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Every Good Bass Fisherman Has A Mentor. Who's Yours?

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July 29, 2013

Every Good Bass Fisherman Has A Mentor. Who's Yours?

By Dave Wolak

If there is one common thread I’ve noticed among good bass fishermen, it’s that most of them can credit a solid chunk of their drive and knowledge to a mentor that, at some point, provided the stepping stones for success on the water. What I’m not talking about is someone giving up secret lures or locations. Too many people consider those that spit out that kind of info mentors, especially in the tournament world. For example, let’s say your friend Charlie insists you fish a spot only because a past tourney winner caught fish in that location. Some never get past that mindset. A good mentor would get you focused not on exactly what lure or where, but what kind of structure was in the area where the guy won. What was the overall pattern that day? Was it overcast? Sunny? Then a good mentor will teach you how to apply that knowledge to finding your own fish and catching them your way instead of being a follower. Not everyone has it in them to be a good teacher and mentor, and on the flip side, not everyone recognizes when they are being given a piece of sage advice.

My mentor is not an old wise man with a 9th-degree black belt who taught me the importance of wax-on/wax-off before I learned to cast a spinnerbait. There is no rule saying that’s what qualifies you as a mentor. He’s simply a good friend of mine named Chris Hall (left in the photo with me nearly 15 years ago) who's around the same age as I am, and who grew up fishing team events and learning the bass ropes with me. He's the best fisherman I know, bar none. Does he have logos all over a jersey to prove it? No. But if there was a team event for a million dollars and I had to choose anyone to fish with, it would be Chris.

In many ways, I am probably an equal mentor to him, and that’s the thing: it's not a one-way street. Nobody has all the answers in fishing. It’s a constant reciprocating learning process. Chris and I have fished countless hours on the boat together both recreationally and for money over the last 20 years. We have had good days and bad. We have figured things out to the most finite details and capitalized on them, and we have failed to even come close to figuring the bass out at times. Sometimes a mentor is just a person you spend countless hours with talking strategy, tactics, and whatever ever else comes with tricking the little green and brown dudes swimming in the lake.

A popular phrase in bass fishing is, “nothing can replace time on the water." This is true, but who kept you on the water? Who, when you were frustrated and ready to quit, played a part in advising you to stay on the water for an extra hour and work through the variables? Who spent the drive home with you reflecting the lessons of the day and a potential approach to look into next time on that or a similar body of water? The building blocks that make a good bass fisherman great cannot solely be learned on TV, in a book or found somewhere on the Internet. Who’s your fishing mentor?

Comments (11)

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from santa wrote 37 weeks 3 days ago

I have to give credit to two people for bass fishing knowledge. First was my boss in the early seventies, Lew Childre and second was Shag Shahid, the company pro. I grew up fishing with my father from the time I was wearing three cornered pants on. I was taught by my father that if you absolutely could not catch any other fish during the day, you stopped by a few cypress knees close to the boat ramp and caught a bass or two just to keep from being skunked and bring something home for the cats. So when I went to work for Lew Childre, I was amazed that people actually fished for bass on purpose. Before Lew, Fenwick had the premium hollow fiberglass bass fishing rod market sewed up, but Lew got Speed Sticks into the hands of the masses. I worked on the Speed Spool project that brought the first ergonomic completely disengaging levelwind bass reel to the bass industry. While working for Lew, I got to fish with people like Jim Bagley, George Perrin, Cotton Cordell, John Fox, and Roland Marin. Without Lew, I never would have been a bass fisherman, nor gotten the opportunity to meet so many of the fathers of the industry.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from rjw wrote 37 weeks 3 days ago

My man Leo and Johnny, they never had localitus and we always fed off of each other, openly shared info and went for broke each time out. It did not matter who caught the first fish, what mattered was what we learned from that first fish.

Hey Santa, don't stop now, share some more with us!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from santa wrote 37 weeks 3 days ago

rjw, From the time I was old enough to sit upright on a boat seat in my father's Stauter Built boat, I was taken fishing. The only reason my father lived, was to fish. His favorite fish was the speckled trout. My father was so obsessed with speck fishing that he learned to fly airplanes and bough one just to get to offshore barrier islands where the fishing was so good. I think that my father was responsible for Lew Childre learning to fly for the same reasons. I also learned to fly and flew to the barrier islands to fish. In the early seventies, Lew hired me to work in his research and development department. I was paid to design, build, and test fishing tackle. I was required to fish at least 50% of my working hours. Bass fishing became a job that I depended on to feed my family. I had a boss pointing his finger in my face and forcing me to fish. In short it was work not pleasure. I could not enjoy it and it spoiled me from ever being able to truly enjoy it. Even when I fish today, I go at it like work and can still not completely enjoy the fun of it. Moral to all this is; Do not take a loved hobby or past time and do it for a living because then it does not get done for fun, but has to be worked at as a job.

By the way, Lew died in a plane crash in the late seventies.

Shag was the person who taught me trick casting and worm fishing for bass. He went on to demonstrate tackle for Browning and then Zebco. Shag Shahid passed away at age 86 in 2012. Google him to see his story.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rjw wrote 37 weeks 3 days ago

Santa, thanks for the story. I have never fished for speckled Trout although it would appear that they must be one heck of a fish for a man to learn how to fly, buy a plane and chase them, obsessed sums it up nicely.
You must have been or still are good at your job and the knowledge you have amassed over the years is one of those things that us consumers don't think about when they pick up a quality product, let alone what goes into them from conception to shelf.
I will take some time and Google Lew and Shag.
Would it be safe to say that you are also an accomplished angler, considering the company you kept?
Thanks again Santa, will see you at Christmas, ho, ho, ho!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from santa wrote 37 weeks 3 days ago

rjw, Most of the people on this site know my story by now and I am sure they do not need to hear it again, but I have been able to hold my own fishing tide waters and lakes here in the south. I am now tired, retired and almost expired. I had a massive stroke a few years ago and I had to learn to walk and talk all over again. I will never be completely recovered from the stroke and it has slowed down the way I fish, but has not stopped me at all. I still get in a few good licks and am able to keep meat on the table.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 37 weeks 2 days ago

Santa, would love to fish with you someday and talk about the old timers you mention. I grew up in the day these guys were big.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hunter00015 wrote 37 weeks 2 days ago

My Grandpa would be my mentor. Taught me everything I know.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tom-Tom wrote 37 weeks 2 days ago

I started out with a cane pole and a can of garden-dug worms. My grandpaw bought me my first casting rod and reel and then a Shakespeare fiberglas Wonderod and reel. After joining a local bassclub, I learned from several buddies to understand and target big bass. Today I still use my #4 and #6 Speedsticks along with graphite rods, all with the old 5000 and 5500 reels. My best fishing buddies have either moved away or given up fishing all together. The grandkids don't live very close and while they like fishing with grandpa' when they visit the farm, they are more in tune with technology and the like. They don't even play little league baseball. I believe that it has to do with how their fathers were raised as they didn't grow up fishing with their dads. On their next visit, I'm gonna' introduce them to those old cane poles and garden-dug worms.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rjw wrote 37 weeks 2 days ago

Santa,
It is an honor to hear about history from the horse’s mouth, god knows we have enough people talking out their arse.

With much Respect and Admiration

RJW

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from David Wolak wrote 37 weeks 2 days ago

Great stories guys. thanks

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from John M. O'Connor wrote 24 weeks 1 day ago

This is another excellent idea that applies to bass fishing and life. I remember some of the best times with my dad were fishing even we didn't do it a lot. I can recall a kind of moving moment where my dad ventured out into some cold water to unhook my line from a tree branch (never happens to you guys I know) but when he came back to the shore I said thanks dad but "Why did you go all the way out to do it?" I was a little kid and it just looked dangerous. He just smiled. I knew he did it for me and it felt like I had my first lesson about what it meant to be a dad/mentor in that little moment.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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from santa wrote 37 weeks 3 days ago

I have to give credit to two people for bass fishing knowledge. First was my boss in the early seventies, Lew Childre and second was Shag Shahid, the company pro. I grew up fishing with my father from the time I was wearing three cornered pants on. I was taught by my father that if you absolutely could not catch any other fish during the day, you stopped by a few cypress knees close to the boat ramp and caught a bass or two just to keep from being skunked and bring something home for the cats. So when I went to work for Lew Childre, I was amazed that people actually fished for bass on purpose. Before Lew, Fenwick had the premium hollow fiberglass bass fishing rod market sewed up, but Lew got Speed Sticks into the hands of the masses. I worked on the Speed Spool project that brought the first ergonomic completely disengaging levelwind bass reel to the bass industry. While working for Lew, I got to fish with people like Jim Bagley, George Perrin, Cotton Cordell, John Fox, and Roland Marin. Without Lew, I never would have been a bass fisherman, nor gotten the opportunity to meet so many of the fathers of the industry.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from rjw wrote 37 weeks 3 days ago

My man Leo and Johnny, they never had localitus and we always fed off of each other, openly shared info and went for broke each time out. It did not matter who caught the first fish, what mattered was what we learned from that first fish.

Hey Santa, don't stop now, share some more with us!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from santa wrote 37 weeks 3 days ago

rjw, From the time I was old enough to sit upright on a boat seat in my father's Stauter Built boat, I was taken fishing. The only reason my father lived, was to fish. His favorite fish was the speckled trout. My father was so obsessed with speck fishing that he learned to fly airplanes and bough one just to get to offshore barrier islands where the fishing was so good. I think that my father was responsible for Lew Childre learning to fly for the same reasons. I also learned to fly and flew to the barrier islands to fish. In the early seventies, Lew hired me to work in his research and development department. I was paid to design, build, and test fishing tackle. I was required to fish at least 50% of my working hours. Bass fishing became a job that I depended on to feed my family. I had a boss pointing his finger in my face and forcing me to fish. In short it was work not pleasure. I could not enjoy it and it spoiled me from ever being able to truly enjoy it. Even when I fish today, I go at it like work and can still not completely enjoy the fun of it. Moral to all this is; Do not take a loved hobby or past time and do it for a living because then it does not get done for fun, but has to be worked at as a job.

By the way, Lew died in a plane crash in the late seventies.

Shag was the person who taught me trick casting and worm fishing for bass. He went on to demonstrate tackle for Browning and then Zebco. Shag Shahid passed away at age 86 in 2012. Google him to see his story.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from santa wrote 37 weeks 3 days ago

rjw, Most of the people on this site know my story by now and I am sure they do not need to hear it again, but I have been able to hold my own fishing tide waters and lakes here in the south. I am now tired, retired and almost expired. I had a massive stroke a few years ago and I had to learn to walk and talk all over again. I will never be completely recovered from the stroke and it has slowed down the way I fish, but has not stopped me at all. I still get in a few good licks and am able to keep meat on the table.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 37 weeks 2 days ago

Santa, would love to fish with you someday and talk about the old timers you mention. I grew up in the day these guys were big.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tom-Tom wrote 37 weeks 2 days ago

I started out with a cane pole and a can of garden-dug worms. My grandpaw bought me my first casting rod and reel and then a Shakespeare fiberglas Wonderod and reel. After joining a local bassclub, I learned from several buddies to understand and target big bass. Today I still use my #4 and #6 Speedsticks along with graphite rods, all with the old 5000 and 5500 reels. My best fishing buddies have either moved away or given up fishing all together. The grandkids don't live very close and while they like fishing with grandpa' when they visit the farm, they are more in tune with technology and the like. They don't even play little league baseball. I believe that it has to do with how their fathers were raised as they didn't grow up fishing with their dads. On their next visit, I'm gonna' introduce them to those old cane poles and garden-dug worms.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from David Wolak wrote 37 weeks 2 days ago

Great stories guys. thanks

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rjw wrote 37 weeks 3 days ago

Santa, thanks for the story. I have never fished for speckled Trout although it would appear that they must be one heck of a fish for a man to learn how to fly, buy a plane and chase them, obsessed sums it up nicely.
You must have been or still are good at your job and the knowledge you have amassed over the years is one of those things that us consumers don't think about when they pick up a quality product, let alone what goes into them from conception to shelf.
I will take some time and Google Lew and Shag.
Would it be safe to say that you are also an accomplished angler, considering the company you kept?
Thanks again Santa, will see you at Christmas, ho, ho, ho!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hunter00015 wrote 37 weeks 2 days ago

My Grandpa would be my mentor. Taught me everything I know.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from rjw wrote 37 weeks 2 days ago

Santa,
It is an honor to hear about history from the horse’s mouth, god knows we have enough people talking out their arse.

With much Respect and Admiration

RJW

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from John M. O'Connor wrote 24 weeks 1 day ago

This is another excellent idea that applies to bass fishing and life. I remember some of the best times with my dad were fishing even we didn't do it a lot. I can recall a kind of moving moment where my dad ventured out into some cold water to unhook my line from a tree branch (never happens to you guys I know) but when he came back to the shore I said thanks dad but "Why did you go all the way out to do it?" I was a little kid and it just looked dangerous. He just smiled. I knew he did it for me and it felt like I had my first lesson about what it meant to be a dad/mentor in that little moment.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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