Sons of Their Fishing Fathers – Part I

Category: article

 Mar 31st, 2010 by OutdoorsFIRST 

Modified Mar 31st, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Four sons learned the lessons of life and fishing from their all-pro walleye fathers.  They studied under the best, traveled to great waters, absorbed everything, practiced hard, and quickly climbed the ranks to become top-level pro walleye anglers themselves. This two-part feature article reveals how four young men, Sam Anderson, Danny Plautz, Chase Parsons, and Bob Propst, Jr., were influenced by their fathers. The first installment includes Sam and Danny.

Sam Anderson, Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, tells a bitter-sweet story, because father Dave died in December of 2009.  The memories and what has been passed along will remain forever fresh in Sam’s mind.  He was perhaps the youngest pro ever to pilot a PWT boat when he set off for Lake Erie at 18 years old.  “It still feels like it was yesterday,” Sam said.  “Where has the time gone?”

Now 37, he didn’t just step into the pro ranks, he grew into it.  He won his first tournament, the Apple Valley In-Fisherman club ice fishing event on Mille Lacs, with a 9 ½ pound walleye at age nine.  That followed Canadian trips together with Dad from age four on.  “I was around all the excitement of each Canadian trip and I wanted to go.  He told me if I could tie on my own jigs, he’d take me.  Boy, did I work those little fingers.  We went to the English River,” Sam recalled.  They packed in fuel, food, and tents, camping on an island.  “That was as good as it gets,” he said, and still can’t remember how many times they fished Canada over the years, with memories blending one into another until it has become a “Dad and me” legacy.

He started fishing tournaments with his Dad on Mille Lacs at age 12, and continued through the teen years.  His family stayed at Agate Bay Resort where Dad kept his boat during the week, coming up on weekends to fish.  “I stayed all week and went out by myself every day learning more and more about walleyes.  “He passed on a lot of responsibility early and gave me a chance, which I know instilled confidence in me,” Sam said.  With his Dad fishing every PWT tournament, Sam tagged along, spending hundreds of practice days with him. 

“This proved to be a huge learning curve for both of us.  We learned these new waters together,” he said.  They were familiar with their favorite lake — Mille Lacs, but were forced to broaden their horizons when they went to Lake Erie or the western reservoirs.  “His creativity and reaching outside the box was a trademark, and since we did it as a father-son team for so long, without trying, he passed these traits along to me.” Sam said. 

Sam couldn’t believe how much they learned at the first Lake Erie PWT tournament in 1990.  Staying next to pro Mark Brumbaugh was a big part of that education.  Mark and Sam quickly became life-long friends.  The tactics learned at that first PWT tournament follow:

1.    It was the first time they used planer boards.
2.    Mark Brumbaugh shared board secrets.
3.    It was the first time fishing open water (suspended fish) with spinners and cranks.
4.    Caught walleyes on the bottom, but ran Shad Raps high, catching suspended fish.
5.    Discovered it was imperative to trust electronics and search for fish.
6.    Understood the concept of the plotter screens as the new wave of electronics hit the market, especially for open-water walleyes.

Prior to Erie, and long after, Sam said, “Dad was a big believer in the basics, and
despite all the new technology and tactics that happened on the PWT, he really could do a lot with a single hook and a Lindy sinker.  I embraced this philosophy of sticking with core values.  It worked for him, and it sure is working for me.”  Dave Anderson’s basics included Lindy rigs, trolling number five Shad Raps with 4-pound line (deeper and better vibrations), and bottom bouncers with spinners.

The pinnacle of Sam’s fishing career was when his Dad won the PWT tournament on Cass Lake.  “He was so proud of that.  I still have a large photo of him hanging in the garage, and look at his big smile while holding the trophy.  He was so competitive; I’m really glad he brought home the gold that week,” Sam said.

Sam’s personal highlight reel includes a win on the Cabela’s NAWA tour in 1997, many “close-calls” with the PWT where he finished second a total of five times, along with many other third place finishes.  At his first PWT Championship at age 20, he led days one and two.  Before the third day, he switched all his lines to a new line sponsor.  “I had been landing at least one 9 or 10 pounder each day.  I broke off two 10-pounders on day three with the new line; Perry Good won.  That’ll stick with me for life,” he said.

Sam stayed close to home in recent years with two young children.  He was also being groomed to take over Bay and Bay Transfer, the trucking firm his Dad and Mom started.  He is now president of the company.  However, this season, he intends to fish the AIM tournament at Green Bay and the Minnesota Fishing Challenge on Gull Lake (mntc.org/fishingchallenge) with son Zach, now seven.

 Living with a legend caused Sam to reflect on the life lessons he learned under his Dad’s wings.  He said, “Dad was a regular guy and taught me that no matter how successful, always treat people equally.  I watched him work hard for everything in fishing and business, and that is in my blood, also.”

In business, Sam said his Dad took care of the people who made the company prosper.  “I do the same now, and feel it’s important to carry on the tradition of recognizing those who make our company successful.”  The most important life-lesson was observing the respect his parents had for each other.  “Their relationship and marriage taught me how to be a good husband and a good Dad.  I hope to do as many things with my kids as he did with me.” 

Sam works with marketing partners Mercury, Ranger, Lindy Little-Joe, Rapala, MotorGuide and Lowrance.

Danny Plautz, at age 27, said he’s still viewed by many as a relative newcomer in the pro ranks.  “I don’t know where I’d be if it wasn’t for fishing,” he said, “I don’t remember ever NOT fishing or competing.”  With 10 top 10 finishes in major competitive events, including the only son-mother team to win a MWC tournament (2008 on the Illinois River), his career was actually jump-started in fifth grade.

Dad (Dan Plautz, winner of several PWT tournaments and a Championship and high finishes throughout the walleye world), took young Danny to Mille Lacs for the Wave Wacker tournament.  “It was rough,” Danny vividly recalled, “And, Dad tied me to the front seat.  I was wearing a PFD, and he didn’t want me to fall in.  When he hooked a fish, he untied me, picked me up by the waist, and used me as an extension of the net handle to scoop up walleyes.  I still don’t know where we finished, but all the other details are as if we fished yesterday.”

The key to his education was fishing with Dad during each tournament practice period.  As soon as school was out, Senior Plautz had three boys in the boat at the same time.  “I think we played and swam more than we fished, but we saw more places and states than any other kids in my school,” he said.  It was in eighth grade when Danny really got the fishing bug and wanted to learn everything.  “I don’t know what clicked, but I wanted to know more about jigging, reading structure, figuring out the Lowrance units, what to look for on shore and underwater, understanding maps, how the seasons affected fish, and mastering the techniques,” he said. 

As a senior in high school, he fished four PWT tournaments as an amateur which were the ultimate in learning.  “Fishing with all the guys was fantastic,” he said.  Dad had an extra boat and Danny saved enough money as a college freshman to fish his first tournament in 2002.  It was the FLW on the Detroit River.  “It took months of studying every PWT Detroit River video, reading magazines, marking maps, but I took second place and won $25,000.  The immediate result was sponsorship from Berkley and Crestliner,” he said, “This ain’t hard at all!!”  The next season he earned a ninth on Winnebago and has fished the FLW and PWT tours since.

“Most of the things I am able to do today I learned from Dad.  He taught me to stick with my game plan, don’t second guess myself, don’t leave fish and don’t worry about others,” he said.  Danny said one of the keys to being successful on tour was being organized, something his Dad reinforced daily, “He had to have his tackle in the exact place, not close, exact!” From the organization-man, this is what Danny learned:

1.    Organize the boat.
2.    Knowing where everything is allows quick adaptation if necessary, and it usually is in tournaments.
3.    Have the right rods, lines and gear for every anticipated and unanticipated tactic.
4.    Prepare mentally by studying what happened on the same water at every past tournament.
5.    Know what to do in every situation.
6.    Record every fish – exact pattern, location, depth, water temp, speed, color.
7.    Compare notes from year to year, day to day and with each other.
8.    Have the best maps possible – this is critical.
9.    When trolling, details win.  Danny said his Dad determined where lures were running before the trolling books were even being researched.

Dad taught him that walleyes can be found away from the pack, and often doing
something different pays big dividends.  “Thinking always, and usually thinking outside the box proved itself many times, and for me, this lesson is easy to follow,” he said.

Danny, like Sam soaked in many life-lessons.  Number one on his list is how to be a good Dad.  “Mom and Dad had five kids, all one year apart.  I don’t understand how they put up with us, but after seeing how they balanced family, work and fishing, I am now doing the same and loving every moment of it,” Danny said.  His daughter was born in August of 2009.

The work ethic of a Dad who owned and still runs a cleaning service in the Milwaukee area rubbed off on Danny.  “Dad was at the office at 7 a.m. usually seven days a week.  As VP of operations at the company now, I’m following in his footsteps.    Danny is active with promotions, seminars, tournaments and on-water activities.  He and Dad conduct a youth fishing event in Wisconsin every year for150 youngsters.  “Just seeing their faces when they catch bluegills is priceless,” he said.  They also raise funds for school fishing programs.

 Danny said, “Dad is a veteran in this sport.  I want to be a veteran, and at 27, this is my ninth touring season.  I want to be like him.”  Danny will fish the MWC central division with his mother this year.  He will fish most AIM tournaments, but  scheduling conflicts will force him to miss one or two.  His marketing partners include Ranger boats, Mercury, MinnKota, Lowrance, Optima Batteries, StowMaster nets and MW Marine.

Part two of this article will feature Chase Parsons and Bob Propst, Jr.

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