ROCK ISLAND – One of the nation’s most famous faces in the fishing world lent his passion and knowledge to this past weekend’s QCCA Fishing, Hunting, and Outdoor Adventure Show.
Hank Parker, host of TV’s “Hank Parker’s Outdoor Magazine” since 1985, now on the Outdoor Channel, is a member of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, the Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame and International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame.
At the QCCA Expo Center Sunday, the annual show’s last day, he said the top growing sport in the country is high-school fishing. For the first time since 1958, the number of fishing licenses for high-schoolers went up in 2017, compared to the previous year.
“There is more than one way to catch a bass,” Mr. Parker said, noting the importance of bait, tools, and figuring out the “mood” of the fish. “Are the fish aggressive or not? Are you going to get them to react to the bait?”
“The basics of bass fishing are understanding the fish themselves. It doesn’t matter where you are – clear water, muddy water, deep water, shallow water, any state you are,” he said. “The fish are the same.”
“If the bait is there, the bass are there. The same for walleye, the same for croppie,” Mr. Parker said. “They’re there; you just need to figure out which lure to use.”
“You choose a lure like you choose a tool to do a job,” he said. “If you want to drive a nail, you need a hammer…It’s a tool to do a job.”
“It’s amazing how little things will make a huge difference,” Mr. Parker said, noting a heavier jig is one such difference or letting a line sit in the water longer.
“Never ever in your life don’t pay attention,” he said. “That’s the whole key to what fish are doing. Paying attention to little details makes a big difference.”
“You adapt to the conditions, choose the right lure, based on the circumstances. That’s what fishing is about,” he said, adding that above all, fishing should be fun.
“If any information I’ve given you makes you have more stress, then throw it out the window,” Mr. Parker said. “Get out there and relax. The main thing about fishing is, have fun. High-school fishing is exploding. On the collegiate level, some universities have scholarships for fishing teams.
“I became addicted to fishing when I was 3, 4 years-old,” Mr. Parker said. “So take your kids fishing; your grandkids fishing.”
Tim Nelson, 65, of Muscatine, came to the show for the first time specifically to see the bass master, and likes his commitment to family and charitable causes.
“I like the personal stuff. What he does with his Outdoor Dream Foundation is outstanding – helping people in poor health or are gonna pass away,” Mr. Nelson said. “It’s really cool.”
He’s been fishing his whole life. “I enjoy just getting out in the outdoors, spending time with my children and grandchildren,” he said, noting the outdoor show was “wonderful.”
Ted Takasaki is a Hall-of-Fame angler who won the Professional Walleye Trail Championship in 1998, and gave tips on catching walleye. He holds the all-time tournament record for a one-day catch of five walleyes, weighing a total of 53 pounds.
Sunday, he said the most important factors are location, action on a lure, color, sound and scent – in that order.
On a sunny day, with clear water, he recommended using metallic, black or blue lures. If you’ve got dirty or dingy water, he uses bright, fluorescent colors – chartreuse yellows, oranges, or pinks.
“Our job is to know what they like, what they want, at that particular time or condition,” Mr. Takasaki said.
“The most important thing about walleye fishing is location – go where the fish are,” he said. “And walleyes congregate in specific areas, like points, humps, and specific structure. They also like weeds and timber at times.”
“The next thing is matching the lure for what they want for the type of day,” he said. “If you’re jig fishing, sometimes you want to pop it, you want to drag it. There’s a lot of ways to work a jig.”
Mr. Takasaki said he likes to fish wing dams along the Mississippi, citing above Lock & Dam 13, north of Fulton, as a favorite.
At the Expo Center, many vendors were on hand with the latest tackle, equipment, boats, and knowledge of the area’s natural resources. Organizations with booths included the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Illowa Council of the Boy Scouts, Scott County Conservation Board, and Moline High Bass Team – which has about 18 members this year.
There are 350 high-school teams across the state, more than double the number in 2009, when Moline started, said assistant coach Steve Paytash. The team was state champion in 2014.
“We’re all self-funded too, so we have to do these fundraisers,” he said. At the show, they sold shirts and raffle tickets for a two-day fishing trip at Tall Pines Camp in Perrault Falls, Ontario, Canada, which donated the trip.
Mr. Paytash’s son Austin was on the first Moline team, and went to University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point because of the quality of the bass team. “They were rated second in the nation at one time,” he said. “It’s a really neat deal.
“And it keeps the kids out of trouble; they’re out finding a place to fish instead of getting in trouble,” he said. “I can fish my whole life; I can’t play baseball or football my whole life. It’s a whole mindset change.”
“I’ve met a lot of good people doing it,” said Moline junior Phelps Bohlman. “We’ve become really good friends. It’s fun to meet good guys. Last year, the most exciting thing was going down to state.”
Other area bass-fishing teams include Riverdale, Geneseo and Mercer County. Rock Island businessman and school board member Kevin Nolan has been approached by Rock Island High School students asking to form a fishing team, and he will be its first coach.