Glen Lau: the artist beneath

Editor's note: Glen Lau passed away on June 5, 2021 at the age of 86. Below is a column published on Aug. 2, 2012 by Elite Series angler Bernie Schultz. We share it now to honor the memory of this longtime friend and legendary figure in fishing. 

Glen Lau looks like a mountain man — big and burly, intimidating. When he speaks, his voice is raspy and gruff. But beneath his rough exterior, Glen is actually a highly sensitive and creative artist whose work rivals that of the great masters.

His creations, however, aren't portraits or landscapes painted on canvas. Glen works in film, and his is subject is the black bass.

Now in his senior years, he has spent most of his adult life capturing images on film — some so fantastic it's hard to imagine how they were ever accomplished. Through underwater strikes and tail-walking jumps, he's mesmerized his viewers with the scenes of America's most beloved gamefish — the largemouth bass.

His film Bigmouth is undoubtedly his greatest achievement. It's masterful, iconic and timeless. Narrated by Hollywood legend Rod Serling, the film transports the viewer into the underwater world of the largemouth bass, beautifully documenting its habits and rituals. Serling, best known for hosting the original Twilight Zone, adds profound depth to the film's narrative. Like the images he describes, his delivery is captivating and perfect.

Released in 1973, Bigmouth has won countless awards and the adoration of bass enthusiasts everywhere. As a result of the film's acclaim, Glen's career catapulted to new highs. Tackle and marine manufacturers sought his talents to create TV commercials and ad campaigns. And he delivered — always enchanting the viewer with his incredible images.

For decades, Glen has remained the undisputed master of film in fishing. And he's worked with the best, including Homer Circle, Flip Pallot, Ted Williams, Ray Scott and countless other fishing icons. To this day, major corporations rely on his unique skills with a camera to help bring their products to market — knowing he offers their best chance for success.

Man overboard

Early in his career, Glen served as a charter guide on Lake Erie, near Sandusky Bay. From there he took his clients fishing for largemouth, smallmouth, walleye and lake trout. He was successful, too. In 1958, he won the King of Ohio Fishing Tournament — an award bestowed on the angler who brought in the most poundage of gamefish in a single season. His weight? Nearly 3,000 pounds!

As part of his prize, Glen took his first trip to Florida. He wanted to experience southern angling firsthand, both in fresh and saltwater. While on that trip, he discovered the clear springs of Central Florida, which would later become his personal outdoor studio.

It was at Silver Springs and Rainbow River that Glen eventually created his masterpieces — shooting thousands of hours of film while immersed in the crystal clear waters of these natural flowing runs. For him, the only real way to document the bass was to enter its domain. So, with camera in hand, he dwelt beneath the surface, observing his subject in its natural habitat.

Working with the master

My introduction to Glen came early in my career. I recall answering the phone one day, then pausing in disbelief as the caller identified himself. I knew his name immediately — any avid angler would. And to have him call me was nothing less than a shocking surprise.

He asked if I would be interested in working with him on a project. Eagerly, I accepted.

A few days later we met at Rodman Reservoir to create a TV commercial and shoot photos for an ad campaign. With his pet bass along to serve as "stunt fish," we spent hours filming them as they danced across the surface — me on one end of the line, the fish on the other. Throughout every sequence, Glen was in the water filming — sometimes at the surface, other times below. It was exhausting work, not only for the fish, but for us as well.

The next day we shot stills for a print ad campaign. After more than eight hours, that, too, took its toll. You see, when it comes to his work, Glen is tireless and demanding. He's a perfectionist who expects the most from everyone and everything, including the fish.

A few weeks afterward, Glen called me to his studio so I could see the results of our efforts. His footage blew me away. It was the first time I had appeared in a video related to fishing, and I was extremely pleased and proud of our work.

Bass forever

Much has happened since that day. Glen moved on to countless other projects, the most significant of which was his sequel to Bigmouth, called Bigmouth Forever. In that production he features pro anglers Hank Parker and Shaw Grigsby, using their perspectives to help tell the story.

For Glen, the second film offered an opportunity to cover many additional aspects that he was unable to capture in his first effort. And like its predecessor, Bigmouth Forever was a huge success.

Recently, he wrote a book with B.A.S.S. Senior Editor Ken Duke. His book, Bass Forever, chronicles many of Glen's lifelong achievements, both as an angler and filmmaker. It also discusses in detail various lures and tactics for catching bass — all gained from his years of personal observations. Using a seasonal approach, he helps the reader grasp the subtle nuances of the bass as it adjusts to its ever-changing environment. Like his films, the book is loaded with information and beautiful imagery.

If you truly want to become a better angler, I recommend his book and films. Together, they will provide you with incredible insight into the world of the black bass — a world only a true artist could depict.

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