Category Archives: Fishing With Family and Friends

Who Created Your Fishing Legacy?

Fishing Legacy

All of us that love the outdoors and hunting and fishing have someone or many people in our past that molded that passion.  It is often a parent or grandparent but sometimes its someone in our family that took us hunting and fishing growing up and instilled their love of it in us. But other times they are friends or people we met outside family.

My mother and her mother loved fishing. Both of them could sit by a pond on their lard bucket and watch a cork for hours. Some of my earliest memories are following one or both of them to a local pond with our cane poles, hoping to catch anything that would bite.

The first bass I ever caught was while fishing with mom at a local pond. We were down below the dam, fishing the pool of water at the spillway. When my cork went under and I raised my pole I expected the circling pull of a bream or the tugging toward the bottom of a catfish. Instead, a 10 inch bass jumped out of the water several times. I was instantly hooked on bass fishing.

Two of my uncles took me fishing some when I was a kid, and both of them loved bass fishing.  I spent hours with them in jon boats on local ponds, throwing “rubber” worms and topwater plugs.  They taught me where to cast and how to scull a boat, slowly easing around the bank with a paddle before I ever saw an electric trolling motor.

I moved to Griffin in 1972 and met Jim Berry. When I bought my first bass boat in 1974 he invited me to join the Spalding County Sportsman Club and my first tournament ever was with that club in April, 1974 – 42 years ago. I have not missed many tournaments since that one.

The Sportsman Club was formed in the 1950s and they did a little of everything, from having some hunting land and a dove field in Pike County to going fishing on a big lake and camping for the weekend.  And it was something of a family affair.  In our tournaments there were many father/son fishing pairs as well as long term friends and business partners.

In my first tournament we camped at Mistletoe State Park as a group.  Back then the tournament director carried two big boards and the results were written on them each day.  The next year, when I became secretary/treasurer of the club, a job I have held almost every year since then, the boards were given to me.  We had quit using them after the Clarks Hill tournament and the results of it were still on it.

I still have those boards stored in my barn. You can barely make out the writing on it.  But you can still see names like Emmett Piland, Vance Sharp, Kenneth Hattaway, Paul Varnadoe and others. They were all in “A” division. In those days we competed in two divisions based on how many tournament points we had. I was in “B” division in my first tournament.

The four people above all taught me a lot about bass fishing over the next few years. I went with Emmett a lot and he showed me places on big lakes to fish and how to catch bass on a crankbait.  Paul Varnadoe fished the professional trails and shared a lot of tips with me.

Vance Sharp owned the local jewelry store now run by his son, Tony, and Vance was an expert with a depthfinder.  Tony had built it for him from a kit before most fishermen had ever heard of depthfinders and Vance used it for many years. He could ride over a point or drop-off staring at that depthfinder and suddenly throw out a marker, and say cast right there. And we caught fish almost every time!

I remember fishing with Kenneth at Eufaula and he taught me how to make an underhand circle cast to quickly cover water with a spinnerbait. But his advice at a Top Six tournament was invaluable and I still go by it.

In that 1983 tournament on the first day I caught a lot of bass on the riprap on a 1/16 ounce slider head with a four inch worm on it.  The first day I caught more than 20 small keepers the first three hours, then ran up the river and landed a five pound kicker on a Shadrap, a plug that had just come on the market. I was in sixth place out of 540 fishermen after day one!

That night at the motel I was saying maybe I should run up the river the first thing the next day to catch bigger fish. Kenneth looked at me and said “How many bass did you catch on the riprap and how many bites did you get up the river?”

When I told him only one bite up the river in four hours he said “Boy, you stay on that riprap until you have a limit tomorrow!”

The next morning I caught three on the riprap quickly but then they quit biting. I was torn, wanting to go up the river but remembering Kenneth’s advice, I stayed on the riprap.  At noon I caught five keepers on five consecutive casts.

Those fish moved me to fourth place in the tournament. All the people that I talked with that had fished the river never got a bite.  Kenneth taught me to stay on a pattern that I working and I still fish that way.

Remember and honor the people in your past that taught you about the outdoors.  They have made us what we are.

Water Safety With Kids

Water Safety With Kids Takes 2nd Place to Memorial Day Remembrance
Press Release

Kids should wear life jackets

Proper life jacket fit is paramount to water safety for children, and it’s the law in all 50 states. With few exceptions, all children under 13 must wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices while aboard a moving boat. In states that have their own child PFD-wear requirements, the state’s requirement applies. (Click to enlarge/download)

SAUK RAPIDS, Minn. (May 22, 2019) – More than 37 million Americans are expected to travel by vehicle over the weekend extended by the Memorial Day holiday (source: AAA), with many of them having boating and fishing in mind.

For most, it will be the kick-off outing for what hopefully will be several more to come during a summer of fun on the water. As the first trip of the year though, proper preparation and some reminders about safety can help ensure the season gets off to a good start.

“First thoughts should be of the men and women who died while serving in our Armed Forces so we can enjoy things like being outdoors this weekend,” said Mary Snyder, Absolute Outdoor vice president of marketing. “Then it’s important to ‘think safety’ if you’re headed to the water.

“At the top of the list is to make sure all life jackets are in good condition and still fit properly, especially in the case of youth. Young bodies change quickly and a good-fitting life jacket is not only essential for safety – it’s also the law.”

Life jackets must meet United States Coast Guard (USCG) compliance for each wearer. With few exceptions, all children under 13 must wear a USCG-approved personal flotation device (PFD) all the time while aboard a boat. In states that have their own child PFD-wear requirements, each state’s requirement is to be followed.

Child life jacket requirements for all 50 states can be found on the Life Jacket Advisor website:

How to fit a life jacket on a kid

Life jacket size information can be found on its label, but most important is that the jacket fits properly. (Courtesy BoatU.S. Foundation)

Children’s life jackets are sized according to a child’s weight (not by chest size as they are for adults). As a general rule for PFD designations, “Infant” is for 8 to 30 pounds; “Child” is for 30 to 50 pounds; and “Youth” is for 50 to 90 pounds. However, “fit” is the ultimate criteria.

Lake patrol officials say a life jacket must fit for it to do its job right, so just having a life jacket on doesn’t necessarily mean someone is in compliance with the law.

They also remind it has to be snug, with all straps and closures fastened, and that’s one of the things they check on boaters.

PFDs for infants and small children should have a padded head support to help keep the head above water, a leg strap to help keep the flotation device from riding up, and a grab handle to assist in retrieving a wearer out of the water.

Look for a life jacket’s size designation on label information located on the inside area of its back.

“A good fitting life jacket is also more comfortable to wear. Complement the right fit with a stylish design and/or one that looks similar to mom and dad’s, and most kids are good for spending the entire day in them.

“PFD designs and materials have come a long way in form and function, but they still only work when worn. Adults serve as the best example to youngsters by always wearing theirs, too,” Snyder added.

Design engineers at Absolute Outdoor, makers of Onyx and Full Throttle life jackets, say it only takes a few minutes to inspect life jackets, so first check for rips, tears, and holes, and then make sure seams, fabric straps, and hardware are in good condition. Waterlogging, mildew odor, or shrinkage of the flotation foam are signs of performance concerns.

Lastly, try the life jacket on. If it no longer fits, replace it.

A quality life jacket can provide several seasons of service with proper care. To extend a PFD’s life, let it drip dry thoroughly before putting it away in a dry, cool, dark and well-ventilated place for storage.

For more information on life jacket selection, care and other FAQs, visit and

Do You Remember Catching Your First Bass?

Last week I received a picture from a grandfather in Colorado of his 5 year old grandson and the first bass he caught. This picture was posted to my website and his comments “Remember when? Look at his smile.” got me to thinking about my first bass.

I really don’t remember the first fish I ever caught. I am sure it was with my mom or grandmother since most of my early fishing was with one of them. I would follow them to local ponds and fish with them all day. We would sometimes get rides from dad but if he could not drop us off, we would walk to nearby ponds. A mile or two walk was not too far to go fishing.

Both mom and grandmother had 5 gallon lard buckets they kept all their fishing tackle in. Hooks, sinkers, corks, an old pair of pliers, stringer, extra line, towel for wiping hands and anything else we might need was in there. Our cane poles were the only thing that did not fit, and these were carried over our shoulder or stuck out the back window of the car. The lard bucket was good for carrying tackle as well as a place to sit while fishing.

We kept everything we caught, no matter how small, since even the tiny bream would “make the grease smell.” Picking around bones was a normal problem while eating fish back then, we had no idea of filleting fish. And I can still taste the crispy tails of the fish fried to perfection. I miss that part of the catch while eating filleted fish.

One place we liked to fish was Usury’s Pond, a big watershed lake about 5 miles from the house. It had a concrete dam and fishing for catfish and bream was often good near it, but the place I liked best was the pool and creek below the dam. Where the water came over the top of the dam and fell to the creek bed it hollowed out a nice pool. And the creek draining from it was deep enough to hold catfish and bream.

I would often walk the creek dropping my bait into holes along the creek. My bait was a gob of red wigglers I dug behind our chicken houses and they were put on a #6 hook suspended about two inches below a split shot. A couple of feet up the line was a cork – a real cork, not a plastic or Styrofoam kind you see now.

One day I was below the dam, sitting on the sandbar and letting my worms drift with the current. Suddenly my cork popped under the water, much quicker than what I was used to seeing. When I raised the tip of my cane a fish went crazy, pulling, running and jumping. It was the first fish I had ever hooked that jumped, and I was hooked, too.

That little bass was probably no more than 10 inches long but it fought harder than anything else I had ever caught, except for some catfish. And it jumped, clearing the water in thrilling splashes. I loved that! I knew then I had to catch more bass.

Over the next few years I got my first spin cast reel, a Zebco 33, and learned to cast lures with it. Then “rubber worms” hit the market. Back then when they first came out you had two choices of colors. Creme worms came in either red or black and they were in plastic bags three to the pack. They were so stiff they kept the curve from the package even after being removed from it.

You could also buy pre-rigged plastic worms that had a two or three hook harness in it, with a spinner blade and some beads in the front. We cast them like a lure and worked them back with a steady action much like a lure. If they sunk to the bottom they would get hung up.

Eventually we learned to use a single hook and rig the worm with the hook buried in the worm. We used split shots in front of the worm for many years until bullet worm weights got popular. We even fished them with no weight, much like floating worms are fished today.

Back then when we felt a bite we let the bass run off with the worm, waiting for it to swallow the hook. I don’t know where we thought the bass had the worm, it had to be in its mouth since they don’t have any hands! Now we know to set the hook quickly before the bass spits the worm out. Back then we would let the bass run till it stopped, then set the hook.

Do you remember your first bass? Share that experience with your children this summer. Tell them about yours, and help them catch their first bass if they have not already done so.

Sitting On A Deer Stand Remembering

Sitting on a deer stand on Thanksgiving Day is always bittersweet for me. I enjoy all the usual things, watching squirrels and birds, checking out the trees as leaves fall, contemplating life and the anticipation of seeing a deer. If I happen to kill one for the freezer it is like the cherry on top of an ice cream Sunday. The whole thing is good without the cherry, but the cherry definitely adds something.

The bittersweet part is thinking about past Thanksgivings. As far back as I can remember Thanksgiving involved hunting. First with my daddy, following our dogs looking for quail. Later, after daddy got rid of our dogs and stopped hunting quail, one of my friends, A.T., and I would follow his pack of beagles looking for rabbits.

If I could not quail or rabbit hunt, I would take my Remington semiautomatic .22 rifle and wander the woods looking for tree rats. There were no deer to hunt back then.

After college I started teaching school and the four-day holiday meant fishing trips to Clarks Hill. I would fish in the morning then go into town to have a family dinner. Those fishing trips are great memories, too.

Those days are gone. I know I will never be able to hunt with my dad again, and days of looking for rabbits and squirrels are over. Also gone are the huge Thanksgiving meals with my extended family. Mama had five brothers and four of them and their families lived near us. Daddy had five sisters and two brothers and some of them lived close.

Thanksgiving always meant big family gatherings. I was too young to realize the importance of family, and I was always in a hurry to get the meals over, so we could go hunting or I could head back to the lake. I wish I could go back and just sit and talk with family long gone.

I still get to enjoy thanksgiving dinner with my wife, mother in law and brother in law and his wife. That is great, but it too reminds me of all the family I have lost over the years. Life goes on and we adapt to changes.

If you have family, enjoy every minute you have with them at gatherings, not just at holidays but at all times. But do work in a hunting or fishing trip to make those memories, too.

Veterans Find Healing and Hope

Veterans Find Healing and Hope on Public Lands
from The Fishing Wire

A visit to America’s public lands is more than an opportunity to see an epic vista, learn about history and experience wildlife. It’s also good medicine.

Connecting with the outdoors can heal the mind, body and soul. For veterans, time in the outdoors can help them recover from traumatic combat injuries and find relief from pain. All across the country, Interior is partnering with groups to make it easier for disabled veterans and others to discover the therapeutic qualities of America’s national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands.

Check out some of the inspiring partnerships and locations that are helping veterans find healing on America’s public lands.

Casting a line for a day of fun and fishing

Fishing is often the line that connects people to their public lands. Florida’s Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Outstanding Natural Area is using this favored pastime to unite veterans and their families for a day of fun, friendship and fishing. This year, Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse hosted the 4th annual Veterans Fishing Classic as part of the Fisheries for Veterans Project — an effort to connect veterans to the therapeutic qualities of outdoor recreation, while promoting stewardship of public lands. The day was filled with fishing and tales of missed catches as 140 veterans and their families attempted to reel in a big one.

Veterans fishing public waters

Veterans and their families enjoy the lapping waves, coastal breeze and thrill of fishing as part of the Veterans Family Fishing Classic at Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Outstanding Natural Area. Photo courtesy of Kathy Williams,

Preserving history and finding relief at Lake Mead

Deep underwater at Lake Mohave lies a historic aerial ferry that used to serve the lake in the 1930s. This unexpected spot at Lake Mead National Recreation Area is helping disabled veterans find comfort from painful combat injuries. Working with WAVES Project (short for the Wounded American Veterans Experience SCUBA), the park took six wounded veterans on dives to inspect and preserve the underwater artifacts in Lake Mohave. But there was also a benefit for veterans — they experienced relief from pain. Not only has scuba diving helped veterans with physical disabilities, it’s also helped those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. Learn more about how Lake Mead is working to give wounded veterans a fresh start through diving experiences.

Experiencing the peace of wild Alaska

For seven years, disabled veterans have trekked to Alaska’s Delta River for world-class fly-fishing and to find peace in this remote location. The Delta River rises from a chain of 21 lakes surrounded by picturesque mountains and is known for its amazing Arctic grayling fishery. Since 2011, the Bureau of Land Management has hosted Project Healing Waters events here to raise awareness of the restorative values of public lands, and most importantly, to give back to those who have given so much to our country. As part of these fly-fishing events, veterans will routinely catch and release 25-100 Arctic grayling in a day, and at night they’ll share stories around the campfire — strengthening camaraderie, building relationships and connecting with their local community. The Delta River event is just one of many Healing Waters outings on America’s public lands. There are also float fishing trips on the Bighorn and Beaverhead rivers in Montana, both of which are ribbon trout fisheries below Bureaus of Reclamation reservoirs.

A participant of a Project Healing Waters event last year hooks an Arctic Grayling along Alaska’s Delta River. Photo by Matt Vos, Bureau of Land Management.
Giving hope by improving access to public lands
Whether it’s with a camera in hand or a shotgun, there’s something thrilling about sitting in a blind waiting for a flock of mallards to take off or listening to the wind whistle through the trees. But for wounded veterans or others with disabilities, the chance to hunt, fish and hike isn’t always a given. To change that, wildlife refuges in Washington have partnered with disabled veteran Rick Spring to build accessible blinds so that all visitors can experience the Pacific Northwest’s outdoors. Rick, who volunteers his time to improving accessibility on public lands, has built three custom blinds for two wildlife refuges — each one large enough to accommodate two wheelchairs. Rick hopes to expand the use of his custom-designed blinds to Oregon and then to the national level so more people with disabilities can have access to the outdoors. It’s Rick’s way of giving hope to injured veterans.

Discovering the restorative powers of the outdoors

The Upper Colorado River spans a unique and beautiful landscape, known for its diverse water features, gold medal trout waters, abundant wildlife and cultural landscapes along the Colorado River Headwaters Scenic Byway. It’s also an ideal place for therapeutic outdoor adventures. A number of organizations and outfitters host whitewater and fly fishing trips on the Upper Colorado River for wounded warriors. These experiences on public lands not only let veterans tap into the restorative powers of nature but also helps them build long-term support networks and connections.

Bonding with horses to improve health and well being

People often form strong bonds with animals. With a saddle and some trust, people and horses work together in a powerful partnership with surprising results. Equine therapy is a proven method to help patients recover from both physical and mental injuries, and improve their confidence, awareness and patience. At Rock Creek Park Horse Center in the heart of Washington, D.C., the Ridewell Program provides active duty military personnel and veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries and PTSD a chance to come to ride and learn about horses with the help of officers from the U.S. Park Police Horse Mounted Unit. Thanks to the teamwork, natural setting and the time spent with horses, doctors and families have noted improvements in their balance and mental wellbeing, as well as pride and joy in the wounded warriors’ accomplishments. These events are able to happen with funding provided through Rock Creek Riders, an all volunteer non profit organization that provides local children, active duty military and veterans the opportunity to heal through the power of riding.

Healing while hunting

Even though physical injuries can change veterans’ lives forever, they can always find adventure and rejuvenation at National Wildlife Refuge System lands across America. At the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, the annual deer hunt for disabled sportsmen is making sure all Americans have access to excellent hunting opportunities, regardless of their physical limitations. Since the refuge started the hunt in 2007 at the Lost Mound Unit of the refuge, more than 1,000 hunters from all over the country have participated. Much of the program’s success depends on partnerships to provide travel for hunters. As part of the program, the refuge also partners with a deer tracking service to make sure the hunters can locate the deer they shot. In addition to providing hunters with mobility limitations the chance to experience a high-quality deer hunt, the event also opens the door to all sorts of recreational opportunities that national wildlife refuges have to offer — from hunting and fishing to birding and hiking.

Calm waters bring peace

Known best for dams and reservoirs, the Bureau of Reclamation also plays a major role in meeting increasing public demand for water-based outdoor recreation facilities and opportunities. Using these resources, Reclamation has several programs with federal, state and local partners that support recovery and rehabilitation for disabled veterans. The Purple Heart Anglers have used Reclamation’s Lake Berryessa and New Melones Lake for several fishing events in California. At a recent event, disabled veterans were bussed to Lake Berryessa and paired with boat owners for a day of fishing. Reclamation concessionaires provided lunch, music and prizes. It’s a great way to say thanks to those who have sacrificed so much for our country.

Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving Day is all about tradition and giving thanks for what we have. In my family while I was growing up that tradition revolved around hunting and eating until I got the fishing bug bad. After college, for me it became a day to fish, and eat.

Before I went to college daddy had two pointers and we always hunted quail in the mornings while mama slaved in the kitchen, preparing delicious meals. We usually ate so much that daddy didn’t want to go back hunting that afternoon, but in my youth and energy I usually grabbed my .22 or .410 and went to the woods, looking for squirrels and rabbits.

After I got married and finished my undergraduate degree daddy had stopped hunting since quail had become so hard to find, and no longer had dogs. So I would go to our place at Clarks Hill and fish in the mornings, then get to town in time for a late lunch. That night I would head back to the lake by myself and fish the next three days before heading back to Griffin and work Monday morning.

One year mama decided to have our big Thanksgiving meal at the lake so I could fish more. She loved to fish as much as I did and understood my addiction.
When I got to the lake Wednesday afternoon after work mama was already preparing food for the next day. She told me several family members, my brother’s family and a couple of aunts and uncles, were coming to have dinner with us.

The next morning when I got up she warned me to be in for dinner. I told her I would even come in early enough to get cleaned up before eating. I caught a seven-pound bass on a Shadrap from a tree I had cut down into the water the year before.

After weighing it and releasing it, I looked at my watch. It was 12:01 and I thought how thankful I was that mama was having our big meal at dinner, not lunch. I went in about 4:00 to get cleaned up and could tell something was wrong. Mama, daddy and Linda were mad. All the family had been there for lunch, not dinner as I understood. They had all gone home by the time I came in.

The only thing colder than the looks from mama and Linda that afternoon and night was the cold turkey sandwich I had for Thanksgiving dinner. But they got over it soon and I had something more to be thankful for that year, they didn’t stay mad.

I am very tankful for the way I was raised by two loving, strong parents that were strict but forgiving. I wish everyone could have those memories and be raising their children that way.

If you have Thanksgiving memories and traditions, keep them going. If not, start them this year before its too late.

A Mother’s Story A Few Days Late

A Mother’s Story
By Hillary Hutcheson
Loon Outdoors
from The Fishing Wire

People often ask me about my first fish. Honestly, I don’t remember it. Something interesting happens when I’m asked about my biggest or best fish, or the one that got away. The fish I think about aren’t even my own…they’re my daughters’.

Ella and Delaney have never been wildly passionate about fly fishing. For them, it’s a like, not a love. I imagine it’s similar to how my old truck is stuck on my favorite radio station, and their only option is to listen to music that they didn’t choose. Sometimes they like the song and sing along…but usually they just endure it. They’ve been thickly immersed in fishing culture throughout their lives, so I’m not surprised they sometimes resent it. While fly fishing has taken me to remarkable places, it’s taken me away from them. There have been band concerts and softball games that I’ve missed because I was on the river or the salt. Their clothes have been ruined in the wash by floatant and flies I forgot to take out of my pockets. It’s no solace to them that they’ll always have a summer job in my fly shop…they’d rather it was a pizza joint or bakery. When Ella was in seventh grade, she told me she was “over it”. I asked why, and she said because a boy had come up to her at school and talked her ear off about the new fly reel he got for his birthday. And she was thinking, “dude, I don’t care…I’m not my mom.”

Since then, I’ve been more keen on taking them fishing when it’s their idea…not mine. They know I’ll let them bring their friends, listen to music on the boat, eat unhealthy snacks like those nasty Peachy-O gummy rings, and lounge on the beach in the sun throwing rocks as long as they want. I’m careful not to buy them fishing-related gifts, I don’t decorate the house in inescapable fishing decor and I no longer coach them through every cast. The result is that we are happily fishing together more often.

“And as their skills and desire grow, they’re catching more fish. And I remember every one.”

I still remember the northern pike minnow Delaney caught on a handline with a hook and a Cheez-it. I remember the whitefish her best friend Julia caught on a fly she tied just an hour before in my fly shop. I remember the rainbow Ella thought was a stick until it jumped. Oh, and wait, now that I’m recalling all this, I DO remember my favorite fish! It was a cutthroat that Ella saw eating midges along a cliff wall and expertly rowed me into. I missed that fish three times, and every time she caught the eddy, rowed me back up river and gave me another shot. When I finally hooked it, she tried to hide a smile and mumbled something sarcastic about anglers who think they’re professionals. She rowed into the eddy again where she dropped anchor and Delaney netted the most important fish of my life.

See more like this and shop fly fishing products at

Losing Patrick F. McManus

Voices from the River: Losing Patrick F. McManus
By Chris Hunt
from The Fishing Wire

Years ago, after being abruptly transplanted from the high-mountain meadows of Colorado to the hot, sticky pine forest of East Texas, I found solace in the loss of my Rocky Mountain roots in the writings of men like Bob Saile, Ed Dentry and Charlie Meyers.

And I found the spirit to laugh about my predicament—for a Colorado kid, being transported largely against his will to Texas amounts to a premature death sentence—in the words of Patrick F. McManus. There were nights, early in my Texas furlough, that I giggled through tears at the books McManus shared with the world. I read them under the covers, of course, by flashlight until the D-size batteries faded and sleep followed soon after.

Sadly, McManus died Thursday at 84.

His vivid descriptions of fishing and hunting with the characters that influenced his own upbringing in rural northern Idaho inspired me to adapt to my newfound home and make the best of it. While I didn’t have friends named Crazy Eddie, Rancid or Retch, or a sister he called the Troll, I eventually collected enough buddies an annoying little brothers to stir up enough mischief in the Sabine River bottoms to while away sticky summer days in a state my mother would have been horrified to see in person.

Pat McManus was my inspiration. In fact, he may be why I gravitated to journalism after high school and college, and why that journalism took on a serious outdoor-writing bent shortly after that.

I know I’m not alone in my adoration for the words produced by the outdoor humorist. To this day, I occasionally find myself using phrases from his books and back-page columns in Outdoor Life in conversation and giggling all over again. From his books ranging from They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They? to A Fine and Pleasant Misery (My favorite was The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard), he provided a source of outdoor artistry that motivated me and many others to get outside, uncover the mysteries of the outdoors and experience life away from the television. He was, in a sense, the Mark Twain of his generation, an unassuming, gifted writer who found humor behind every tree and under every rock. We should all be so lucky.

I’ve handed his books down to my own kids, but, sadly, their magic seems to have faded a bit in the face of hand-held screens and an ever-running series of Ridiculousness videos that keep young minds sadly captivated and entranced. My daughter read his books voraciously as a youngster. My son never caught the bug.

His death has inspired me yet again—I’ll try once more to gently push his words on Cameron and see if, by chance, he’s ready to let them stick. McManus’ stories are often silly and slapstick, but from his writings about his days spent as a near-vagrant youth following tracks into the woods to his later descriptions of fatherhood and family, he has provided generations of outdoors people with true joy. I hope my son can experience that, too.

Rest in peace, Pat. Thank you for leaving behind so much inspiration. Your words have made my world better, and I know I’m not alone.

Chris Hunt is the national digital director for Trout Media. He lives and works in Idaho Falls.

McManus was one of my favorite outdoor writers. Ronnie

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.