Let’s Look Back – Part 16

Jason Lucas from his book, Lucas on Bass.

Few, if any, bass anglers have left a greater impact on the sport than Jason Lucas. Jason was the fishing editor of Sports Afield magazine in the middle of the last century. I had the good fortune to get to know him and to spend some time with him.

I’ve got a stack of personal letters in one of my files that mean a great deal to me.

The first one was sent to me was Feb. 10, 1954.  I was still cutting my bass fishing teeth at the time.  If you were to see the signature on that letter, as well as the whole bunch that were to follow, you’d have no problem in understanding why I treasure them as I do.  At least you would if you know anything about the history of bass fishing here in the United States.

Does the name Jason Lucas mean anything to you?  That name belonged to a man who in my opinion qualifies as one of the real fathers of modern-day bass fishing.  Way back there in the middle of the last century Jason was the Fishing Editor of Sports Afield magazine.

I know darn well the knowledge Jason Lucas shared so much of in those early days of bass fishing isn’t known to a lot of present-day anglers.  Why do I say that?  One quick example is that my friend Jason has never been named to the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame.

Knowing Lucas as I did, and realizing the tremendous bass fishing know-how he had to share when the sport was really just getting started, it’s hard to believe he’s not been given this kind of recognition.

Regular readers of the Bass Fishing Archives may have seen some of the material about Jason that has appeared on this website before.  My guess is that what you’re reading right now is the first to appear here by someone who really knew the man.  Jason Lucas, you see, was my personal friend.

My relationship with Lucas actually got started because I questioned something he had written in Sports Afield about fishing for bass in lily pad cover.  The lake where I was doing most of my bass fishing at the time was loaded with pads and they provided some of the best bass fishing potential the lake had to offer.

It was problems I was having while learning how to catch more bass in pad fields that started my relationship with Jason Lucas.  I will never forget the time he devoted to our friendship over the years.

It was problems I was having while learning how to catch more bass in pad fields that started my relationship with Jason Lucas. I will never forget the time he devoted to our friendship over the years. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

I really didn’t expect a written response from Lucas when I sent my letter off to him.  I was both pleased and surprised when he got back to me a couple of weeks later.  I’d like to share part of what he had to say with you.  Here it is:

“There’s sure room for difference of opinion and tastes in fishing – just so both opinions are sportsmanlike.  The fact that you like to fish, your way, in the pads, and I don’t like it, means nothing at all.  I like to fish just the edge of the pads, from outside.”

Those few thoughts Lucas shared with me about fishing pad cover set the stage for the friendship we were to share for many years to come.  As I’ve mentioned, Jason’s first letter was written in 1954.  The last one I have from him, after he’d left Sports Afield and had moved to Canada, came in the 1970s not too long before his death in 1975.

With one exception, though I’ve been asked to do it before, this is the first time I’ve shared the letters I received from Jason Lucas with anyone.  As I’m sure he’ll verify, that one exception was the man who is responsible for this Bass Fishing Archives website.

I thought Terry Battisti, the founder of this site, should see what one of the true fathers of bass fishing had to say about the sport.  I sent the sizeable stack of Jason’s personal letters to Terry a couple of years ago.

One of the reasons I was so pleased to get the response I did, in writing, from a man who was one of my early-day bass fishing heroes was that I really hadn’t expected it to happen.  I felt that way partly because the fact that Jason didn’t write to readers was even mentioned in a notice that appeared with his Sports Afield columns.

I had mentioned this in my letter to him.  This was his response:

“No, I don’t answer all mail anymore – had to be relieved of that, the thousands of letters hitting me almost killing me off.  Not supposed to answer any now, as you’ll see from the notice at the head of my Angling page.  But when a real fisherman like you writes to me…Well, that’s diffrunt!  Gotta answer!”

The spelling, punctuation, and everything else you’ve just read were exactly as they appear in the original letter I’m copying them from.  To be honest about it, getting that letter from a guy who really knew bass fishing thrilled the heck out of me.

The truth of the matter is that his calling me a “real fisherman” was pure nonsense.  I certainly wanted to be all right but the truth of the matter was that at the time I was just getting started!

What Jason Lucas was to share with me in his letters as well as his magazine writing really helped me at a time when the kind of information I was after was difficult to come by.  It also set the stage for a friendship that wound up with me having a chance to actually spend some personal time with this man who is now a historical figure in the bass fishing world.

I’ll be sharing more of what Jason shared with me in my next Let’s Look Back column.


[Editor’s Note: The letters from Jason Lucas to Stan Fagerstrom and the relationship they shared are pretty amazing. Stan is probably one of the few anglers still living that actually knew Jason – not only by correspondence but also by sharing time with him at his house in Washington.

Stan talks about what this relationship meant to him and how it helped develop him as a bass angler but Stan, and the many writers like him over the years, should realize what an impact they all had on all of us who read the pages of magazines and books trying to better ourselves as anglers. To all of them, Thank You.]

  • Bill Sonnett

    Stan what a wonderful Christmas present to find that someone else is as enthusiastic as I am about the life and career of Jason Lucas. I started receiving Sports Afield in 1956 and immediately became a Lucas “Groupie” I have a file that is filled information that I have been able to gather over the years. I was in Vietnam when Lucas was let go and was always frustrated at not knowing what happened and how it was handled by SA. Since then I have gather the articles he wrote before becoming the SA fishing editor and an article he wrote on hunting Mountain Lion. Thanks to Clyde Drury, I am now working on collecting his novels which are mostly westerns. The more exposure we give to Lucas the better