Ben Hudson – “Blue Collar Bassin’” 2/28/18
“Legendary fishing tales”
Tales from the Central Virginia Fishing Legend – JERRY ELDER
Being a fishing hero is the dream of many anglers’ in the world. Everyone wants to have their name in the papers (and nowadays, all over social media) as the top angler who dominated the event that they fished. Jerry Elder, a veteran angler from my hometown, Lynchburg, in central Virginia, has lived that dream. Many young anglers (including myself) who have fished against Jerry may not have understood just how great of an angler he has been over the years. I had the chance to sit down and catch up with Jerry on some of his biggest tournament wins and craziest stories. I expected to see a few cool plaques and trophies. What I actually saw blew me away…
Walking into the room where Jerry keeps many of his trophies was like walking into a fishing hall of fame. Plaques and trophies from tournament wins were everywhere, and I lost count of how many framed newspaper articles there were mentioning him from tournament wins. Getting to see pictures and hear from Jerry himself about all these great tournament wins and top finishes was definitely a treat for me.
Jerry shared some cool backstories with me behind many of these tournaments. One of my favorites was about a crazy event that took place on Lake Gaston. Heading down there for a team tournament, Elder and his partner knew they were going to be facing tough conditions. They didn’t expect how tough it actually was in reality though! After a hard day of fishing, Elder and his partner only had 1 fish to show for their efforts. That single fished weighed in at a whopping 2 lbs. 2 oz., far from the tournament lunker that is needed in most events. Disappointed by the tough day, Elder considered throwing the bass back as they pulled up to the weigh-in, but decided against it upon hearing dock-talk about how tough the fishing was.
What a decision that turned out to be! As Elder and his partner weighed in the only keeper caught in the tournament, that whopping 2 lb. 2 oz. bass was worth a check of $1,050 split between Elder and Danny. This was an unreal story for me to believe, it really puts into perspective how much a small 2 lb. 2 oz. bass could really be worth when a pile of money is on the line. It speaks to the truth of never giving up and how it’s not over until every fish has been weighed.
However, as crazy and unlikely as that story was my favorite memory that Jerry Elder shared with me was even more surprising and showed a lot about Jerry’s character as well as his fishing skills.
Elder was fishing a Red Man qualifier event on Kerr Lake (Buggs Island) in June, the top 2 anglers from the tournament advance to the Invitational at the next level. After a strong limit on day 1, Elder then struggled slightly more on day 2, but late in the day was able to cull a bass almost identical to his smallest in his live-well to gain 1 full oz. That 1 oz. made the difference in the end as Elder finished 2nd in the tournament, beating crankbait legend and pro David Fritts by just 1 oz. for 2nd place. Elder self-described this event as “divine intervention” to win in such a fashion, but the story didn’t end there.
Finishing 2nd qualified Elder for the Invitational event on Webbers Falls Lake, part of the Arkansas River in Oklahoma. Being such a long trip for the Virginia angler, Elder asked his friend and fishing partner Harry Hughes to accompany him to Oklahoma to practice for the event and for support. Although skeptical, Elder convinced his friend to spend the week with him in Oklahoma, with the condition that they would split any of Elders winnings 50/50. Being that the event paid 40 places, Elder and Hughes both saw this as decent odds to earn their money back.
Arriving at Webber Falls, the lake was fairly flooded and messy, but Elder was able to find some good fish with a spinnerbait in his practice around an oxbow backwater pond way up river that was basically unpressured. However, on day one Elder met his partner for this draw tournament, and lost the coin flip to use his own boat. He was now at the mercy of his day one partner from Kentucky. The Kentucky angler took Elder far to the other side of Webber Falls, much too far for him to fish the Oxbow he found in practice, so Elder decided to just stay in the same area when his half of the day came around. Though not ideal, Elder still scraped out a decent catch on a crankbait fishing the Kentucky angler’s area.
Day 2 proved to be Elder’s day. His day 2 partner had a gas tank leak, so Elder was able to use his boat and fish the way he wanted for all of day 2. However, after making the long run to his Oxbow backwater pond, Elder fished all of the area he caught good fish on in practice with a spinnerbait, and did not catch a single fish. Already committed to the area he was in, Elder decided to keep fishing in the area but change technique. He began to work a line of thick grass-type weeds with a jig & pork combo, which resulted in a 4 lb. bass on the first cast. In about 2 hours, Elder had boated a solid limit good enough to win the event in those thick weeds. Elder needed to race back for the weigh-in. However, on the return boat ride he discovered a large watercraft occupying the lock that he needed to pass through to the tournament weigh-in site. Knowing he could not make it back on time without getting through the lock on this pass-through, he decided to squeeze his boat in with the large watercraft. It was a tight fit, Jerry said he was definitely worried, but it worked out for the best.
With his big bag of bass anchoring his weight on day 2, Jerry Elder won the Red Man Webber Falls Invitational. First prize for Elder was a brand new Chevrolet truck and a brand new Ranger boat.
Never dreaming he would actually win the event, Elder remembered his promise to his good friend Harry Hughes, giving Harry the Chevrolet truck and keeping the Ranger boat for himself. This really speaks to this angler’s character, keeping a promise to a friend with those kinds of prizes at stake, as well as his talent as an angler.
It was a real privilege to be able to sit down with Jerry Elder, one of central Virginia’s most successful anglers, and hear these wild fishing stories first hand. It gives me the motivation to want to go fish more and make my own adventures, so I can have stories like his to tell one day.
Tight lines friends!
Ben Hudson, Pro Staff Angler
“ Blue Collar Bassin’ ”