I lost seven fish that day."
On the final day he had a chance to turn things around and continue his fishing career and something clicked.
"The first three fish I get on I lose them," Clunn said.
"I was throwing a little square bill. Everybody thinks they are a modern phenomenon but they have been around forever. I dont know where it came from but on the fourth fish when the fish hit, I stopped, pushed the toward the fish and set the hook and after that every one of the fish had the lure in its throat."
The rest is history. Clunn won that tournament, as well as the following year and then again in 1984 and 1990 along with an "Angler of the Year" title and many more accolades.
Clunn said super sensitive rods are great on lures where bass hit on slack line like worms, for example, but when 80 percent of your strikes come on a tight line, the better fishermen you are, you set the hook when you feel the first tap.
"The technology actually works against you," he said.
That is why he collaborated with Wright & McGill to bring to life his S-Glass Series of rods that use old technology with modern flare.
"Each rod has a very specific purpose and design. To make it easy for you to select the right rod for the way you fish, and comes with peak performance tips to learn about the key elements in using each rod for its optimum purpose and to achieve maximum performance," Clunn said.
Watch Chester Moores crankbait interview with Rick Clunn at www.fishgame.com/VideoBlog.php
Lengths range from 66 to 78 and come with applications for jerkbait fishing, squarebills, clear water squarebill, murky water squarebill, lipless crankin and deep crankin.
These rods come finished with Clunns signature turquoise crackle finish and sell for less than $100.
"It is important for me to have gear out there with my name on it people can afford," he said.
That is why he went with Luck-E-Strike to produce his line RC2 (squared) squarebills.
They have a realistic appearance, tight wobble and contain no rattles, which serves a very important purpose according to Clunn.
"There are certainly times when rattles are important for crankbaits but we are dealing with a different issue than in the past. By far the most important factor in catching bass is working around fishing pressure. Obtrusive, rattling baits are commonplace and I wanted something that could get a reaction or feeding bite but that fished a little differently than much of what is out there," he said.
Even in the 70s, some of his best catches were on wooden crankbaits with no rattles, proving that what is old is new and what is new is old.
"Sometimes you have to just take an honest look at things and for what works. Sometimes it is the latest in technology and sometimes it involves sort of going back to basics or perhaps bringing the two together," he said.
Known for his visionary approach to bass fishing Clunn reminds anglers that there are no limits and that they should always be hyper-aware of everything.
"Awareness is so important," he said.
"Being aware of how a bass feels when it is inhaling a crankbait or how they sound when striking at something on the surface or even subtle changes in weather that you feel and do not see help make a complete angler."
"Over the years the industry has sort of made the mistake of giving the impression you absolutely must have the most expensive of everything to bass fish and thats not true. You certainly need good gear but the most important tool is your mind. Use it wisely and you will catch fish."