Along about 15 years or so ago I was surfing around on the internet looking for fishing information. I came across a website called “The Mining Company” and a whole bunch of articles about fishing. I was living in the Atlanta area, and as it turned out lots of these articles talked about fishing in the local area. So I book marked the site and came back to it quite often.
My main job at the time dealt with the internet and building websites, so I found it quite interesting that this “Mining Company” thing had taken hold. The fishing site was one of dozens of sites under the Mining Company umbrella, covering everything from sewing to cooking and car repair to fishing. The people writing for these sites were called guides, and they “mined” the Internet for information so that you would not have to search. Each site became a veritable plethora (you like those two words?) of specific information.
A few weeks later, the author of this fishing website – his name is Ronnie Garrison – asked if anyone out there had any fish stories. Well, I had a few, so I began writing them and sending them to Ronnie.
Now – I am not the greatest writer in the world, but I do pretty well, especially when it comes to fishing stories. I submitted some stories to him and he posted them on his site. I was thrilled!! I went to work and actually kept his website minimized on my desktop PC to show visitors to my office how I had been “published”. I even contacted my cousin, Jim in Tennessee and put him onto Ronnie’s site. We both loved it!
I think it was just a couple of months later in 1997 that Jim had come to visit me in Georgia. We both had emailed each other and Ronnie numerous times with answers to his weekly give-away quiz, and in the midst of all this discovered that Ronnie lived less than 45 miles from my door.
One thing led to another and Jim and I were invited to fish with Ronnie in Lake Wedowee just across the state line in Alabama. The plan was for us to drive to the public boat ramp and meet him there with his boat. At the time, my boat consisted of a 15 foot Lowe’s aluminum Jon boat. Ronnie was fishing out of a 21 foot Stratos.
We met at the ramp, fumbled through some awkward introductions and left the dock to fish.
At the time, Jim was producing and selling jigs and jig heads. His internet business was blossoming and he brought a number of them with us on that trip.
We actually did catch a lot of fish, most of them spotted bass, and most of them on Jims’ small deer hair jigs. I can remember going several casts in a row and hooking a bass on every cast. It was that kind of day.
After that trip we seemed to be closer to Ronnie, and I was still sending him “Fish Tales” to post on his site. And then Ronnie asked me one day a question that would change my life for the next fifteen years. He asked me who I wrote for.
I was flabbergasted! Write for someone? He said I needed to see about doing some writing, and he gave me the name of two editors. One was and still is with Georgia Outdoor News (GON), and one was and still is with Game and Fish publications of Intermedia Outdoors.
I contacted these folks and after a couple of false starts I began writing as a freelance outdoor writer. I had an article in 8 of GON’s next 12 issues and four of Georgia Sportsman’s next 12 issues. And I applied with the Mining Company and was accepted as their Guide to Saltwater Fishing, where my expertise lies.
That was fifteen years ago. In that time the Mining Company changed names to About.com and was bought and sold a number of times. At one point early on they did an IPO that allowed Ronnie and I and all of the dozens of guides to make a chunk of money with stock options. They went private again after the Internet bubble burst and they are currently owned by a group that is changing the basic way all of the older guides operated and wrote. Sad – I had quite a following when I retired form that position earlier this year. And Ronnie had an even larger following. We both, along with numerous other former guides, are convinced the new owners are making a big mistake by changing the format of the About.com experience. But time marches on.
I became a member of the Georgia Outdoor Writers Association (GOWA), Florida Outdoor Writers Association (FOWA) and the Southeast Outdoor Press Association (SEOPA). At one of my first GOWA conference meetings, my wife finally met Ronnie’s wife, and the four of us remain good friends.
At dinner that night Ronnie’s wife related to my wife how she felt about that first fishing trip that Ronnie took me on with my cousin, Jim. She told him to take a handgun because he didn’t know who we were and we might get him out on the lake and knock him in the head. So, Ronnie was packing that day we fished.
My wife and I began laughing when she related that story to us. It seems my wife told me the same thing! I was packing as well!
Ronnie still writes for a number of publications, and I still get some work from time to time with GON and with Florida Game and Fish. We remain friends, united by writing and fishing. I have moved back to my origins in Florida, and I concentrate on Florida fishing now, most of it in saltwater. Through all of these years Ronnie and I have remain friends, meeting up every year at the annual GOWA Spring Conference. And the push he gave me way back when is still there.
Here’s hoping for another fifteen years for you, Ronnie on this new website!