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Midwest Finesse Culture

Catching Fish and the Mind and Body of Old Anglers

by Ned Kehde   |  September 1st, 2013 0

It was recently reported that there are more adult diapers than baby diapers sold in Japan. The populations are aging in all of the developed countries across the world. Because of low birth rates and much older populations in developed countries, demographers note that the annual number of births barely exceeds deaths. By 2025, it is expected that deaths will exceed births in the developed countries.

Ultimately, as the old and very old make up the fastest growing segment of the populations in the developed countries, the effects on the tackle industry and other facets of the angling world could be profound in the United States and Canada.

The aging phenomenon has been a matter of interest for some sociologists, psychologists and economists for a number of years. For instance back in the 1980s, some academicians began exploring a theory that they called successful ageing, which consists of three components: “low probability of disease or disability, high cognitive and physical function capacity, and active engagement with life.”

When Ron Lindner of Brainerd, Minnesota , and I were working on the two blogs about the new edition of “Catching Fish: the Chronicles that Changed the Face of Fishing,” we noted that the book spans the years of 1964 to l974, and the anglers who were in their prime during those years are now old timers, and some of them are dead. Thus we talked quite intensely about how age affects the way we fish. Ultimately, that conversation provoked us to note in one of the endnotes of the blog entitled “More on Catching Fish and the Mind of the Angler” that a blog focusing on the physical and mental aspects of aging on our angling abilities was in the offing.

Even before Lindner and I began our discourse on aging, I had been mulling this topic over and over since Nov. 6, 2012, which was when I fell on the boat ramp at Lake Shawnee, Kansas, and severely broke my 72 year-old-wrist, arm and hand. Ultimately, a surgeon did his handiwork to reassemble all of the broken bones. Until that time, I hadn’t spent a lot of time pondering the idea of what the academics call successful aging, and how it affects our days afloat and abilities to locate and catch our quarries.

Then when my wrist was nearly healed and I was fishing again, I read an essay by Jared Diamond about the woes of aging in the Jan. 28, 2013, issue of The New York Times. Diamond is a noted author and professor of geography at the University of California, Los Angeles. The Times titled his essay “That Daily Shower Can Be a Killer.” He wrote: “falls are a common cause of death in older people like me. (I’m 75.) Among my wife’s and my circle of close friends over the age of 70, one became crippled for life, one broke a shoulder and one broke a leg in falls on the sidewalk. One fell down the stairs, and another may not survive a recent fall.” Diamond says “hypervigilance” is one of the remedies for thwarting some of the dastardly effects of aging. The term hypervigilance sounds as if it will paralyze or limit an old angler’s lifestyle, but Diamond declares that it doesn’t. In other words, it goes hand-in-hand with the concept of successful aging.

At Lindner’s behest and help, we began exploring the idea of successful aging in the angling world, looking at how anglers can adapt to the physical, psychological, and social changes that occur as they become old anglers.

To examine this phenomenon, we worked with Charlie Campbell of Forsyth, Missouri, who is 80 years old, Bill Ward of Warsaw, Missouri, who is 78 years old, Tommy Martin of Hemphill, Texas, who is 72 years old, Guido Hibdon of Sunrise Beach, Missouri, who is 67 years old, and Rich Zaleski of Stevenson, Connecticut, who is 68 years old. And of course, Ron Lindner, who is 80 years old, provided a multitude of enlightening insights.

Ron Lindner noted that the easiest way to see and measure this effect is by analyzing how old anglers fare in tournaments. Lindner said, “In very physical sports, football for example, the peak is early, and it last only for a few years. With fishing, while physical health does play a role, it is much, much slower, kind of like golf. Nevertheless, there is a diminishing of prowess with age. We have plenty of examples in the fishing world. For example, my good friend Roland Martin, who is 73 years old, is having a difficult time on the tournament trail. He can make a top 10 for one day, and then he falls out of it.” Lindner concluded that the ability to stay intensely focused for all three or four days of a tournament is the province of talented young anglers.

What’s more, Lindner noted that young talented anglers tend to be intrepid, while older ones tend to be cautious. For instance, while we were working on this project, the Bassmaster Elite Series’ Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown was being staged on the St. Lawrence River, and on each day of this four-day event, Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho, who is 25 years old, traveled 107 perilous miles from Waddington, New York, into Lake Ontario’s and 107 miles back to Waddington, New York. Palaniuk won this tournament by catching 20 smallmouth bass that weighed 88-12 pounds. In Lindner’s eyes, Palaniuk’s fortitude, pluckiness and prowess epitomizes the wherewithal of some of the young and talented anglers who compete in the tournament world. Lindner said he executed a similar runs up the St. Lawrence River into Lake Ontario when he was a younger angler, but he would not dream of attempting it nowadays. According to Lindner, the spot that Palaniuk fished wasn’t a secret. In fact, all the competitors knew that scores of big smallmouth bass could be had by traversing the precarious waters of Lake Ontario to lairs similar to the one that Palaniuk fished, but from their experiences and in their minds, it was too treacherous and too much of a gamble for them for them to try. In other words, they exhibited something similar to the vigilance that Jared Diamond wrote about in his essay.

Ron Lindner also talked to his brother, Al, about the effects of aging, and Al Lindner immediately said that he wouldn’t do what Palaniuk did to win that Bassmaster tourney.

Al Lindner also said, “When anglers are 30 years the old or younger and competing on the tournament trails and trying to make a name for themselves, many of them are able to focus solely on that endeavor. But as these tournament anglers grow older, a lot of other things become more important, such as: work, family, God, business, illnesses.” Ron Lindner also noted that “Al has experienced over and over again that what was important to him five years ago doesn’t seem that important to him today.” And according to the Lindners, these changes have a bearing on why the abilities of the tournament anglers decline as time goes by. Like many talented and older anglers, the Lindner brothers say that they can stilldo what they once did, just not as often.

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Guido Hibdon is the youngest of this group of aging and talented anglers, but he says Father Time has been harder on his body than it has been on a lot of his contemporaries in the bass tournament world.  But he says that his many years of fishing and dealing with the ramifications of aging have taught him numerous lessons about the virtues of perseverance.

In fact, health woes have bedeviled Hibdon for decades. At the age of six, he was stricken with poliomyelitis virus. Nine days after he won the Bassmaster Classic in 1988 he suffered a significant heart attack, and after recuperating from that ordeal, he won the Bassmaster angler-of-the-year-award in 1990 and 1991. In November of 1999, he was beset with throat cancer, and consequently, he fished only three FLW and one Bassmaster events in 2000. And after he recovered from his battle with cancer, he was in contention for the FLW’s angler-of-the-year award in 2001. But because of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, the FLW canceled the last tournament of the year, which was scheduled to commence on Sept. 12 at Lake Champlain in New York. Hibdon usually fares well at Champlain, and if that tournament hadn’t been canceled, he might have finished at the top of the heap in the angler-of the-year race rather than in fourth place.

After the end of his 2001 tournament season, he suffered another heart attack. Yet he had the physical wherewithal to fish the 2002 FLW season and finished in 22nd place its angler-of-the-year competition. After that season, his tournament endeavors have become more and more problematic.

But occasionally his stellar past flickered to life after 2002. For example, he possessed enough moxie to win the Walmart FLW Series BP Eastern Division tournament and $125,000 on Lake Champlain, New York, with a three-day catch of 15 bass weighing 56-1 on Sept. 8, 2007. And at the age of 62, he won $125,000 at the Walmart FLW Series BP Eastern Division tournament at Lake Eufaula, Alabama, with a four-day catch of 20 bass weighing 83-9 on April 4, 2009.

Part of his problems stem from the fact that he became afflicted with post-polio syndrome (PPS), which is a condition that gradually affects polio survivors decades they have recovered from poliomyelitis virus. This syndrome gradual weakens the muscles that were previously affected by the polio infection, causing fatigue, muscle weakness atrophy, joint degeneration, and skeletal deformities.

The PPS has fouled Hibdon’s left foot to the point that it is difficult for him to walk and stand for prolong periods. What’s more, his foot is occasionally vexed with gout. Therefore, he readily admits that he can’t do some of the things he once did. For instance, he has to sit in the bow on his boat rather than stand while he fishes. When he is able to stand for short spells, he uses a butt seat affixed to a long pedestal to rest upon and against, which helps to subdue the pain, but he spends most of his hours afloat sitting in what he called “an easy chair.” His inability to stand for more than an hour or two has impeded his ability to sight fish, which is a tactic he loves to do when some of the largemouth bass are abiding in shallow water in the spring and fall. He notes that the first cast is always the most critical cast when he is sight fishing, and the best cast is usually a long and extremely accurate one. It is also important to maneuver the boat so that it is shielded from bass’ sight. But when he is sitting down, he often doesn’t see the largemouth bass until he has encroached too far into the largemouth bass’ domain. Sitting also impinges on his ability to flip and pitch around flooded timber, laydowns, stumps and similar objects, but it hasn’t impeded his ability to flip and pitch into the thick aquatic vegetation that embellishes the natural lakes of Florida. What’s more, when he sits for long spells, he is whacked with some hip pain.

When he won the Lake Champlain tourney on Sept. 8, 2007, he hinted that his aging body was adversely affecting the way he fished, and he said. “This win wasn’t about the money. It was about knowing that I can still do it.” Then after he won the Lake Eufaula event, he openly acknowledged that age was hampering some of his angling prowess, and he said, “This was just a classic case of an old man slowing down and fishing real slow.” And trust me, I do that really well.”

He readily confesses that he doesn’t have as much “get-up-and-go” as he used to have. In fact, there are spells when it is a struggle for him to climb in and out of the boat. Hibdon says he doesn’t have a specific diet or exercise regimen to help neutralize some his health and physical woes. Fishing is his primary exercise, and he does it for 36 days or more on the tournament trail and about a 100 days recreationally on the Lake of the Ozarks. Because of his health problems, his wife, Stella, doesn’t allow him to fish alone. Thus one of his grandsons or one of his sons accompanies him on those Lake of the Ozarks outings.

Wielding a topwater bait, such as a vintage Heddon Tiny Chugger, has always been Hibdon’s favorite way to fish. He also likes to use a spinning rod to skip either a tube or a small skirted jig affixed to a Guido Bug under docks. He was also one of the forefathers of Midwest finesse fishing. And to this day he is a master at those tactics, but to his chagrin, there aren’t many tournament venues where those methods can be employed day in and day out, and lately that has prevented his name from gracing the top portions of the leaderboards.

His recreational outings are usually five-hour affairs, but his practice days before a tournament begin around daybreak and end at 5 p.m. He says he no longer practices from sunup to sundown, and that is because his concentration begins to diminish around 4 p.m., and once that occurs, he says it is useless to keep fishing, noting that mental alertness is a critical factor in successful angling. During these tournament practice sessions, Stella allows him to fish alone, but she would prefer to have one of their grandsons accompanying him, which they do when their school is not is session.

Hibdon constantly exhibits continuity with his past, saying that he loves to fish in the time-honored ways that he and his family pioneered decades ago. Therefore, since his life his has been both changed and changeless, his transition into the world of electronic apparatuses that revolutionized fishing during the past 20 years has been a herky-jerky one. His piscatorial forte and love lie in shallow-water fishing, where electronic paraphernalia is not essential. In fact, when he plies some shallow-water lairs, he has been known to have all his electronic gadgets turned off, including his trolling motor. For years, it has been his dream to create a nearly silent and invisible bass boat to enhance his stealthy ways at inveigling shallow-water largemouth bass. But at the behest and assistance of his son Dion and his grandsons, he has gradually learned to fish deep-water lairs and employ many of the new electronic gadgets. Yet he still wishes that there were some tournaments that prohibited the use of GPS units, side scanners, down scanners and all of the electronic tools except a rudimentary flasher, saying that he would like to see how today’s electronic wizards would fare.

In 2012, the Hibdon family was hoping to establish guiding service on the Lake of the Ozarks, featuring Guido, Dion and Payden Hibdon, but the U.S. Coast Guard refused to license Dion and Payden because they are afflicted with diabetes. The family has filed a discrimination complaint about that decision, and they are hoping the Coast Guard’s decision will be overturned.

Despite his diminishing returns in the tournament world, Hibdon hopes to fish the FLW Tour with his son Dion and grandson Payden until his dying day, and before he makes his last tournament cast, he would like to see another grandson to be part of the Hibdon tournament entourage. As he  has gotten older, the successes of his son and grandsons on the tournament circuits have become more important to him than putting another victory under his belt.

For more information about Guido Hibdon and his family, see these two blog:

Family Life Of Guido Hibdon

Family Life Of Dion Hibdon

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Rich Zaleski sent an e-mail on July 29 with details about his bouts with old age. Unlike Hibdon, Campbell, Martin, and Ward, Zaleski isn’t an aging tournament angler or a retired one. Instead, he is one of the pioneers of finesse fishing for black bass and a gifted recreational angler who writes about angling. He also worked fulltime for Lunker City Fishing Specialties from the late nineties until September of 2012, and nowadays he does some graphics and Web site work for them on a contract basis.

He suffered for several years with both peripheral and cardiac vascular diseases, but a series of surgeries in 2012 gave him a new lease on life. Still, age related illness affects him on a daily basis. He wrote: “Can’t win for tryin’ these days. Now that my heart and vascular system are all fixed up, other parts of my body are starting to put up a fight.

“Last week I was driving home from the lake, and I thought my sunglasses were dirty. But when I took them off to clean them, the big smudge was still there, and my glasses were in my hand. That ain’t right, I sighed. It is a detached retina, and I have an appointment with a retinal surgeon tomorrow.

“My problems have been mostly because of age related illness, rather than aging itself.

“It wasn’t that long ago that my peripheral artery disease caused me so much leg pain that I was voluntarily limiting the places I fish to places that I could park the truck and trailer within 75 feet or so of the ramp, because that was as far as I could walk without sitting down for 15 minutes. But since getting that fixed, it’s no longer an issue. Heck, I usually take the farthest parking place now, just to get a little extra exercise.

“When I was suffering from the effects of peripheral artery disease, I fabricated what I call an ‘old man’s handle’ next to the console in my boat to aid in getting up from the driver’s seat and onto the front deck, as well as down from the front deck too. I needed it desperately then, but I still use it constantly. It’s so convenient that a couple buddies have made similar grab handles.

“I was never a pure, standup fisherman in a bass boat, preferring instead to use a butt-pole to lean against. My peripheral arterial disease –aided I’m sure by my heart condition — sat me down in the regular seat about four or five years ago. And the funny thing about that is that I think it has drastically improved my fishing, and even though I could stand all day now, I still prefer to sit. Sitting down makes me fish a little slower, and think each cast all the way through before I’m itching to make the next one. Now there is no question in my mind I catch more fish sitting down and fishing thoroughly than standing up and hurrying. Score one for the old guys.

“Putting my current problem of a detached retina aside, my biggest age related hindrance is deteriorating eyesight, to be sure. I’ve never been a line watcher per se, and always said I fish by braille anyway, so it doesn’t affect me unless I’ve got to retie, but tying knots is a part of fishing. I have a heck of a time with it unless I’m out in the sunlight. Even then, it’s not the snap it used to be. Then to, even for a deep water guy like myself, there are times when casting to shoreline targets and skipping under trees or docks is necessary, and I don’t have the depth perception I once did, so that does come into play.

“As far as endurance goes, I’m not fishing many 12-hour days any more, but that’s because I try my best to fit an hour at the gym into every day; so I either start later or end the day sooner than I might have 10 years ago.

“I am on a cardiac diet. My physical fitness regime consists of 45 minutes on a treadmill (walking with a lot of uphill intervals thrown in) and 15 minutes on the stationary bike. This amounts to about a 300 calorie burn. It seems to work pretty well. When I go up to Lake Champlain to fish with my son, I walk back and forth across the Champlain Bridge, which takes about 20 minutes each way. I don’t have a physical trainer. I am doing just an extension of what I was doing under the therapist’s direction in phase two of my cardiac rehab.

“As far as the desire and drive, if anything, it has increased. Age related illness tends to get you on a first name basis with your own mortality. I don’t know about you, but it bothers me that there are more days on the water in my past than there are in my future, and every day I waste not fishing tears at me. Losing more than three months to medical issues last fall hurt, but it left me in far better shape to spend as much time on the water as possible now. Losing two to four weeks of fishing to this damned eye, though, is irksome.

“On the other side of the coin, retirement — along with my improved health — has made me a five- to seven-day a week fisherman instead of just two days and a week of my vacation like it was for so long. Still, with 10 to 12 years ahead of me, I’m not sure I can put more days on the water during my post-retirement years than I did in 50 years of fishing pre-retirement. But I damned sure gonna try though.”

And help accomplish this task, he says: “I use Humminbird’s side-imaging and down-imaging units and a Minn Kota i-Pilot trolling motor.  I am primarily an offshore fisherman, and  knowing exactly what I’m fishing is important to me, and the i-Pilot allows the  electronics worry about boat position while I concentrate on the fishing. I would have a bow mount 360 imaging system on order if I could afford one.”

On Aug 15, Zaleski wrote in an e-mail: “I’m still laid up with a detached retina. They tried the least invasive procedure two weeks ago, but it didn’t work as well as they wanted. I also developed a new tear. So, yesterday I had the more invasive procedures. We won’t know for a couple weeks whether they worked or not.”

For more information about Rich Zaleski, please see his website. Also read his Sept. 6, 2013, blog about his trials and tribulations about fishing with one eye.

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Father Time has been kind to Tommy Martin. In fact, his friend Stacey King of Reeds Spring, Missouri, who is 62 years old, says Martin is in unbelievable shape for his age. According to King, Martin fishes and hunts with the gusto and pace of anglers and hunters who are in their 50s.

Besides guiding anglers at Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend lakes in Texas since the late 1960s, Martin has been a topnotch professional bass fisherman since 1974, touring on the Bassmaster and FLW circuits, as well as participating at scores of other competitive bass-fishing events. He won the coveted Bassmaster Classic in 1974. He switched from the Bassmaster circuit in 2005 to the FLW circuit. He skipped 2012 FLW Tour, but returned to it for the 2013 season. He began competing in the Bassmaster Central Opens in 2009, and after he finished in fourth place in the points standings in that circuit in 2011, he was invited to compete on the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2012, but he declined. He said the Bassmaster Elite Series constituted too much driving, and he had much better things to do, such as being around his grandchildren,than drive halfway across the nation to a tournament. He still relishes the competitive atmosphere of tournament fishing, but he wants to do it at a less stressful pace, which entails not driving more than 10 hours to a tournament – except to places such as Lake Okeechobee, Florida, during January and February, when it is cold in eastern Texas where he lives. He described that a trip to a tournament at Okeechobee was a vacation from winter in his eyes.

Martin’s 170-pound frame doesn’t exhibit the haggard and lardy look that many 72-year-olders display. Other than incessantly fishing hard, hunting hard and working hard, Martin says he doesn’t do anything else to stay trim and fit. There aren’t any physical fitness trainers helping him to negotiate many of the pitfalls have ensnared other anglers as they aged. He doesn’t subscribe to an exacting diet, such as those developed by Dr. Joel Furhman,  and in fact, Martin says he eats everything, but the quantity is not a voluminous has it used to be. He says fishing in the heat of a Texas summer is what keeps him trim and in shape.

For the past several years Martin has spent a lot of time thinking about the effects of aging on his angling abilities. He has concluded that age is a difficult element to measure. There are a lot of factors to assess, such as work ethic, reflexes, adaptability, balance, endurance, memory and coordination. On top of that, there is a plethora of new equipment that can assist an aging angler. But at the same time some aging anglers either resist the change that the innovative tools have created or they have a difficulty understand and using those innovations, and then they carp and complain about all of the changes, and all of that carping and complaining affects their mental disposition, and once their mental disposition becomes sour, their ability to fish turns a tad sour, too. To keep from falling into the mental quagmire, Martin has worked hard to accept and understand all of the innovations in the marine and tackle industry. Consequently, he has become a master at employing GPS units, side scanners, down scanners, and other electronic tools. He also works and consults with the folks at GPS Lake Maps of Hemphill, Texas, and he has helped designed some state-of-the-art rods for Seeker Rods of Long Beach, California.

Martin says, “An old mind cluttered with old memories is an obstacle that I try to hurtle everyday.” In his mind, versatility is an essential element in the many parts that create a talented angler, and he proclaims that striving to be versatile has helped to keep his mental perspectives younger and yearning to learn more. Therefore not only can Martin employ all of the new fangled electronic techniques and equipment that have been created during the past 25 years, he has also tried to become a more versatile angler by working with finesse tactics, such as a drop-shot rig dressed with some his favorite  Zoom Bait Company’s soft-plastic baits. At times, he has beknown to use  one of the Midwest finesse tactics that Stacey King showed him how to use. Of course, he is a power angler at heart, and he will experiment with about  every new power tactic that surfaces.

Martin says that he constantly strives to pay attention to the multitude of details that confronts a serious angler, and that involves keeping all of his equipment in topnotch shape. He said a goodly number of his older cohorts in the angling world seem to have become rather slipshod about the way the treat their equipment, which can come haunt them in tournament situations or anytime they are on the water fishing.

In addition to Martin’s stellar physical fitness, King says he is blessed with an incredible memory about angling facts. For instance, he remembers how, when and where nearly major bass tournament was won during the past four decades. And he can remember how, when and where he caught largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and spotted bass at every waterway he has fished since 1970.

Martin never uses his old age as an excuse for a poor outing, but he did say, “My biggest problem is decision making.” And he admits that his age might adversely affect his decision making as an angler. The gist of that problem revolves around the fact that his mind is cluttered with too much knowledge about how, when and where the bass were caught at a particular body of water in the past. And as King noted, Martin has been accumulating those facts since he started fishing decades ago. Martin suspects, “All of that knowledge prevents me from fishing in the present rather than the past. The talented young anglers don’t have all of those memories to wade through. Also things have dramatically changed in the waters that I have fished since the early 1970, and to catch fish you have to fish in today’s world and not yesterday’s. To do that I have to be on the water a lot, and experiment with new tactics and tools, and use them at locations that I have never explored before. But my memories tend to impede that quest. So, when I am fishing I work hard to keep my old mind and memories at bay. In my mind, I am as good as I ever was, but the talented younger anglers are better than I am.”

(It is interesting to note that Ron Lindner heartedly agrees with Martin’s notions that veteran anglers know too much about the past, and all of that knowledge  hampers them in tournament situations.  For instance, Lindner noted on Aug. 29 that he was preparing to fish a tournament at the Lake of the Woods, where he has fished and competed in tournaments for nearly 40 years. And as he was packing his equipment for this upcoming tournament, he suddenly realized that he was taking too much equipment. The reason why he was taking too much tackle was that he remembers all of the baits and tactics that he and others caught smallmouth bass on across those many years. According to Lindner, this clutter of equipment is similar to the cluttered mind that Martin has experienced. )

Nowadays, Martin also spends time at his computer surveying some of the social media venues that are devoted to bass fishing. He hopes this information will remove some of those old memories that has have affected his decision making.

Martin says, “Many of the  young anglers, such as Jacob Wheeler of Indianapolis, Indiana, and Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho,  are endowed with an astonishing amount of energy and mental alertness. They use this energy and mental alertness to survey and interpret all of the details that are available in print, on the Internet, and from their electronic equipment about the water they are fishing. The way they pay attention to those details is amazing. What’s more, during the practice days before a tournament, these youngsters don’t stop thinking at 5 p.m. like I do when my mind begins to wander and get muddled. After I have been practicing or fishing since daybreak, I am ready to call it a day around 5 p.m. And while I am sitting in my truck driving back to my room or eating dinner or sitting around my room, these kids are still on the water, fishing and learning things about what kind of areas to fish and not fish. And I am not learning a thing.”

Martin suspects that diminishing returns begin to significantly affect veteran tournament anglers from the ages of 62 to 65, and he said:  “Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why my friend George Cochran retired from the FLW Tour in 2012 at the age of 62; he knew he couldn’t keep up with the youngsters. So now he is fishing for the fun of it rather than competitively.”  But Martin also noted that his traveling partner Larry Nixon of Bee Branch, Arkansas, will be 63 on Sept. 3,  and he is still faring fairly well on the FLW circuit, despite his significant battles with his hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder.

Other than some occasional problems with his teeth, Martin’s only significant health ordeal was a recent battle with a torn retina, which a surgeon successfully repaired. His eye sight, however, isn’t as acute as it once was –-especially his distance sight. To compensate for that, he uses binoculars when he is fishing.

Another problem, according to Martin, that confounds the psyche of tournament anglers revolves around financial concerns. It is such a problem that Martin’s wife, Sheilah, refused to allow their two sons, Blake and Brian, to fish professionally. She told them to go to college, get a good job, and fish tournaments for fun on weekends, and that is what they have done.

From Martin’s perspective, fishing is an addiction, and he readily admits that he is addicted to it. Because he knows he doesn’t have many more years to fish, he fishes harder and more nowadays than he used to fish. Since he still has some competitive juices coursing around his veins, he suspects he will compete in the tournament world for a few more years. After that he will guide and fish for the fun of it.

(For more information about Martin, here’s a link to a blog we wrote together in 2012. To examine the rods he helped Seeker Rods USA develop, click here. And for information  about Tommy Martin Enterprises Guide Service, anglers can call him at 409-625-4792 or 936-676-8394 or e-mail him at: tommymartin1940@aol.com. Here’s a link to his website.

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Bill Ward is said to be one of the finest jig anglers in the world. Perhaps the reason for that is that a jig has been part of his angling repertoire since he and his father, Virgil, established the Bass Buster Lure Company in 1955, when Bill Ward was 21 years old.

The first bait the Wards created was a bass jig dressed with saddle hackles. The head of this jig was a combination of a banana jig and Upperman jig; it was a similar head to the one that Sam Welch and many of the bass anglers were wielding at Bull Shoals and Norfork lakes.

The fabrication of their second lure occurred in 1957, which was when Bill Ward assembled the world’s first marabou jig. His father was going trout fishing on the White River below Bull Shoals with Harold Ensley who was going to shoot a television show. Virgil Ward wanted a jig that was similar to the marabou streamer that Missouri fly fishermen used. So, Bill Ward tied several 1/16-ounce white marabou jigs for his father. It was essentially a Doll Fly with white marabou instead of white bear hair. On that outing with Ensley, Virgil caught an impressive array of trout.

In 1959, they began manufacturing Chuck Woods’ jig, Beetle and Beetle Spin.

During the last half of the 1960s, the Wards developed and patented the fiberguard, and this hook guard revolutionized the way anglers used jigs.

The Wards sold Bass Buster to Sam Johnson in 1970. Bill worked for Johnson for another 26 years, while Virgil focused his entire attention on his nationally syndicated television show, which was titled “Championship Fishing TV Show.”

Besides working in the tackle industry from 1955 to 1998, he fished recreationally whenever he could, and he competed in 69 Bassmaster tournaments from 1974 through 1984 and seven Bassmaster Classics. He also helped his father create footage for the television show.

Bill Ward and his wife, Sue, moved to Warsaw, Missouri, 1996, and after he stopped working for Johnson in 1998, he began fishing almost incessantly for a variety of species. Of course, he spent a lot of those hours wielding a variety of jigs.

Ward says that he “doesn’t have quite same get up and go as a 78-year-older as he did when he retired from the tackle industry as a 63-year-older, but if the fish are biting, my get up and go is as strong as it ever was. So, I let the fish tell what to do and when to do it.” Nowadays, if the fishing is a tad lackluster, he fishes only four days a week, and he gets on the water around 9 a.m. and he get off the water around 5 p.m. If the weather is foul and the fish just so-so, he might even stay home and work on his tackle, which often consist of making jigs, or working on his vintage 1987 Ranger 374V bass boat, which is in pristine condition even though he fishes in it  about 170 times year. An example of how well he takes care of his equipment can be seen by the fact that he didn’t have to replace the 26–year-old and well-used outboard motor on his Ranger until this summer.

Even though, Ward says he isn’t the vigorous angler he used to be 15 years ago, his wife who is 12 years younger than he is says that he is trimmer, younger looking and in better shape that every one of the men who attended her recent high school reunion. Except for cataracts, which an eye surgeon successfully fixed, Ward has not been afflicted with any major medical ailments. He describes his eye sight as okay, but he has to wear glasses when he is trout fishing and attaching a tiny fly to a leader. Every now and then, however, some pain flares up in the elbow of his casting arm, right shoulder, and back, but it has never been debilitating.

He also has enough stamina to drive for 15 ½ hours in a day from Warsaw, Missouri, to the Lake of the Woods, Ontario, where he meets an old friend, and he fishes hard with this old friend for six days, and on the seventh he makes the 15 ½-hour drive back to his home. While he is at the Lake of the Woods, he and his friend catch the dickens out smallmouth bass, as well as some lake trout, walleye, northern pike and muskie. In June of 2013, Ward and his friend caught and released 897 smallmouth bass in six days, which is an astronomical number in anybody’s book. Since 2010, Ward and his friend have been using Midwest finesse tactics at the Lake of the Woods, and the bulk of the 897 smallmouth bass they caught this June  were caught on a small homemade jig dressed with a soft-plastic bait, such as Z-Man Fishing Products’ Hula StickZ. Ward says Z-Man’s baits, such as the FattyZ, Hula StickZ, Finesse ShadZ  and ZinkerZ, have revolutionized the way he fishes.

Though Ward’s physical health is stellar, his emotional well-being was confounded during the past 10 years by the death of his father and son David, and these emotional travials have had an effect on his abilities to concentrate at times while he is fishing. But fishing has  also become antidote  for some of that emotional grief.

Ward says he is not a devotee of the extremely expensive and new-age electronic equipment, such as the Humminbird 1198cHDSI Combo or Lowrance HDS12 Gen2. Instead, he uses a Lowrance LCX-111C on the console of his boat, and smaller unit on the bow of his boat. In sum, he is an old-school angler. Moreover, he doesn’t have a computer. Thus, he is not savvy to all of the information that is available via the Internet, which he says seems to clutter the mind of many youngsters.

Ward attributes his good health as a blessing, explaining that it isn’t from a rigorous diet and regime of physical exercises.  He also suspects that his multispecies approach to fishing keeps him mentally sharp and prevents him from getting into the doldrums that tends to plague some older anglers who pursue just one species. He says by fishing for a variety of species throughout the year, he will occasionally discover a largemouth bass or spotted bass lair that he would have never have found if he was only a dyed-in-the-wool black bass angler.

Besides his yearly trip to the Lake of the Woods, he and his wife like to spend some time in Colorado, where Bill trout fishes, but they have not been able to do that for several summers, but they hope to journey there during the summer of 2014. For the joy of it, he likes to fish a couple buddy tournaments with one of his sons every year at the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, or Truman Lake, Missouri. He spends a lot days from October to March chasing crappie at the Lake of the Ozarks and Truman. Then from the first of March into early May, he will spend some time chasing walleye, and he will chase them again in June. He has become so fascinated with catching walleye that he will pursue them whenever he discovers that he catch a few of them. Then from April into November, Ward will spend many hours trying to locate and catch the largemouth bass and spotted bass that inhabit the Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Lake. There have been spells when he will pursue some wipers, too.

He says his greatest shortfall as angler has always been his casting accuracy when he is fishing around boat docks. Because the Lake of the Ozarks is cluttered with thousands of docks, he thought that he would eventually master that tactic, but he says it is still a problem. In his eyes, Ward says he is fishing as well as did when he was a serious tournament angler, and some of his friends say that his artistry with a jig is even better than it used to be.  But nowadays, he is having more fun than he did back then because he is simply fishing for the joy of it and using the tactics that he likes to use rather than methods it takes catch fish during a tournament.

Even though some of his piscatorial pizzazz has petered out a touch during the past three years, Ward says he is still thrilled to be able to wake up every morning and to get ready to enjoy another day on the water in pursuit of one or several of his favorite species. Fishing gives him a unique and comforting perspective about life. As a professional tournament angler, he rarely enjoyed that inner peace that he finds when he is fishing for the joy or fun of it. He says fishing provided his father, who battled bladder cancer for many years, with a similar inner peace.  In essence, Bill Ward has found that fishing has provided a healthy distraction from most kinds of grief and despair,  as well as providing an aura of hopefulness and a healthy sense of humbleness.

Ward says fishing is a sport that most anglers can do until their dying days, pointing out that his father, who died at the age of 93 on Sept. 13, 2004, fished until the last two weeks of his life.

For more information about Bill Ward’s handiwork with jigs, please see this blog.

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Charlie Campbell has been called the archangel of bass anglers. In fact, Rick Clunn of Ava, Missouri, has said numerous times that the bass-fishing world would be nirvana if every bass angler behaved the way Charlie Campbell conducts his life.

From 1971 to 2002, Campbell competed in 229 Bassmaster tournaments, as well as a plethora of other events. He also worked for Johnny Morris of Bass Pro Shops for decades, and was instrumental in creating the first Tracker bass boat, and then managing the production of Tracker Boats. He is the dean emeritus of Bass Pro Shops and Tracker Boats’ staff of professional anglers, and that staff of noted anglers is made up of Clunn, Kevin Van Dam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Tommy Martin of Hemphill, Texas, Edwin Evers of Talala, Oklahoma, and Stacey King of Reeds Spring, Missouri. Like Clunn, these professional anglers revere Campbell.

For years, he was heralded as the Zara Spook master. After he won the B.A.S.S. Chapter Championship at Table Rock Lake on May 22-24, 1974, by catching 55.15 pounds of bass on a Zara Spook, the angling media began printing thousands of words about his expertise with Heddon Lures’ Zara Spook. He still is a wizard at wielding a Zara Spook and a potpourri of other topwater lures. In fact, during the summer of 2008, Campbell bewitched a 10-pound, one-ounce largemouth bass with  a Zara Spook at Taneycomo Lake, Missouri. Moreover, he has used it to waylay several smallmouth bass in the six-pound range at Bull Shoals and Table Rock lakes. He caught his biggest Zara Spook bass in Mexico, and that brute weighed 12 pounds.

He was also a pioneer in creating and wielding spinnerbaits. His CC Spinner, which Blakemore Lure Company manufactured, inveigled untold numbers of lunker-sized bass in the impoundments across the Ozark region.

Campbell began competing in bass tournaments in the 1960s, and he continued to fish them through 2011. During his final years in the tournament world, he and his wife, Wanda, often fished together on Heartland Trails Team Series, and he also competed in some of Heartland Trails Elite Tournament Series events. During his tournament days, he used his depth finders, but he readily admits that he is not a wizard with the state-of-the-art machines that the younger anglers are addicted to nowadays. What’s more, he is not Internet savvy. Therefore, he is not privy to all of the angling information that is available on scores of Web sites.

On Oct. 18, 2012, Campbell experienced the dread fall that Jared Diamond wrote about in his essay entitled “That Daily Shower Can Be a Killer.” Campbell fell when he was doing some yard work around his home, and the fall shattered his hip. The damage was so extensive that a surgeon had to replace his hip with an artificial one, and he was laid up in the hospital for two weeks. While he was in the hospital, the medics suggested that he should recuperate at a post-surgery recovery care center. They prescribed a slow and non-aggressive recuperation program, saying that he should use a walker, and then after he graduated from the walker phase, they wanted him to use a three-prong walking cane.

Campbell protested, saying he wanted to go home and did not want to use a walker or a cane. Instead he would implement an aggressive recuperation program on his own with the assistance of a physical therapist who would come to his home. So two weeks after his surgery, his wife drove him home. And straightaway he was walking without a walker or a cane. He walked around the house, walked up and downstairs, walked around his bass boat, and as he walked around boat, he was trying to figure out how he could climb into it. Ultimately he elicited the aid of the visiting physical therapist to help him get in and out of his boat. By the weekend after Thanksgiving, Campbell was in his bass boat with his wife and fishing on the upper end of Bull Shoals Lake. And nowadays Campbell walks two miles a day and fishes as much as he ever did.

Besides his heart and hip woes, Campbell says his hand, arm and shoulder are occasionally inflamed with arthritis. And about twice a month the pain becomes intense enough that he has to take an Aleve to subdue it.

Campbell says that his depth perception has diminished, and that affects his ability to make pinpoint casts when he wants to walk a Zara Spook around the top of a partially flooded cedar tree. He says he can still retrieve his lures as effectively as he did in his prime, but after a foul cast, a stellar retrieve doesn’t pay many dividends. Campbell has noticed that most young anglers don’t realize how important stellar eyesight is; in fact, he didn’t realize it until his eyesight began to wane.

Campbell is also bothered with balance problems – especially when he is fishing in the bow of is boat. For several months after his hip replacement, he sat down in a boat seat that was endowed with arm rests while he fished,  and by sitting in that seat, his balance woes were alleviated. As his recovery from his hip surgery progressed, he began sitting on a traditional butt seat on a tall pedestal, and the butt seat tames some his balance problems. When he was sitting down in a boat seat, he noticed that he could fish a plastic worm more patiently and effectively than he could when he was standing up. But he endured some problems retrieving topwater baits while sitting down.

He says his daily two-mile walk seems to have helped some his balance battles. But as he gets older and if his balance problems become more acute, he thinks that he will have to remount the boat seat with arm rests on the bow of his boat.

When Campbell and many of his contemporaries were youngsters, Bull Shoals and Table Rock lakes were the finest bass reservoirs in the world. Nowadays, Campbell says many of these old codgers sit around and complain almost incessantly about the toils of being old and fishing reservoirs that are no longer in their prime. In Campbell’s eyes, such carping and complaining aren’t a healthy way to live. In his eyes, joy is a virtue that these old timers need to cultivate, and he tells them the easiest way to cultivate it is to enjoy every minute that they are on the water and fishing.

Of course, Campbell relishes every second that he is afloat. He says his fishing is much more enjoyable now than it was when he was tournament fishing. Nowadays he can fish where, when and how he wants to fish, and he could rarely do that when he was a tournament angler. Therefore, he spends a lot of hours, plying the Ozark reservoirs near his home, as well as several of the stellar smallmouth bass rivers and streams that meander through the Ozarks, and on many of these outings he is wielding a topwater lure.

If the weather isn’t foul, he fishes five days a week. Most of his outings are three- to four-hour endeavors. His wife will not allow him to fish alone anymore; therefore, he is always accompanied by another angler. Often his companion is his wife, and he says she catches more bass sitting in the back of the boat dragging  a Carolina rig dressed with a soft-plastic lizard than he does on his topwater baits. There are also days aplenty when he has the wherewithal to fish all day long, which is longer than some of the younger anglers can endure when they join him. Campbell now has his sights set on returning to South American with Johnny Morris and catching peacock bass.

Here’s more about Charlie Campbell.

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Endnotes:

(1) Is there a senior tournament circuit in the offing?

Charlie Campbell says it is impossible to be a professional bass tournament angler forever. But during the last few years, some of the aging tournament anglers, who are 20 years are so younger than Campbell and still brimming with the competitive spirit, have been thinking about and hoping that a senior bass tournament circuit, similar to the seniors tour that Professional Golfers’ Association runs, will be created.

Ron Lindner, who had a hand in the management of In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Circuit, said it was an interesting idea, but he thinks it is financially impossible.

(2) Below are the ideas and ways that Troy Lindner and Travis Perret have developed to combat some of the physical and mental problems that afflict aging anglers:

(a) Troy Lindner is the son of Al Lindner and nephew of Ron Lindner. Since 2002, he has lived in Los Angeles and been the proprietor of a personal training business called California Complete Fitness. He is also a talented angler, and since 2007, he has competed in about 25 tournaments a year and won 40 of them. Besides working with athletes and people in the music and entertainment world, Lindner, who is 36 years old, has spent a lot of time thinking about and working with the physical and mental aspects of angling.

Some of his insights about the physical aspects of angling can be examined at his website, which in entitled Fit4Fishing. Lindner has 12 short videos that address various physical woes that afflict anglers’ arms, balance, backs, legs, necks, and shoulders, as well as four discourses on dehydration, nutrition, and rest. Some of his observations about the mental aspects of angling were published in the summer 2013 issue of North American Fisherman in an article aptly entitled “Fishing’s Mental Matrix.”

In an Aug. 13 e-mail and during a telephone conversation on Aug. 14, Lindner said straightaway that poor balance interferes with aging anglers’ abilities to climb in and out of a boat and to endure the havoc or misery that ranks of wave and wakes can create. As a physical trainer, he has worked to improve the balance of a number of folks who were 70, 80, and 90 years old, and it was accomplished in four to eight weeks.

Mental tribulations are another problem that confounds aging anglers’ skills. And when thing go awry, these anglers often say it is old age that caused the failure and mistakes to occur. From Lindner’s perspective, that is an unwarranted excuse. To get out of this hopelessness syndrome, he said that all aging anglers should read Ellen Langer’s book entitled “Counter Clockwise.”

Langer is a social psychologist and professor at Harvard University, and according to Lindner, her book reveals how old anglers can attain a more vigorous life and better health by readjusting their attitudes and language. She explains that these anglers’ notions about being physically limited or constrained by their aging bones, flesh and souls hamper their abilities to fish properly. Langer contends that “opening our minds to what’s possible, instead of clinging to accepted notions about what’s not, can lead to better health at any age.” In essence, she shows older anglers how they can turn back the clock psychologically and physiologically. Lindner says Langer’s formula for turn back the clock should be part of every aging angler daily repertoire.

Lindner says that he has changed his diet dramatically across the years. Nowadays he doesn’t consume wheat, soy and dairy products (except for occasional sips of raw milk), and it has made a significant difference in his mental and physical abilities as an angler. Old anglers tend to be set in their ways – especially regarding the food that they eat, but if they changed their diets, it would significantly help them, too.

For example, Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s diets have reversed many of the dastardly health problems that bedevil aging anglers, such as arthritis, blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and strokes. See is Fuhrman’s Web site at http://www.drfuhrman.com/disease/default.aspx

Lindner also subscribes to the water consumption theories of Dr. Fereydoom Batmangheidj that maintains an old angler should consume one ounce of water for every pound of body weight. Therefore, if an angler weighs 170 pounds, he should drink 85 ounces of water a day.

As we were concluding our telephone conversation, Lindner said most old anglers tend to blame most of their problems on their old bones, old muscles, old joints, old lungs, old heart, old eyes and old mind. But he has seen that proper exercise, proper diet and proper mental perspectives will slow down the aging process. Moreover, it will improve an angler’s manual dexterity, joint flexibility and posture, and it will also tame arthritis. In fact, an angler’s muscles can be strengthened until the day he dies.

It is interesting to note that Al Lindner has been harassed with vertigo, and this dizziness or unsteadiness has affected his fishing. To help his father to alleviate that troublesome ailment, Troy Lindner developed a series of exercises.

Al Lindner wrote in an Aug. 30 e-mail,  “I was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, which was caused by a virus in my inner ear. My first bout with it was bad, and I thought I was having a stroke. It lasted about six weeks. The next one erupted  about three months later, and it lasted a week or so.  It disappeared for six months, and then another one hit, which lasted for about two weeks.  I haven’t had another bout with it during the past six months, and I am hoping that all is good from here on out.”

Al said that the series of exercises that his son designed for him help conquer the vertigo takes is a 30-minute routine that he does most mornings.

Anglers can contact Troy Lindner by e-mail at info@fit4fishing.com

(b) Travis Perret of Overland Park, Kansas, is proprietor of Exercise Therapy of Kansas City and Felixfishing.com, and he has helped my 73-year-old body become relatively flexible and free of pain. Consequently,  I am a better fisherman than I was when I was 63.

According to Perret, balance is one the primary problems that confound aging anglers. And here is what he has to say about it:

“As a person grows older there are many things that can cause balance issues, such as side effects to medications, ear infections and lack of proper movement. A thorough medical exam can eliminate the biological causes of balance issues. But the majority of balance issues come from lack of proper movement.

“As a person gets older they tend to become less active. Less activity causes the muscles and tendons to tighten up. When they start to tighten up, a person loses function in and around the joint. Losing function creates instability and a lack of balance.

“Fishing is not an activity that uses a lot of muscle function. We tend to use specific muscle functions in the upper body, but our lower body gets very little movement. As a fisherman grows older, they get less and less lower body function while fishing because they start to sit or use a butt seat more and more.

“That inactivity leads to the muscles getting less use and becoming weaker and weaker. The old saying “use it or lose it” applies to this. If you are not using the muscles specific for balance consistently, they will not work in an emergency when you need them to. When you are on the water, that emergency might mean falling out of the boat.

“A good example is when astronauts return from outer space. They have balance issues because they are not using the balance muscles when in space due to not having gravity. They have to retrain those muscles once back on Earth.

“Like the astronauts, fishermen who have problems with or concerns about balance can fix that issue. But they need to exercise on a regular basis. The focus of the exercise will depend on how bad the balance issue is.

“For a fisherman with only minor balance issue, they can do activities that require very little focus. An activity as simple as going for a daily walk will improve their balance. It doesn’t have to be a high-intensity workout.

“If balance is a major issue, they will need to be more focused on the specific exercises. They will need to do exercises that work on proper posture and muscle balance. They will need to do things that force their balance muscles to work. It is good to do this with some type of trainer to make sure they don’t injure themselves.

“In short, consistent exercise is the key to improving your balance. If you don’t work on it, it won’t get better.

“As we age our body gets older, that is a fact of life. But it has been scientifically proven that exercise can slow the aging process down. Don’t use it as an excuse and don’t wait till it’s too late.”

Anglers can contact Perret at 913-424-9354; travis@exercisetherapykc.com. Here’s a link to his Web site: www.exercisetherapykc.com.

For more information about Perret, see these blogs:

Brent Chapman and Travis Perret team up

The Genius of Travis Perret

Egocuse, Perret and me: an update

Here are five exercises that Perret says will help aging anglers alleviate balance problems, and they should be done in the exact order that they are arranged below. A slide show that illustrates how anglers should  do each exercise appears immdeiately below these five descriptions of the exercises.

Standing Foot Circles and Point Flexes: Do 30 circles each way and 30 point flexes on each leg. Try to balance and hold the leg up. If you need to have a chair next to you to hold on to, that is okay.

Lunge:  Spread your feet wider than your hips. Lunge back and forth to each side 20 times.

Squats: Extend your arms out in front of you and squat down. Do not lean forward. Try to keep the knees over the feet and do not let the knees go past the feet. Squat down so that your thighs are at a 45 degree angle. Keep the weight in your heels and keep your feet straight. Squat15 times.

Windmill: Feet hip width apart and straight. Keep your arms out and your shoulder blades pinched together. Move side to side as if your back was on a wall. Do it 10 times on each side.

Sitting abductor press:  Sit in a chair and roll your hips forward creating an arch in your low back. Pull your shoulders back and your chest up. Place a strap on your knees with your knees and feet hip width apart. Press out on the strap 30 times.

(3) Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, sent a note about a newspaper profile of Jack Teague, who is a 90-year-old angler from Alamance County, North Carolina.

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