Hemphill has a storied existence in bass fishing, and a current batch of Elites again did their part to keep that going.
At the behest of longtime B.A.S.S. pro and Toledo Bend guide Dave Mansue, a contingent of Elite Series anglers converged on Hemphill High School on Sunday night. In town for the A.R.E. Truck Caps Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend, the Elites took the time to visit with members of the school’s bass fishing club. They did their best to entertain, inform and enlighten the youth.
“For a lot of these kids, the pros are their heroes,” Mansue said. “I just asked the teacher (Karen Bass Bennett) if she had any interest in me bringing in some of the guys and she jumped all over it.”
Mansue said Mike Iaconelli, Ish Monroe and John Crews stay with him for Toledo Bend events, and they were all in for the youth outing. Brandon Palaniuk, Chad Morgenthaler, Shaw Grigsby (Happy 60th, Shaw) and Keith Combs also accepted the invite.
“I’m very fortunate because I knew a lot of the guys,” said Mansue, who did the same thing around the 2014 Elite event here. That’s the same year the club was formed. The Hemphill Hornets Bass Club now lists 41 members, a decent percentage of the 280 students at the high school.
“The way it’s gone, the guys come in early, get in on a big spread - fried catfish, French fries, all the fixins,” Mansue said. “There’s a lady who makes unbelievable bass-designed cakes. They sit down and eat and talk to kids about anything they want to talk about. These guys are all great spokesmen.”
Then Mansue emceed a question-and-answer session. He’d hand over the microphone to, let's say, Keith Combs when he was asked about fishing in tough conditions and what might happen in this tournament. Most of the pros were asked how they got started, how they approach practice, what colors they use for certain water conditions and what they would be doing if not fishing.
Mansue said Ish Monroe might have shared the most poignant story of the night. On Day 2 of the 2011 Elite on Toledo Bend, Monroe was struggling in both the event and the season. He sat down wondering what he should do, then remembered Ike’s advice to fish the moment. On his Lowrance, Monroe saw a piece of structure, fished it, and caught a 10-pound, 15-ounce lunker.
The day turned bad again on his run back, as he speared several waves, broke a rod strap and lost $10,000 worth of rods and reels. Yet he remained positive because that fish earned him a check and he went on to finish the season strong and made the Classic.
“He said that was the turning point of the season,” Mansue said. “The way he told the story, he had the kids laughing. It was a great story for them to hear.
“It was a lesson. Like Ike says, you never give up, especially on a lake like this because on any cast you can catch a giant and quickly turn your day around.”
About 20 members of the Hemphill club attended, but the public was invited for $10 a plate to benefit the team, which has a number of other hopefuls who can’t afford to fish.
“Obvsiously, bass fishing is a big thing here,” Mansue said. “The unfortunate thing is a lot of other kids would like to be part of it and their parents can’t afford it.”
Harold Allen, Tommy Martin and Larry Nixon, among others, were a part of the Hemphill Gang. They moved there and guided on the hot lakes. Mansue and others have followed, and now Mansue is among those trying to give back to the community. To help, check out of the bass club's Facebook page.