HARRISBURG — With a name like Rod Bates, one would have little choice of becoming anything other than a fisherman.
"I’m not really sure when I began fishing, but I’m glad my parents exposed me to fishing at an early age," Bates said during a preseason bass outing on the Susquehanna River. "I actually have pictures of myself holding a fishing pole, wearing diapers and tied to a tree with a rope so I wouldn’t fall into the water."
"Today, you’d probably get in trouble for doing something like that to a kid, but I’ll be forever grateful to my parents for introducing me to fishing. I’m sure that’s why my favorite guiding trips are with a parent and child."
"I’ve been fishing this river with my own boat since I was 16, and when I really began to get serious about it, I got a lot of help from local pros Jay Boettner and Will Whitehead, who has several line-class world records. You keep learning every time you come on this river, and I try to pass some of what I know on to others."
In the real world, Bates owns and operates a cement contracting business in the Carlisle area. In the reel world, however, the Harrisburg native devotes much of his time to operating Koinonia Guide Service and presenting clinics and seminars as a pro-staff member at Bass Pro Shops.
Recently, Bates helped conduct a series of how-to and where-to clinics at the store that focused on catching smallmouth bass on the Susquehanna River. These seminars are designed for anglers of every level, from worm drowners to Kevin VanDam wannabes –– with Bates focusing on the former, and other pro-staff members on the latter.
According to Bass Pro Shops promotions manager Chris O’Hara, using local individuals with expertise in various outdoors fields as pro-staff members has been successful for the franchise. For the last two years, the Harrisburg store has been building such a staff in everything from fishing and hunting to cooking and camping.
"We at Bass Pro Shops enjoy sharing our knowledge of the outdoors and enjoy teaching novice fishermen, lifelong fishermen and just about anyone who wants to learn more, anytime we can," O’Hara said. "We take particular interest in teaching kids, women and novice fishermen the basics, as they discover something that often turns into a lifelong love of fishing and the outdoors."
"It has been a wonderful opportunity to work with Rod as a pro-staff fisherman for Bass Pro Shops. His knowledge of the river and all aspects of fishing have been a great bonus to the store through the seminars he has done there and the great deal of work he dose with kids, which is very important to Bass Pro Shops."
Although Bates requires clients to release their bass, his seminars are designed to improve the skill and technique of recreational anglers. Other members of the pro-staff address the concerns of the "weekend-warrior" tournament anglers.
"Using circle hooks is the best way for bait fisherman to decrease mortality of fish," Bates said. "The hooks are designed to make it difficult for fish to swallow them, which makes it easier for them to be released."
"Barbless hooks are also good to use when fishing bait, and even pinching down the barbs on regular hooks makes it easier to release fish. If a fish does swallow a hook with the bait, cut the leader as close to the hook as possible without injuring the fish."
"For veteran bass anglers, however, there is no bigger satisfaction than catching fish on artificial baits, no matter if it’s done on a fly rod or throwing lures with a spinning or casting rod. People watch the fishing shows on TV and see fish being caught that way, so they want to do the same thing, and along those same lines, those shows have done a lot to promote catch-and-release fishing."
And, of all the lessons and tips Bates teaches through his seminars and outings, he believes that is the most important anglers learn.
(Dietz is outdoors editor)
©The REPUBLICAN & Herald 2006