20 Questions with Lee Sisson about his 40 years in the industry

Lee Sisson

Lee Sisson's designs have permeated the tackle industry for the better part of 40 years. He has designed hundreds of baits for several companies including his own, and he continues to develop innovative lures and products that range from special sauces to security systems. The 62-year-old living legend now travels regularly from his Winter Haven, Fla., home to fish Bassmaster Opens. Here's how Sisson answered our 20 Questions:

1. Where are you from?
 Baton Rouge, La.

2. How did you get started in bass fishing?
Actually, I was playing football at Louisiana Tech, and Terry Bradshaw took me out on Lake D'Arbonne in north Louisiana. We got on a school of bass and I was hooked from then on.

3. Who were some of your earliest fishing heroes?
Bill Dance and Tom Mann. This is back in the early days of Bassmaster, back when it was just a little bitty flyer. Those were the guys you always read about.

4. When did you realize you had made it in the bass fishing industry?
Have I made it? (laughs) I don't know that I have. I mean, there's always something to learn. I don't know that I'll ever say 'Hey, I've made it in the industry,' because there's always something to learn.

5. What's the biggest bass you've ever caught?
12-14. I got it out of a little lake here in Winter Haven, Fla. called Lake Hartridge.

6. What do you love most about bass fishing?
It's always a challenge. Just when you think you've got 'em figured out, they prove you wrong.

7. What is your greatest strength as a bass angler?
Versatility. There for a while I thought I was a crankbait fisherman, and I still am, but I've learned that to be a good angler you need to know how to use all the tools in your toolbox.

8. What is your greatest weakness as a bass angler?
Probably not thinking on my feet very fast. I haven't been tournament angling long enough to adjust quickly when conditions change.

9. Where is your favorite place to fish for bass and why?
I don't know that I have a favorite place; it's usually wherever they're biting. I fished a Central Open on Lake Amistad and had an absolute ball. I like traveling and going to new places. The challenges on new bodies of water are great.

There are some places in Florida I like to fish because this is where I live. Lake Kissimmee is always good, I like it. Lake Istokpoga, too, because I seem to keep winning there.

10. What question do you get asked most by fans and how do you answer it?
They usually ask about crankbaits; they want to know how deep they run and how to use them. I get a lot of questions about tuning crankbaits and making them run properly.

11. When and how did you get in to the lure making business?
I've always been a tinkerer and I started designing lures while I was still in college. I got the idea for the first lure I ever made from a spoon I saw in Bassmaster Magazine; this was around '68 or '69. I took a piece of wood and whittled a dent in it so it looked like the ones I saw in the magazine. I poured some lead into that with an eye on each end and made a spoon. Now, we didn't paint 'em; when you got to the lake you'd take a knife and scrape it to make the lead shiny. That spoon was the first lure I ever made.

After that, I started pouring worms like a lot of guys do; then I started making crankbaits. I started building a bait that would eventually become the DB-3. It was the first deep diving crankbait. I did really well in tournaments with it; so I built more and more and started selling a few around town.
 

Then, one day Jim Bagley came to town for an in-store promotion. He was my hero at the time, and is still one of them. We talked maybe 15 minutes, and he asked if I wanted to go to work for him. I got up, dusted myself off and said that I'd love to. I was 23. He asked if I needed to check with my wife, and I said 'Nope.' (The reason I said that was because I had been kidding my mom, dad and wife that one day I'd live in Winter Haven, Fla., and work for Bagley Baits.)

From the time that I started carving the bait that became the DB-3 until I moved to Winter Haven was about a year. It was a dream come true.

12. Do you have any fishing superstitions?
 can't say that I do.

13. How big a part does luck play in fishing?
I believe luck is where preparedness meets opportunity. There's no real superstition there. I don't think you can create your own luck, but you can create the opportunity to take advantage when certain things happen.
 

14. What has been your greatest accomplishment in the fishing industry?
Surviving! (laughs) The tackle business is a really tough business! I'd say there are a lot of accomplishments that I consider important. The first was going to work for Jim Bagley Bait Co.; that was the thing that got it all going. If I had to pick one accomplishment, though, it would be creating the first deep diving crankbait, because that's what got me in the business.

15. What goals have you yet to accomplish in your bass fishing career?
I believe in setting goals that are achievable. Of course, I'd like to fish the Classic but there's a good chance that won't happen. I would like to continue designing fishing tackle that other people want to fish with. That's something that's really rewarding.

16. What keeps you motivated to reach those goals?
Not doing yard work! (laughs) I just really enjoy the tackle business. There are a bunch of good people in it, and I believe there are still lures to be built and fish to be caught. I've been doing it for nearly 40 years, and I still have that same drive. There are still innovations that come out, and I want to be a part of that and build some of them.

17. What has been the greatest regret of your career?
I don't know that I have one! I've been so blessed in this whole thing; I can't think of anything I regret. We had a really good thing going on at Bagley's, and I hate that I didn't get to work with Jim my whole career. But on the other hand, if I had stayed at Bagley, I wouldn't have had my own business.

18. When you're not bass fishing, how do you like to spend your time?
I really enjoy hunting. I do a lot of deer hunting, and I love tinkering. I like to design stuff like the alarms (www.twowayalarms.com) or the Sisson's Secret Sauce. I enjoy being innovative.

19. What profession (other than your own) would you like to have tried?
I would've liked to have been an attorney. My dad was an attorney. My wife always says that I like to argue, but I say I like to debate. Usually I can take either side of a subject. I always said that wearing a suit and four more years of college are all that kept me from being a lawyer.

20. When it's all over, how do you want people to remember you?
I'd like them to remember me as a good guy. I think I've made a lot of friends in this industry. I would like to think I have done things that have been beneficial to the fishing world, but the friends and relationships that I've built are what's really important.

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