Let’s Look Back: Good Casting is Still the Key – Part 1

For several years they used to hang a big balloon on ribbons in front of the auditorium where the Bassmasters Classic was being held.  Nobody got to go in until I cast and busted the balloon.  Here's what happened at the exact time I nailed it.  Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

For several years they used to hang a big balloon on ribbons in front of the auditorium where the Bassmasters Classic was being held. Nobody got to go in until I cast and busted the balloon. Here’s what happened at the exact time I nailed it. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

It’s easy to recall the first time I talked to Terry Battisti about the possibility of me doing a column for his then new Bass Fishing Archives.

Our visit was in the early days of this website not too long after Terry had founded the BFA (Bass Fishing Archives) and got things going.  I was amazed at a guy his age could have the tremendous amount of bass fishing history he packs around in his head.

When we talked about it I asked Terry what he might want me to do in the way of a column that bass fishermen would find of interest.  Terry knew that I had been around long before professional bass fishing ever got started.  He also knew that I was one of if not the oldest outdoor scribe and bassin’ nut still writing about the sport.

Among other things he also suggested that, because I’d been fishing and writing about it since what seems like shortly after the fall of the Roman Empire, I might want to share some of the experiences I’ve had along the way.  I liked that idea.  It’s why you see that the column is called Let’s Look Back.

I’m going to do exactly that in my next few columns.  I’m convinced much of what I have to share in the topic I’ve selected is every bit as applicable to somebody just getting into bass fishing today as it was when I put my first one on the bank away back in 1936.

This is the first of a series of columns I’ll be doing for the next few months.  The title I’ve selected is what the series will be about.  I’m hoping I can share some thoughts about how and why good casting is and always has been essential where successful bass fishing is concerned.

I have no idea what kind of bass angling memories you come up with when you look back over your shoulder.  In my case the vision I get is always right there front and center.  Wherever I am and whatever I’m doing I’m going to have a bass fishing rod in my hands.

I’m that lucky son of a gun, you see, who when he wasn’t out actually fishing was off somewhere talking and showing folks how to go about it. I’ve been doing this for a long, long time.

 

I started working long and hard to develop my skills with a casting rod after I finally got out of the hospital at the end of World War II.

The modern day bass man, with access to the wondrous tools now available to him, wouldn’t recognize how it was when I started.

My first rod was a steel job marketed by the American Fork & Hoe Company.  I don’t remember the name of my first reel.  I do know that it didn’t have a level wind.  When I cast with it the reel’s handles spun backward as the line peeled of the spool.

The nickname for these old reels might have been called “Backlash Specials” but they weren’t.  The name most of the old timers who were stuck using them called them “Knucklebusters.” Mine certainly lived up to and deserved both names.

The bassin' man now has wondrous tools to work with.  You had best learn how to use every darn one of them. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

The bassin’ man now has wondrous tools to work with. You had best learn how to use every darn one of them. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Miserable as that early gear was to handle, something became clearly apparent to me right off the bat. It was simply this: Nothing was as important to catching largemouth bass consistently as being able to develop accuracy with your casting.  You’ve simply got to put your lure in the right spot.  If you can’t, better take up golf.

I don’t care if you’ve got a dozen tackle boxes in your boat or that you know what the fish are most likely to hit.  That’s not worth pig poop unless you have the ability to place whatever lure you select right where the bass can get at it.  As far I’m concerned that’s just as true today and it was when I first started my own bass angling endeavors.

I had the good fortune to attend all but two of the first 30 Bassmasters Classics. For most of these events I was right in the boat with one of the participants.

Be assured the rod handling abilities of some of the early day pros left a good bit to be desired.  There was simply very little comparison to the skills of today’s bass angling elite.

I mention this because despite what I had to work with in the beginning, I started working my tail off through my own casting sessions.  Improved rods, reels and line weren’t long in coming and they made a tremendous difference.

Word started getting around the area in Washington State where I lived at the time and I was asked to demonstrate some of my casting skills at couple of county fairs and some other such gatherings.  Then one day in late 1951 I got a break that was to have a dramatic effect for the rest of my life.

That break came when a representative of the Garcia Corporation walked into my office at a local newspaper where I was employed and plunked a couple of red boxes down on my desk.  “Stan,” he said, “We hear you’re pretty good with a casting rod and reel.  These boxes hold a pair of brand new reels that we are just now bringing into the country.  We’d like to have you try them and let us know what you think.  I’ll be back in a couple of weeks to pick ‘em up.”

Those two boxes he left with me held a pair of brand new Ambassadeur 5000 casing reels.  I knew after I’d made the first couple of casts with them that they were the finest reels I’d ever had in my hand.

Two weeks later the manufacture’s rep came back.  He wanted to know how I liked his new reels.  I told him they were the best. I was about to ask him what it cost me to get one of them when he spoke again.  “We’re glad you like ‘em,” he said, “I’d like to make you an offer.”

The offer he made went like this.  I was to come to the Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles the following April of 1952.  There was an annual 11 day outdoor show held there at that time.  They wanted me to come to that show and demonstrate those new Ambassadeur reels.

“I won’t pay you a dime,” the company’s rep said, “but I’ll pay your expenses and I’ll give you both of these reels and a couple of our rods to go with them.  Are you interested?

That rep had probably never heard anybody come up with a “yes” any faster than I did.  I could have found a dozen reasons why maybe I shouldn’t accept but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

As I’ve mentioned, good casting continues to be a key to putting bass in the boat.  Watch for my next column.  I’ll share what I learned when I participated in that Los Angeles show and how it has affected my life as well as put more bass in my boat.