Hudson column: Rowan angler's experience fueled pro career
It’s been said that anybody can beat the bank with a lure and eventually catch a bass. What separates the average fisherman from the really good fisherman, though, is the ability to catch largemouth bass when they go deep in the lake, say deeper than 10 feet or more.
People in tournament bass-fishing circles in Rowan County will tell you that is precisely the reason that Salisbury’s Doug Young has won more than 50 bass tournaments on High Rock Lake during his angling career. He knows how to catch fish deep. And that is not a skill that is to be taken for granted in bass fishing.
High Rock Lake has been Young’s playground all his life. He started out fishing with his father, Wilton, when he was only 7. When Wilton wasn’t working at the North Carolina Finishing Plant, the pair would go “Jitterbuggin,” on farm ponds.
This is still one of Young’s most vivid and favorite fishing memories. They would also walk the bank on High Rock and throw topwater baits or the old cream-colored worms around bridges for bass. At the beginning they didn’t have a boat. But Wilton and his sons, Doug and Robert, would have a great time competing against each other.
As he got older, Doug and his friend, Terry Hill, who owns Hill’s Minnow Farm, expanded their talents on the lake by learning to barefoot-ski, ski backwards, or even ski standing on a boat paddle — anything to have fun. But fishing was always on the agenda.
“We went fishing all the time. And we caught ‘em, too,” said Young, 53, who has now been tournament fishing for 20 years. “I did pretty good in a few of the tournaments, even though I thought I did not know what I was doing. And I was thinking that everybody was much better than me.
“These were open-draw tournaments. And they would have 120 boats out there. I faired pretty well in a few of them,” he said. “But then I saw a lot of my friends get too old before they could go pro fishing. And I didn’t want to wait till I was too old to do it.”
From 1991 to 2000, Young was a hard-core tournament bass fisherman.
And he did have success. Wins on Lake Wylie, S.C., and Lake Keowee, S.C., the latter with partner John Drew, were high points during his full-time professional days.
He’s won several boats and earned as much as $15,000 for the win at Wylie. But expenses still exceeded income in a sport that demanded so much travel and included tournament entry fees that were sometimes hundreds, or even thousands of dollars per event.
“I found out I was a poor man in a rich man’s sport,” said Young, explaining that it was not uncommon for a bass pro to have $70,000 or more in expenses each year just to go fishing on the big circuits. The financial hurdles of professional fishing, as well as an auto accident in 2000 while on the way to a tournament in Georgia, conspired to put Young’s fishing career on a different path, one that kept him close to home fishing on his old familiar playground on a semi-pro level. Now, he fishes the FLW’s Walmart Bass Fishing League and other tournaments in the area.
He also does a lot of fishing with his wife of 20 years, Kay, who he says is a skilled angler and one of the reasons for the success he has had in the sport. The pair have even won a tournament together.
Young also credits his success to having fished with shallow-water and deep-water experts at all levels of the sport, thereby learning what makes them so good at that type of fishing up-close and personal.
“My ability to read fishing (situations) comes from what I’ve learned fishing with other people, both shallow and deep,” he said.
One of the skills he has mastered is using his lure to feel what is on the bottom of the lake where he is fishing.
“For instance, when deep-water fishing I want to be feeling something rough (on the bottom). Rock. Stumps. Brush. You want to feel something on the bottom. With a crank bait, I can feel when I am coming over brush or rock. If you aren’t feeling that you need to move and find some rough (bottom).”
His favorite lures for this type of fishing include a Rapala DT16 or a Zoom Old Monster worm. He’s also had success with a Rawhide jig that he used to catch an 113/4-pound trophy bass during a tournament on Lake Jordan. A photo of Young with that fish can be seen on the wall at Fisherman’s Friend in Kannapolis. His largest bass ever was a 12.4-pound monster.
“I like to fish deep. Because if you find a hole out deep you can catch a limit and you ain’t got to go nowhere else,” he said. “In shallow-water fishing you have to depend on a stretch of bank and keep moving to catch them.”
The other type of fishing that Young loves is throwing topwater baits. His favorites are popping-type lures such as the Rebel Pop-R, a Rico, or a Lucky Craft Sammy. He’ll also throw a buzz bait in certain situations if the fish are not hitting the popper.
And he would rather fish at Tuckertown more than any other lake around here, if he is just fishing for fun.
That is because Tuckertown features much less boat traffic and fishing pressure than either High Rock or Badin. He also likes Lake Wylie, because he says it fishes like High Rock but it is easier to get away from the crowds there and have some peace and quiet.
Of all the lakes he has visited, Lake Ontario off New York’s north coast proved to be both the most beautiful lake he has ever fished, as well as the most dangerous. During a B.A.S.S. event there early in his pro career, a storm came up quickly and he and his co-angler had to navigate through 11-foot waves in a 20-foot bass boat to get back to safety.
“I think 38 boats sank that day,” said Young, who added that at times there was water up to his waste as he was trying to get back to the ramp. Once the storm cleared he formed a completely different impression of the area.
“Ontario was pretty, mountain terrain. And we were catching a lot of smallmouth. I loved that.”
You would think someone like Young would still be obsessed with catching big fish and beating down the competition.
And there is no doubt he loves doing both. But his favorite thing about fishing now is seeing the sunrise from the water.
“It’s relaxing to me. I get away from all the other problems in life,” said Young, who prefers to focus on enjoying the moments he has on the water doing what he loves.
Glenn Hudson is a freelance fishing writer based in Salisbury. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.