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July 25, 2007

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Fishing with Country Icon Porter Wagoner

By Kimberly Hiss

Whether he’s onstage at the Grand Ole Opry, or on the water in a bass boat, Porter Wagoner loves what he’s doing. Time off from his Grammy-award studded career often finds the Country Music Hall of Famer with a line in the water and enough crappie in the cooler for dinner.


Field & Stream spoke with Mr. Wagoner last year while he was working on an album called All Gone Fishin’, a collaboration that brought the likes of Bobby Barr, Merle Haggard, and Arlo Guthrie, together to sing about life on the water. Considering the June release of Mr. Wagoner’s latest record, Wagonmaster, and his current round of public appearances—including a July 24 concert at Madison Square Garden and a July 25 visit to The Late Show with David Letterman—it seemed like a good time to run part of that interview. Here’s what Mr. Wagoner had to say about worm rigs, 14-pound bass, and songwriting on the water.

PW: So what do you want me to tell you about fishing?

F&S: Well, what do you like to fish for?
PW: Bass most all the time. Bass and crappie. In fact in a couple of weeks I’m going up to Kentucky Lake for crappie. It’s one of the best places in the country.

F&S: Yeah, we just did a roundup of top bass lakes and Kentucky Lake was on there. I hope we don’t send you too many visitors.
PW: Well, that’s ok. It’s just a wonderful place. We have a guide there named John Williams—he’s a wonderful man and probably the best crappie fisherman in the world. We’ll fish for about three days and catch over 100 crappie probably. And crappies, you know, are great fish to eat. So, yeah, I mainly fish for bass and crappie.
I have another very special friend of mine that took me to Mexico two years ago, and I caught a 14 ¼ pound bass—that’s the biggest one I ever caught in my life. John L. Morris is the guy I’m talking about. John L. is a wonderful friend, and of course he has Bass Pro Shops. There’s something about people who fish—they’re just always good people, I think. Really the way to tell what a guy is made of is to go fishing with him and to share the boat with him. You’ll know what he’s about then.

F&S: I was going to ask what your best day on the water was, but it sounds like that 14 ¼ pound bass might be it.
PW: Oh, it absolutely was. Some of my good friends who are professional fishermen were there, like John L. Morris, and Bill Dance, and Jack Emmet. They all saw me catch that fish—well they didn’t see me catch it, but they were within hollering distance. They got there before I even had the fish in the boat. It was the biggest fish of the trip and to catch it with all those pros and so forth—

F&S: You made a pretty strong showing—
PW: Yes I did, it was really something. I’m not a professional fisherman like them, I just love to fish. It’s a big part of my life.

F&S: Do you ever get song ideas while you’re on the water?
PW: Oh, absolutely. I wrote one of my real favorite songs on the water one night. I was at Center Hill Lake [in Tennessee], and I went back to this creek called Indian Creek. It was probably 11:00, round close to midnight. And all of a sudden this thunderstorm blew in. I pulled my boat back in this cove, where it wouldn’t be so windy and tied it up. I had an old tarp that I got up over me, and I started writing this song called Indian Creek. It just came to me from that storm there.

F&S: Do you have a favorite piece of gear?
PW: Oh, I have a little place in my basement here that’s a tackle room with baits and so forth. It looks more like a bait shop than it does a home for someone.

F&S: Last question—could you give readers a fishing tip?
PW: A fishing tip. Well, I have a worm rig I like because smallmouth bass will hit it. They’re real good fighters—they come up in the air, you know, and they’re wonderful to catch. So, I like to rig an 8-oz. egg sinker on a regular worm hook. I use the egg sinker because it’ll move away from the bait. Like if you’re on a drop, I let the worm come off the drop first and then pull the sinker off. That way the worm will be kind of suspended by itself for a little while, and the fish like it that way. They’ll come up picking their teeth. That’s a joke there.

Link to All Gone Fishin record.



Mark Wade

I have had a special place in my heart for Porter for 40yrs. ever since i was a kid, and used to watch his show..and when i found out he was a fisherman! and Jimmy Dickens,and Mel Tillis, and Ole Bill Dance..there my favorites..this world is gonna be sad without the WagonMaster!

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