Tom Mann

Still have a few weeks to go before our business deal with ESPN is finalized, but I can report that things are going well and I think that my partners would agree that it's been a great experience. I still shouldn't talk about it much, but it won't be much longer. However, I'm still asking you to get on the bus with me, even if you don't know where we're going.

Trust me, bass fishermen, it's going to be great ride.

Maybe now's the right time to tell you a story that pertains to those two big bass I hold over on the right side of these words ... Yeah right there.

One weighed 13 1/2 pounds, and they we're among a group of fish that I saw 10 weigh better than 10 pounds.

I would guess they were the best string of bass ever to hit television that weren't caught on private water. They came from Lake Eufaula in Alabama in about 1972, but they aren't the real story here. The fisherman that was with me is what I remember before the fish.

You see, I use to hang out a lot with legendary Alabama angler Tom Mann. Tom was quite the lure innovator, one of the early B.A.S.S. members and one heck of an angler.

Among many other fish baits, he developed the "Little George" (named after Gov. George Wallace), and if he were here today, he'd still be waxing everyone with that darn bottom bumping tailspinner.

Now one day Tom and I were traveling through an Alabama town called Slocomb; and when I found the name funny, he started calling me Slocomb eventually shortening it and referring to me as "Sloke" from then on.

Another thing that was ongoing was him referring to a big fish as "Ol' Ned." It was never, "Boy, I hope we can catch a big bass today."

It was, "Boy, I hope we catch Ol' Ned today."

It was never: "Hey Jerry, your bass have any size?"

No, it was: "Jerry, catch Ol' Ned today?"

And, you know, I guess I never heard of him or anyone else ever catching Ned. At least he never said so.

Okay, let's go back to Eufaula now on that 1972 day. We started fishing the Eufaula creeks; and with it being spring, cottonmouths were all over the mud banks. They were so bad that I couldn't stand it, and I suggested we go down to the damn and fish the riprap. We both had caught fish there before, but never like we were about to experience on this day. Matter of fact, I guess this would be the best 4 or 5 hours bass fishing for me — ever. Maybe Tom as well, and all because of my fear of snakes.

Back and forth across the dike we went both of us using a Watermelon Jelly Worm. That would be a green worm to most folks, but not Tom Mann. To him, it was a Watermelon Jelly Worm.

Many of the catches were almost unbelievable but mid-way through the afternoon one of those big fellows ran off with my Jelly Worm and it seemed a little out of the norm. When it became obvious that this was a really big fish, Tom eased up right behind me to get a good look.

Now that's been 40 years ago, but I have not forgotten the site of that fish surfacing and clearing the water. Nor will I ever forget Tom saying quite seriously, "Sloke... You've caught Ol' Ned."

You know what, I actually hope I never catch a bass bigger than that so I can always say Tom Mann was there for that special moment. "Sloke... You've caught Ol' Ned."

Tom was always such a big supporter of Ray Scott and B.A.S.S., and if he's looking down on all of what I'm involved in right now, I hope he's saying, "Slocomb... way to go."


Oh, and one last thing. I promise to respond to your remarks on this blog before the week's out. They have been an absolute source of encouragement.

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