Keri May, co-owner of BassResource.com, spent a day on the water with Shaw Grigsby posing questions that members from our forums submitted for Shaw to answer. Here is part 6 of a nine-part series where Shaw answers every single one of them! In this episode, Shaw reveals his funniest moment on the water, advice for turning pro, and his background with snakes!
Shaw Grigsby: So fishing the Red Man Regional, and I had this lady that was editor of the magazine, and I was doing really well and really thought I could win it. I may have been in the lead or second or something like that at the time. So she's with me, and I pull into this spot, and I am just crushing them, and of course, you got to go pee, and so she's in the back, she's got her camera, and I told her I had to go pee.
She just spun around on the seat, facing backward. I don't quit fishing; I just stand up to the front and let it go, and I'm still fishing. Well, doggonit, if I don't get a bite and I set the hook, and it's a 3-pounder, a nice one, and I'm in full stream, so what do you do? Of course, she wheels around, and I'm like, what do I do? I'm facing forward, taking a pee.
I shut it off, of course. That's one good thing to do. I shut it off, and I reel this fish up. I swung it over my back and dropped on the floor then I had to tuck it in. She's cracking up because she's taking pictures the whole time, and I'm like, this is just really embarrassing. But those things happen.
Keri: That's great.
Shaw: What do you do? You have to land the fish, it's competition, and I ended up finishing third in that one, but it was a pretty funny deal.
Keri: So, on the same line, what was your scariest moment?
Shaw: Probably. I've had a few, but probably Santee Cooper. I don't know the year, but I do know the partner. I didn't know the partner until a few years ago, five years ago, or something. You know how you get a partner, draw them, and never see them again or hear, whatever. This guy came on strong, became an Elite angler, and has done well. He doesn't fish with us now, but it was Frank Scalish. Well, this was Frank's first tournament, and he drew me.
We're at Santee Cooper, and it's 50 mile an hour winds. It was so funny. We pulled in, we'd been beaten up, we hadn't caught anything, it was just so brutal, and we got on the dam at Santee, and I had a Zara Spook, and I just for the fun of it, I've got the wall of the dam, and I threw it as hard as I could, and it just came blowing back, that's how hard it was blowing. It was like throwing it into a hurricane. It was crazy.
We had to go to weigh-in, and it got worse and worse the farther you went. Santee is nothing but big giant stumps and logs. There are actually a lot of them right in the channel and what happens is instead of having 2- and 3-footers, have 8 to 10 that are so high that you get up on them. You'd be sitting there, and you'd look 2 or 3 waves up if you could see that far and one had punched through the wave, and you go, oh crap, so now you have to move over because you could just hit one and you'd be dead because the water is swampy and it's way too rough.
I told Frank, and I said listen, there's only one thing I want you to do. I want you to make sure no dummy comes up trying to go fast, runs over us, drops down on us, and kills us because that'll happen. They'll just run over the top of you, and you're done. I said it's essential that you do that.
Keri: Do what?
Shaw: He's like totally just enthralled going, oh my God. You get down to the bottom, and there's nothing but water all around. You get to the top, and it's just stunning. He's like, can I take pictures? I said yes, you can take pictures, just go and make sure nobody comes over the back. The whole time I'm going, "We're going to die." He has no clue, I mean, he has no clue, and I just said, this is as bad as it could be, it can't get any worse, and it could happen at any moment here. It's just one of those things. You've just got to keep cool, keep calm and work your wave, every one of them. Just do your best not to go down because anything, a hiccup, in that situation, you're done.
Everything worked out great. We made it in. Ten years later, I learned that Frank was my partner. He said, do you remember that time in Santee? I go, oh yeah, I'll never forget that. He said, I was your partner, and I went, no kidding, how cool is that?
Keri: What's the strangest thing you ever caught?
Shaw: A jaguar guapote.
Keri: Excuse me, what?
Shaw: A jaguar guapote. I caught it in Miami Canal. I didn't have a clue what it was. I had to get the guide going. He's also a really good friend of mine, but he's also a peacock guide down there. I said, what the heck is this? He said I'm pretty sure that's a jaguar guapote. I don't know how it's spelled, but it sounds like that. Anyway, it's one of those exotics that got dumped down there. I've caught some really cool things.
Probably in tournament fishing, I was fishing a tournament on my local lake there outside of Gainesville on Orange Lake, and I've had two different things. I've caught bullfrogs a couple of times. Pitching and flipping all of a sudden, you get a bite and whack, and all of a sudden, two big legs are flying across your back. What the heck? But on this one situation, I had this one little mat, and it wasn't huge, and I'd caught two 5-pounders out of it, so I was fishing tournament, and I'm running in, I go, I'm going to my big fish mat. I got a limit.
If I catch this 5-pounder, I will win the tournament, be second, or have an excellent finish. I pull up on the mat, flip in there, and it just gets spongy, and I'm like, oh yeah, whack, I set the hook, and out comes this big old snake. He had eaten my bait, and of course, when you rip him out of the water, he just spins around, and he wraps the line all up, and I'm like a minute to go to weigh-in, and I'm like, you got to be kidding me.
It's pooping, and it's all hooked up, and it was just nasty. What do you do? I didn't want to leave it all wrapped up and stuff like that, so I actually untangled it and got the hook out and did all that and came in, but that was probably one of the weirdest things to just catch in a tournament. I think it was a big old green water snake, is what it was called. It wasn't a moccasin or anything. If it were a moccasin, I'd just cut the line. I may have slung him up on the bank or beat him to death first, but it was just a little green water snake about 4-foot long. He was a big old long thing.
I used to catch them, so it didn't phase me in the least, but I used to catch poison snakes when I was in high school. My biology teacher was Ross Allen. Most people don't have a clue who Ross Allen is. Ross Allen was the world's foremost snake authority in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. I graduated high school in '74. He was the man. You're talking about any snake, snake venom, and stuff like that, he was the guy, and he worked at Silver Springs, he had a prominent reptile institute, and of course, Silver Springs was one of these places just south of Gainsville there at Ocala, crystal clear spring water where they had big attractions and one of the attractions was the reptile institute.
Everybody would come and look at the poisonous snakes and all the different snakes and all that, and Ross, that's where he worked and was based out of. Well, my biology teacher was his 4th wife, ex, and she was a wonderful lady and just taught me a lot. Still, just to tell you how times have changed, I caught a rattlesnake, an eastern diamondback, and I caught a cottonmouth, and I brought them to school in aquariums, and we kept them and fed them in school.
Nowadays, you do that, and you just get suspended forever, never come back. We don't want to see you again. So I brought them to school, fed them, and it wasn't that X generation where you're searching for some high. Nobody would consider putting their hand in it. Not even the dumbest kid in the world would consider going up there and putting their hand in there.
Nowadays, you have somebody who is going to rib somebody, the Beavis and Butthead, and whatever the rest of the deal, crazy stuff they do, let's see how far we can go. Back then, they didn't do that. They were very respectful and all that. I had it in class; it was fantastic to feed one and see what a cottonmouth would do. We put a fishbowl if you remember the old-style fishbowls like for goldfish; they were just kind of rounded on the top. Catch a little bluegill, drop him in that. He'd search around for the thing and look, then get up on top, and boom, he'd blast him from the top. It was awesome, and then he'd eat him.
So we had a great time watching it and seeing how they fed, and then we made a trip to Ross Allen's Reptile Institute and sold him to Ross and got to go in there and have one of the scares of my life. Sitting there talking to Ross, and of course, you're in awe because he's like the man. It's like talking to Rick Clunn because he's the man or Kevin. I'm sitting there with my back to these cages. We're behind the scenes in the display. I'm sitting there with my back to the cages.
We're talking, and then he's talking to Mrs. Allen, Virginia Allen, and I just turned around to look and right behind me, and I'm talking two feet from me, was this big king cobra, totally open, totally just sitting there, with the back of my head right there, and I almost fainted, but I didn't. I dropped down. It just scared you so bad, so fast, like holy cow. I dropped down to my knees, and I kind of crept down, and he just kind of snickered and said he's not going to do anything.
I said dude, you got a whole lot more faith than I do. I almost died. That dude was right there. He could've been 3 feet, but he wasn't any farther than 3 feet from me. I was just like, oh my God, what am I doing here? I catch rattlesnakes, but I'm looking at them, not anything sneaking up behind me or whatever.
Keri: I would've fainted. I know I would've.
Shaw: It was brutal. They got a chuckle out of it, though. Nobody has ever got all these stories.
Keri: Oh really?
Shaw: You're like digging into the way back.
Keri: What's the most important single piece of advice you would give a young angler who's pursuing a career in the fishing industry?
Shaw: Get a good education. Fish, fish a lot. Fish your summers, fish weekends. Learn all you can learn. Take courses in fisheries and fish biology to understand your prey and know what you're going after. Take courses in public speaking, marketing, and advertising to give you a feel for business courses where you know how to run your own business because we're all independent contractors and independent businessmen.
So you need a little bit of a business background. Some of the best anglers I know graduated as fisheries biologists. It gives you an excellent understanding of what they do and why they do it. You've got to have that public speaking ability, the ability to communicate because you're going to be a salesman for your sponsors. That's the best thing. Get a good education, and fish a lot. Then when you have an education so you have something that you can fall back on that gives you a lot more piece of mind when you're out here.
That means you can concentrate totally on fishing, not worrying about if you don't do it. What am I going to do? Because if you don't have an education and don't have something to fall back on, and you just can't make it as an angler, which a lot of guys do, many guys can't make it as professionals. If they don't have it and don't have anything to back up, they're really stressed, and it keeps them from fishing their best. So in your early years, when everybody struggles, you'll fish better having an education and knowing that if things don't work out, you can always fall back on a job or get a regular job or whatever, and that makes it a lot easier.