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Fishing Legacy, By Ronnie Garrison

Jun 27, 2016 03:55PM, Published by Jake Gentry, Categories: Lifestyle, In Print, Today

By Ronnie Garrison

All of us who love the outdoors and outdoor activities like hunting and fishing have someone, or many people, in our past who molded that passion. Often a parent, grandparent, or someone else in our family took us hunting and fishing as we were growing up and instilled their love of these pastimes in us, but sometimes friends or other people outside of our families did the same.

My mother and her mother both loved fishing. They could sit by a pond on lard buckets and watch a cork for hours. Some of my earliest memories are of following one or both of them to a local pond with our cane poles, hoping to catch anything that would bite.

The first bass I ever caught was while fishing with Mom at a local pond. We were down below the dam, fishing the pool of water at the spillway. When my cork went under and I raised my pole, I expected the circling pull of a bream or the tugging toward the bottom of a catfish. Instead, a 10-inch bass jumped out of the water several times. I was instantly hooked on bass fishing.

Two of my uncles took me fishing some when I was a kid, and both of them loved bass fishing. I spent hours with them in jon boats on local ponds, throwing rubber worms and topwater plugs. They taught me where to cast and how to scull a boat, slowly easing around the bank with a paddle, before I ever saw an electric trolling motor.

I moved to Griffin in 1972 and met Jim Berry. When I bought my first bass boat in 1974, he invited me to join the Spalding County Sportsman’s Club, and my first tournament ever was with that club in April 1974 — 42 years ago. I have not missed many tournaments since that one.

The Sportsman’s Club was formed in the 1950s, and they did a little of everything—from hunting game and doves in Pike County to going fishing on big lakes and camping for the weekend. And it was something of a family affair. In our tournaments there were many father/son fishing pairs as well as long-term friends and business partners.

In my first tournament, we camped as a group at Mistletoe State Park. Back then, the tournament director carried two big boards and the results were written on them each day. The next year, when I became secretary/treasurer of the club, a job I have held almost every year since then, the boards were given to me. We quit using them after the Clarks Hill tournament, and the results of that tournament are still on there.

I still have those boards stored in my barn. You can barely make out the writing, but you can still see names like Emmett Piland, Vance Sharp, Kenneth Hattaway, Paul Varnadoe and others who were in “A” division. In those days, we competed in two divisions based on how many tournament points we had. I was in “B” division in my first tournament.

Emmett, Vance, Kenneth, and Paul all taught me a lot about bass fishing over the next few years. Emmett and I went fishing a lot, and he showed me good fishing places on big lakes and how to catch bass on a crankbait. Paul Varnadoe fished the professional trails and shared a lot of tips with me.

Vance Sharp, who owned the local jewelry store now run by his son, Tony, was an expert with a depthfinder. Tony built a depthfinder from a kit for Vance before most fishermen had ever heard of them, and Vance used it for many years. He could ride over a point or dropoff staring at that depthfinder and suddenly throw out a marker, telling us to cast right there. And we caught fish almost every time!

I remember when Kenneth and I were fishing at Eufaula and he taught me how to make an underhand circle cast to quickly cover water with a spinnerbait, but it was his advice at a Top Six tournament that was invaluable, and I still go by it.

On the first day of that tournament in 1983, I caught a lot of bass on the riprap on a 1/16-ounce slider head with a four-inch worm on it. I caught more than 20 small keepers in the first three hours, then ran up the river and landed a five-pound kicker on a Shad Rap, a plug that had just come on the market. I was in sixth place out of 540 fishermen after day one!

That night at the motel I was saying maybe I should run up the river the first thing the next day to catch bigger fish. Kenneth looked at me and said, “How many bass did you catch on the riprap, and how many bites did you get up the river?”

When I told him that I got only one bite up the river in four hours, he said, “Boy, you stay on that riprap until you have a limit tomorrow!”

The next morning, I quickly caught three on the riprap, but then they quit biting. I was torn. Wanting to go up the river but remembering Kenneth’s advice, I stayed on the riprap. At noon I caught five keepers on five consecutive casts.

 Those fish moved me to fourth place in the tournament. All the people I talked with who had fished the river never got a bite. Kenneth taught me to stay on a pattern that was working, and I still fish that way.

Remember and honor the people in your past who taught you about the outdoors. They have made us what we are.


Read more from Ronnie at


in print outdoors fishing 8.2

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