Frank Talley can relate to getting by “with a little help from my friends.” Of course, the big Texan lives in a give-and-take world, and for all his giving, he finally got his take.
Talley had a little help, and probably a mountain of positive karma, in his victory at the NOCO Bassmaster Elite at Lake Guntersville last week. Tank, as he’s known on the circuit, has always been gracious and Godly.
On the way to the Lake St. Clair event in August, he was called into duty. Fellow Texan Brad Whatley had an early morning wreck, and it was Talley who got out of bed to assist him in the wee hours. That came back last week at Guntersville when mechanical issues hit Talley on Day 3. After approval from tournament director Trip Weldon, Talley called buddies Whatley and Chris Groh, who came a running up the lake to bring a replacement boat.
“Brad and Chris came out like true soldiers,” Talley said. “I think they were more excited when they saw my fish come out of the livewell than I was. Chris is like, ‘Don’t drop ‘em, Tank, don’t drop ‘em. You have to transport them over here.’
“That’s the comradery we have in the Elite Series. We’re like a family when we’re away from our family. Everybody is there for each other. I want to say thank you guys.”
One good turn deserves another. Days before, Talley helped out Clark Wendlandt, the Bassmaster Angler of the Year leader who struggled through Day 1 and stood 42nd in the tournament. After a few tips from Talley, Wendlandt made the cut then regained AOY points by climbing to finish 21st, leaving with a larger lead than before Guntersville.
Wendlandt was appreciative, telling weigh-in emcee Dave Mercer on stage that he would not have done so well if not for Talley. A day later, Mercer asked Talley why the big assist.
“Because he’s my hero,” Talley said. “I’ve watched that man fish for 25 years. He’s a Texas boy who lives 30 minutes down the road from me. That’s the respect you want to give your peers and a guy who has been so inspirational to this sport — the man’s been on a Wheaties box, they don’t get no bigger than that in professional bass fishing.
“I like Clark. I love his wife. He’s just good people. I just wanted to help him out. He would help me, I believe. We became fairly close this season. I hope he pulls (AOY) out.”
Elite anglers are allowed to share information with other competitors in the event, and most of them have come to realize you need some friends on the series to succeed. There are cliques (check out the Bro Series) who room together and help each other tune into how the fish can be caught.
“Basically, I just told him you can get some bites,” Talley said. “He was concerned about not being able to catch a limit … he just didn’t realize how the fish were set up. I just threw him a bone and kind of told him what he needed to do, how he needed to fish.”
It’s strange that Talley was aiding Wendlandt, what with his subpar first Elite season when he only made one cut. But Talley’s on a great string in 2020, making cuts in all but the first event. Talley said the switch turned on when another Elite advised him to fish his strengths.
“In my heart of hearts, I knew I could catch them,” Talley said. “One of the guys said, ‘Dude, just do you. Catch them the way you think you can catch them.’ That’s all I’ve done. I don’t think I’ve fished any deeper than 8 feet all season. That’s my comfort zone.”
After holding off the field with Day 4’s big bag of 18-2, which included finding fish at an unscheduled stop, Talley finished with 64-3, Afterward, Talley offered plenty of thanks, starting with his faith.
“First and foremost, I have to thank Lord and savior Jesus Christ. If it wasn’t for him guiding me everywhere this week, I wouldn’t have done what I did,” he said. “I want to thank my roommate, Brad. Me and him, we talk, talk, talk about everything, run stuff past each other. We jive. I’ve got nothing but thanks. I appreciate it, buddy.”
Then there’s Talley’s family. The story of him putting his fishing career on hold for his wife, Christy, and their children has been well-documented. With Talley in the hunt, the family loaded up for a 14-hour drive through the night from Temple, Texas, to make sure they were there if he fulfilled his dream. Mercer said it was an emotional reunion when they made it to the Day 4 takeoff.
“When they told me there were coming, the first thing I did was pray to the Lord they got here safely, that’s the most important,” Talley said. “I didn’t hardly sleep last night. It wasn’t because I was sitting in sixth place, it was because I got to see my family. I’ve only been away from them a week.
“Heck, I’m getting choked up talking about it because they’re my everything. That’s why I was 45 when I pursued this. I wanted to make sure my kids were raised and I was around for my wife, so we built a family together. Now it’s the time for the Tank to shine!”
Blue trophy in hand, Talley was shining bright when the family came up on stage, and Christy verified that after all his sacrifices, it’s his time now.
“We say we’re the blessed five,” she said. “We have three children. He showed us today we are truly blessed … this is for Frank. We’ve been raising babies since we were 17 years old, and he’s been fishing saying ‘One day, one day, one day.’ Well, guess what baby, it was today.”