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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Nothing Fishy About The Lure Of These Experts

Susan Cocking

Have you ever wondered what those television fishing show hosts are really like when they’re fishing off camera? Does Roland Martin call every fish “son?”

Here are some insights from the Brunswick Fins Game at the lakes at Disney World.

HANK PARKER

Professional: Host of Hank Parker’s Outdoor Magazine; two-time BASSMasters Classic winner; five-time B.A.S.S. tournament winner. Largest bass: 10 pounds, 12 ounces.

Personal: Age 42; lives in Denver, N.C.; he and wife Angie have five children.

Parker is a tall, strapping guy who wields a heavy baitcasting outfit the way Hank Aaron mastered the wooden bat. He picks a suspected bass lair in the far distance, winds up for the swing, and grasps the rod in both hands to send a deep-running crankbait out of the park.

During the hour I observed him at Disney’s Bay Lake, he kept switching between two crankbaits that were only slightly different in color, catching three fish to about two pounds in rapid succession. The crankbait switch had more to do with weight than color; Parker wanted to know exactly how deep the feeding bass were lurking. (I threw a marker buoy on the bass hole and put the fish in the live well for him because Parker didn’t want to miss one second of the bite-in-progress.)

Parker, like most successful bass pros, is cool under pressure. When his reel backlashed on a cast, he looked at me and remarked drily: “I’ve read about these things. I’ve been trying to get one for 15 years. I knew I could do it.”

GARY KLEIN

Professional: Five-time B.A.S.S. tournament winner; two-time B.A.S.S. angler of the year; 14-time BASSMasters Classic qualifier; $700,000 in career earnings. Largest bass: 12 pounds.

Personal: Age 38; lives in Montgomery, Texas; he and wife Jana have no children.

Klein is a master mechanic of fishing. He carried no fewer than nine baitcasting outfits on the boat - all rigged with different lures - laid out neatly on the bow.

Asked at a pre-tournament press conference what lure he would use if he could only employ one, Klein seemed slightly pained.

“That’s like asking a mechanic if he only had one tool to tear a car down, what would it be,” Klein answered, sounding exasperated. He couldn’t narrow it down.

“A spinnerbait or a crankbait,” he finally replied.

Klein used a Twilight Zone-like spinnerbait to catch a 6-pounder - the largest fish of the tournament. He warmed to the task of explaining to me how the odd-looking Lunker Lures Vibratron-bladed device works: “When the blade enters the water, it never stops turning - even when you’re not reeling,” Klein said of the wavy, golden piece of metal forking from a stringy rubber chartreuse head on a worm tail. “Fast-reeling it on 25-pound-test line covers water quick and brings fish out of the grass in clear water. They’re going to stop it and challenge it and they have to use their mouths.”

Klein’s calm efficiency never wavered - even when he lost his grasp on a fish he had reeled to boatside. “I mishandled that one,” he said simply, and switched rods.

ROLAND MARTIN

Professional: Host of Fishing with Roland Martin; 19-time BASSMasters Class qualifier; nine-time B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year; 18-time B.A.S.S. tournament winner; owner of fishing resort on Lake Okeechobee. Largest bass: 13 pounds, 10 ounces.

Personal: Age 55; Lives in Clewiston, Fla.; he and wife Mary Ann have two children.

I never heard Martin call a single bass “son” in two days of fishing, despite the frequency with which he employs the endearment on his television show. I also never saw him use the helicopter lure that has racked up $25 million in sales from a hokey but effective infomercial.

Martin was subjected to non-stop jeering by tournament competitors about the lure, which resembles a swimming U.F.O.

Martin’s competitive streak is blatant. Telling me and another writer to lie flat on the bow, Martin raced two other pros to two holes less than 100 yards from the starting point. (He didn’t win either hole.) When Martin thought Parker was fishing slightly out of bounds, he urged the tournament committee to disqualify his rival. (It refused.) Late in the contest, Martin himself strayed out of bounds, then became indignant and yelled, “Bull! They’re absolutely nuts!” when the committee warned him back.

Far from secretive about his fishing techniques, Martin freely explained his choices of lures and fishing spots to writers as if we were viewers watching his TV show.

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