Sons of Their Fishing Fathers – Part II

Category: article

 Apr 6th, 2010 by OutdoorsFIRST 

Modified Apr 6th, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Looking back at the beginning of a person’s career and studying the influences of a Father who really cared, gives us a sense and understanding of why some of the young pro walleye anglers achieved so much so quickly.  In part I of this two-part article, successful fishing pros Sam Anderson and Danny Plautz told their tales of fishing with their Dads.  This story features Chase Parsons and Bob Propst, Jr.

As a rookie, Chase Parsons finished 2nd at the 2005 PWT Championship on Milford Lake in Kansas. (Photo: WalleyeFIRST)

Chase Parsons at 26 years old has made a mark in the walleye fishing world.  His first season as a pro occurred six years ago when he qualified for and almost won the PWT Championship, finishing second.  “That seems like forever ago,” he said.  For the past three years, he has been 100-percent, full-time in the fishing industry.  “I love what I’m doing,” he said.

Growing up, and practically living in a boat, it might have seemed natural to an outside observer that fishing would be his future.  But, it wasn’t always so.  “I didn’t think this would be my career,” he said, “Because I really loved golf and went to golf school.  Dad even told me he hoped I would make it in golf.”  But a shoulder problem and golf lessons subdued his passion.  “I hated giving golf lessons,” he said.  That meant a return to his roots, and that was fishing!

He has notched many high tournament finishes including second in the AIM Angler of the Year race last year.  It didn’t start quite as rosy, however.  At age four, on his first fishing trip with Dad (Gary Parsons, currently ranked Number One in the pro walleye world, a National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame member, the only 3-time PWT Angler of the Year, winner of numerous other titles and tournaments), Chase wondered if it might be his last trip.  They were trolling, and Chase said Dad handed him a brand new Daiwa trolling rod and line-counter reel.  “I promptly dropped it in the water,” Chase said, “I wasn’t sure this was for me – or that I’d ever get in a boat again.”

But he did, and during those early years fishing with Dad and Uncle Keith Kavajecz (also a Hall of Famer, multiple winner, walleye title holder, and partner with Gary in The Next Bite company), Chase said, “I was the guy they used to get more rods in the water.  At about 13 or 14, it hit me how much I enjoyed fishing and began paying attention to the electronics, weather, fish locations, tactics, and of course fished more than most kids.”

Father Gary and Chase Parsons after their fifth and sixth place PWT finishes at Bay City in 2005. (Photo: Parsons Family)

“On tour, I realized that the good guys mastered all techniques, and I was quickly learning them.  I was out in all weather, and learned most everything by doing it.  When I was eight, Dad made me drive the boat.  We were in six to seven footers on Lake Erie.  I cried sitting behind the wheel.  It was much later before I understood the ‘trial and error’ thing,” he said.  

The one aspect of fishing that scared Chase was boat control.  He knew it was a crucial element of success, and the year prior to turning pro, he fished and practiced boat control in every possible condition.  He also fished as a PWT amateur that year and said, “I had the best learning experience ever, understanding the twists of Tommy Skarlis, Scott Fairbairn and others, and comparing them to methods I was familiar with.  I was actually surprised how many of the top pros do so many things almost identically.”

Chase had early success on tour.  He lived with and worked with Gary and Keith all year, and the relationship paid off handsomely.  In his third pro year, he felt everything was clicking, and he was given one-third the responsibility of finding fish in specific areas.  “I think me being in the industry gave Dad a new lease on life.  He doesn’t like getting beat by anyone, much less me, and he worked even harder.  The results show it,” Chase said.

He summed up what he has learned about life and fishing in one sentence, “To survive in this industry, a person must flat-out work his butt off.” That lesson was part and parcel of his upbringing and a work ethic he has followed.  Gary helped with sponsors early in his career, but Chase has branched out and developed new arrangements with other companies.  He currently works with marketing partners Tracker boats, Mercury outboards, Bass Pro Shops, Fin-Tech, Sebile lures, Fishoflauge, Mustad, MotorGuide, Oakley, Lowrance, Frabill and SmoothMoves seat mounts.

“I have all the confidence and maybe even a cocky attitude that going into any tournament, I can win.  Even though I haven’t won yet, I have quite a few top-five finishes, and prepare myself mentally to win,” he said.  In 2010, Chase will fish the AIM circuit.  He will also be busy with The Next Bite TV shows.  Last season, he appeared in seven of the 13 episodes as co-host, and hosted one show.  “I look forward to more TV this season,” he said. During the winter, he has been on the road from early January through the end of March at boat shows, Bass Pro Shops promotions and Spring Classics, and is ready for the first tournament.

One reminder from Chase, “There are lots of young people who love fishing.  Take them out.  Do the Angler Young Angler events. Not all live exclusively on Nintendo or computer games.  Give them a chance.”

Bob Propst, Jr., has been guiding since age 13, and at 41, he has logged more than 250 tournaments, starting with team competitions with his Dad Bob (or Senior) as most call him.  Senior has lived to fish all his life.  He developed many of the walleye tactics people today take for granted.  Senior has been a winner of nearly everything, is a Fishing Hall of Fame member, and still guides actively.  Both live in the Pierre, SD area.  

Bob Propst, Jr. with his winning fish at the 2006 PWT Chamberlain Super Pro event. (Photo: WalleyeFIRST)

“I was hooked from the start,” Bob Jr said, “I would show up at the dock after school, and Dad would pick me up and I’d be part of the guide group on his pontoon.  Fishing the heydays of Nebraska’s Lake McConaughy was a blast.”  He said his Dad was winning tournaments and was the guy to beat throughout the western states.  “I thought this was something I could do, and gradually that idea became an obsession.  I wanted to be just like him,” he said.  

Bob was able to fish numerous tournaments with Dad, but then when Bob and Mike McClelland teamed up to be the All-World team, it forced Bob to fish with other adults who could drive.  “I was treated as an equal in those early years, and loved every blast-off and day on the water,” he said.  

“There are so many memories,” he said, and when ticking off the lessons learned. Bob placed these at the top of his list:

         1. “Dad taught me how to find fish.”

            AUTHOR’S NOTE:  Senior is regarded as one of the best anglers at locating walleyes, whether on favorite lakes or completely new waters.

         2. “I learned where to look for them spring, summer and fall.”
         3. “The methods were evolving, some revolutionary at the time, and I saw them all, fished them and gained a tremendous understanding of what to do and when to do it.”
         4. “I traveled with Dad to many lakes where it was essential to use different tactics.  The same method doesn’t work everywhere.”

 There were life-lessons that stuck, many just from watching his Dad.  Bob said since Senior was always “low-key.”  He also learned to remain calm in most situations.  He said his Dad respected others, and never lost his temper.  “There were times when that kept me marching along the correct path,” he said.  Bob, in looking back, said he got to do everything he wanted growing up, but most of it involved the water, which was OK with him.  His Dad also emphasized to be the best you can be.  “I think back to tournaments won and last-casts that paid off, and know it was because of the attitudes he passed along,” Bob said.

One of the most memorable times was a “look” he got from Dad.  He said they were in a high stakes tournament on McConaughy, and in that first year of college, he picked up a bad habit – smoking.  “Dad was definitely against it,” he said.  Rigging with big chubs, and on a point where they were catching nice walleyes, with time running out, Bob had a pick-up.  He said, “I set the hook and swept the rod back.  The mono touched the end of my cigarette, and it became real quiet, in fact super quiet in the boat.  All I got from Dad was a ‘look.’  We lost by one-half pound, and I didn’t smoke for a long time after that.” 

There are all those 5-gallon bucket stories, which are all true.  “Dad cluttered the boat, while I was a clean-freak.  It was impossible to net fish crawling over all the buckets and junk, but I did,” he said. For the uninitiated, Senior was famous for carrying a bucket of bottom bouncers, a bucket of spinners, buckets for bait and about everything else.  It worked for him.

Bob said, “I was fortunate to travel.  Like the Johnny Cash song, I’ve been everywhere man.  I’m still doing it, and passing it on to son Mason, now 14.”  That forced a pause in Bob’s recollections, balancing his upbringing with the current generation, “It’s important that adults take time to show fishing to youngsters.  Give them a reason to get outside and do something other than computers.  I take Mason and his buddies out all the time, and they have a ball.  All it takes is for them to get a fish on the end of the line.” 

Bob said he was meant to go fishing.  “If I had to do it all over again, I’d jump at it.  What an unbelievable journey.”  He hopes the economy improves so the bigger tournaments can get cranked up again.  He is a PWT 2-time winner, a RCL winner, with 10 other walleye victories, plus lots of seconds, thirds and fourths.  His goal this year is to win a MWC tournament, something his Dad has done several times.

In 2009, Bob was part of the MWC western team of the year, and will fish the west division again this season.  He will also fish the MWC central division and the Cabela’s NTC on Winnebago.  He plans to fish the Missouri River tournaments including the FLW in Pierre and AIM in Akaska.  His marketing partners include Lund boats, Mercury outboards, MotorGuide, Pure Fishing, Lowrance, All-Star Graphics, Algona Marine, Habervision and Scotty rod holders.

Chase and Bob tell similar stories.  They learned much and grew up in boats.  Perhaps outsiders would expect success on the walleye tours, but the pressure they place upon themselves to succeed comes mostly from within, as they strive to please their famous fishing Fathers. 

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