MONTROSE, Mo. — A rocky start, obstacles to be overcome, building intensity, a dramatic finish. Sounds like something out of a television show, right?
Well, yeah. But probably not the kind of program you’re accustomed to.
That was the plot when Joe Thomas went to the strip pits of west-central Missouri to fish with pro bass superstar Brent Chapman and film a show for “Stihl’s Reel in the Outdoors with Joe Thomas” series.
“We were expecting to get a good show here,” said Thomas, whose program airs on the Outdoor Channel. “Just to be able to fish with a guy like Brent Chapman, who was the (Bassmaster) Angler of the Year last year in a place that was loaded with big bass, that had a lot of promise.
“But this exceeded all expectations. This was an unbelievable day.”
It all started when Thomas contacted one of his sponsors, Brett Ware of Tightlines UV Lures, based in Maryville, Mo., and inquired about a place where he could film a summer show on bass fishing.
Ware recruited Chapman, a member of his pro staff, and set up a day of fishing on private strip pits in a region that once was mined heavily for coal.
Ware knew the pits had plenty of bass — and some big ones. But things didn’t start off smoothly on the late July trip. As Thomas and Chapman fished with the cameras rolling, they made cast after cast to the rocky banks of the first pit.
They caught fish, but definitely not at the pace that you’d like for a television show.
“You always worry that you get something like this set up, and the fish don’t cooperate,” said Chapman, who lives at Lake Quivira.
Ah, but now for the drama.
Thomas and Chapman got to the end of the first pit and were greeted by a narrow, shallow passage leading to another pit.
With Thomas’ wide, 21-foot long bass boat, it didn’t appear that they would be able to fit through. But they were determined to try.
“You know bass fishermen,” Chapman said. “The grass is always greener on the other side.
“They’re in there; the big bass are in there. We just have to get to them.”
Chapman paused and laughed.
“We’re going where no bass boat has gone before,” he said.
Thomas trimmed his big motor up and revved the engine, only to send mud flying everywhere. Finally, he eased into the water and begin guiding the boat through the shallow water as Chapman stood on shore and tugged on a rope.
After about 20 minutes, they reached water deep enough to float the boat. And a short time later, all of their hard work paid off.
Using UV plastic lures, their fortunes quickly changed. Pitching and flipping the baits to a weed line, they started catching keeper bass. Things only got better as they rounded a bend. First, Chapman felt the thump of a big bass and he whipped a solid hook set. The bass dug for the weeds, but Thomas was able to work it into open water. Seconds later, he was pulling an 8-pound bass into the boat.
The star of the show? Hardly. As the cameras caught the action, Thomas caught another largemouth in the 8-pound range on a UV Hog. Later, Chapman added a third 8-pounder on a black and blue jig with a UV Bubba Craw trailer.
And that wasn’t all. By the time they were done, they had caught, weighed and released another bass in the 6-pound range, and five in the 5-pound range.
A dream fishing trip — and all captured on film.
“We’ll definitely be able to show plenty of action,” said Thomas, a former tournament fisherman who now focuses on putting out three outdoors shows for the Outdoor Channel. “We’ll set aside two days to film these shows, just to make sure we get enough footage.
“But we won’t need an extra day for this one.”
The show, the final one on “Stihl’s Reel in the Outdoors” 2013 schedule, will be broadcast in September or October. The series is seen at 9 a.m. Fridays, and 6:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays on the Outdoor Channel.
Now in its seventh year, the show has taken Thomas from Brazil to Alaska. And the trip to Missouri certainly wasn’t the only footage on the highlight reel.
Thomas remembers a show filmed at Lake El Salto in Mexico where he caught seven bass over 8 pounds, pitching a UV Hog to the flooded timber. He also recalls landing a smallmouth bass at Lake Erie that weighed 7 pounds.
But for Thomas, who lives in a suburb of Cincinnati, it’s not all about the size of the fish. He wants his show to be entertaining as well as educational.
“We have a lot fun,” Thomas said. “Especially on days when the bass are hitting like this.”