This is a continuation of the list I began to put together last week, talking about the 10 best bass fishermen/boat partners I have been with over the past 55 years.
This is a person you enjoy even when you’re not in a boat -- someone who makes your life better, and you, his.
Only got to three last week. Mike McKinnis at No. 10, Billy Westmoreland at 9 and Forrest Wood at 8. I’m going for four more today.
No. 7 is someone that you probably didn’t know, Bill Rose. Bill was a guide on Bull Shoals Lake and we were buddies during the 1960s. He taught me more about bass fishing than anyone I have ever known and he lost a battle with cancer at the young age of 40.
We fished in the years before bass boats, depth finders and the trolling motor was on the back of a 14-foot V bottom boat. March was the best month for big bass and we would go on the windiest day and fish the windiest bank. Bill would point the nose of the boat into the wind, hold it with the big motor, which was only 10 horsepower, and we’d cast Bombers into the stirred up shallow banks. If we did that long enough we’d finally run into the right bank.
Bill Roses’ strength though was fishing deep ledges, sunken brush and targeting suspending bass. Most everyone knew nothing of suspended bass in those days, but Bill did, and did all of this without depth finders.
I always wondered where he’d stack up with today’s bass fishermen. What a great guy to be out with.
This next one is really going to surprise you, and I hesitate using this angler because it’s going to look like I’m name dropping. But here it goes anyway.
In the past 30 years I’ve spent more times fishing with No. 6 Bobby Knight than anyone else, and every trip is an adventure. A great adventure. Remember now, I said a candidate for this list has to make your life better and vice-versa. Coach Knight certainly fits the bill.
Coach Bobby Knight and Jerry McKinnis
But, you’d be surprised at what a great bass fishermen he is. And he gets the job done with a fly rod. Oh, he will fish with a casting outfit or spinning tackle at times, but if he can make do with a fly rod, he will.
We have a trip to Northern Minnesota that we make every spring and we normally catch the heck out smallmouth bass.
This past spring we hit it at the peak of spawning season and I swear every fish in the lake seemed to be in 2 feet of water. Coach caught so many fish on either a streamer fly or a popping bug. It was so good that at times I wouldn’t fish, I’d just sit there and watch.
Quick, funny story for you. This winter I had my heart situation and somehow Coach Knight found out about it. One or two days after the surgery he called the hospital and I couldn’t talk so he talked to my son, Mike. His first words were, “Now, this isn’t going to screw up our spring fishing trip, is it?” Of course he was kidding … or not.
Now if you watched “The Fishin’ Hole” back in the day you might remember No. 5 Harry Lambirth.
Harry Lambirth in the back of the boat. His comment here was, "Now this is a bass tournament."
I used to, and still do, make numerous trips to the Minnesota Bounty Waters. This is the trip where you canoe and portage back in the wilderness and camp for several days. The smallmouth fishing in this region ranks with the best in the world and since the mid 70s, Harry Lambirth and his wife, Mary, have been taking me into their paradise.
The two of them are hands down the best camping, cooking, fishing people in the world, and Harry and I have spent probably 50 days in a canoe together.
Harry knows exactly where we should be and how to catch the fish. He has no equal.
However, if we spend 8 hours in that canoe, 7 ½ of it will be spent trash talking each other. “My fish are bigger … I’ve caught more than you … I carry the load when it comes to the paddling … the Cardinals aren’t as good as the Twins,” etc.
If you heard us, you would wonder how he got this high on the list. Well, we have developed a relationship where he can give me a bad time, but if someone else is going to trash me, they’ll have to go through him. You know what I mean.
Man, he can put that canoe in places where it’s dangerous to throw a Zara Spook.
As I think about it, Harry’s wife Mary is so good with a canoe that she too could make the Top 10, and yes, Mary trash talks me as well.
Moving on, here’s someone I talk about all the time because although gone now, he’s still a big part of my life. My No. 4 fishing partner is Tom Mann. Here’s another gentleman who taught me so much about bass fishing.
I had, up until I met Tom, always liked but felt uncomfortable using spinning tackle to bass fish. Not all the time, but in the right situation.
Tom Mann, Lake Eufaula, Jelly worm, great combination.
Tom Mann used spinning tackle 100 percent of the time including situation where you needed heavy lures and fished in lots of cover. That always made me feel good about using spinning gear from time to time.
Mann’s company produced some great baits and still do I might add, but my favorite was a flat tail Sting Ray Grub and of course the tail spin bait – Little George. I still fish both lures a lot.
Don’t have room for a long Tom Mann story here, but I must tell you that he called me Slocomb after a town in Alabama. When we stop our boat on a good looking spot, he would always say, “Hey Sloc, we might get our rigs tore up here.”
Well I have three more for you next week and they’re good ones. But, I have to tell you that as I look back on the seven I have done already, I wish I hadn’t ranked them. I have 10 number 1s when you get right down to it.