The Writers: Stan Fagerstrom – Part One

Stan Fagerstrom on the cover of US Bass Magazine, circa 1988.

Editor’s Note: This series is dedicated to those people who penned the many articles we read in order to learn more about our sport and become better anglers. Sure it may have been the anglers who developed the techniques, lures and equipment we use today but it was the writers’ job to make sure these bits of information got to the masses. Without the writers to communicate this, the world of bass fishing would be very different today.

Over the course of time there have been many writers who have taught us through their words. Some of them have taught us the ways and methods of other anglers, while others have taught us from their own experiences. This installment of The Writers focuses on a person who taught us from his own experience – a lifelong love of bass fishing and casting. That person is Stan Fagerstrom.

Because Stan Fagerstrom has been associated with bass fishing for over 60 years, his experiences couldn’t be told in a single piece. Therefore, we’ve split up his story into a series that covers important parts of his life. We hope you enjoy reading about one of bass fishing’s most accomplished ambassadors.

Fagerstrom has been writing about bass fishing since the mid-40s. He’s been published in just about every magazine associated with bass fishing since that time and has also been conducting casting clinics or exhibitions over a good bit of the world since the 50s. What makes this all the more amazing is he started this career in an area of the country, the Pacific Northwest, where early on folks often looked down their noses at bass, even calling them “second cousins to a carp.” Though that part of the country was primarily a salmon and steelhead haven, Fagerstrom didn’t relent when it came to pursuing his passion and introducing others to the black bass.

Recently I had the pleasure to meet with Stan at his home in Arizona. To me, Stan Fagerstrom is not only a mentor but one of my heroes in the world of bass fishing. The first article I read by him was published in 1975 in Western Bass Magazine. Ever since that time, I’ve always looked for articles penned by Stan. He became one of my teachers and I’m sure he was the same for many others.

Here is his story.

PVT. Stan Fagerstrom after basic training at Camp Roberts, California. Date 1943. Photo courtesy of Stan Fagerstrom.

A War and The Daily News

Fagerstrom’s love of fishing began at an early age in North Dakota. He remembers the first fish he caught – during the Great Depression – a bullhead catfish on a bent safety pin. In 1936 his family, after losing everything in the Great Depression, moved to Longview, Washington with hopes of making a better life.

By this time he’d been reading about bass fishing in the sporting magazines of the time and found himself fascinated by what he read about bass. His first major tackle purchase was his first rod (made of metal) as well as a small spinner. He’d read about the use of pork rind for bass so he fashioned a trailer out of pork fat cut from a slab of bacon his mother had discarded.

Just as soon as he could, he went to a nearby lake, Lake Sacajawea in the middle of town, and started casting the lure he’d fashioned from shore. When a bass busted into his bait he said he himself was “hooked” far more deeply than that fish.

By the time he’d finished elementary and junior high he couldn’t get bass fishing out of his head. But it was in high school where two paths crossed that would forever shape his life.

One of those paths was his on-going love for bass fishing. The other was his ability to write. His first writing was for the school newspaper – something he found he enjoyed – and by his senior year he became editor. Unfortunately, there was also a war going on, a big one if you remember, and he enlisted in the U.S. Army.

Stan and two friends who were waiting to be sent home in 1945 after the war. Photo courtesy of Stan Fagerstrom.

“I enlisted in the U.S. Army on December 7, 1942, exactly one year after Pearl Harbor,” he said. “I entered active service at Fort Lewis in Washington State and took infantry basic training at Camp Roberts, California.  After basic training I served as an instructor on a hand grenade range in Fort Ord, California. In 1944 I was shipped off to the South Pacific – eventually serving in the jungles of New Guinea, what was then the Netherlands East Indies (now Indonesia), the Mapia Islands and the Philippines. All of my overseas combat service was with a rifle company of the 167th Infantry Regiment of the 31st Infantry Division.

“My regiment was fighting on Mindanao Island when the war ended. Though we didn’t know it at the time, we later learned that our 31st Division was to have played a role in the planned invasion of Japan. Our division was to be combined with three other army divisions to make up what would be known as the 8th army. On or about the first of March, 1946 the newly formed 8th Army was to have landed in or near Tokyo Bay as a part of what was to be called Operation Downfall.

Stan Fagerstrom receives honors for combat in the Pacific theater. Longview Daily News 1945 courtesy of Stan Fagerstrom.

“I’d been sent to a field hospital in Mindanao shortly before word reached us of the dropping of the first atomic bomb. You hear a lot of stuff when you’re off fighting in some remote part of the world and we weren’t unduly impressed. We weren’t sure what we were hearing was the complete truth. We’d seen far too many Japanese soldiers die or kill themselves rather than give up to entertain ideas that the country might surrender. To say we were surprised when Japan did give up is the understatement of all time.

“After I got back from the Pacific, courtesy of a hospital plane, I was sent to Madigan General Hospital near Fort Lewis. After a lengthy convalescent leave, I was finally discharged at Fort Lewis, the same place where my military service had started.

Stan Fagerstrom has written numerous poems over his life. Throughout this series Stan shares some of the poems that are most important to him. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have. Click on the image to see the complete view. Courtesy of Stan Fagerstrom.

“I’d intended, after returning from the war, to enter the University of Washington as a journalism student. That wasn’t to happen. As mentioned, I’d done some sports writing for The Daily News in Longview while I was still in high school and community college. The city editor of the newspaper, as well as the publisher, insisted they could teach me more about writing if I went to work for them instead of going to the university. Besides that, Anita, the high school sweetheart I’d married while in the army, and I had an immediate need for some extra bucks.

“I began working full time for The Daily News in Longview in May of 1946 as a general assignment reporter. Shortly after I started I was also asked to do an outdoor column called ‘Nibbles and Bites.’ That’s where my writing career really got off the ground. The city editor of The Daily News at the time was a man named Gordon Quarnstrom. He was to have a tremendous impact with regard to my writing. Those Daily News executives were correct at least to a degree. I doubt there are many better training grounds for someone to learn how to write than serving as a general assignment reporter on a growing daily newspaper. You either learn how to write fast and accurately about a variety of topics or you won’t have a job.”

Stan’s Nibbles and Bites column from the Longview Daily News, November 1958.

Fagerstrom said it wasn’t long after he got along successfully as a newspaper reporter that he began to consider taking a whack at selling features to some of the outdoor magazines.

“I sent my first feature, it dealt with crappie fishing, to Outdoor Life magazine. The editor of Outdoor Life at the time was a man named William Rae. Here was another individual who was to have a big impact on my writing endeavors. All of us were still using manual typewriters in those early days. Even so, Rae would sometimes take the time to send me two or three pages of single spaced letters loaded with tips, ideas, constructive criticism and suggestions. I’ve never met another like him.”

 

In Part Two, Stan will talk about major impacts within the new bass fishing industry, the first Bass Master Classic along with his relationships with Jason Lucas, Homer Circle and Ray Scott.

  • Well done. Looking forward to the rest of the story!

    • I think you’ll be amazed Rich. I know I was.

  • Harold Sharp

    It’s great to read about the people who have been writing about other people all their life. When Ray Scott and Bob Cobb hatched the idea for the BASS Classic the most important part of it was the inclusion of Outdoor Writer as press observers, this was the way we intended to tell the world about BASS, put the writers in the boat and you were guaranteed a great story in the local paper across America the nest day. Stan Fagerstrom was a great part on this, he was always waiting on the BASS call to be a Classic Press Observer. He also enjoyed the fun and fellowship while he was observing the great anglers up close. I look forward to the rest of the Stan story, he has always been a true friend and a pretty good trick caster.

    • Harold, I couldn’t agree with you more. What Stan has done for bass fishing is pretty amazing. I hope you all like the rest of the series.

      Terry

  • Stan Fagerstrom

    Terry and Harold:
    My sincere thanks for your kind comments. I feel honored to have had an opportunity to get to know both of you.

    I’d also like to thank the many others who’ve gotten in touch with me since this series started.

    Incidentally, Harold, I always appreciated the fine job you did for me while you were serving as my agent and booking me to do casting exhibitions around the country. Thanks to you I got into some spots I’d never have
    reached if it hadn’t been for your good help.
    Stan

  • Terry, thanks for helping me visit many great memories. I met Harold at the 1975 BASS Federation Nationals at Clarks Hill Reservoir (I was on the Delaware State Team), and Stan probably wouldn’t remember but I met him in DFW airport while waiting for a flight. I was sitting next to him with my travel rod (which he recognized and asked me about). I knew who he was, and was thrilled he even took a moment to talk bass fishing with me. Now I live in western Washington and fish his old haunts, and even have one of his old Silver Lake hand drawn maps (photocopy).
    Tater, thanks for telling the story of those who told the story; truth be told it was these guys who taught me how to fish. ciao, Marc

  • Connie Brick

    I have heard a lot about Mr. Fagerstrom. We live in a house he owned on Silver Lake, Washington! He is still remember. I would love to pick his brain about the history of this house!