Are You Ready For Fishin' Outside The Box?
By Chuck Bauer
Going through a stack of mail some time ago, I came upon a letter from a friend of mine, Kerry Ann of Santa Rosa, CA. Kerry thought I would enjoy reading a newspaper article about a Santa Rosa local who had just banged and released a 24-pound largemouth bass, which would have completely eclipsed the current world's record by a full two pounds. After reading the article and seeing the picture, with a measure of doubt, I placed the article back in the envelope, and there it remained in the mountain of paperwork on my desk. "Yeah, right," I said aloud. Never thought another thing about it.
Two months later, I am at the Hyatt DFW Hotel (the big hotel at the airport in Dallas). It's May 1997, and I'm there to do a speech for a Personal Development Seminar, with about 2500 people in the audience. I get on stage and do my talk, and of course, I use many fishin' props in my speeches. And, for this particular one, I remember having a flippin' stick with me. Immediately at the conclusion of my talk, I head back stage and grab a bottle of water. I feel a tap on my shoulder as hotel security asks if I'm Chuck Bauer. My "what's up?" was met with security disclosing to me that there was a couple waiting out in the hallway, and that they very much needed to speak to me, as they had just seen my speech about fishin'.
I walked out to the lobby and was quickly introduced to a very excited married couple, Marty and his wife, Shawn. Bursting with enthusiasm, Marty blurts out, "Did you hear about the HUGE bass that was caught and released in Northern California?" I replied that I had, that I had been sent the article that appeared in the local Santa Rosa paper. (Now I am trying to remember, what in the heck did that article say?) Marty proceeded to tell me the story behind this guy catching the 24-pound bass, who turned out to be Paul Duclos, who just happened to be Marty's best friend. "Hello Marty, buddy old pal," as I slapped my new friend on the back. A few weeks later, lo and behold, what showed up at my office was none other than a copy of Outdoor Life Magazine, with Paul on the cover, holding the 24-pounder. It was autographed by Paul Duclos himself, for me. WOW!
I started to keep an eye on all the press and the opposition that Paul was getting. After all the resistance I saw against him, I figured he had to be telling the truth, as truths are always challenged. I called Paul one night and thanked him for the signed copy of Outdoor Life (which, to this day, hangs in a special frame on the wall of my office), and had a great conversation with him. He told me the whole story, from start to finish. Better yet, he was so humble and authentic, I knew he was speaking the truth, no doubt about it. We then began to talk of some of our upcoming fishing plans, and Paul spoke of his next trip to Spring Lake the following Wednesday. Pausing, I then took a deep breath, and got up the nerve to ask the big question, "Paul..., if I was to fly from Dallas to Oakland, rent a car, and drive to Santa Rosa, would you be so kind as to allow me to fish with you?" Silence, for what seemed like an hour, was followed by a very reassuring Paul saying to me, "If you would make that kind of sacrifice, I would be honored to fish with you!" Done. I'm there! As soon as I hung up the phone, hootin' and hollerin' and shoutin' echoed down the halls of my Dallas office.
Talk about excitement! This was for me like the way America felt when Neil Armstrong took his first step on the moon..., times ten! I mean, this is Paul Duclos, he was on the cover of Outdoor Life, he caught and released a 24-pound bass...!
The night before our pre-arranged fishin' trip, I was already camped out at Spring Lake in Santa Rosa. It was dark and I was having a hard time sleeping, pondering what lies ahead, knowing that only 100 yards from where I was trying to sleep a 24-pound bass LIVED. Then the cell-phone rang. I looked at the Caller-ID and it was Paul. Was he calling to cancel? My hands started shaking as I mustered enough strength in my voice to say a feeble, "Hello?"
"Hey Chuck, whatcha up to? Are you ready to go in the morning? I'll swing by your campsite at around 6:00 A.M..., I 'll need a little help with my boat... and I promise we'll bang a big fish. See ya!"
Sleep, yeah right, history is being made right now, right here in Santa Rosa, California, and you want to sleep? Put yourself in my shoes and tell me how you would feel right about now!
Now, before I finish the rest of the story, let me describe what it is like in Texas to launch a boat at the ramp at Lake Ray Roberts. First off, everyone drives a Suburban that is color-matched to their 22-foot bass boat, which flaunts a 250-horsepower engine along with a custom-painted, tandem-axle trailer. The parking area looks like a Chevrolet dealership. After you "dunk" your boat in the water, a few hired hands come to swab down your boat trailer and wash your windshield. Then, once you park your Suburban, a small Mercedes Benz golf cart pulls up and a courtesy driver whisks you away towards the dock, inquiring as to your beverage of choice, before you head out.
Talk about a hook set, I almost had y'all going! Now, back to the story.
It's 6:00 A.M. the following morning. I keep a lookout through the window of the motor home, looking for a glimmer of a headlight. I don't see any, yet I think I hear something. "Cluck, cluck, shake, shake, rattle, rattle, rattle," then finally the headlights. I walk outside and Paul pulls up in this ancient, 1976, rusted-out Datsun pick-up (pre-Nissan) which was blowing out a huge plume of choking blue smoke. We were lucky that the park rangers didn't cite us for disturbing the peace or smog violations! And that's not all, Paul has a plastic bathtub he calls a fishin' boat, tied to the pick-up bed. Yes, the boat he fishes out of is plastic and about as long as my eight-foot fishin' pole! The cover of Outdoor Life?! But it doesn't end there: he wants me to help him carry the boat down through the woods to launch it from the bank! The bank? Where's that launch ramp when you need it?
Well, it is often said that when the student is ready to learn, the teacher will appear. I was ready, I wanted to learn, and here I was with the Master Teacher. The education was getting ready to commence. I watched. I learned, I listened. The Master was brilliant. He was totally out-of-the-box. He was extraordinary. He was different. He shared things that I had NEVER seen on any Saturday morning television show.
After a couple of hours of watching Paul, I knew that my approach to fishing was only good for catching 3- to 5-pound fish. If I ever wanted to catch a 10-pounds or larger fish, I would have to apply myself as Paul does -- get rid of the ego, big boat, small rods, no noise -- be stealthy. I needed to paint my anchor ropes and start using 8 1/2 ft. saltwater or salmon rods, etc. I needed to visit the saltwater section of my local fishin' store. I needed to start thinking out-of-the-box.
Out-of-the-box thinking? "Come on, Bauer", I said. I teach my success students and audience participants to get "out of the box" all the time. Take the first step..., it will lead to the second step, and that will start the process. Go walk down that saltwater isle, look at each "plug," find those that resemble a trout or bluegill -- y'just never know, as I found out that morning.
Paul had me on his G. Loomis Rod coupled with a Shimano Chronarch Reel that is loaded with Triple Fish Line. The casting plug that Paul tied on was a HUGE double-jointed THING that looks somewhat like a trout, very long and slender. On the end of the plug, Paul had glued on a large, long rubber tail. If I were a bass, I'd eat it!
My casts were the longest I had ever made. The 8 1/2 ft., G. Loomis rod made an incredible difference. I felt like I could cast from one county to the next. Then it happened. I caught an 8 1/2 pounder on that big plug. After realizing how big this fish was, we took a few photos and released the fish. Then, it was like the floodgates opened up. I can do this... I have a great teacher... today I start my new path in fishin'.
Leaving Santa Rosa, I had much to ponder. I immediately began to change. I adapted to Paul's teachings. Bigger fish came my way. And with each fish, there were the unbelievers and the nay-sayers. Fishermen would see the big Castaic trout and laugh. But, in the end, I had the big fish, not them.
I stayed in touch with Paul. We spoke every week and kept up with each other. Every time he spoke, I listened and learned. I took two more trips to Santa Rosa to fish with Paul. I'm not sure, but I think we fished a total of 7-8 days and caught some real nice fish, including one day where Paul had an 11-pound and a 14-pounder, which were caught on three consecutive casts. (see photo) Nothing like having a career in one day!
Recently, I took a trip back to Spring Lake. It had been four years since I was last there. I sat at the edge, overlooking 80 acres of big bass-infested waters. I marveled at the smallness of this body of water, a smallness (by Texas standards) considered to be a "golf course pond." Back in 1997, this little "dink" pond made the cover of Outdoor Life. I wonder how many fishermen look at these same waters and said it never could of happened. I think back of my dad, of Paul, and others who have contributed so much to my life and this wonderful sport of fishin'. I am filled with gratitude, and thankfulness that, once and for all, I have experienced the pure pleasure of fishin', when I finally put myself outside the box.
Chuck Bauer is a noted Big Bass Specialist who has been recognized many times by various organizations, including Bassin' Magazine, Texas Fish & Game, North American Fisherman Magazine, Outdoor Life, Texas Hunting and Fishing News, The Dallas Morning News, and Texas Outdoor Times Magazine. Chuck is a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association and he is on Pro Staff for Kick-n-Bass.
Chuck also does free fishin' seminars in and around the Dallas/Ft.Worth Metroplex.