By Don Rhodes | Painting by Rod Crossman
Bill Baab recalls that it was Earl Tyler DeLoach (the first local writer for The Augusta Chronicle to cover the sport of fishing) who inspired and mentored him after joining the daily newspaper as its first copy boy in September 1955.
It also was DeLoach, upon learning of Baab’s passion for hunting and fishing, who encouraged the younger writer to begin his own Sunday edition column called “Boating with Bill Baab.”
Baab became The Chronicle and Augusta Herald’s outdoors editor in 1964 and continued until his retirement in January 2000. Yet, even after retiring, he continued editing the newspaper’s Friday fishing page.
It was Baab’s younger but wiser friend, Andrew Mulcay III, who began taking teenage Baab to Lake Aumond’s then spillway (known as “Judge Hammond’s Pond”) to fish with cane poles and worms using No. 12 hooks.
“Later while I was still in high school, my dad would drop me off at Merry Brothers Brickyard Ponds off East Boundary,” Baab related. “Wooden rental boats and paddles were $2 for an afternoon’s fishing. Soldiers from Camp Gordon, who were great bass fishermen, gave me rides home to my house on Troupe Street.”
Newspaper folks do not have the monopoly on fishing as recently exemplified by Riley Hale, First Alert Chief Meteorologist at the WRDW CBS and WAGT NBC affiliate sister stations.
Hale achieved what most fishermen and women dream of but never attain in setting a record catch while fishing with Captain Ed Lepley and Kenny Brooks on Clarks Hill Lake in 2022. “They invited me as a guest to fish with them in the Striper tournament,” he recalled. “We were using live Blueback Herring when the fish hit. When I pulled it up, my eyes got real big.
“I had become a friend of Kevin Fox, who owned Southern Moon Outfitters, a big fishing and tackle store in Martinez. He told me, ‘If you ever catch a decent size Spotted Bass be sure and weigh it because the Clarks Hill Lake record is beatable.’ That stuck in my mind.”
Lepley and Brooks may have been used to big Stripers, but Hale was super impressed with his bass and wanted to get it weighed. Hale pulled up the Georgia Outdoor Network website on his phone and learned the Clarks Hill Lake record for a Spotted Bass was 4-lbs., 5-ozs. set by Steve Pinkston on Sept. 6, 2014, during a tournament.
Since a record catch has to be weighed on a certified United States Department of Agriculture scale, Hale and a friend headed for the Food Lion grocery store in McCormick, S.C., where the store manager was reluctant to sully his clean, stainless steel counter and scale with an unhappy fish flopping all around and oozing fish slime.
Nevertheless, the manager relented, and the fish weighed 4.68 lbs.
Hale next hooked up with Jay Payne with Georgia’s Wildlife Resource Division Fisheries, who arranged to meet Hale on the following Monday morning to get a certified weight and to verify the species as a Spotted Bass. The certified weight was recorded at 4-lbs., 11.8-ozs., setting the new Clarks Hill Lake record.
Hale, a dedicated lake and river fisherman, said the first time he fished from a kayak in the canal he didn’t get a bite. “But the second time I caught a 6-lb. Largemouth Bass and thought, ‘This is on!’”
Hale knows that fishing is not so much about catching fish as it is about relaxing and enjoying good times with family and friends or just by yourself. “I believe in that 100%, absolutely,” he said. “With how beautiful the Augusta area is, there are many times when I’m floating down the Savannah River and not fishing at all — just looking around and taking it all in.”
When Bill Baab retired from The Augusta Chronicle, Rob Pavey became the outdoors editor in addition to his other duties, Pavey joined the National Fishing Lure Collectors Club in 1983.
“As a child, I really admired my grandfather,” Pavey said in talking about the fishing gear his grandfather kept in a closet beneath the stairwell.
“Sometimes he would pull it out and take me and the other grandkids fishing. To a tiny child, the fishing trips were exciting — and so were the tackle boxes loaded with lures and gear. By the time I was a teenager, I was interested in antique lures, and when granddad died, I inherited the few wooden baits he still had in his fishing closet.”
Pavey regarded fishing as the great American pastime. He added that among collectors of most anything, in particular antique fishing lures, the fun lies in imagining the stories of men and women who fished together using those lures.
“Best of all, the availability of old lures is almost limitless,” Pavey said, “and quality collections can be assembled for almost every income level.”
His specific love of antique lures that began with his grandfather’s collection led to Pavey authoring his book Warman’s Fishing Lures Field Guide: Values and Identification. It quickly and accurately identifies more than 1,000 old fishing lures from top companies such as Heddon, Shakespeare, Creek Chub, Pflueger, Paw Paw and South Bend — including suggesting fair prices and detailing the lures by size and color. There are more than 500 color photographs to help with the identifications.
SHARON JONES of the Dap-Kings
The “Soul Sister Queen” and lead vocalist of the band Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings loved to be on Augusta-area lakes, ponds or rivers with her tackle box after returning to her North Augusta home from her sold-out world tours.
She loved bank fishing at various places around Clarks Hill Lake including the Plum Branch (S.C.) Yacht Club and sometimes would hire guides for catching Stripers in the deep water.
Just a few months before Jones died in November 2016 of pancreatic cancer, she was interviewed by Julia Felsenthal for the Vogue magazine website in talking about the new documentary film Miss Sharon Jones!
Felsenthal asked her, “In the film, you say that having cancer made you create a bucket list. What’s on there?”
Jones replied, “I haven’t hit the bucket list again yet. After you get so weak, there are certain things you can’t do right now. I’m missing my fishing. I would have wanted to go to, like, the Amazon or somewhere and fish in some odd waters that I never fished in before. I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska. I’ve always wanted to go ice fishing, go to a lake, cut a hole in the water, fish between.”
Appears in the June/July 2022 issue of Augusta Magazine.
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