Driven To Fish

Fishing champ and trucking company exec says walleye are America’s ‘elusive’ game fish.

Sam Anderson has discovered a simple link between two things that dominate his life: trucking and fishing.

Passion, he says, is essential if you are to be good at either, or both.

“I have discovered this much,” he says, “if you just go through the motions of doing a job, you will never excel at it, and you could never hope to compete in a fishing tournament without being passionate about it.

“A passion for what you do, when you are working or fishing, is the foundation that you have to build on. Without it you might do a pretty good job, but you’ll never be as good as you could be, and you’ll never be as good as the best.”

Anderson, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, is vice president of sales at Bay and Bay Transfer in Rosemount, Minn., a family-owned company, founded in 1941, with more than 200 trucks that run mainly OTR. Bay and Bay hauls a variety of freight but specializes in pad-wrapped products – fixtures, cabinets, furniture, anything that needs to be wrapped in pads before it is put on the truck. The company also hauls rolling stock such as ATVs and golf carts on special equipment that fits inside 53-foot vans to turn them into rolling stock haulers.

Anderson says his company looks for that passion in drivers just as they look at their driving and employment records before they consider hiring them.

His away-from-the-office passion is the walleye that thrives in the cold northern lakes and tournaments on the colorful pro circuit that go after them.

“It’s a passion for fishing that makes me prepare, carefully and completely, for every tournament I fish,” Anderson says. “I have to do that to have a chance to win, but I don’t do it because I have to – I do it but because I want to. I enjoy it. I think good drivers are the same. They do their pretrips, check their routes, check their loads and verify terminal information because that’s part of being sure that their work that day will be outstanding.”

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It is, says Anderson, a matter of wanting to do something and looking forward to it, rather than thinking you have to do it and handling it like a chore.

Pre-planning for a walleye tournament includes going to the site of the contest about three days ahead of time and checking out bait shops. Then it’s on to the water to check out possible fishing spots and techniques that will work. Anderson looks for casting patterns he thinks might work, checks out a range of lures and tries to get to know the stretch of water he will fish so that he will always have a sense of where he is and what is around him so he won’t be disoriented. He’ll run the depth finder and find five or six places to see what he can catch in the three to five days of pre-tournament practice.

“And then when the tournament starts a cold front comes in and changes everything,” he says, laughing. “Well, not always, but enough so that you have to be ready for a sudden change in the weather, have to plan for it. I need to have been well enough prepared to change gears and do something different, and do it smoothly without letting it disrupt my day. If you look for parallels between truck driving and fishing, that’s perhaps the most obvious one.

No matter how well you plan, have a backup plan because schedules and weather and a lot of other things can change very, very quickly. If a driver finds the very first terminal on a five terminal week-long run is closed for the day when he arrives, he needs to be ready to go to Plan B. He doesn’t need to be sitting there with no real idea how he is going to get the rest of his week back together and make the best of a bad situation.”

A native of Minneapolis, Anderson inherited his love of fishing from his father, also a tournament fisherman. “He got me started in fishing, and I’d guess about half of what I’ve learned is from him and the other half I had to learn myself. We fish against each other occasionally in tournaments.”

Anderson became the youngest touring professional angler fishing Pro/Am tournaments when he started in 1992 at age 18. In 1994, he became the youngest angler to ever qualify for the coveted PWT Championship at age 20. In ’95, Anderson joined an elite field of the Walleye World’s “all-time Top Money Winners” by fishing the first-ever PWT Super Pro event, and he has fished every PWT Super Pro event since. Today he is a top competitor on the In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail (PWT) and Operation Walleye Trail (RCL). Anderson won the prestigious NAWA Old West Quest Pro/Am in 1997. He has 19 top-10 Pro/Am finishes and is a four-time PWT Championship Qualifier, two-time NAWA Classic Qualifier and a three-time RCL Championship Qualifier.

Anderson is also a public speaker in demand for seminars, fishing clubs and in-store promotions to fishing enthusiasts. And he has his own fishing website at this site.

So just what is a walleye? According to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary it is: “a large vigorous No. American freshwater food and sport fish (Stizostedion vitreum) that has prominent eyes and is related to the perches but resembles the true pike – called also walleyed pike.”

Anderson searches for a single word to define the walleye and settles on “elusive.”

“Tournament bass fishing is very popular nationwide, but the walleye is growing in popularity,” he says. “But this fish is still more sought after in the northern part of the U.S. and in Canada. It’s a type of fish that’s very good to eat, and it has a pretty good fight to it. It is also well known for it’s lethargic nature, and it’s very sensitive to changes in weather patterns. A slight change in the weather can change everything. And it can be elusive, very elusive.

“They make good tournament fishing because they are a bit tough to pattern, probably more so than bass. A bass is more aggressive, a walleye more neutral. They don’t like to chase lures as much as bass. Sometimes you have to present the bait much closer to the fish. Sometimes you can trigger a bite, get a reaction bite rather than a hunger bite. But walleye mostly bite from hunger, and if they’re not hungry, it’s lockjaw time.”

Walleyes also live at a wide range of depths, Anderson says. Depending on conditions and the season, they can be in anywhere from one to 80 feet of water.

Walleye tournaments, like most fishing tournaments, are a complete test of the fisherman’s skills, instincts and fishing education, says Anderson. The angler must be able to do a lot of things well, such as reading the water, gauging currents, knowing the water quality and temperature, knowing the topography on the bottom and what’s growing – or not growing – down there, and calculating the effects the day’s weather will have on the fish and which lures will work best.

“Fishing is essential for me,” he says. “I have to get out of the office and get time to think about things, need to take a break so that when you get back you have a clear head and your passion for trucking is intact.”

He carries that belief over to the company.

“For anybody in our trucking business, driver to front office, dispatcher or sales guy, we have a vacation policy that says use it or lose it. It’s healthy for them to get out of the office,” he says. “They come back refreshed. Stay too long behind a desk, or behind the wheel, without a break doing something that you are really passionate about, and you will become less and less efficient.

“I know it’s tough for some drivers to take time off. But they should think about it. There are times when recharging your batteries is of more value than dollars.”

Mental Angling
Fishing preparation can be done behind the wheel

Pro fisherman Sam Anderson says both fishing and long-haul driving demand mental preparation and toughness.

“If I win or place highly in a tournament, I attribute 80 percent of it to mental preparation,” says Anderson.

One technique he uses successfully is “visualization.” It is also something a truck driver can use as the miles roll along under his 18 wheels.

“It works best for me when I’m on the road, so I know it would work for drivers,” says Anderson. He turns off the radio and walks himself mentally through the day. “I know where I’ll be fishing, and I imagine letting the lure hit the bottom, or keeping it off the bottom or perhaps bouncing it off a rock,” he says. “I’m trying to imagine the sensation of doing that. And I’m visualizing getting a bite and imagining the feel of that, and then visualizing how I will handle it.

“When I get to the tournament I’m ready, and I control the lure better, and I’m not surprised by the bite, I’m prepared. But I’ve also visualized landing that fish and moving on and going after another. If that first one is a big fish I don’t want to get sidetracked and start getting ahead of myself, losing concentration. I want to go on with the plan I visualized before I got onto the water.”

Anderson says visualization is a greatly underused technique.

“I also visualize bad things, unexpected things happening, so that if, or when, they do occur I am ready for them. A fish gets away or a line breaks, and I have been there in my mind before and I’m not surprised, I’m ready to react.

“A driver can do the same thing. He can visualize his day. He can visualize ways in which he will handle problems and be ready for them. If a driver thinks his five-day run will go exactly as planned when he pulls out, he’s setting himself up for failure because he’ll be sideways and not ready to handle that problem when it suddenly comes up and bites him.”

Many of you who haul across the country may roll over her and never think about her. But the Mississippi River offers you one of America’s most unusual destinations – the riverboat. They are as American as apple pie and country music, and replicas of the famous paddle wheelers and sternwheelers still ply the big river.

Looking to make those occasional 34-hour breaks more acceptable, you can use them for day cruises. But the big boats can also be the perfect family or solo choice for a week off the road. And they have that wonderful added bonus – you’re going somewhere but someone else is at the wheel, and you can sit back and sightsee.

You can ride some amazing boats, floating time machines that can make you feel as passengers did when America was young. Some are elegant reminders of a golden age of riverboat gamblers, ladies in hooped skirts and Mark Twain. The Delta Queen is the oldest steam-driven paddle wheeler with overnight accommodations, a National Historic Landmark built in 1926. The big Mississippi Queen, alive with 19th century atmosphere, started work in 1976 as America celebrated her Bicentennial.

In the upper Mississippi, above the Twin Cities where the river is just beginning, the riverboats were smaller so they could handle a narrow river with hairpin turns, dangerous snags and sand bars. These boats were hardier, plainer workboats that made their living hauling mostly timber and freight while the Southern Belles boasted they were floating luxury hotels.

You know I like to send you to the Internet, and if you want to ride a riverboat the ‘Net is the place to look. Since you could be coming up to the river anywhere from New Orleans to Northern Minnesota, use a Web search engine (why not use like everyone else) and type in Mississippi Riverboats. There are pages of choices, one near where you have stopped.

If you are stopping by the Mississippi and want to explore her in other ways, try, or the surprising
The Mississippi River Parkway Commission, the only organization which ties together all of the Mississippi River states, has formed a national network of more than 50 regional museums and interpretive centers along the Great River Road to help tell the many stories of the Mississippi River Valley. Visit at this site.

And if you really want to know about the big boats when they dominated the river, read Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi, a classic piece of American literature.

Michael and Ronit Guriel

A Fish Story

Come any summer weekend and you’ll likely find diesel magician Michael Guriel fishing in the waters off Long Island, N.Y., virtually in his back yard. Guriel has his own truck and diesel repair and maintenance business, Abe’s Truck Repair Shop on Edgewater Road in the Bronx, N.Y., 100 yards from the gates to the massive Hunts Point Produce Market. “I get a lot of work from there,” he says, and indeed when he talked to Truckers News he was working on a ’96 Kenworth and its Cat engine. Guriel lives in Queens, N.Y., and fishes local waters for anything and everything. He and wife Ronit also like to get in the car and drive, so he’s also been able to indulge in his passion for fishing in places like Key West, Fla.

Both of Guriel’s brothers-in-law are truck drivers, one an over-the-road driver, and he so loves the big rigs that on the way back to New York from a Florida vacation, Guriel and wife Ronit stopped off to visit the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky., this spring. “We’d tried to get to the past two shows, but something came up, so we made sure we got there this year,” Guriel says.

“I fish Long Island Sound, off Fire Island, out in the Atlantic, anywhere I can get. I go out with friends who have boats, and we’re looking for anything we can catch. What I’m really hoping to catch is a mermaid,” he says, laughing, “but I mostly get sea bass, bluefish, flounder. I did get very lucky when I first started fishing these waters, and I got five sand sharks. Beginner’s luck I guess.”

And then, no more sharks.

So when Guriel sent us this picture of one of his favorite outdoor adventure shots, we knew there had to be a good story behind it. We asked him how he and Ronit came to grips with that huge shark, and Mike told us a great fish story.

“We’d been on a cruise to the Bahamas, and we sailed back into the Port of Miami. We came across some deep sea fishing boats, the kind I’d like to have, and someone had caught this huge shark. They were standing with it for photographs. When they moved away, we stood there and had this picture taken. I love it,” he says, laughing.

So do we – good one, Mike.

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