When a pro refers to “fishing history” it means fishing in the past, or returning to spots that paid off in previous events.
This week Frank Talley is fishing history of a different kind at the Toyota Bassmaster Elite at Lake Lanier. Talley is fishing history shared by his father, Frank, a longtime resident of the area and avid tournament angler.
What makes this circumstance different is the elder Talley recently died of a massive heart attack. It happened last May as he was prepping his boat for a fishing trip on Lanier. He was 74.
“He died doing what he loved the most,” Talley added. “He loved it and loved me for what I was trying to achieve.”
“During practice he came to mind every time I fished one of those spots,” explained Talley, the 45-year-old Elite Series rookie from Temple, Texas.
Talley’s father moved from California to northwest Georgia in 1994. Until then he was a well-known West Coast tournament angler, having fished with the likes of John Murray, Mike Folkstead and Aaron Martens. The younger Talley developed his father’s talents and the duo competed together until he graduated from high school.
“Dad began fishing Lanier as soon as he moved here,” Talley recalled. “It was an easy adjustment, because there wasn’t that much difference between Lanier and the West Coast fisheries.”
Drop shotting, shakey heading and finesse fishing were unheard of at Lanier in the 1990s. Offshore fishing meant fishing over angler-implanted brushpiles on points or jigging deep treetops with a structure spoon.
Talley didn’t know anything else and immediately adopted his West Coast ways to fool the unsuspecting Lanier spotted bass. Back then, largemouth dominated tournaments because of their larger size, and they were easier to catch in the rivers.
“Dad did both, winning tournaments with largemouth on spinnerbaits,” explained Talley. “He didn’t talk much about it, but he did the same thing finesse fishing.”
During those days the younger Talley lived in Texas and visited his father in Georgia. By then his father found a comfort zone and resumed his tournament success on Lanier.
“I made about 100 trips over 25 years to fish with him on Lanier,” said Talley. “He was winning lots of tournaments, and it was impressive how he well he adapted to the lake.”
Last season Talley began chasing his own dream of qualifying for the Elite Series. Three times Talley fished on Championship Saturday and his father was there to see him in March and April. Fishing on raw emotion, Talley finished fourth at the final event in September.
“I wanted to make him proud, my family proud,” explained Talley. “He was in the boat with me, all day, every day, in spirit.”
Talley carried the emotion over to last week at his very first Elite Event on the St. Johns River.
“It was total exhilaration, chills from head to toe,” said Talley. “When they announced my name at the takeoff there were tears coming out of my eyes.”
“I am the happiest dude in the world,” he continued. “Dad’s not here but I know where he is and that he is smiling down on me.”