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My First Tournament: Paul Elias

“…Another turning point…”

Dateline: Back When

When I step back and look at my life, I can only come away with the belief of,

Spiritual intervention.

Turning points.

Turning points, I believe, guided by a hand,

not mine.

If you believe in miracles, believe.

If you believe in luck, believe.

If you believe in randomness, believe.

But believe this, we are not driving this ride,



And with the belief of being a passenger comes,


At least, for me.

“…a fork stuck in the road…”

Here’s why.

At what may have been the lowest point of my life, the beginning of a life long mourning process trying to come to terms with the death of my best friend, Roger,

the middle of alcohol fueled rage,

the middle of gang violence,

came a young lady co-worker who asked me out on a date and who has for the past 40 years of my life,

changed it.

Knowing where I was, knowing where I am, to rule out spiritual intervention would only be lying, to myself.

Turning point.

I’m not talking about winning the lottery and changing your life.

I’m talking about those events that change your LIFE.

And by LIFE, I mean those moments, that on your deathbed, will be the last moments of your life that you remember.

For me, and I hope for you, looking back I now know, that the most important moments of my life all revolved around one thing, and one thing only.


My wife.

My children.

And finding out what it was I was put on this planet to do.

Love of my wife, changed my life.

Love of my children, changed my life.

Love of doing what it was I was placed here to do, changed my life,

and I found this love,

in a cornfield.

“… time grabs you by the wrist…”

It was like any other day,

except for one thing,

it changed my life.

1981, I was an unpaid News Intern at the ABC affiliate television station in Buffalo, NY WKBW.

Mainly I helped lug around the tape deck for the huge, and brand new invention, video camera. For you old time news geeks, the first TV camera I ever put on my shoulder was the “…portable!” 19 pound, $40-grand, RCA TK-86.

My shoulder still hurts.

Thursday night, just got back from covering, actually just carrying the tape deck and not being in the way of Joe the camera guy as we come upon a guy with a knife holding a woman hostage and the subsequent police disapproval and ending of the event our footage lead the news that night.

I’m about leaving the station when the News Director, Steve Ridge, comes up to me and says, “…You going to be here tomorrow.!”


“…Good, wear a sport coat and shirt with a tie.”


I had no idea why, but the next morning, Friday I came into WKBW in a sport coat and a tie I borrowed from my father

Steve Ridge, “…Don I want you and Joe to go out to the Eden Corn Festival with Don Polec (the station’s very funny/weird Feature Reporter) and do a story out there.!”

“…Okay, I’ll change, just be a second…”

“…No Polec will do a story and then YOU GET IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA AND DO A STORY AS WELL!”

I will never forget that sentence for as long as I live.

Bottom line, I did stuff on camera, wrote the script, edited the story, with massive help from Joe, showed it to the Steve Ridge who sent it to the News Director at the station’s sister TV station, KFSN in Fresno, three weeks later I was an On-Air TV Feature Reporter in California.

I remember every moment of doing the story, can still feel the cornhusks in my hand, can still smell the hay, can close my eyes and see the big camera lens in my face, every moment.

I still to this day, 32 years later get choked up thinking about it, choked up because the best part of the whole event was the ride back to the station, I sat alone in the back of the news cruiser, sat just looking out the window and every once in awhile I would see my reflection in the window,

and in every glimpse,

there was a smile on my face,

because I knew I had just found,

what I was put on earth to do,


And if I have a church, it is the life stories of people who open their hearts to me, to you, thousands of those stories over three decades now,

of which no story means as much to me, is as spiritual, as the story the person tells, of those special moments in their lives, the moments which changed their lives,

the soul, of the turning point.

So from now until December here on Wired2Fish I will bring you the soul of the turning point for 4 B.A.S.S. Elite anglers the turning point I’m going to focus on will be their first competitive bass fishing tournament.

Back when they were nobody.

Back when they were far from elite.

Back to the moment when they knew,

this is it,

what I’m supposed to do,

the path set out for me to follow.

“… directs you where to go…”

“…db I had a $500 Chevy truck with a Ford motor, and a $4,700 boat.!”

Paul Elias, my roommate, great friend and 1982 Bassmaster Classic Champion.

“…I bought the truck with my wife’s IRS refund, it was blue and had dual handmade exhausts sticking up behind the cab.

Paul, after college, “…went off-shore to work on the oil platforms, I would stay out there for weeks working, not coming off so I could get the money needed to put down on a bass boat, finally in August of 1975 I had scraped up enough money to make the down payment on the boat.!”

The boat was a 15 foot Orange/Cream colored Venture with an 85hp Johnson motor.

“…Right around that time my dad’s brother’s wife passed away, the poor guy was blind and living alone up in Northern Michigan, so I told my dad I would go up there and live with him, help him out, but to be truthful I had a couple close calls on the oil platforms that almost killed me so I was happy to get off them.!”

Turning point right there.

“…I get up to Michigan and I get to selling Christmas trees to make a living, meet my first wife and end up living in a commune.!”

Paul has been selling Christmas trees ever since.

“…I started Elias Christmas Trees, took a load of 500 of them in an 18-wheeler down to Mississippi, my dad found a busy lot for me to sell them one, sold out all the trees in no time took the profit from selling those trees and used it to pay the entrance fee for my first ever B.A.S.S tournament. I was 25 years old.!”

That was January 28th thru 30th, 1976.

St. John’s River, Florida.

Paul caught, 9.2 pounds.

“… it’s something unpredictable but…”

“…I didn’t do well, I showed up in my blue truck and orange boat, had real long hair and a beard, was sleeping in the back of the truck, everybody was nice but they looked at me like, !”˜who’s this hick.!”

Welcome to the Bigs.

“…I get there and fishing it are guys like Bill Dance, Jimmy Houston, Bobby Murray and Roland Martin I’m thinking, wow, I can’t believe I’m trying this.”

To this day I remember the cornhusks of the Eden Corn Festival in my hands, Paul also remembers the tiniest detail of his first tournament.

“…My very first partner was a guy called Willard Moore, he had some sort of TV show called, !”˜Outdoors with the Moores,’ don’t know where it was on though, we went and fished out in the flats, I caught some little ones, he didn’t do so well.”

At weigh-in that day, “…I saw this other fella caught them some up in an area that I knew about, so the next day I went up there where he was fishing, Willard went back to the flats, he caught them, I didn’t, didn’t get a check.”

Paul never forgot that point either, “…First tournament, first mistake when I ran off to try and catch someone else’s fish. Learned to stick with what brought you, stick with what you know from practice, still pretty much do that to this day.”

In college I majored in Scriptwriting with a minor in Photography so at the Eden Corn Festival I never for a second thought what I was about to do was cover a news event from the moment I stepped out of the news cruiser I knew I was going to make a minute and a half movie.

It may have been the most important career move I ever made.

The feature I did was a story with a beginning, middle and an end, and to make the transitions between each element I took a basket of corn and dumped it out while Joe shot the dumping up close.

I used 2 seconds of the corn dumping as a cut-a-way to get from one interview to the next. An old movie trick.

Back in editing when Polec saw it in the story, he laid a hand on my shoulder and all he said was, “…Nice.

I never forgot it.

Paul, too, had a moment like that at, “… my very first tournament, first day and a boat pulls up on me and I look over and it’s Bill Dance, and he parks next to me and asks me how I’m doing. I’m thinking if Bill Dance asks me how I’m doing, he must be having a really bad day, but we just started talking. We talked about a whole bunch of things for 20 minutes or so. I remember it to this day. It made me feel like I belonged. Bill and I are still friends to this day.!”

But, “…I realized pretty quick that day, I’m competing against the fish, not the Bill Dances of the world, it was really important because I became confident in my abilities.!”

Comes the turning point.

“…I was hooked, knew right then and there at my first tournament, I was hooked line and sinker, I was going to be a professional bass angler.!”

Which is what Paul has done for the past 37 years, during which he has weighed in 7,995 pounds of bass, which by the way is about 3,715 pounds more than the $500 blue Chevy truck with the Ford engine.

Oil platform.


Christmas trees and an IRS refund check.

Turning points.

Asked out on a date.



Turning points.

For me, there is no way I believe those three events were just random happenings.

No way.

Spirituality, to me, is the belief, that the turning points in my life where laid out before me, was me,

laid out by the hands,

steering the ride.

“… in the end it’s right.”

Time Of Your Life

Green Day

Next month, Mark Davis