From two lakes to one couple

| November 03, 2005

Howard Higginbotham took Scott out onto the lakes around the town where they both live, Pinckneyville, Ill. “Most of the lakes are old strip coal mines that have filled with water,” says Scott. But there are a lot of them. For example in nearby 3,178-acre Pyramid State Park there are more than 350 acres of water. Higginbotham taught him what Scott calls “power fishing.” “We’re constantly casting and reeling in, hundreds of times in an afternoon. It’s not like dropping a line with a float on it into the lake like I did as a kid.

“I got very serious in a hurry about it. I got hold of every book on bass fishing I could find, and I got all the bass magazines there were. I watch about every fishing show I can get on television. I bought a bass boat and started to collect rods and reels and lures. The more I learned, the more I went out and tried new lines or lures. I’ve been learning ever since. I know a lot, but I have so much more to learn and that’s part of the grip it has on me – I want to keep finding out more about how to find and catch bass under any conditions.”

Scott fishes from a 1996, 285 pro XL Stratos bass boat with a 150-horsepower Johnson outboard.

“I know drivers that think that fishing is boring, but when you start to learn the strategy of bass fishing, it’s never boring any more,” he says. “And when you ride at 65 miles an hour across a lake, it’s not boring.

“When it comes to competition, everybody starts out even. It’s the extra knowledge you learn as you go that gives you the advantage over some other competitors. But sometimes even the best in the world come back with nothing, and that can be a little reassuring. Makes you see you’re not the only one fooled by conditions. But it can drive you insane to fish one place one day and get 5- and 6-pounders and go back the next day in exactly the same conditions at exactly the same time and fish with the same setup and get nothing.

“It’s a mental game as much as anything,” says Alexander. “You have to educate yourself about how to fish different conditions. What do you do if the water is cloudy or muddy, or if the water temperature rises or drops or even if the barometric pressure changes?
Different lures, different baits, different lines or different casting techniques all play a part.

“It’s like a huge puzzle, and you have to find the pieces, then try and put them together if you are going to be any good at it. I love it.”

Alexander has also discovered that instinct, the “hunch,” has come into his fishing repertoire. “I guess it’s a combination of experience and knowledge and you start to think unconsciously about what you’re doing. I went out Labor Day weekend and saw some reeds. I stopped, I don’t know why. I hadn’t even used the depth finder, but it looked like a sort of “fishy” place to me. There was a stick, a solitary stick poking out of the water, and something told me to cast a buzzbait, something that stayed on top of the water, right near it and bang! – a 3-pounder. It seems there was a brush pile under the water. I got another 2-pounder and a 1 1/2-pounder at the same spot.”

Scott and Higginbotham, usually competitors trying to beat each other when they fish together, joined as a team to enter their first pro tournament earlier this year. They won. “It was April, and it was really cold and overcast mostly, with some rain. It was just plain miserable. We fished hard and had a great time and came in with some big bass and big smiles. It was a great time and winning, with a $1,000 prize each, got me even more hooked on this sport.

“We’re lucky we’re working for U.S Xpress,” says Scott. “I put in for my home time, and they’re great about it. They don’t hesitate; I get home when I want to. So I’m home for a tournament or even for a weekend of fishing with Howard or Debra if I want to.”

Debra still loves to fish but says she does it solely for relaxation these days. “I don’t compete with Scott or my dad, but I have beaten them a time or two,” she says. “If I don’t have something that has to be done, I’ll go fishing with Scott, and it’s a blast. I really enjoy it; we have great times on the water.”

The Alexanders take rods and reels in their tractor out on the road. “If we stop somewhere and there’s a pond, I’ll go ask the farmer if I can fish it,” Scott says. “Mostly they’re pretty nice people.” But Scott does more shopping than fishing on the road. “If we’re anywhere near a store that carries fishing equipment, I’ll go there,” he says.

“One of the advantages of driving a truck is that I can find lures in different parts of the country that I can’t find at home, and that can give me a little bit of an edge sometimes.”

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