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.

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