These are my stories and I’m stickin’ to ‘em

By Ron McDonald
Publisher & Editor
Southern Fishing News

I have had the opportunity and good fortune. to meet many of the greats in the sport of bass fishing including legends of the sport In the almost fifty years since I started bass fishing, I wanted to share with you some of the great people I met. Most have stories that go along with those encounters. This story is about those guys.

Ron McDonald, Southern Fishing News, Ray Scott, founder of B.A.S.S., and 2011 Legends of the Outdoors National Hall of Fame bow hunter Joella Bates ham it up before the event began. SFN photo

In 1973 I was a fledgling bass fisherman (and some say still so in 2022 as well) on active duty at Ft. Rucker, Ala. where I had just joined the Ft. Rucker Bass Club. I was learning all I didn’t know about the sport and that was everything!

At the top of the list would have to be the late Ray Scott. To me, and most bass anglers, the name Ray Scott is synonymous with bass fishing. He put the B.A.S.S. in bass. Bobb Cobb, the original editor of Bassmaster Magazine, described Ray Scott as, “A Visionary, Showman, Promoter, and Environmentalist,” in his article, The Legacy of Ray Scott, July/August 2022 issue of Bassmaster Magazine. I talked with Ray on three occasions, all at Garry Mason’s Legends of the Outdoors induction banquets. At that time the event was held in Nashville, Tenn.

My wife and I were sitting at a table during one of the banquets as guests of Charlie and Linda Brewer, Charlie Brewer Slider Fishing. Ray walks over from another table and sits down at our table so he could see the podium better. A guy walks up and hands him a large brown envelope. Ray begins pulling photos out and explaining what was going on in the pictures. The photos were of him playing pranks on friends. I have heard playing pranks on people was a Ray Scott staple. Ray also shared he was considering creating a light tackle, finesse fishing trail. I assume he later discarded the idea. This legend will be missed.

Bob Cobb was Bassmaster Magazine’s first editor. Bob Cobb photo

At this point, I think talking about the legendary Bob Cobb, a Bass Fishing Hall of Fame member would be appropriate. As you may know, Bob was Bassmaster Magazine’s first editor and producer of The Bassmasters television show for Ray Scott. He was on the ground floor of Scott’s dream and his contributions were not confined to getting the magazine out.

I had been bitten by the bass fishing bug in 1973 and my enthusiasm lead to an idea I had about a fishing cartoon. I thought the cartoon would fit in with Bassmaster Magazine’s content. I drew some pencil ideas for a cartoon I called “Billy Bass & Charlie Carp.” I contacted Bob Cobb at Bassmaster and asked if I could come up to Montgomery and show him an idea I had. He said sure. I made the trip up to B.A.S.S. headquarters in Montgomery, Ala., and to my pleasant surprise, Bob liked the idea and told me he would give me a full page in Bassmaster Magazine for the cartoons.

Bob also gave me a tour of B.A.S.S. headquarters including Ray Scott’s office. Ray was not there but I was still in awe of his office which featured a massive aquarium glass wall directly behind Scott’s desk. I seem to remember Bob showing me a particular large bass in the aquarium and I think he told me Ray had given the largemouth a pet name. I had the pleasure of working with Bob on many “Billy Bass & Charlie Carp” cartoons.

Jimmy Houston was happy to sign autographs and pose for photos. SFN photo

Years ago I was invited to a special Mercury motor promotion by Mike Russell, manager of the Tracker Boat dealership in Florence, Ala. Jimmy Houston was making a promotional appearance at the dealership. Jimmy and I talked about what aspiring anglers could do to make the climb to the pro level of bass fishing. We were interrupted a few times by autograph seekers and Jimmy was happy to sign autographs and talk with the mostly youngsters. In the end, Jimmy gave me his cell phone number and told me to contact him if I ever wanted his input on a story. He is a celebrity with class.

One introduction I got was pure happenstance. I think almost everyone who fishes for bass recognizes the name “Lew’s” and “Lew’s Speed Spool”. My family and I were returning from a trip to Gulf Shores, Ala. and I noticed a building as we drove by with a sign that read “Lew’s” and I think maybe a graphic of a reel.

I immediately recognized the name. I had no idea Lew’s was based in South Alabama at that time. I parked the van and went inside. There I met Lew Childre, the designer of Lew’s Reels and Rods. Lew showed me around and we talked about fishing a bit. I think I left with a Lew’s cap and some patches. A few weeks later I received a phone call from Lew’s son, whose name, I am sorry, I cannot remember. He told me he was coming thru Northwest Alabama and he would like to meet. I said, “Of course”. Little did I know he was bringing me a highly-prized Lew’s Speed Spool Reel and a Lew’s Rod. I still have both of them to this day (and more).

Some of you may remember I hosted a television show called Southern Fishing back in the mid-seventies. Meeting and fishing with Charlie Brewer, Sr. was a highlight of the two years I hosted the show. Charlie is the father of “finesse fishing” and creator of the the “Slider.” I was introduced to Charlie by one of his friends, Paul Cantrell of Sheffield. Ala.

Charlie is the father of “finesse fishing” and creator of the the “Slider.” SFN photo

Charlie and I filmed a show on Smith Lake in North Alabama where he introduced me to “finesse fishing” using 4 lb. line and a lead-headed hook he called the “Slider.” The Slider head was rigged with a four-inch Slider worm. We had a ball catching bass. Charlie later appeared on-set with me to further explain “Slider Fishing” and presented me with a, now classic, yellow Slider Rod. I had been converted to “Slider Fishing.” Today, I always have at least three rods with either a Slider Weedless Head or a Slider Football Head tied on when we hit the water.

Next, everyone who bass fishes or watches television fishing shows recognizes the name Bill Dance and his iconic “T” cap. I had the opportunity to meet Bill at one of Timmy Horton’s “Fishing for Kids” events on Pickwick Lake. We chatted awhile on the ramp while the kids were being

Bill Dance is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. Bill Dance Outdoors photo

loaded into their assigned boats with their volunteer guides. Bill Dance is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. Talking to this legend is like talking to one of your buddies in the bass club.

Another well-known name in bass fishing I was happy to meet was Tom Mann from Eufaula, Ala. Tom was not only a B.A.S.S. competitor but the designer of and owner of Mann’s Baits. His “Jelly Worm” was the first bass lures I fished in my earliest days of bass fishing. Tom also started the company that produced the Humminbird Depth Finder. I met Tom at a Bassmaster event on Wheeler Lake-one of the “unknown location” tournaments of Ray Scott’s early events. I showed up at Joe Wheeler Lodge wearing my hastily produced “Billy Bass & Charlie Carp” monogrammed shirt. I found a tired-looking Tom Mann sitting in a chair by a stairwell after weigh-in. I asked if I could interview him and he replied, “Sure”, even

Tom was not only a B.A.S.S. competitor but the designer of and owner of Mann’s Baits. Tom Mann Baits photo

though he had not been doing well in the tournament. The answer to one of my questions stays with me today. I asked him what he thought of Wheeler Lake. With all sincerity, he replied, “I’m not impressed.”

We met one last time in New Orleans at an ICAST show when he stepped into the elevator my wife and I were in. I don’t think he remembered me and my Billy Bass & Charlie Carp monogrammed shirt and was still trying to forget Wheeler Lake.

Bass fishermen know the name Rick Clunn. My meeting with this legend of bass

B.A.S.S. legena Rick Clunn. B.A.S.S. photo

fishing was, in all honesty, a fairly brief affair. He was sitting alone in his boat in one of the slips at Florence Harbor (McFarland Ramp) on Pickwick Lake before a tournament started. I introduced myself and asked if I was going to see him on Wilson Lake since the contestants were permitted to lock thru from Pickwick. I was asking so I would know to look for him on the lake for some photos. Rick just sat there for a moment looking at me and replied with a simple, “No”. That didn’t give me much to write about.

The name Gary Storm may not ring a bell with some of you. Gary, and one of his brothers Bill, were the driving forces behind the original Storm Lure Manufacturing Company before being bought by Rapala. The “Wiggle Wart” line, “Thinfins,” “Hot’n’ Tots,” and the “Rattlin’ Chug Bug,” were popular lures in their line of baits. Unfortunately, I never did get to meet Gary in person but we communicated quite a bit for years. Gary provided Storm Lures for me to fish and to give away as promotional baits. Storm Lures was also one of the original sponsors of my television show. I consider Gary, and Bill, bass fishing lure and design legends.

Ron McDonald, Roland Martin, and Charlie Brewer. SFN photo

Roland Martin is a B.A.S.S. pro legend. I have had the opportunity to meet and talk with Roland a couple of times. He, like most of the pros, is very willing to talk fishing. Roland is happy to give an interview and usually has something to say.

Legend Hank Parker. Hank Parker photo

I’ll finish my stories with a guy who could have starred in Mr. Roger’s

Neighborhood: Hank Parker, Jr. This guy has to be up there with the nicest guys ever to fish with B.A.S.S. I don’t think Hank ever stops smiling. Hank was the featured speaker at a banquet I attended and we swapped fishing stories for about ten minutes beforehand with a couple of other fishing guys. Later, Hank told the audience what his mother always said about him, “If I start talkin’, I can’t shut up.” (Mamas can always get away with that kinda stuff.)

Well, folks, those are my stories and I’m stickin’ to ‘em. I hope you enjoyed them.

One Comment

  1. Don Gowen says:

    Excellent article of memories from the ole days from a life-time contributor to bass fishing and its development as a top-grain sport. Keep a tight line RonnieMac.