Jarod Ballardo’s weekly fishing report debuted in the Manteca Bulletin on July 28, 2005.
He never imagined it would last this long.
“I never thought about quitting or stopping, I just did it week by week,” Ballardo said. “I figured I’d do it until you guys find someone else.”
After 15 years, the longtime Manteca resident has finally penned his final column for the Bulletin. Ballardo has less time to devote to the fishing reports these days because of increasing work demands along with his family’s impending move to Valley Springs.
“It has just gotten to the point where I haven’t been able to give it as much as I want and I don’t see it getting better for awhile,” Ballardo said. “But I think it has run its course. I’ve put in some good innings.”
Ballardo has been employed by Manteca Unified School District since 2000, first as a substitute teacher. In 2002 he landed a full-time position with August Knodt Elementary in Weston Ranch and has been there since. Formerly a physical education teacher, he now teaches both language arts and science. Ballardo has also coached basketball and volleyball at the school.
“It’s a lot more work this year than I’ve ever had with teaching,” Ballardo said. “I now teach two different subjects in two different grade levels. These are more academic subjects and a lot more preparation is involved — and it’s all being done online to boot. It has been a little bit of a struggle.”
Ballardo’s passion for fishing was developed at a young age and remains a big part of his life. He started a fishing club at August Knodt back in September of 2004, and though it is now defunct Ballardo still mentors one of its original members.
Former student Alvaro Munoz is now one of Ballardo’s go-to fishing partners. They even compete together on the Future Pro Tour.
“He’s almost 30 now and the reason why I started the fishing club,” Ballardo said. “Here was this little sixth grader running his mouth about how much he loves fishing. I could see he had the same fire I had growing up.
“I wanted to find away to get him more motivated for school, so I started the club. He took to it and had a great time, and today we’re still fishing.”
Ballardo has lived at his current residence in Manteca since 1989, when his parents moved the family from San Jose. He was 16, and two years later in graduated from East Union High. Ballardo eventually took ownership of the house, where he and his wife Silvia have raised their two children — John graduated from East Union this past spring, and 8-year-old Grace attends St. Anthony’s School.
The plan was to begin looking for a house as their son was set to graduate. They found his “dream place” in Valley Springs.
“The biggest motivation (to move) was having my own pond,” Ballardo said. “Ever since I was a little kid I’ve always wanted to live on a little ranch with some land of my own, and Valley Springs and the (nearby) lakes are places I’ve always been since I was a kid.
“It doesn’t seem possible for someone like me,” he added. “Let’s just say I struggled growing up and things didn’t come easy, but I just kept with it. That place is a culmination of all the sacrifice my wife and I have made.”
His fishing reports are proof of Ballardo’s dedication. He could only think of a single week in which the column did not publish, and it was because he was vacationing in a remote mountain location with no internet access.
“I see a lot of people creating a YouTube channel or some website about fishing, and they’ll be all (enthusiastic) with it for a while but then all of the sudden a year later they’re gone,” he said. “That’s the thing about the report, it’s a commitment and I wanted to make sure it’s there every week.
“I’ve done this report on airplanes, trains, in tents, hotel rooms and trailers. I’ve done it at Disneyland, and even out of state in Arizona and Texas. I’m always fishing so I always had new things to share. It became routine, I guess. It’s going to be weird not having it every week.”
Ballardo said his readers are what made his contributions to the paper most gratifying. He has even been contacted by a representative from Shimano who complimented him for one of his columns.
“That was pretty cool,” Ballardo said. “I grew up using their tackle. I’ve run into people who don’t even fish and they tell me they make it a point to read the fishing report.”
Given the circumstances, Ballardo is at peace with letting go of this weekly routine but isn’t ruling out the possibility of starting another column in the future. Even if that doesn’t happen, he is delighted and thankful to have shared his experiences, tips and lake reports on these pages for the past 15 years.
“I remember as a kid I would go crazy when the fishing report came out,” he said. “I read it top to bottom. I never thought I would have a chance to write one. I’m honored and humbled.”