The top of my bucket list


Ernest Hemingway in the cabin of his boat Pilar off the coast of Cuba.

You learn a lot about people when you spend a day in the boat with them, and most of what you learn is good.

Ernest Hemingway apparently didn’t relish the idea of a fishing buddy.

Reportedly, he said, “Somebody just back of you while you are fishing is as bad as someone looking over your shoulder while you write a letter to your girl.”

Not that I had a chance, but I would dearly love to have fished with Hemingway.

I’ve read everything he’s written about fishing, and I admire his passion for the sport. Just once, I would like to have spent a day with him on his boat, Pilar, or a trout stream in the wilds of Spain. And if he ever went bass fishing, I especially would love to have been there with him.

Hemingway’s name was one of the first to come to mind recently when I began to think about “bucket list” fishing companions.

I’ve been fortunate to spend time on the water with some truly great and ­enjoyable individuals.

In looking over the list of people inducted into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, I realized that I have fished with at least a third out of the 75 hall of famers, including: Wade Bourne, Don Butler, Charlie Campbell, Homer Circle, Rick Clunn, Bob Cobb, George Cochran, Gerald Crawford, Bill Dance, Ricky Green, Blake Honeycutt, Glen Lau, Darrell Lowrance, Tom Mann, Tommy Martin, Jerry McKinnis, Bobby Murray, Larry Nixon, John Powell, Steve Price, Ray Scott, Harold Sharp, Louie Stout, Tim Tucker and Don Wirth.

You learn a lot about people when you spend a day in the boat with them, and most of what you learn is good. Fishing brings out the best in people.

I went fishing in central Florida with Lau and Circle, who was in his late 90s at the time. It was a rare treat to watch Circle make pinpoint casts, detect bites and fight fish almost as expertly as he ever had. My admiration for both men grew as the day went on.

“Uncle Homer” died in 2012 at age 97. Others from my Hall of Fame list have passed away in recent years.

Some were on my bucket list of fishing partners, and I’m sad I never had a chance to fish with them.

Former President George H.W. Bush seemed like such a fine man who truly loved the few hours he was able to spend fishing. Ray Murski, a fellow board member of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame and a contestant in Scott’s first bass tournament in 1967, was one of the most thoughtful and generous people I’ve ever known. He died in an auto accident eight years ago, before I could wrangle a trip with him.

I’m resolved not to miss anymore opportunities to fish with great people. At the top of my list is Al Lindner, the north country fishing great who helped make smallmouth fishing so popular in the Midwest. I’ve enjoyed his videos and his magazine, In-Fisherman, and I’m now reading his book, First Light on the Water.

Two other smallmouth experts are on my A list, The Bassmasters TV host Mark Zona and Elite Series emcee Dave Mercer. I imagine they’re as hilarious in a boat as they are on stage. Jimmy Houston would be a blast to fish with, I’m sure. And I’ve always wanted to spend the day watching Dee Thomas, the father of flippin’, work his magic in the tules of a western lake.

My bucket list of partners is a long one, so I’d better get busy following through. How about you — who’s on your list of ideal fishing partners? Email [email protected] and let me know who you’d love to fish with, and why. I’d like to hear your stories.

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