Opens profile: Gleason stayin’ alive

After winning the first Bassmaster Central Open of 2019 at Toledo Bend, Darold Gleason quipped that his main goal is to “stay alive for the next 12 months.”

Should the healthy 36-year-old resident of Many, La., fish the remaining three Central Opens, as he intends to do, he will be eligible to compete in the 2020 Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods.

Gleason’s long-term strategy is to become a Bassmaster Elite Series pro. His dominating victory at the Toledo Bend Open, which he won by nearly 10 pounds, is a giant step toward accomplishing this goal.

Gleason’s father, Bill Gleason, introduced him to fishing when he was a youngster. They would dabble “corks and bobbers” for panfish in nearby ponds and creeks. By age 7 Gleason was all about bass fishing. Throughout the summer months he would ride his bike several miles nearly every day to fish farm ponds with a Zebco 33 spincasting outfit.

“It was pretty simple back then,” Gleason said. “I caught bass on a Heddon Tiny Torpedo, the Slug-Go and the old reliable Texas worm.”

At age 12 he graduated to spinning tackle. Six years later, as a college freshman, he began dating his future wife, Randi. Her father, Rodney Schamerhorn, an avid bass angler, introduced Gleason to baitcasting tackle and the “more advanced side of bass fishing.“

“Rodney took me fishing to Toledo Bend, and we started fishing team tournaments together,” Gleason said. “That’s when I became passionate about the sport.”

Gleason and Randi married in 2004 after graduating from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, La. Randi’s degree is in journalism. Gleason left college with an undergraduate degree in business administration and a master's in secondary education.

For the next eight years Gleason taught computer courses and remedial math at Leesville Junior High School in Leesville, La., which is about 20 miles east of Toledo Bend. Being a teacher allowed plenty of time for fishing tournaments. Gleason’s weekends were free, there were several school vacations each year and he had the summers off.

In 2005 Gleason joined the West Central Louisiana Bass Club and fished the club’s tournaments as a non-boater the first year. Many club members were noteworthy Toledo Bend veterans, and they selflessly schooled Gleason on how and where to catch bass on the mammoth reservoir.

“Tommy Brooks was one of the first members to spend a lot of time with me,” Gleason said. “I would go with him when he was practicing for a tournament, and we fished a few team events together. I learned a great deal from him.”

The following year, Gleason bought his first bass boat and began fishing club tournaments as a boater. He also fished team tournaments for several years with his brother-in-law, Chris. In 2011 he became a part-time bass guide at Toledo Bend. The following year he quit his teaching job and began guiding full-time at Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn.

He never looked back and is still content to be a bass guide. A number of his customers have caught bass that weighed more than 10 pounds. His personal best weighed 11.71 pounds and was caught at Toledo Bend.

Besides guiding, Gleason also does seminars on how to make the most of today’s advanced fishing electronics. Some of his guide trips are personal seminars on this subject.

“I’m self-taught and strive to keep up with the latest advancements in electronics,” Gleason said. “I prefer to fish deep offshore. That’s how I caught them when I won the Bassmaster Open at Toledo Bend.”

On teaching trips, the clients go out in Gleason’s boat because his Lowrance graphs are perfectly dialed in. He demonstrates how to correctly tune a graph, what to look for, and shows his clients what structure and fish look like on the display. If the clients bring their boats, Gleason adjusts their units for peak performance.

Once Gleason began guiding fulltime, he took his tournament fishing more seriously by competing in “high-end” events, including the Bassmaster Opens. He entered his first Bassmaster Open in 2010 and has since competed in 29 of them. Most have been in the central division.

“I got close to qualifying for the Elites in 2014 when I finished high enough to be invited to 2015 BASSFest at Kentucky Lake,” Gleason said. “I finished 14th there against Elite pros and some great Bassmaster Open anglers. That gave me a lot of confidence that I can compete at a high level.”

Should Gleason qualify for the Elite Series, he has Randi’s full support to pursue his dreams. Her own career selling Mary Kay cosmetics keeps her on the run.

“She’s really into it,” Gleason said. “She even drives a pink Cadillac.”

Gleason’s title sponsor is Foster Fence, a commercial fence company. His other sponsors include Walker Toyota, Phoenix Boats, Yamaha Marine, V&M Baits, T-H Marine, HI-SEAS line, Bass Mafia, Costa sunglasses, Falcon Rods and the Tackle Addicts tackle store near Sam Rayburn Reservoir.