Lessons from legends: Charlie Campbell

A short while ago, our sport lost one of its best. Longtime Bassmaster, Charlie Campbell passed away at age 87. 

Widely known for his topwater skills, Charlie accomplished many things in his life. He was a star athlete in high school, and later coached a varsity basketball team to a Missouri state championship. 

He won the B.A.S.S. Federation National Championship in 1974, and three years later began a long, productive career as a consultant/representative to Bass Pro Shops, where he helped design the first Tracker bass boats.

He was inducted into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame in 2008.

Fishing with Charlie 

Fortunately, I got to know Charlie early in my career — while he was still competing on the B.A.S.S. Tour.

In those days, things were different. Pros were paired together in the same boat and required to work out a game plan that, in theory, was mutually beneficial. Unfortunately, that format often created conflicts … and tempers flared as a result. 

That was never the case with Charlie, however. He was a true gentleman, on and off the water. If you drew Charlie, you knew you were in for a positive experience. And being new to a highly competitive game, drawing guys like him was a relief. 

Whenever I drew out with a pro known for a specific skillset, I always made a point of quizzing them on their specialty. In Charlie’s case, it was his abilities with topwater walking baits like the Zara Spook and Luhr-Jensen Woodwalker — two lures that featured his signature endorsement. 

He was the best at it back then, and I learned a great deal from him. 

The long way around 

Charlie took the technique of “walking the dog” to a whole new level. He could nearly circle the lure around emergent objects — like boulders, stumps and dock pilings. According to Charlie, the trick was to make a lengthy cast just to the side and past the target, then begin a “sidestepping” retrieve.