Category Archives: Fishing With Family and Friends

Fishing and Hunting Traditions

Fishing and hunting have always had traditions that have been passed down generation to generation. Many of those traditions are threatened by a huge variety of forces. Will any of them survive?

In 1974 Jim Berry got me in the Spalding County
Sportsman Club and I fished my first bass tournament with him that April. Although I had never been competitive in anything, I fell in love with tournament fishing and am still fanatical about club tournaments 43 years later.

I did not play any sports in high school, never was much for games of any kind and liked solitary, contemplative activities like hunting and fishing. But something about bass tournaments changed that and made me want to compete in what had always been a different kind of recreation.

Bass tournament have grown to a huge business over the past 40 years. Top pros win millions of dollars over their careers and appear on TV and in advertising like any other pro sports figure. They are looked up to by many youth as role models.

As much as I love tournaments, I fear we have lost something. Fishing has become a media spectacle with live coverage of tournaments, interviews with pros, some of whom are cocky and showy, and way too much glorification of their skills.

Growing up I sculled wooden jon boats for my uncles, paddling quietly so they could cast their lures in farm ponds. Those were learning times for me, with quiet conversations discussing everything from fishing methods to the mysteries of life. Catching fish was fun and I loved it when I got a turn to fish, but it was about so much more.

Now bass fishing consists of screaming around a lake in a bass boat, often at 70 plus miles per hour, working hard to get a bite rather than relaxing, and showing off with everything from fist pumps to dancing around on the boat, often with exclamations that would make you think catching a bass was the same as scoring a touchdown.

It takes skill to catch bass consistently and there is no doubt good fishermen are skillful. But to listen to some fishermen when they catch a fish you would think they have achieved some great victory. It is like they overcame some huge handicap to do something no one else could do.

Tournament fishing did change something else. In the past most fish caught were eaten. Catch and release has become a religion for many bass fishermen, with anyone keeping bass to eat condemned. But some of this religion only extends to show.

One tournament trail bans nets for several reasons but one often used is that netting a bass harms it, removing the protective slime on their bodies and lowering their chances of survival when released. But in those same tournaments fishermen are shown “boat flipping” bass they hooked.

Boat flipping is getting a bass near the boat and pulling it out of the water with heavy tackle. The bass flies through the air, slams into the carpet in the bottom of the boat and thrashes around until the fisherman can pick up.

There is no way that does less damage to the fish than a net.

Most tournaments have become about money and fame. That is why I like club fishing. So far, my clubs don’t make it about money, although some want to raise entry fees and turn it in that direction, with higher payouts. There are some bragging rights in doing well in those tournaments but most of it is low key with few show-offs.

The Federation Top Six tournaments have moved in the wrong way in my opinion. When I started fishing them in 1979 there was competition, mainly for the right to move up to the regional tournament but some between clubs for bragging rights, not individual glory. At the first regional I fished with the state team in 1983 the 12 of us worked together, sharing information every night and trying to help everyone do good and finish high as a team. Our team won.

The last one I fished in 2010 it was everyone for himself, with little information sharing on the team. It was so bad that one night when I told the team of a small pattern I thought I had found another team member told me I could not fish those places, those were his fish. Our “team” finished near the bottom.

In the past you fished with someone from another club and shared the places fished during the day, with each of you having half a day to run the trolling motor. You had to qualify for the Top Six by doing well in your club the year before.

I fished the Federation Nation Top Six at Lanier this past week, after this was written. Now, with that Federation, clubs still send teams but others can “buy” in, paying to enter the tournament even if you didn’t make the club team. It a pro/am format, with the boater having control of the boat all day. Entry fees have gone up and it has become more cut-throat.

If it went the way I am afraid it will go, it will be the last one I fish.

I will continue to fish club tournaments as long as I am able. Maybe its my age, I am not keeping up with the times, but I hope I never see the changes locally I am seeing at the state level and up.

Something about fishing has been lost. There is nothing wrong with tournaments, but sometimes I miss sitting in the back of the boat, sculling for an adult while they fished and shared their life experiences and knowledge with me.

Getting A Start Outdoor Writing and Club Tournament Fishing

Today is something of an anniversary for me. In the second week of March, 1987, 30 years ago, my first column ran in the Griffin Daily News. Its title was “Crappie Time In Georgia” and, as suggested, it was about spring crappie fishing near Griffin.

Jim Berry gave me a chance to start writing by sponsoring that column. He and the publisher of the paper at that time worked out a deal for Berry’s Sporting Goods to sponsor a column and Jim knew I wanted to be a writer, so he gave me a chance to do it. That was the start of my second career and I am grateful to Jim for giving me a start.

Many say a job where you go fishing and hunting and write about it is the best job in the world and I agree – most of the time. From my start here, I worked into writing for Georgia Sportsman Magazine, Georgia Outdoor News, Alabama Outdoor News, some other magazines and a web site. I started writing for GON in 1988 and since 1996 I have written the Map of the Month article every month, missing only one issue in 21 years. AON was started about nine years ago and my article has run in it in every issue published.

Sometimes it gets hectic due to deadlines. Last Wednesday morning I got up and left before daylight to make the five-hour drive to Wilson Lake in northern Alabama to meet Sloan Pennington to get information for the AON April issue. We fished the Wheeler tailrace for a couple of hours and I caught a three-pound smallmouth and Sloan got a smallmouth almost that big and a 16-inch largemouth that was the fattest bass I have ever seen.

After spending a few hours looking at places to put on the map that will be good in April, we went back to the tailrace and I caught the biggest hybrid I have even landed. We estimated it weighed about 12 pounds, half again as big as the eight pounder I caught a few years ago at Clarks Hill. It was much bigger than that one.

A few minutes later Sloan hooked another strong fish and when it came to the top out hearts stopped. I had told him if he could catch a five pound plus largemouth or smallmouth I could probably get a cover shot and this largemouth looked to weigh seven pounds plus. After a hard fight in the current he landed it and I took dozens of pictures.

I got in my car there about 6:00 PM “Georgia” time and headed four hours east, toward Carters Lake. I spent the night in a motel in Resaca and met Bill Payne Thursday morning at the ramp on Carters, a deep, clear mountain lake. It is very different than any of the lakes in middle Georgia that I usually fish.

Bill tried to show me how to catch the big spots Carters is known for. He landed one about five pounds and about a dozen total. His best five weighed about 20 pounds, a great limit of spotted bass. I left there at 3:30 PM, just in time to hit rush hour traffic in downtown Atlanta. What should have been a 2.5 hour drive ended up taking almost 3.5 hours. After almost 14 hours driving 700 miles I was glad to get home!

Now the actual work begins. Doing the research for articles is the part. Sitting at a keyboard for three hours for each article is the work part.

Another anniversary, a full circle type, is also happening. In 1974 Jim Berry invited me to fish an April Spalding County Sportsman Club tournament at Clarks Hill. Now, 43 years later I seldom miss a club tournament in that club or either of the other two Griffin clubs.

Kelley Chambers works at Berrys now and I met him there a while back when buying essentials for a fishing trip. We talked over the weeks about fishing. Kelley fishes out of a kayak a lot but he is fishing his first club tournament with me today at Oconee. I think he is about the age I was when Jim took me to my first tournament.

Farewell Wade Bourne

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.

What Is Pro Angler Jimmy Houston Doing Now?

Catching up with pro angler Jimmy Houston

Editor’s Note: Today’s feature comes to us from Kevin Kelly at the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources
from The Fishing Wire

Jimmy Houston

Jimmy Houston

The growth of outdoor television and an expanding library of videos available online means anglers no longer have to wait until weekend mornings to get their fill of fishing shows.

Viewers would tune in each week to ESPN, TBS and The Nashville Network to watch the likes of Jimmy Houston, Bill Dance, Roland Martin, Hank Parker, Jerry McKinnis and others catch big fish, and lots of them. As entertaining as it was, there was educational value. The shows introduced generations of anglers to new equipment and new lures, but also taught them new ways to fish.

“There is some satisfaction in the fact that you’ve been a part of the sport growing to what it is today,” Houston said.

Now in his early 70s, the pro bass angler from Oklahoma, known for his shaggy platinum blond hair, infectious giggle and penchant for planting kisses on fish, remains one of the sport’s best-known ambassadors. He continues to keep a busy schedule fishing selected tournaments, filming his television show and making personal appearances. Last summer, one of those appearances brought him to Kentucky.

Houston is no stranger to the state and raves about the quality of the fishing on Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake.

“Bass fishing is better right now than it’s ever been in the United States,” he said. “You have a lake right here close by, Kentucky Lake, and its sister lake, Lake Barkley, those are some of the greatest places to fish in the country.”

While in the state for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway – he drove the pace car – Houston filmed a segment fishing with Fox NASCAR in-race analyst Larry McReynolds at one of the ponds on the track’s property. McReynolds had never caught a fish before, Houston said.

“We caught eight or 10 bass and Larry caught two,” he said. “The first one he caught was about 12 inches long and his first question was, ‘Would that win a fishing tournament?’ I told him it depended on the tournament and how big they needed to be. But, no, that probably wouldn’t win any tournament. We still had a lot of fun.”

For anybody trying to teach a new angler to fish, one of the keys to success is keeping it fun and simple.

“Where so many of the dads make the mistake, particularly those who love to bass fish, is they want their kid bass fishing,” Houston said. “They go out there and throw a plastic worm around for two or three hours and don’t get a bite and think they’re going to get a bite on the next cast. A kid does it for about 20 minutes and says, ‘Dad, this isn’t fun.'”

Farm ponds, small lakes and any of the Fishing in Neighborhoods program lakes across the state are great places to take a new angler. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources stocks FINs lakes with rainbow trout and channel catfish. Some also receive stockings of hybrid sunfish.

“Start them out on something where they can catch fish,” Houston said. “Depending on where you are, that might be a lot of different species. It might simply be bluegill in a farm pond.

“A kid will have just as much fun catching bluegill because they can catch them. They don’t really have very long attention spans, so if they go very long without catching a fish they’re going to get bored with it.”

Houston’s daughter used to accompany her parents in the boat while they pre-fished before a tournament. When she got tired of fishing, she always had something else to keep her occupied.

“We’d let her bring all her toys and stuff,” Houston said. “She’d get down on the floor of the boat and make her a little tent by the console. She’d play with her toys, get up and fish for a little bit, and then she’d go back to playing.”

Many of the anglers who grew up watching fishing shows on weekend mornings are finding the roles reversed now. Teaching a new angler to fish helps ensure the future of the sport.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s NASCAR or baseball or football or anything. They’re the future,” Houston said. “So it’s an honor to get to take kids fishing. It really is.”

Author Kevin Kelly is a staff writer for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Get the latest from Kevin and the entire Kentucky Afield staff by following them on Twitter: @kyafield.

Why I Love and Hate Fall

I Love and Hate Fall!

I always looked forward to September with dread and excitement. I hated the fact that school was starting back. Gone would be the long, lazy, fun days of fishing local ponds, damming Dearing Branch, building tree houses and camping out in the back yard.

But fall also meant hunting seasons were near. Dove season opened soon after school started, easing the pain a little. I could not wait until squirrel season opened, usually in September back then, and rabbit and quail seasons followed in November.

When I was growing up there was no deer hunting anywhere near me. There were not enough deer to hunt and the Department of Natural Resources was stocking deer and trying to get them established. By the time I started high school in the mid-1960s it was still rare to see a deer. If anyone saw one crossing the road we talked about it for a week.

Daddy didn’t fish and hunted little, but we always got to go to dove shoots on Saturdays during season. And we had two pointers we spent many hours following through fields near the house to find quail. Bird hunting with him was always special.

Since daddy didn’t get to go hunting except on Saturdays, I squirrel hunted by myself or with friends. We often went after school and hunted all day on Saturdays when bird season was not open. I could walk out my back door and be in the woods in five minutes. I knew where every pine the squirrels liked to cut pinecones grew and the location of favorite white oak trees where they fed.

One very special place was behind my house on a ridge beside Dearing Branch. There was a huge white oak tree about three fourths the way up the slope and it was always loaded with acorns in the fall. And it was usually loaded with squirrels. I spend hours sitting near that tree waiting on bushytails to come to feed. It was a magical place for me.

I hunted with a .410 shotgun or a .22 rifle. In those much younger days I could shoot squirrels in the head with my .22 and used it when the leaves fell. But the shotgun was better early in the season when the trees were full of leaves and the squirrels harder to see.

One trip with my friend Hal stands out in my mind, even after 50 years. We had ridden our bicycles to Harrison’s pond, a favorite fishing hole in the summer, but this time we had our guns. It was about five miles from my house but we thought little about the distance.

Hal shot a squirrel with his over and under .410 and .22. It had a rifle barrel on top and a shotgun barrel underneath. I always wanted one but my daddy said I could make do with what I had.

The squirrel Hal shot ran into a hollow about 20 feet off the ground. We never let anything get away if there was any possible way to get it but it seemed impossible on that one. We came up with a plan. I rode back to my house, got a saw and hatchet, and headed back to where Hal waited by the tree in case the squirrel was able to come out.

We cut that tree down about three feet off the ground, planning on getting the squirrel out. When we cut it we looked in the hollow stump and could see hair. I grabbed it and pulled a dead squirrel out. It had died after crawling into the tree.

While we were celebrating getting the squirrel, I noticed the wood chips and sawdust in the stump moved. I looked and saw more hair, so I shot into it with my rifle and pulled out another squirrel. That made us look closer, and we again saw hair, shot into it and pulled out another squirrel. We got three out of that hole!

We ate anything we caught or killed and three squirrels made a decent number for squirrel and dumplings that night. My mother could cook anything. I often thought she could take and old hunting boot, season it and cook it and it would turn out as a gourmet meal!

We ate a lot of squirrel, rabbit, quail, dove and all kinds of fish. My mother often said a fish was big enough to keep and clean if it would make the grease smell. She especially liked the crunch tips of the tail and fins after deep frying little bream.

I have great memories of growing up wild in Georgia and hope many other kids are making those memories right now.

Thanksgiving With Dad

One Thanksgiving memory of mine is usually best left for after the meals are all eaten. It was Thanksgiving with dad. My father did not like dogs in the house. He never let me or my brother have a house dog although we did have outside dogs.

After I got married Linda and I got a border collie and she slept under out bed every night, stayed inside all day and went everywhere with us. And my dad tolerated Merlin in the house when we came to visit.

One year on Thanksgiving Day I went rabbit hunting after lunch and Merlin went with me. I shot one rabbit and field dressed it as soon as I recovered it. And Merlin feasted on the guts before I could stop her.

That night we were having our big Thanksgiving Dinner. Mom had the big round table extended with both inserts, as big as it would go, and it was loaded with food. As we sat down for the blessing Merlin decided it was a good time to crawl under the table and throw up all the rabbit guts.

Dad got a weird look on his face, got up and went into the living room without a word. Mom helped Linda and me move the table, clean up the mess and put Merlin out in a car. We then reassembled around the table, had the blessing and ate all we could hold.

Dad never said a word about it and I don’t remember him ever bringing it up.

I would give anything to have one more meal with my parents but now all I have are the memories, good, bad, funny and sad. But I cherish them all.

Fishing and Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a special time of year. It is the time we should all stop and think of all the things we have in our lives that make us happy. We really should do that all the time, but this week is a good time to focus on how good we have it.

Most of my thankful things involve the outdoors. Very little makes me as happy as spending time fishing or hunting. That has been true all my life and almost all my Thanksgiving memories have something to do with spending time outdoors. So hunting, fishing and Thanksgiving go together in my life.

Almost every Thanksgiving while I was growing up meant big meals with family and friends. My mother’s brothers were older than her and all but one lived near us, and they all had big families. We would always eat with at least one of my uncle’s families and all the cousins on Thanksgiving Day.

Most of those days also involved a quail hunting trip after lunch. Several of the uncles had land and most of them had bird dogs, as we did, so hunting quail was a tradition. Back then there were a lot more quail since farming was still more compatible with quail habitat.

My career in education always meant a four day weekend for Thanksgiving. Since I got my first bass boat my second year out of college, almost all my Thanksgivings after I moved to Griffin involved going to my place at Raysville Boat Club on Clarks Hill for the long weekend.

Most years I would go over after work on Wednesday, fish Thursday morning then go to my parent’s house in town for the afternoon for the meal. Then I would head back to the lake for fishing the next three days.

One year my mom decided to have the big Thanksgiving meal at the lake. I know she did it that way so I could fish longer. That morning as I got ready to go out at daylight she reminded me to be in for dinner. My brother and his family and a couple of uncles and their families were coming there for the meal. I assured her I would come in early enough to get cleaned up before eating.

I will never forget that day since I landed a big bass, weighed it at seven pounds one ounce, put it back in the water and looked at my watch. It was 12:02 pm and I was thankful my mother had planned dinner at the lake. Most years I would have had to head in before the time I caught the fish.

That was the only time my mother ever got mad at me for fishing, and one of the very few times Linda has. When I went in at 3:00 pm to get cleaned up for dinner I found out she meant dinner at noon, not at dark. We always called the noon meal dinner while I was growing up but after going to college I got used to calling the noon meal lunch and the night meal dinner.

By the time I came in all my family had gone home. The only thing colder than the stares of my wife and my mother that day was the cold turkey sandwich I got for my Thanksgiving “dinner.” But I did catch a seven pound bass that day!

There were many Thanksgiving weekends that it was just me and my dog Merlin in the boat all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I would often stay later than I should on Sunday and get back to Griffin well after dark and have to unload and get some sleep before going to school Monday morning. But there were a lot of great memories.

Back then it seemed much easier to catch bass. I would often leave my boat under the boat sheds at the lake, get up at daylight and start fishing. I didn’t need to run anywhere, just put the trolling motor in the water and start casting a crankbait to the points and banks around the boat club.

There was no reason to leave Germany Creek. I got to know every stump, rock, clay bank and point that way. There was one small cove with an old sunken wooden boat back in it. I could count on catching a bass beside it every time I fished it with a crankbait. Learning little keys like that has always been important to me.

I also learned to fish a jig and pig one Thanksgiving at Clarks Hill. On Thursday morning I had caught a lot of fish on a crankbait but kept thinking about a bait I had never caught a fish on, the jig and pig.

Friday morning I tied one on and vowed to fish nothing but it all day. At 2:00 pm I was disgusted, I had not had a bite on it. The day before I had landed about 15 bass up to two pounds in four hours of fishing.

At 2:00 I was going down a bank where I had put out a brush pile. I cast the jig and pig to the right side of it and caught a three pound bass. Then I cast to the left side and caught a 3.5 pound bass. That gave me enough confidence to go to a deeper brush pile, where I caught a 6.5 pound bass. Every since that day back in the late 1970s I keep a jig and pig tied on and fish them a lot!

Spend your Thanksgiving wisely – and be thankful you have the freedom to make the choices you make for the day.

Have You Watched Costa’s Geobass Shows?

I have been enjoying watching Costa’s Geobass series of videos posted online.

In this series, four guys travel to exotic destinations to try to catch bass. But they consider any fish named bass a bass, including saltwater species, so it is not just black bass, although they do go after trophy largemouth.

The videos are fast paced and fun to watch, and they do catch fish. They use fly rods only and tie their own flies to suit the situation. They are like any group of fishermen, picking at each other and having fun.

They go to such places as Christmas Island, Papua New Guinea, Brazil, and many others

Check out these videos – I think you will enjoy them.

Memories of a Special Camping Trip

The end of August always reminds me of a special camping trip I took the summer I graduated from High School. My best friend Harold and I decided to do some “wilderness” camping to celebrate the end of high school and the beginning of college.

Harold was the only other boy my age in Dearing where we grew up. He lived less than a half mile from me and we did everything together, from hunting and fishing to building tree houses and forts.

We started Kindergarten together and graduated from the University of Georgia together. Way back then Kindergarten was not offered in public school. Ms. Lively had a private kindergarten in Thomson, eight miles from Dearing.

Each morning Harold and I would get on Mr. John Harry’s school bus and he would take us to Ms. Lively’s kindergarten at her house, which was near where his bus route started. One of our mothers would pick us up at noon each day.

The summer we graduated from high school, a couple of weeks before we were to go to UGA, I stopped working at National Homes, my summer job for three years, a week early. We gathered our supplies, loaded our 12 foot Jon boat in the truck and drove to Raysville Boat Club.

My family had an outdrive ski boat at a dock there and we used it as our tow boat. After loading the big boat with sleeping bags, fishing tackle, canned food guns and everything we would need for four days we tied the Jon boat to the ski boat and headed up Little River.

After about an hour going slowly we came to a small creek with a high rock bluff on each side. Inside the mouth of the creek was a good place to tie up the boats and be protected. We went a little ways into the woods, build a fire circle from rocks and cut down saplings to make a table between two oak trees.

To make the table we lashed two sapling trunks between the two big oaks, one on each side. We then cut shorter pieces to lay across them for the table top. We also cleared brush from the area so we would have a nice opening for our camp.

We had not brought a tent, just sleeping bags, so I raked up leaves for a mattress and rolled out my bag. It had a canvas canopy at the head end that you could use to keep rain out of your face, so I rigged it up with some forked sticks and long straight ones between them to hold it in position.

For the next three days and nights we were all on our own. I will never forget how peaceful and quiet it was around our fire at night and in the little creek during the day. At night the stars were amazingly bright. When it got hot in the afternoons we went skinny dipping – we knew no one else was around.

We put out trotlines and fished every day but I don’t remember catching much. For breakfast we cooked bacon, eggs and toast on the open fire. For lunch we had potted meat, Vienna sausages, sardines and crackers. At night we ate out of cans, too.

For one night I had brought a big can of pork and beans and heated them in the can on the fire. That was a feast with some saltines!

We didn’t worry at all about anybody or anything bothering us. Back then out in the country you really didn’t have to worry much about crime and we knew there were no critters, other than snakes, that might be a problem. And we had our .22 rifles with us just in case.

We were lucky, the weather was nice the whole time. No summer thunderstorms hit and soaked our sleeping bags. Although the canopy may have kept rain out of my face, I knew my bag was not water proof and if it rained it would be soggy within seconds.

Back then we thought we had really gone a long way from civilization to camp. But now, in my bass boat, I can be at that small creek from the boat club in about five minutes. Everything is relative!

But that trip will always be one of my best memories. I wish all kids now had the chance to do things like I did growing up. We were on our own, totally self-reliant and had to make do with what we had. It was a great experience.

Have You Planned Out Your Life Or Did You Just Bounce?

Does your life ever feel like the ball in a pin ball machine, bouncing from one bumper to the next in seemingly random patterns? My life does. There is an old Yiddish saying I like “Man plans, God laughs.” I also like the saying from a Robert Burns poem – “The best-laid plans of mice and men oft(en) go astray.”

Both those seem to sum up my life. Maybe some of you planned your life out and it is going like you want it to. I have never had that happen to me.

My life has a lot of bounces like a pinball, but looking back I have been really lucky in my bounces.

One of the first really big bounces was in college when I was a sophomore. One day in class I told the guy sitting to my right I Had gone to a fraternity rush party the night before. The guy sitting in front of him turned and invited me to a keg party at Delta Chi fraternity that night, and I went. After most of the keg was gone I somehow pledged!

One of my pledge brothers got me a blind date a few months later. We didn’t really hit it off but did go on another date. That is how I met Linda – next Thursday is our 44 anniversary – August 20, 2015. Getting invited to that party was a really important bounce I never saw coming!

No matter what I planned for my life I seemed to end up somewhere else, but I have no complaints. That is how I ended up in Griffin. Although I hate to fly now, I wanted to be an Air Force Pilot. The year I graduated from UGA I passed a flight physical in January at Warner Robbins AFB and went to officer training school as a pilot trainee when I graduated in June. After a week there they gave me an eye test like the one you take for a driver’s license – and I failed! I have 27 days active service, they gave me a medical discharge real fast.

So much for those plans. When I started college my dad told me to get a degree in education to fall back on if my air force plans failed, and I did. So I had something to fall back on.

Daddy was principle of Dearing Elementary School in McDuffie County for 22 years. I knew he could get me a job in that county, but I was hard headed and didn’t want to get a job just because of him. He did check around for me. One of his teachers was Mildred Moore and her daughter, Carol Ann Marshall, taught in Griffin. He told me there were some job openings here so Linda and I applied. She also was qualified to teach.

We got jobs here in 1972 and got an apartment at Grandview. I found out later I was hired as a teacher at Atkinson Elementary mainly because they wanted another man there. I guess that was sex discrimination, or some kind of quota, but I took it not thinking about that at the time.

To get to Atkinson from Grandview I drove up College, turned right on 6th Street and went over the old bridge. The first day I made that trip I noticed Berrys Sporting Goods and stopped on the way home that afternoon since I always loved fishing and everything associated with it, and met Jim Berry.

That was one of my lucky bounces. Now some of you that know Jim may not consider that lucky, but it changed my life in two important ways.

Jim got me in the Spalding County Sportsman Club in 1974 and I fished my first tournament with him that April at Clarks Hill and fell in love with tournament fishing. I joined the Flint River Bass Club in 1978 and have not missed many tournaments in either club since joining them.

I had told Jim I always wanted to write. Part of that desire was from my insatiable reading growing up. And a big part of it was my 11th grade English Teacher Ms. Lewis. I was not a good student, just did enough to get by, I wanted to be out fishing or hunting, not in school, but Ms. Lewis bragged on the themes I wrote in her class. That was one of the few successes I had in school and it fueled my writing desire. Teachers can really have a long lasting influence on a student.

In 1987 Jim and the editor of the Griffin Daily News were playing poker, and there might have been adult beverages involved, but they came up with a scheme to run an outdoor column each week. Jim sponsored it and got me to write it, paying me the grand sum of $8 a week, in fishing stuff from his store. My first column was on crappie fishing in March, 1987 and was my start of writing.

Another lucky bounce that later paid off was in 1983. I made the state team through the club state Top Six that year and went to Kentucky Lake for the Southern Regional tournament. Two team Members, Les Ager and Carl Logan, wrote for Georgia Sportsman magazine and I had read their articles. One night on the way to dinner in a van I told them I always wanted to write articles like they did.

In 1988, five years later, I got a call from the publisher of a brand new magazine offering to let me write an article for them. I was happily surprised and started writing for them regularly. I didn’t know at the time that Carl and Les were two of the founders of GON and they remembered I wanted to write, and suggested to the publisher, Steve Burch, that he contact me.