Eddie Riley is one of the most colorful bass fishermen I've ever known. Eddie's method of fishing a plastic worm was described as "fishing it like an idiot." That's how one observer described it when he saw Eddie's method on Lake Winnsboro years ago.
Eddie was close enough to hear the man's doubts about his way of worm fishing. He remembered it the next day when he collected a check worth a sack full of money for catching a big fish.
Riley is one of the most enthusiastic anglers I have ever known. I doubt many people have enjoyed bass fishing as much as the Sulphur Springs man. But maybe I read him wrong because I was around him only that one weekend, and it is easy to radiate a lot of enthusiasm when you have just caught a $50,000 fish.
Eddie Riley did that while competing in Coy Milam's Roadrunner tournament. Milam directed the popular Texas Bass Association's meets at the time, and his tournament that year was headquartered in Mount Pleasant. Almost 1,500 folks from Texas and several other states entered. Milam made it quite an event, with an elaborate awards ceremony when it was all over.
The city of Mount Pleasant rolled out the red carpet. Of course, Jimmy Houston came in to entertain, and of course, he did. Jimmy was at his best that night, as usual. But the weekend star was Eddie Riley, the enthusiastic, bubbly little guy who caught the biggest fish, a 7.98-pounder from Lake Winnsboro.
When Eddie was handed the check, he told the crowd about his way of fishing. He said he fished plastic faster than most, and two other fishermen had been watching him, and he heard one of them say, "Look at that guy over there fishing that worm like an idiot." Eddie said it sure was fun fishing a worm like an idiot.
He said he'd always burned a worm back to the boat, although the accepted way for this popular lure had always been slow, slower, and slowest. He said the way he fished it was to throw it out there and wheel it back in. His big bass came from shallow water on the tournament's first day. It was mid-morning, and the lake was covered with boats.
Most would have thought that under such conditions, the big fish would have been in relatively deep water with its head stuck against the heaviest cover it could find. Another surprise was that Eddie caught the fish at 10:00 in the morning but didn't weigh it until 5:30 in the afternoon. You'd think that in a tournament offering $50,000 for the biggest fish, a 7.98 would be enough - especially back then to send an angler who caught it rushing to the scales.
Eddie didn't do that. He thought there would be at least a 10-pounder weighed, so he kept fishing.
His 7.98 held up, and all that money went to Eddie. He also told everyone while he was on stage that he did fish a worm like an idiot and would stick with it. He also said, "I'm going to spend this money mostly on wine, women, and song; the rest of it I'm going to spend foolishly."
I also remember that tournament for another thing.
A long tall guy approached Martha and me and introduced himself. He said he was thinking of publishing a magazine strictly about Texas bass fishing. He wanted to know what I thought about the idea. His name was Jerry Dean.
I didn't encourage him because I had edited two magazines. It is a challenging venture to succeed, but he and Deb did just that. They introduced Honey Hole Magazine, and the rest is history. It was a success story because they have a remarkable capacity for work.