KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Shaw Grigsby vividly remembers his first B.A.S.S. tournament experience on Lake Tohopekaliga, site of this week’s 2014 Bass Pro Shops Southern Open #1 presented by Allstate.
On Day One of the 1982 B.A.S.S. Florida Invitational his partner would be none other than Forrest L. Wood, the founder and president of Ranger Boats. Back then, Wood competed on the tour and qualified twice for the Bassmaster Classic.
“I went to sleep the night before thinking about how awesome it will be to fish with him,” recalled Grigsby.
That night Grigsby slept soundly. He snoozed through the clanging noise of the alarm clock. He awoke to a loud rap on the door of his motel room. He stumbled out of bed, barefoot and in pajamas. He opened the door. Standing there in the bright morning sunshine was the big man himself, Forrest Wood.
“What a way to be introduced to a man with so much respect,” he quipped. “It was not the impression I wanted to make.”
At the time, Grigsby was 25 years old and a journeyman pro angler. He was in the process of building a successful resumé while fishing his way across Florida. He was ready to step out, be successful and make a good impression with the likes of Wood. And, of course, collect a tournament paycheck.
It didn’t happen at Toho. He finished in 80th place at the Invitational won by legendary angler Ken Cook. Despite oversleeping he was eventually embraced by Ranger Boats, one of his early sponsors.
He fished when time allowed. That meant even more weekend tournaments away from home. He fished B.A.S.S. events when the expense money was there, even though it was scarce.
Success on the Kissimmee chain of lakes came two years later and the timing couldn’t have been better. Grigsby was newly married. Long hours working in his family’s pest control business in Gainesville were the norm. Still he pursued his quest to become a full-time pro.
The turning point came at the 1984 Red Man All American, at the time a tour billed for the “working man” angler. Grigsby won the championship title and with it $100,000, an unheard of amount of cash back then.
That was Nov. 1, 1984, a day when Grigsby hoisted the All American trophy on the shoreline of Lake Toho. Standing by his side was Polly. The wife was in tears and with good reason. The night before she informed her husband their first child was on the way.
Shaw Grigsby gave her the check and trophy and then removed his wedding ring. He wanted to share a secret with the crowd gathered for the ceremony. Inside the ring are engraved four letters: CABO.
“That stands for ‘catch a big one,’” said Grigsby.
Polly had the letters engraved inside the ring prior to their marriage in 1980.
To this day CABO and “catch a big one” are the letters and words written by Grigsby when signing autographs and fishing memorabilia.
Twenty-nine years later Grigsby will stand on nearly that same spot on the shoreline of Lake Toho. Since that memorable day he’s amassed nearly $2 million in B.A.S.S. earnings and qualified 15 times for the Bassmaster Classic.
“This is a great place,” he said. “I have a lot of memories here and hope to make more this week.”