How I got started (back) into art

How I got started (back) into art

Video is the way for me to tell this story because it is pretty personal to me, and I think I am better off telling it, than trying to write it.  If you have been connected to me through social media over the past five or six years, you know that I was incredibly close to my father, Bryan
“Pete” Thompson….better known as CoolPop.

CoolPop is the reason I’m painting.  And here’s why.

Steve Kennedy’s Huddleston Swimbait

Steve Kennedy’s Huddleston Swimbait

Steve Kennedy’s Huddleston Swimbait

Steve Kenned’s Huddleston swimbait has a place of honor in his home.  It even has a special display case it lives in. But he took it out and took a picture of it to send to me so I could paint it. 

It’s his favorite bait and has been officially retired. It’s been nibbled on quite a bit and here’s why it lives in that display case.

It’s a record setter. And Steve Kennedy will never forget when he discovered swimbaits in California.

I remember this West Coast swing of the Bassmaster Elite Series when Steve discovered swimbaits.  Steve was the talk of the tour because he was cruising around the west, stopping in tackle shops and buying up all the good swim baits.  All the pros kept saying they would try to buy a certain swimbait, but every shop was sold out.

There’s more to the story of that epic win here.

And here. 

And here.

A fish story

The story goes that Fred Roumbanis, a California native who was a swimbait expert, showed some guys his baits at the very first Elite Series event at Lake Amistad in 2006.  Freddy finished second in that event to Ish Monroe.  Both anglers caught over 100 lbs in that tournament.  He was using a discontinued Bass Pro Shops XPS 6-inch soft plastic swimbait that Kennedy’s dad, Van, later found in a bargain bin at Bass Pro Shops in Macon, GA for $1.99.  Kennedy bought 300 of them.

300, ya’ll.

Suddenly, a little niche technique that only a handful of people knew about got hot.

The painting process

Painting this lure was tricky because Steve is a very particular guy.  As I painted, I sent photos to his wife, and my very good friend, Julia.  At the time the Kennedy’s were on a family vacation, snow skiing in Colorado.  Steve would send back very detailed notes by text through Julia.

“The split ring is supposed to lay more flat and partially pushed up into the body.”

“The hook doesn’t look silver enough.”

I appreciated the attention to detail.  I really wanted to get this right because I knew it meant a lot to Steve.  And he’s one of my favorites.

He’s a fellow alumni of Auburn University (War Eagle) and as good as the day is long.  I really love his parents and I absolutely adore his wife. His kids some of the coolest kids I know.  I can’t wait to see how their journey unfolds.  They are bound to be extremely interesting adults with the parents they have and the travels they have been on.  This is one adventurous family.

I’ve made prints of this painting and they’re in my shop. 

“122 – 14 will always be a special number for me.
Heaviest winning weight 122-14.
Biggest single bag I’ve ever caught, 40-7.
Biggest single bass I’ve ever caught 10-6.

What else needs to be said? And a pivotal moment in my approach to tournaments. Swimbaits rule!”

-Steve Kennedy
2007 B.A.S.S. 4 Day Weight Record
8 Time Bassmaster Classic Qualifier
3 Time Bassmaster Elite Series Winner

David Walker’s Crosseyez Jig

David Walker’s Crosseyez Jig

I first met David Walker back in the 90’s when JM Associates was producing the FLW Tour series for ESPN.  Walker was new in professional fishing and quickly making a name for himself.

We started the FLW Tour when ESPN launched ESPN2 and wanted a competition series within the outdoor category for the new network.  They came to us and asked if we could figure out how to cover fishing tournaments, with hundreds of competitors, and make the programming compelling for a sports network.

One of the biggest challenges in covering tournaments was that it was a crap shoot when it came to getting the winner on camera. Bass tournaments are multi-day competitions and with so many people competing, it was hard to guess who would win in order to put a camera boat with them.

So we decided to create a new series, along with our friends at Ranger Boats, and design the competition format in a way that would guarantee we had the winner on camera. And that format included cutting the field of competitors after day 2 and again after day 3, so that on the final day we only had 12 boats to cover.

It worked out pretty well for us and now it’s the standard for tournament coverage on TV.  Back in those days, we would ask competitors who had been cut from the competition to act as camera boats for our videographers, and that’s how we all go tto know David Walker.

Walker always raised his hand to work with the TV crew when he had been cut.  I think he was smart to realize that instead of running home after he had been cut, if he stayed and worked as a camera boat, he would get to see the top guys finish the last few days of the competition and learn a whole bunch while he was doing that.

It wasn’t long before Walker was one of the top pros in the country.  I’ll never forget the 2001 Bassmaster Classic in New Orleans when he was leading the Classic on the final day.  He was on stage and in the hot seat when Kevin VanDam came in with a big bag.  Everyone knew it was going to be extremely close.

I was the red hat at that Classic, which meant I was the intermediary between the tournament officials and the TV crew.  I had a headset on and was talking tot he TV truck to convey anything they needed to tell the stage crew and officials and vice versa.

I was standing at the edge of the stage watching the final weigh-in and the emcee was drawing out the moment to weigh KVD’s fish.

Walker was so nervous and absolutely squirming with the pressure.  At one point he caught my eye there at the bottom of the stage and mouthed to me, “Is he going to win?”

Man, I felt terrible that I couldn’t reveal to him that KVD had the weigh to beat him.  It would have ruined a great, suspenseful moment on TV.  I’ve always felt bad about that moment, because Walker just wanted to know the outcome SO BAD.

Walker has had his own winning moments since then, and like I said, he’s one of the best pros in the world, but also a great friend to me and everyone else in the BASS family.

He’s known as a killer jig fisherman and is so well respected his sponsors ask him to design products for him.  He has a long affiliation with Z-man, for whom he designed the Crosseyez Jig.

It has all the little tweaks and details that Walker wanted to see in a jig.

“I’ve fished professionally for almost 20 years and I think a jig is probably the most versatile lure; you can fish it shallow or deep, in cover or open water.  I rarely go fishing without one tied on whether I’m fishing a tournament or fun fishing.  I helped design this one with the help of my partners at Z-Man and it has all of the little tweaks that are important to me.  It has been very gratifying to catch fish on the perfect jig for me.”
-David Walker
11 Time Bassmaster Classic Qualifier
2011 Bassmaster Elite Series Winner

Buy this print of Walker's Cross Eyez Jig

The Southern connection to the Zara Spook

The Southern connection to the Zara Spook

This painting started my current obsession with painting lures. I got to wondering how it got it’s name – Zara Spook.

I knew it was developed by Heddon back in the 50’s in Dowagiac, Michigan. Ive always loved the lure for its colors and of course, the thrill of a topwater explosion. And the name has always amused me. As a Southerner I believe a good nickname is highly valued. A little research revealed that this lure actually has southern roots.

When the Heddon company began using plastics in their lures they called them “spooks” because they were transparent…like a ghost. But what about the Zara part? Sounds exotic doesn’t it?

Turns out, if you can believe Mr Ray Sasser, esteemed outdoor writer for the Dallas Morning News, the lure was developed in Pensacola, Florida. Which might as well be part of my home state of Alabama as far as I’m concerned.

Evidently the lure was carved by a local and was really effective at catching speckled trout. Biggs Sporting Goods, which opened in Pensacola in 1917 and is now, unfortunately, a parking lot, was the place to go if you were a fisherman in Pensacola in the first half of the last century. Just a few blocks away was The red light district, such as it was in this port city, down on Zaragoza Street.

Well the hand carved lure got around for its ability to entice speckled trout to the surface for a snack leading a customer, after a particularly successful day, to proclaim, “That minnow, it do the hoochie coochie, just like the girls on Zaragoza Street.”

And the Zaragoza Minnow was born. Later on, a traveling rep for the Heddon Company visited Biggs Sporting Goods and brought the lure back to Michigan where it became the Zara Spook.

Thank you Mr Sasser for that story. It explains a lot as to why I’ve always loved this lure.

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