To say that my camera boat driver today is a "veteran tournament angler" isn't an overstatement. Don Staszczyk is retired after a 26-year Air Force career.and lives on Lake Chautauqua. He fished his first bass tournament in 1979 while stationed in Altus, Okla. It was on Grand Lake and his partner was none other than Bill Dance.
"I bought a new rod and reel for that tournament, and I was proud as hell of it," Staszczyk said. "I showed it to Dance and he said, 'Son, I don't want to offend you, but I wouldn't let my kid use this for crappie fishing.'"
Staszczyk missed several big fish. At one point, Dance said, "Son, if you ever learn how to set that hook, you might be good some day."
In the 37 years since then, Staszczyk has learned to set the hook. His biggest bass from the Niagara River is a 7-2 smallmouth, and he's also caught a 6-11 largemouth here.