Getting schooled on fishing for bass

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Catch of the day: Greg "Bo" Miller (left) and his fishing partner, Timothy Jones Sr.,, admire the smallmouth bass they caught after docking their boat at Pastrick Marina in East Chicago, Ind. | Supplied photo

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Fishing is powerful! I can’t think of any other sport that is referenced in songs, movies, television commercials and so on more than fishing. Fishing brings people together. Race, nationality, gender, doesn’t matter.

Pay attention next time you are in a group of people, possibly at a wedding reception or some type of gathering. You will see that sometime before the event is over, you will hear someone talking about fishing. This is a little experiment that I always conduct and I’m always right! Fishing is truly an amazing pastime.

I began fishing when I was about 11 years old and have been in the sport ever since. I was fortunate enough to have a dad who would make the time to get up at 4 a.m. to hit the pier with me for perch. Back in those days, there wasn’t a restriction on the number of perch you could keep, and they were extremely abundant. Needless to say, I was addicted to fishing.

As time went on, I developed an interest in targeting one species of fish, the largemouth bass. This is a bittersweet passion; I can’t think of any fish that can cause more excitement — and more heartache — at any given moment. Once you get hooked (no pun intended) on bass fishing, you can count on the fact that it’s going to consume every minute of your thoughts: What lure to get next? What rod? What reel? Do you have all the equipment you need? Is it going to rain? What the weather next week will be? It goes on and on. For those of you who fish, you know exactly what I am talking about!

So in my later years, I got interested in bass fishing tournaments. Now here is a sport where you have athletes, yes athletes (I’ll explain later) that are like no other. Tournament anglers are a very dedicated and motivated group of people. Tournament fishing takes time, finances, long hours of preparation, travel, planning, scheduling and I can go on and on. Look at tournament fishing like this: In football, you have coaches and a lot of them. NASCAR, you have a pit crew. In tournament fishing, you are your own coach and pit crew. Another aspect that makes this sport unique is you don’t get to pick the weather; you have to prepare for anything and you have to figure out what the fish want at any given time. A lot of the time, I look at it as me against the fish, not me against another angler.

Earlier I mentioned athletes. Most people associate the word athletes with physical sports. Believe it or not, fishing can be very demanding on the body. Standing on a boat for eight hours three or four days a week can be very strenuous. Keep in mind that physical fitness is very important if you are going to get involved in this sport.

So how do you get involved? There are many bass clubs out there, and probably one close to where you live. Several clubs run tournaments during the week, usually in the evenings, with inexpensive entry fees. If you do not own a boat, you can enter as a “non-boater” and be partnered up with someone. Get on the Internet and check; you will be surprised at how many clubs you may find.

About five years ago I decided that I was going to take a shot at bass fishing professionally. Remember this if nothing else: If you want to do something great, you have to surround yourself with great people. Thankfully, I was able to do this. Mr. Sean Mitchell, owner of SERVPRO (LaPorte & Porter County) helped me get the ball rolling. SERVPRO wrapped my bass boat which provided them with an advertisement opportunity. Bass Pro Shops gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, taking me on as a Pro Staff member as well as St. Croix Rods and Mercury Marine. When I started with Bass Pro Shops, Tim Jones Sr. took me under his wing and taught me how to fish Lake Michigan and has been a mentor of mine for the last couple of years. He has been instrumental in getting me where I am.

Keep this in mind also, if this is a route that you may be interested in taking: It’s not always winning big tournaments that potential sponsors are looking for — personality, salesmanship and approachability also are extremely important.

So today I can truly say that the one thing I love most about where fishing has taken me: It is my platform to reach out to people and introduce the sport of fishing.

Greg “Bo” Miller, of LaPorte, Ind., is on the pro staff at Bass Pro Shops, Mercury Marine and St. Croix Rods. He has also been a police officer with the Michigan City Police Department for roughly 18 years. Greg can be reached at gmiller@emichigancity.com.