Terry Bivins of Lebo, Kansas, and the late Leroy Spellman of Mt.Vernon, Missouri, have had a piscatorial tie that stretches back into the 1980s.
Before he crossed paths with Spellman, Bivins was a stellar race car driver. He raced from 1964 to 1977 and won more than 4oo events. His racing career ended when NASCAR officials failed to honor him with the 1976 Winston Cup Series rookie-of-the-year award. Initially NASCAR announced that Bivins won the award, but a few week later NASCAR rescinded the award, saying it was overturned on a technicality. Bivins protested what he described as NASCAR’s malfeasance by quitting the sport. However, he drag raced a bit and even won some championships in 1986 through 1987. Then from 1976 to 2006, he worked hard, managing his construction company and several other businesses. He also fished hard and became as talented a fisherman as he was a race car driver. Then at the age of 62, he began racing again in 2006, competing in B-modified class cars at dirt-track races, such as at Heartland Park Topeka’s Super Saturday Showdown dirt track series, where he was by far the oldest driver on the track, but he always gave the youngsters a run for their money. In 2012, Bivins won a few races, and he enjoyed 12 top-five finishes and 15 top-ten finishes. Because of a broken motor, he missed the last two races of the season, which put him in third place in the points standing, and if his motor hadn’t failed, he thought that he would have finished in second place. He said that he “had a lot fun racing at the age of 69 and battling the youngsters. Some of them were a little distraught because they couldn’t catch me.”
As his racing renaissance became more intense, his interest in fishing waned, and he even sold his boat. But during late summer and early fall of 2012, his fishing fever erupted, and he purchased a boat and began wielding Leroy Spellman’s 1/6-ounce and 1/8-ounce jigs again. Of course, he inveigled scores of fish on them as he used to in years past.
Bivins recently reminisced a bit about how he and Spellman originally crossed paths. He remembers that it occurred shortly after he purchased a bass boat in 1982. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Bivins spent a lot of time reading about bass fishing. One story that caught his eye featured a pair of anglers who won a lot of bass tournaments at Table Rock Lake, Missouri. That story reported that this pair of anglers were swimming Spellman’s gray jigs across the tops of the flooded trees in 20 to 50 feet of water.
After reading that story, Bivins contacted Spellman, who had a shop in his Mt. Vernon, Missouri, home, where he and his wife crafted several kind of lures, including a variety of jigs. The Spellmans named their business Stream Sweeper Lures.
Bivins said: “When I got a hold of Leroy, I had him send me some chartreuse and gray 1/8-ounce jigs. And ever since then, I have been used every size that he and his wife tie, ranging from as small as a 1/64-ounce jig to as big as a 3/8-ounce jig. I have found that the chartreuse one is the one to use on a cloudy day, and gray is best when the water is clear and sun is bright. His white-head, baby-blue-body and white-tail jigworks surprisingly well in murky water, and his black one catches a lot of smallmouth bass.”
During the past three decades, Bivins purchased thousands of the Spellmans’ jigs. He says it is impossible to tabulate how many of them he has worn out and lost on snags. Even though both Spellmans are dead, Bivins has stockpiled enough of them to last until his dying day.
Despite having to battle the cold and damp wind, Bivins was able to eke out 28 smallmouth bass and one largemouth bass. None of them were dinks, but none were lunkers. Most of the smallmouth bass ranged in size from 15 to 16 inches in length, and the largest was 17 1/4 inches long.
Bivins discovered that the wind made it difficult for him to keep Spellman’s jig from becoming snagged in the crevices of the shallow rocks. Therefore, he decided to work with a shortened motor-oil-neon, eight-inch Gene Larew Lures’ Hooktail Worm. Bivins removed three-inch segment off the head of the worm, and he affixed that three-inch segment to a 1/16-ounce jig. He retrieved the jig-worm combo by slowly swimming it across the tops of the rocks.
As the fall of 2012 continues to unfold, Bivins will eventually turn his attention to the white bass that normally abide on wind-blown point and shorelines. Then during the winter of 2012-13, he will extract oodles of crappie from their wintertime haunts. Once spring arrives, he will turn his attention to sauger and walleye, as well as crappie, temperate bass and all three species of black bass. There are also spells when he tangles with a profusion of spawning channel catfish.
Many observers have proclaimed that Bivins is the most talented multispecies anglers to have ever graced the waterways of northeastern Kansas and northwestern Missouri. They note that he is exceedingly proficient at employing lipless crankbaits, spinnerbaits, plastic worms and shirted jigs with a variety trailers, but the greatest percentage of his casts are made with one of Leroy Spellman’s jigs or a jig affixed to a small soft-plastic bait.
It is essential to note that the bottom-bouncing retrieve is what Bivins has used to catch the preponderance of fish that he has caught across the 30 years that he has used Leroy Spellman’s 1/8-ounce jig. In the eyes of the uninitiated anglers, it might seems as if it is an easy retrieve to implement, but it is not. In fact, I have never seen another angler in the world who can do what he does with a marabou jig.What’s more, he is almost as masterful with the Spellmans’ 1/4- and 3/8-ounce jigs as he is with the 1/8-ouncer.
Some observers suspect that it is Bivins’ uncanny ability to concentrate that makes him such a stellar angler and race car driver. Those of us who have watched him fish for days on end can attest to his unending ability to be in a state of deep and profound concentration cast after cast and retrieve after retrieve. It is an incredible sight to behold.