Committing full time to the Bassmaster Tournament Trail at a late stage in his life is former Classic champion Charlie Reed's biggest regret of his career in pro fishing.
"I just wish I would have been younger, but I waited until I could afford it," says Reed, who fished his first full season with B.A.S.S. at the age of 50 and became the oldest angler to win the Classic at the age of 51. His masonry construction and land development businesses allowed Reed to build up his finances while fishing regional tournaments and some B.A.S.S. events. He fished his first Bassmaster tournament in 1979 (Arkansas Invitational at Millwood Reservoir) and competed in three more events during the 1983-84 season.
With his finances in order, Reed committed full time to the B.A.S.S. circuit for the 1984-85 season and in 1986 he posted his one and only B.A.S.S. victory when he won the Bassmaster Classic on Chickamauga and Nickajack lakes. "It is fun to win and (winning the Classic) was kind of a glory trip no doubt about it," says Reed.
The victory helped Reed gain some sponsors and motivated him to continue his pro career. "I already had a little money so the money wasn't all that important," he says. "I didn't turn it into as much money as I could have done. I don't care to do personal appearances and things like that. I did do quite a few of them but I didn't do as many as I could have done to make extra money."
The Broken Bow, Okla., angler made four more Classic appearances and racked up six Top 10 finishes, 16 Top 20 finishes and 44 Top 50 performances before calling it quits in 1997. For a couple of years, his wife Vojai also made a splash on the tournament scene by being the first woman to fish the B.A.S.S. trail, but when she quit in 1992 Charlie lost his travelling partner and the road grind started to wear on him." It just got to be a hassle fighting that traffic and pulling a boat across country," he recalls. "I had no problem with the fishing and competition end of it, but the getting from Point A to Point B just got irritating and it wasn't fun. I always said once it wasn't fun I was going to quit."
Deciding the fun was gone, Reed retired after turning in a fifth-place effort in the 1997 Alabama Bassmaster Top 100 on Lake Neely Henry. He went back into the land development business and never fished another tournament. "There have been times that I would have loved to go back," he says. "I don't watch it on TV much because I kind of get excited when I see it so I just as soon would not watch it."
Although he lost his desire to compete in tournaments, the 77-year-old Reed is still as passionate about fishing as when he was on the tournament trail. He fishes three to four days a week on some Oklahoma and Arkansas lakes within 40 miles of his home.
"Catching fish is not the thing with me, it is finding the fish," he says. "Once they are found, most anybody can catch them. It's finding fish and putting together patterns. I'm doing the same thing as I did when I was practicing for tournaments. Once I find the fish and put a pattern together, I will try to go and put another pattern together."
Now Reed patterns bass for fun without the hassle of dodging that dreaded highway traffic.