Anybody who has been involved in fishing and writing about it for the better part of a century, and I have, is well aware of the importance of having access to good pictures to illustrate your work.
I’ve been so blessed in that regard. My wife has shot thousands of pictures for me. So have fishing partners like Jim Ewing and Mike Pedersen, both of Longview, Washington. Oftentimes in the different magazines, I’ve been credited with pictures they’ve actually shot. I’ve provided the cameras and related equipment and explained exactly what I wanted – but they’ve actually taken the pictures.
Usually the higher you climb in the writing ranks the greater the need for quality photography. How then are you going to get that done if you insist on always fishing by yourself and there’s no one there to help out when you put a whopper in the boat?
That was a question I asked my friend Jason Lucas, the fishing editor of Sports Afield magazine, a long, long time ago. Lucas, as I’ve made very plain in my recent columns, wasn’t about to do his bass fishing with anyone else in the boat.
Following is the answer he provided. This is an exact copy, including spelling, punctuation and everything else contained in a three page singled space typed letter he wrote to me Feb. 15, 1954:
“How, you may ask, can I lone-wolf having pix made? Elementary, my dear Watson! I invented an electric release, with pedal, that will shoot pics, with flash if needed, up to 300 feet off, and had it made up by Willoughby’s in N. Y. last time I was there. Then I go in and develop and enlarge them myself, to be sure I’ve got what I want—one-man production line on photos. Had to do it, since not one place in 100 can I find a commercial photographer who can get into his head just what a big magazine wants, or shoot ‘em right.”
I never got a look at the camera set up Jason was talking about nor could I figure exactly how he could always find studios where he could go in and process his own pictures. But what you see here is exactly how he described getting around the problem.
As I hope I’ve made plain in these last few columns, I had the highest regard for Jason Lucas. Getting to know him and to have him share the bass fishing wizardry he possessed with a greenhorn like me was a wondrous experience.
Today, with years and years of my own experience as a writer to draw on, I wonder if there might have been certain other aspects for Jason Lucas taking the lone wolf stance that he did for his bass fishing.
Gaining prominent exposure as an angler is one thing. What you might not realize is that at the same time you gain that notoriety you become a target. Readers, today’s viewers, are prone to regard experts as a guy who never misses. Then, when you do get skunked, you’ll hear all about it in a hurry if anyone has been around to witness your defeat.
I expect I’ve probably done about as much exhibition casting in this and a number of foreign countries as anybody who ever picked up a rod. I know exactly how it feels to have a TV announcer introduce you to a huge crowd and go to great lengths explaining how you’re the world’s most accurate caster who never misses a target.
Then, once the MC finally shuts up, you cast, and miss that bleeping target by two feet!
It wouldn’t be the least bit hard to find some of the very best bass pros who’ve had a similar experience. The day I fished with Bill Dance, a genuinely great guy and a tremendous bass angler, he caught one fish about 12-inches long. I’ve not said much about that because, so to speak, I’ve been there and done that. I’ve fished with a half dozen other top pros, mostly during competition in the Bass Masters Classic, who had the same kind of experience as Bill did.
The boss of the newspaper I worked for once came to me one morning and asked if I’d take a new doctor friend of his bass fishing on my home lake. I agreed. I gave the doc the equipment he needed and stuck him up in front of my boat. Then I took him to spots I knew held fish, rigged him with productive lures, and showed him where and how to use them.
As I expected, the doc caught a half dozen fish, a couple of them good sized. I managed to get a couple out of used water behind him. The boss came around next morning. I’ve always remembered what he had to say. Instead of thanking me for guiding his doctor friend and making sure he caught something, he said “Well, Stan, I guess you’re not near as good as I’ve heard others say you are. My doctor friend is a newcomer to bass fishing but he says he caught three times as many bass as you did.”
I had to tie a clinch knot in my tongue to keep from giving my boss a fitting answer. The truth of the matter was that if I hadn’t provided the gear, took him where the fish were, and did everything but hook the bass for him – he wouldn’t have caught squat!
I’ve had a number of similar experiences. Some of them involved those who should have known better. Eventually, like Jason, I wound up doing darn near all of my bass fishing on my own.
Jason Lucas didn’t need bad publicity in his role as fishing editor of Sports Afield. In certain of his letters he explained how he sometimes made it a point to catch fish where he knew others could see him do it. When he wasn’t catching them he was off by himself somewhere and no one knew the difference.
His lone wolf approach eventually came to make a whole lot more sense to me before many years went by.