My saltwater addiction


Courtesy of Randall Tharp

When I first started bass fishing professionally, several veteran anglers told me that there would come a day when I wouldn’t want to bass fish during the breaks between tournaments. At that time I laughed at them, because I was completely obsessed with every aspect of the sport and rarely spent more than a few minutes thinking about anything else.

Of course it turned out that they were right. These days I occasionally need a break from my bass boat. Fortunately for me, I’ve found another obsession in saltwater fishing, and that means I’m still in a boat every day that I can be out there.

My bass fishing career has taken me all over the country, and I’ve seen sights and sunsets that would amaze even the most jaded person. But the ocean is a whole different world. I continue to be amazed at how diverse it is. I’m 47 years old, and I feel like so much of the saltwater experience is untapped that I don’t have time to accomplish half of what I want to do. If you think that watching a 5-pounder blow up on a frog is exciting – and it is – just wait until you see a 500-pound tuna explode on a topwater bait. Everything is just bigger and more violent.

I wouldn’t be able to chase this passion without the life that bass fishing has provided for me, and in return my time in the salt enables me to become a better all-around angler. Just as I did in freshwater, I’ve made an effort to learn as much as I can on my own about how to do things. Yes, I’m a little stubborn. The problem is that there is so much to learn, and so many different experiences to chase, that it’s hard to even figure out what area generally to focus on.

The difficulty of learning it all is compounded by the fact that I’m on the road so much. I feel fortunate that I was able to get out on one of the nine days of the federal red snapper season last week. They’re one of the best tasting fish out there, and right now there are so many of them out there that it’s tough to catch anything else. But for people who work during the week, it may be tough to get out at all during that short season. I want others, especially young people, to enjoy that same opportunity that I had, and it’s tough because the current laws are outdated.

Fortunately, there have long been groups like the Coastal Conservation Association who are active in the fight for better laws. People in states like Florida and Texas, which do an awesome job of managing their resources, are aware of their efforts. Unfortunately, because it doesn’t affect them directly, at least not immediately, many anglers in inland states like Oklahoma and Arkansas aren’t aware of the issues.

That’s why I was thrilled when Yamaha established the Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation (BASC) ( last year. I was even more excited when they asked me – along with fellow pros like Jeff Kriet – to represent them and work on behalf of the group’s efforts. I have a 24-foot Pathfinder bay boat with a tower on it, which can go offshore on a calm day but can also fish inshore in a foot of water, and you can’t miss it, because it features a BASC wrap.

As part of my responsibilities, I worked the BASC booth at the Classic in Oklahoma. Of course I would have rather been fishing, but if I couldn’t be on Grand Lake that’s where I wanted to be. Thousands of people came through our booth, where in less than two minutes they could send a letter to their legislator. The opportunity didn’t end there. You can still send the letter from any one of a handful of Elite Series pros via the BASC website. You don’t even need to know who your representative is, the website figures that out.

The ocean has given me so much joy in my life, and I think others should have the same opportunity to experience its virtually untapped potential. This is my way of giving back, and I hope you’ll join me in fighting the good fight.