Robert U. Montgomery


Big Sam Anecdote and Tips

Sam from Steve

Born on a houseboat in 1937, Sam Griffin started guiding on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee when he was 12.

“Back then, the compression on those motors was too much for me to crank 'em so the customer had to come back there and pull the rope,” Griffin remembered. "I could run it all right. That lasted about a year and then I got strong enough to do it myself."

Along with the 5 horsepower outboard, the youngster's guiding tools included a push pole, oars, canoe paddle, and sculling paddle.

"The more I fished the marshes, the more I learned where the fish liked to stay," Sam said.

Read More…

Two American Treasures

Cover final low

My latest book,
Big Sam and the Big O, now is available from Amazon and other booksellers.

For those of you who don't know, "Big O" means Lake Okeechobee, the largest lake in Florida and the 8th largest natural lake in the U.S. It also is one of the nation's best bass fisheries.

Book will be available from Amazon and other booksellers.

Here's an excerpt from the introduction:

This book is about two American treasures.

Mostly it is about my friend, Sam Griffin, a legendary fishing guide and luremaker who was inducted into the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in 2019.

But by extension, it also is about Lake Okeechobee, one of the nation's premiere bass fisheries. Sailors talk about the sea being their mistress. For Big Sam Griffin, it is the Big O.

Sam was born and grew up on its waters. As an adult, he has spent thousands of hours there, field-testing his wooden baits, guiding clients, and catching the lake's "little green creatures." All the while, too, he has studied his mistress, her moods, her peculiarities, and, sadly in recent years, her declining health. Arguably, no one knows the Big O as well as Big Sam.

Part I,
Life on the Lake, provides a look into Sam's formative years, growing up on the lake, helping out his father Joe with commercial fishing--- as only a rambunctious young boy can--- and, later, at Uncle Joe's Fish Camp. It reveals how he transitioned into the lure business. And it provides a look at the lake and its fisheries and how they changed as Sam grew to adulthood.

Part II,
Baits and Bass, examines his handmade lures and reveals the fish-catching expertise that he has shared with me over the years, especially with wooden topwaters, his specialty. As with the Big O, arguably no one knows as much about topwater fishing as he does.

Part III,
The Man, the Myth, the Legend, takes a look at the life of Sam Griffin, as related by relatives and friends, including me.

New Book on the Way! Psssst. It's a Surprise!

As with Nourishing the Soul last year, this book is a labor of love. It’s a tribute to my good friend Sam Griffin, who lives on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee. In December, Sam, now 83, was inducted into the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame. I’m hoping that my book, Big Sam and the Big O--- Revelations and Recollections From a Lifetime of Luremaking and Bass Fishing on Lake Okeechobee, will help earn him entrance into the even more prestigious Bass Fishing Hall of Fame. He deserves it.

Cover--- Sam silhouette low

Read More…

What You Should Know About Taking Kids Fishing


First, and foremost, the primary goal for a young child going fishing is to have fun--- not catch fish. Some adults have trouble remembering that.

Take them to a pond, lake, or small stream where the panfish are plentiful, and fish with live bait and the simplest of gear, such as a cane pole or spincast outfit. Also take a bucket or two, and maybe some jars with holes in their lids. Don’t try to fish yourself. If you do, you’ll just get frustrated. Your full attention should be on being a teacher.

Read More…

Speed Trap . . . Slow Down!

Speed Trap . . . Slow Down!

slow down

This blind worship at the altar of speed bleeds into every aspect of our lives, especially for our children. Because we’ve learned we don’t have to wait, we dart recklessly in and out of traffic, cutting in front of other cars so we can launch from a stoplight one second before they do. We have no patience for waiting in lines, common courtesy, or even listening.

That’s why the attention span of students grows progressively shorter. That’s why movies must contain explosions, car chases, and gun battles if they expect to succeed at the box office. That’s why print media are on the decline, and that’s also why participation in fishing flattened in some states and declined in others during the first decade of the 21st century.

Actually “wait” for a fish to bite? No thank you!

Tournament angling has helped keep the sport vital, through its emphasis on faster boats and the need to cover as much water as possible during the hours of competition. Anglers “burn” spinnerbaits. Tackle innovators create reels with higher and higher gear ratios to speed retrieves even more. ESPN and other cable networks glamorize fishing events with helicopter coverage and heart-pounding music.

Am I a tournament angler? No, I am not. Competitors must put their fish in the boat as quickly and efficiently as possible. I like to play with mine, to watch them jump and tail-walk and, yes, sometimes throw the bait. If anything, I am the un-tournament angler.

I certainly do recognize the many contributions tournament fishermen have made to the sport, ranging from boat and tackle innovations to creation of a vocal constituency that finances and promotes conservation of our natural resources. I am an ardent supporter of fishing tournaments and happy to share the water with them.

Still, I believe faster is not always the best way in fishing, and from that I’ve learned it isn’t always the best way in life either. Those who don’t see that miss out on the many pleasures of the journey, as they focus single-mindedly on the destination. We each have only a limited amount of time in this life. Why rush it?

(Excerpt from the essay "Speed Trap . . . Slow Down" in
Why We Fish.)

How Fast Can Fish Swim?

A leaping sailfish can hit 68 mph

Bass aren’t the fastest fish in the world. But no matter how quickly you retrieve that crankbait or topwater, you can’t get it away from them--- if they want it.

That’s because even the fastest reels are capable of retrieving baits at only 3 or 4 miles per hour. A bass, meanwhile, can swim in bursts of 12 to 18 miles per hour.

Most of the time, they don’t, not even when they’re feeding. Three to 4 miles per hour is closer to average. That’s because bass are pot-bellied, ambush predators. Much of the time, they would rather chow down on a slow-moving worm or injured minnow.

The key to success when you’re out fishing is not to know how fast a bass can swim, but how fast it is willing to swim. Experiment with speed until you find the right one.

With some fish, especially many salt-water species, you do want a speedy retrieve. That’s because tuna, wahoo, dorado (dolphin), billfish, and others are roving hunters that chase down their prey.

No one knows for certain how fast the fastest fish can swim. But experts estimate that a leaping sailfish can hit 68 miles per hour, based on the fact that it can strip out 100 yards of line in 3 seconds.

Other speed demons include the swordfish (60 mph), marlin (50), and wahoo (47).

Not surprisingly, the flounder is one of the slowest in the ocean, poking along at 2.4 mph, about the same as an eel.

In freshwater, the rainbow is among the fastest, capable of 23 miles per hour, while catfish have been clocked at 15 and northern pike at 10.6.

And in case you’re wondering: the flying fish can reach gliding speeds of 35 miles per hour.

Read More…

Legendary Fish

Legendary Fish

A frayed piece of leader owns a place of honor at my desk. It was left to me by a “legendary fish.”

That’s my own term so I’m not surprised if you haven’t heard it before. For me, “legendary fish” is one rung up the ladder from “big,” “trophy,” and even “fish of a lifetime.”

Of course, pursuit of a trophy is one of our prime motivators. And losing a big one fuels the fire in our belly even more. If we can’t get the one that got away, we want one even larger.
Read More…

Pets, as Well as Wildlife, Endangered by Discarded Fishing Tackle, Line

dog hook

Discarded fishing line, especially with attached hooks and baits, maims or kills a multitude of fish and wildlife species annually. I've written about this often, encouraging anglers to pick up after themselves, as well as the slobs who give our sport a bad name by tossing their discarded line and lures, as well as other trash, in the water and along the shorelines.

Read More…