The Life and Times of Stacey King: 1986 to 2016

Stacey King with a smallmouth bass that he caught on Sept. 24, 2013, on a reservoir in northeastern Kansas.

Stacey King of Reeds Spring, Missouri, began competing on the Walmart FLW Tour at Lake Travis, Texas, on Feb. 12, 2007, and at that event, he won $12,000. Since that day, he has competed in 70 FLW tournaments, including four of the prestigious Forrest Wood Cup events, and won $427,000.

Throughout the 2015 season and for several months afterwards, he spent a lot of time thinking about retiring from the Walmart FLW Tour. Some of his pondering might have stemmed from the aftereffects of his battles with the squamous cell carcinoma that afflicted his neck and throat. That battle was confounded by two surgeries. One of the surgeries entailed a series of biopsies and the removal of his tonsils. During the second one, the surgeon removed 24 lymph nodes, and the pathologist determined that six of them were cancerous. After the second surgery, he endured many weeks of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These woes prevented him from competing in the final two Walmart FLW Tour events in 2014.


On Dec. 16, 2014, he announced on Facebook that he was cancer free. It was a joyous declaration, but he confided to several close friends that he was far from being the man he used to be.


Even though his physical stamina was meager, his competitive spirits were still ticking at an impressive rate, and by Mar. 2, 2015, he was competing on the Walmart FLW Tour again. At that March event on Lake Toho, Florida, which was the first one of the 2015 season, he caught 20 largemouth bass that weighed 69 pounds, seven ounces, finished in fourth place, and won $20,000. Nine days before his practice sessions began at Toho, King was inducted into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, and although he was still fatigued from his battles with cancer, the honors and the many accolades that were bestowed upon him by Kevin Van Dam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and other bass-fishing luminaries at the induction ceremony provided a significant boost to him mentally or psychologically. That boost helped him handle and tame some of the physical strains that were plaguing his body at Lake Toho. But the next five tourneys were a struggle, and one of his friends thought that some of these struggles stemmed from the many elements that gradually unfold as one recovers from cancer. At four of the tournaments, he failed to garner any prize money, and at Lake Chickamauga, Tennessee, during the second week of June, he earned a check for $9,688 for finishing in 58th place. By the end of the regular season, he finished in 57th place in the angler-of-the-year competition with 158 other anglers and did not gain a berth at the Forrest Wood Cup at Lake Ouachita, Arkansas on Aug. 20 to 23, 2015.

By November of 2015, he decided not to make the $6,000 deposit for the 2016 season on the Walmart FLW Tour.

King said during a telephone conversation on Jan. 7 that the ordeal of driving to Lake Okeechobee, Florida, and Lake Champlain, New York, was one of the major reasons why he decided not to compete in 2016. He described the traveling to and from some of these events as being incredibly exhausting, and even though his wife, Peggy, did a lot of the driving, it took him nearly a week to recover after some of the 2015 tournaments. (It is interesting to note that King's dear friend and fellow competitor Tommy Martin of Hemphill, Texas, who is 75 years old, made the same decision in November of 2015, saying to BassFan.com that traveling to some of the venues was grueling, and it played a major role in his decision to retire from competing on the Walmart FLW Tour.)

During the telephone conversation, King reminisced about many of the things that transpired during the past five decades in the world of tournament angling.

Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, King competed in local and regional tournaments. His first endeavors in the big-time tournament scene occurred at the Bassmaster Texas Invitation at Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Texas, on Mar. 19, 1986. To his surprise and chagrin, however, he caught only 9.8 pounds and finished in 156th place. Yet, after that disheartening and humbling beginning, he enjoyed a fruitful career plying various Bassmaster tournaments, such as the Top 100, Invitationals, Megabucks, Elite 50, Tour, and Opens, as well as participating in 12 Bassmaster Classics. Across the years on those circuits, he won two of them, finished in the top 10 thirty times, and earned $712,001.

During the 30 years that he plied the Bassmaster and FLW circuits, he won $1,035,688. Besides those two circuits, he competed at other venues, where he fared quite well at times. For example, he won the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame tournament at Lake Ouachita, Arkansas, in 2001 and the Professional Anglers Association's tournament at Table Rock Lake, Missouri, in 2011. During a few of those 30 years, he was on the board of directors of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame and Professional Anglers Association. One of his many friends described it as "a whale of a career."

But as King learned straightaway at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in March of 1986, it is a very demanding profession, and victories are extremely difficult to come by. In fact, some  observers contend that it is the most demanding and bizarre professional sport, and the reason for that is an angler is not only competing against a hundred or more contestants, but he is also pursuing a quarry that can rarely be seen by the human eye. To be successful year in and year out, a big-time bass tournament angler has to work incredibly hard and develop an unfailing sense of perseverance in order to tolerate scores of failures. And at the same time, he must possess the wherewithal to learn something from each of those failures. On top of all that, honesty and selflessness should be the guiding lights for every tournament angler.

In the telephone conversation, King, who will be 67 years old on Feb. 21,  emphatically said that his career as an angler is not over and he is not retiring from the tournament scene. But he did say that he will not be traveling as far and as much in 2016 as he used to travel.

He will compete in six tournaments, and they are the Costa FLW Series' Central Division and the Bassmaster's Bass Pro Shops Central Opens. His first one will take place at the Central Open on the Atchafalaya Basin at Morgan City, Louisiana, on Feb. 18 to 20. After that he will participate at the Costa FLW Series on Lake Dardanelle, Arkansas, on March 31 to April 2, at Kentucky Lake on April 28 to 30, and at the Lake of the Ozarks on Oct. 6 to 8. He will also compete at the Bass Pro Shops Central Open on the Arkansas River at Muskogee, Oklahoma, on June 2 to 4 and at the Bass Pro Shops Central Open on the Red River at Shreveport/Bossier City, Louisiana, on Sept. 29 to Oct. 1.

In addition to competing in those six events, he will work for "The Bass Pros" television show, give seminars for Bass Pro Shops, and be part of Bass Pro Shops research-and-development staff. (Bass Pro Shops and Nitro Boats have been his primary sponsors during his tournament career, and they will continue to sponsor him in 2016.)

Decades ago, King was a fishing guide on Table Rock, Bull Shoals, and Taneycomo lakes. He recently acquired a United States Coast Guard captain's license, which allows him to be a fishing guide in Missouri. And now he is hoping to create a guide service that focuses on teaching anglers how, when, and where to fish. Instead of merely taking folks fishing as he used to do, King wants to create an educational service for very serious anglers who want to learn how to master the many elements that make up the art and science of angling for black bass. As he envisions it, he will not be a full-time guide, and that is because he will be catering to just the few anglers in this world who want to be the students of a hall-of-fame angler. When one of King's longtime friends learned that King wanted to create an educational guiding service, his friend called it a sterling idea, exclaiming that King has always been a gifted teacher, as well as a gentleman, which is an important attribute in the guiding and teaching world. What's more, King has always possessed a passion for floating Ozark streams and rivers in pursuit of smallmouth bass, and during the months of May, June, July, August, and September, he would like to teach anglers how to float those waters and tangle with oodles of smallmouth bass. Anglers who are interested in studying with King can email him at kingfishing@earthlink.net.

Endnotes:

(1) Here is a link to a video that Bass Pro Shops Video Productions created to celebrate King's induction to the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame: https://vimeo.com/bassprovideo.

(2) Here is the link to Stacey King's Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/staceykingfishing/.

(3) In the telephone conversation on Jan. 7, when Stacey King talked about his retirement from the Walmart FLW Tour, he also said that he fished for three hours on Jan. 6 in the vicinity of his home at Table Rock Lake. His friends had reported that the bass fishing had been terrible since El Niño had walloped Table Rock's watershed in December. When he was afloat, the water level was 13 feet above normal and acres of the terrestrial vegetation were flooded. The surface temperature was in the low 50s. He spent the first 135 minutes wielding a Chatterbait and flipping and pitching a jig and trailer, and he elicited two meager strikes and failed to hook a fish. During the final 45 minutes of this outing, he picked up his spinning rod, and he began employing a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's Fishing Products' Dirt ZinkerZ on a 1/16-ounce ball-head jig with a weed guard. He worked this Midwest finesse rig around boat docks, where he caught a small spotted bass, a handsome smallmouth bass, and he failed to land another hefty smallmouth bass that wrapped his line around a cable on a dock.

Since 2010, he has become a devotee of the 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's ZinkerZ on a 1/16-ounce jig, and at times, he has used it in tournament situations. He has also introduced it to a few other tournament anglers, and it has become one of his favorite baits to use when he is fishing recreationally. And on Dec. 10, 2010, he came to northeastern Kansas with a cameraman to create a feature about the 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ and several other Midwest finesse tactics for "The Bass Pros" television show. The first time that he used it at a tournament was at Lake Lanier, Georgia, on March 31, 2011, during a Professional Anglers Association event, where he used a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's PB&J ZinkerZ affixed to a 1/16-ounce ball-head jig, and he caught an array of spotted bass on it. For more information about one of his tournament days at Lake Lanier, please see the story at this link: http://zmanfishing.com/cms/squad_detail.php?Midwest-Finesse-With-The-Z-Man-ZinkerZ-For-Pro-Angler-Stacey-King-31.

(4) Here is a link to a YouTube video that features King explaining how, when, and where he uses a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's ZinkerZ affixed to a 1/16-ounce jig: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zr673dpLHfY.

(5) Here are five links to Midwest Finesse columns that feature Stacey King:

      (a) http://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/midwest-finesse-on-the-tournament-trail-with-stacey-king/.

      (b) http://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/jika-rig-update/.

      (c) http://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/stacey-the-jika-rig-king/.

     (d) http://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/midwest-finesse-fishing-september-2013/; see the logs for Sept. 24 and 25.

    (e) http://www.in-fisherman.com/bass/the-little-varmint-part-1/.

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