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.