Stockton resident Gary Smith went back to school Friday afternoon.
Bass fishing school that is.
The avid angler was one of nearly 100 people that packed into the back of Bass Pro Shops for fishing tips from professional champion bass fisherman and Northern California native Skeet Reese – the 2007 B.A.S.S. Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year and 2009 Bassmaster Classic champion.
As part of the three-day “Bassmaster University” series that the retailer is holding in conjunction with their nearly three-week-long Spring Fishing Classic event, Smith – a tournament bass fisherman himself – made a special trip to hear from a professional that at one time held the No. 1 world ranking for his performance on the Bassmaster Elite circuit.
“I’m a big follower of the sport, and he’s one of the guys that I definitely follow,” Smith said. “I know a lot of these pros don’t like coming out to the West Coast, but we have a lot of good fisheries here and he knows that.”
And Reese credited his Northern California roots for laying the groundwork for what would eventually be a run of tournament showings that would win him the Holy Grail of bass fishing.
Born in Auburn, Reese said that learning how to fish the diverse range of waterways in Northern California – be it Clear Lake, Shasta Lake, Berryessa, Don Pedro or the Delta – means learning how to fish a completely different way each time you change locations.
That’s not necessarily the case in places like the Midwest where a lot of the lakes are similar, he said, so having that tool in his quiver has allowed him to adapt to different circumstances when he needs to while on the tournament circuit.
He showed everyone in attendance how to properly set up an Alabama rig – the wildly popular tackle setup that uses five separate ends to mimic a school of fish – and talked about how while he can’t use it while fishing in tour tournaments (Bassmaster outlawed it in Elite events) he still throws one when out on home lakes.
It was an informative lesson for bass fishing amateur Gus Jenkins that knew nothing of the contraption prior to coming to Friday’s event.
“I can see how that would be beneficial, and it’s something that I’m going to have to try,” he said. “I think that it’s cool that they have events like this here where you can come and learn some pointers from a professional fisherman – a guy that you know isn’t just telling stories about how big they were.
“I just checked on my phone and know exactly how many pounds he caught when he won. I think it’s really cool that he’s here in Manteca right now talking to all of us.”