Cowboys, Indians and A-Rigs

A story of how bass fishing brings together people from around the world and all walks of life

Billy Lemon
Photo courtesy of Billy Lemon
Billy Lemon of Sand Springs, Okla., holds the 12.3-pound largemouth bass caught a week after the Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake. The 2 3/4-pounder in his other hand looks like a minnow compared to the new Grand Lake record.

GROVE, Okla. — Billy Lemon is undoubtedly the current "bass master" of Grand Lake O' The Cherokees, site of the 2013 Bassmaster Classic. Seven days after Cliff Pace won the Classic in February, Lemon caught a new lake record largemouth there. It weighed 12.28 pounds.

Lemon is no one-hit wonder. He and his partner, Corey Smith, won the highly-competitive 294-boat Nichols Marine Team Series tournament March 3 on Grand Lake with a five-bass limit weighing 24.45 pounds.

The next week on Grand Lake, Lemon won a Walmart Bass Fishing League Okie Division tournament there. The Sand Springs, Okla., resident calls Lake Tenkiller his "home lake," but he obviously knows how to catch bass on most Oklahoma waters. On May 18 he added to his 2013 string of victories by winning the BFL Okie Division event on Fort Gibson Lake.

Billy Lemon might be the hottest bass tournament angler flying under the radar.

Tejmohan "Tej" Sawhney is undoubtedly the most enthusiastic bass fishing fanatic I know. He's what some might describe as "eat up with it." Bass fishing passion to this degree isn't found just anywhere, and the corporate headquarters of Walmart in Bentonville, Ark., seems an especially unlikely place. Throw in the fact that Sawhney, Walmart's senior fine jewelry buyer, was born, raised and educated in India, and you add another degree of implausibility to Sawhney's story.

In a string of unlikely circumstances, I met Sawhney a year ago at the Walmart Children's Miracle Network benefit tournament on Beaver Lake. We had communicated by phone and email about getting together for a fishing trip several times over the past 12 months.

And I met Lemon in a food tent outside the BOK Center on the last day of the Classic. The BOK Center doors weren't open to the public yet, and I'd walked outside to kill some time before the weigh-in started. Lemon and his daughter happened to sit across from me at a long picnic table, and we struck up a conversation. We didn't even introduce ourselves, just started talking bass fishing.

One week later, when I heard a new lake record largemouth had been caught at Grand, I looked up the story on the Internet. There he was – the guy I'd met at the Classic that day – and only then did I learn his name.

One happenstance often leads to another in life, but that seems especially true in the sport of bass fishing. It led to me spending half a day in a boat with Billy Lemon and the other half in a boat with Tejmohan Sawhney on Grand Lake in early April.