Original Caption: PUCKER UP: Jimmy Houston likes his catch so much, he kisses it. The Miami Herald, January 1996. Photo credit: Susan Cocking/Herald Staff.

While there was never a full-blown tour level professional bass tournament that I can recall at the Disney World series of lakes, there were numerous special events that were hosted over the years.  In today’s Throwback Thursday historical photo, we’ve got a picture from one of those events – the 1996 Brunswick Fins Game.

The one-day tournament paired five outdoor writers with 5 bass pros who were vying for $70,000 in prizes.  The event was also filmed for TNN to be aired on their channel at a later date.

Miami Herald outdoor writer Susan Cocking was one of those media personalities that got a chance to share a boat with all the professionals that day, and her news column that detailed her experience was both enlightening and entertaining.  Here are a few excerpts from that story featuring her commentary on the five pro anglers.

HANK PARKER:  “During the hour I observed him at Disney’s Bay Lake, he kept switching between two crankbaits that were only slightly different in color, catching three fish to about two pounds in rapid succession.  The crankbait switch had more to do with weight than color; Parker wanted to know exactly how deep the feeding bass were lurking. (I threw a marker buoy on the bass hole and put the fish in the live well for him because Parker didn’t want to miss one second of the bite-in-progress.)

“Parker, like most successful bass pros, is cool under pressure. When his reel backlashed on a cast, he looked at me and remarked drily: ‘I’ve read about these things. I’ve been trying to get one for 15 years.  I knew I could do it.'”

SHAW GRIGSBY:  “Grigsby is an affable fishing technician who chatters enthusiastically about his beloved University of Florida Gators while hunting for bass.  When I rode with him, he carried a Global Positioning System unit on his lap in addition to two depth finders mounted on the boat’s console to hunt for hawgs.

“Interspersed with lavish compliments for Steve Spurrier’s coaching style, Grigsby talked to the fish:

‘Come on fish, give it up!’ he muttered.  ‘Look at that cloud cover. Were still five-hundredths of a mile off, according to Mr. GPS.  Not quite there yet.  Getting closer.  This is it — one-hundredth.  Every lineup is matched.  The depth is matched. We’re there.’

“Casting a Bagley DB III crankbait, Grigsby didn’t reel it straight in as I had seen most bass anglers do.  Instead, he alternated between lifting the rod tip and reeling to ‘walk’ the bait near the bottom in the fashion of plastic worm fishermen.  Like Parker, he switched crankbaits – supplementing the heavier lure with a lighter, Rattling DB III.

“Grigsby caught one fish on each crankbait in less than an hour, and shouted spontaneously: ‘I LOVE this sport!'”

GARY KLEIN:  “If Shaw Grigsby is a fishing technician, Klein is a master mechanic.  He carried no fewer than nine baitcasting outfits on the boat — all rigged with different lures — laid out neatly on the bow.

“Asked at a pre-tournament press conference what lure he would use if he could only employ one, Klein seemed slightly pained.

‘That’s like asking a mechanic if he only had one tool to tear a car down, what would it be,’ Klein answered, sounding exasperated.  He couldn’t narrow it down.

‘A spinnerbait or a crankbait,’ he finally replied.

“Klein used a Twilight Zone-like spinnerbait to catch a 6-pounder – the largest fish of the tournament.  He warmed to the task of explaining to me how the odd-looking Lunker Lures Vibratron-bladed device works:

‘When the blade enters the water, it never stops turning – even when you’re not reeling.’ Klein said of the wavy, golden piece of metal forking from a stringy rubber chartreuse head on a worm tail.  “Fast-reeling it on 25-pound-test line covers water quick and brings fish out of the grass in clear water.  They’re going to stop it and challenge it and they have to use their mouths.’

“Klein’s calm efficiency never wavered — even when he lost his grasp on a fish he had reeled to boatside.

‘I mishandled that one,’ he said simply, and switched rods.”

JIMMY HOUSTON:  “Houston often lets go with his trademark ‘hee-hee-hee’ when he catches a desirable fish or bests a competitor.  During the tournament, outdoor show host Bill Dance gave him the nicknames ‘Giggles’ and ‘Bangs’ (for his blond locks).  Friends say Houston’s grinning, joking demeanor and running commentary on the fish — (‘Bass attack a spinnerbait because it looks obscene to ’em.  They feel like, ‘There goes the neighborhood.'”) mask an intense competitive streak.

‘I may have been born at night, but not last night,’ Houston told Roland Martin when Martin tried to convince him to move off a potentially productive bass hole.

“A devout Christian, Houston sports a ‘Hooked on Jesus’ belt buckle.”

ROLAND MARTIN:  “I never heard Roland Martin call a single bass ‘son’ in two days of fishing despite the frequency with which he employs the endearment on his television show.  I also never saw him use the helicopter lure that has racked up $25 million in sales from a hokey but effective infomercial.

“Martin was subjected to nonstop jeering by tournament competitors about the lure, which resembles a swimming U.F.O.  Some bass anglers deride the twin-rotor device as a gimmick that catches no more fish than any other bait.  ‘When Roland pulls that helicopter out, the fish come out with their fins up,’ Parker joked at a news conference.

“Unlike Houston, Martin’s competitive streak is blatant.

“Telling me and another writer to lie flat on the bow, Martin raced Houston and Klein to two holes less than 100 yards from the starting point. (He didn’t win either hole.)

“When Martin thought Parker was fishing Slightly out of bounds, he urged the tournament committee to disqualify his rival (It refused.).  Late in the contest, Martin himself strayed out of bounds, then became indignant and yelled, “Bull!  They’re absolutely nuts!” when the committee warned him back.

“Far from secretive about his fishing techniques, Martin freely explained his choices of lures and fishing spots to me and the other writers as if we were viewers watching his television show.”