Bass Life

Adrian Smith: Iron Maiden’s compulsive angler

Iron Maiden guitarist and avid angler Adrian Smith shares his best fishing experiences from a life spent touring the world.

For more than 40 years, Iron Maiden has toured the globe with their brand of loud and theatrical heavy metal music. Today, the band is bigger than ever filling arenas and headlining huge music festivals across almost every continent. Guitarist Adrian Smith joined the band for their second album ‘Killers’ in 1980 and has contributed masterful guitar playing and songwriting to many of the band’s most successful albums.

Recently, Smith released a book documenting his touring with the band as well his as other passion — multispecies fishing. From fishing the canals in Miami to searching for carp in the U.K., Smith shares his motivation for writing a book about fishing and even shares a few fishing tales.

Your book’s title is Monsters of River and Rock: My Life as Iron Maiden’s Compulsive Angler. Why do you consider yourself to be a compulsive angler?

To be honest, it was the book publisher that called me that. I sort of just went with it. If compulsive means you can’t help doing it, I suppose that’s me really. I’ve been fishing since I can remember. It’s just kind of in my blood. It’s one of my passions, music being the other one.

What made you decide this was the right time to write and release the book?

It was probably a couple of years ago now. I was sitting around with my friends sharing different fishing stories, and someone said you should write a book. That was it. I had already written a little bit. Many years ago, I’d written a few articles for magazines I was going to send off — fishing magazines — and I never got around to doing it. So, I’ve always enjoyed writing. I started writing a couple of test chapters and met a few publishers. Penguin in the U.K. liked it and was very encouraging. They said, “Go ahead and write it, and we’ll put it out.”

Today, Iron Maiden performs on huge, large-scale tours. Does that make it easier or harder to sneak away for fishing trips?

Well, I get quite a bit of off times these days. We only tour for three months a year. I do get a lot of time fishing. I don’t do quite as much traveling as I used to because I live in England. I think if you can stay in touch with your local waters and keep in touch with what’s being caught, where they’re being caught and what they’re being caught on, it’s probably better than traveling 200 miles and not knowing much about the water. So, I stay local.

Although I do still do a lot of fly fishing in the Caribbean. Fly fishing for bonefish is one of my favorite types of fishing. 

I do still fish on the road a bit, especially in America. There’s always somewhere to go fishing. We did that when we very first started touring in America. I caught my first carp in America … in Wisconsin. And probably a lot of American people, especially bass anglers, don’t understand that the carp is a revered fish in England. It’s like a religion, carp fishing. It’s the equivalent of largemouth bass fishing in America. For me, to catch a carp was a big deal. It was my first one. There’s some great carp fishing in America, and it seems to be catching on a little bit there. Which is nice.

Obviously, our fans are big bass all the time. Do you have a story about where you caught your largest bass? 

Some of the best bass fishing I’ve had was down in San Antonio. A friend of ours has a golf course there. This is probably every bass angler’s dream, to get access to a golf course pond that has bass in it. When we’d play in San Antonio, I used to go and stay down on the golf course. Early in the morning or sort of late in the evening, I was allowed to go out and fish. It was just tremendous. Not massive bass — up to 3 or 4 pounds — but they’re just smashing the plastic worms, topwaters, anything. 

On the last occasion I was there, it was very reedy, and I had to wade out in the lake to access clear water. It wasn’t until afterwards that someone told me there were snakes in the reeds. I also sat on a fire ant nest. Again, I was trying to get to a good spot, and I started feeling this burning. I literally ripped my clothes off and jumped in the lake. It was so painful. I had welts on my body for months afterwards … those Texas fire ants.

I live part-time in California, and there’s some massive bass out there. But you really have to have the boat, the SONAR and all that. I write about this in the book, about the bass tournaments. The skill of these bass anglers is incredible. To go out in a lake — even the Great Lakes — and they just go out there and catch bass from seemingly featureless water. I suppose it’s about knowing what’s going on underneath the surface. It’s a very skilled branch of angling. But I haven’t really gotten into that. I still fish for carp in California. There’s guys there that catch them up to 50 or 60 pounds. 

I’d love to catch a big bass. I think my biggest bass is around 5 pounds, something like that. It was a nice bass, but 8, 9 or 10 pounds would be incredible. 

Would you say carp is your favorite species or is there another fish you prefer to target?

I love bonefish, fly fishing shallow water for bonefish. In England, we have a lot of different species. We don’t have as many predators as you have in the U.S. We have carp … basically vegetarian type fish. We do have pike. I enjoy pike fishing in the winter here. We have some good pike fishing here. Yellow perch you’d probably call them. We have perch up to — I think the record just got broken here — it’s 6 pounds. Which is a pretty incredible fish. That’s something I enjoy. 

We’ve heard of some other musician bass anglers — Les Claypool in Primus and Howard Jones that used to sing for Killswitch Engage come to mind. Have you met anyone in the heavy metal world that shares your passion for fishing? Is there anyone you share stories with?

You don’t meet many fishermen. The exception was Lynyrd Skynyrd. I did tour with them once. The tour was a bit of a mismatch … Iron Maiden’s singer Bruce Dickinson had a solo band. I was in his band for three of four years, and we got paired up with Lynyrd Skynyrd. We were playing like really heavy metal, and Skynyrd were doing what they do, which is great. I knew Rickey Medlocke from his Blackfoot days back in the 1980s. We did a lot of work with the band Blackfoot. I knew he was a fisherman, and we used to talk about fishing, yeah. I’ve read a lot of the Skynyrd stories about when they used to rehearse down in Florida, and they had a pond next to where they rehearsed. They used to take a break and go out and fishing for bass — Gary Rossington and the band. So, I know they’re all into bass fishing. 

Speaking of Florida, I know Iron Maiden kind of sets up camp there for rehearsal before U.S. tours begin. Does that allow you time to fish in Florida, or is it all work when you’re there?

No, I mean we rehearse. We just run through the set once. So, if I go down for rehearsals, we sit around talking for an hour, then we play for two hours and then we’ll have lunch or a cup of coffee. Then, I’ll go and I’m free. You have to practice and make sure you have your chops together, but I like to fish the canals down there for the peacock bass. There’s a bit of that in the book. There’s a whole chapter about Miami, rehearsing there and going out and catching peacock bass. I’ll go out with guides sometimes on the canals. The last time I just went on my own to try and catch peacocks. It’s a very interesting fish, and largemouth as well. Florida is incredible for fishing.