Stan Fagerstrom

Stan Fagerstrom is a member of both the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame as well as the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame. Stan is also known internationally for his casting skills. Stan welcomes your e-mail comments at

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July 28, 2014

Which Rod Will Be Right?? — Part 1

by Stan Fagerstrom

Everything else is packed. You've got everything ready from rain gear to long underwear, but one question remains. What the heck rod should I put in my rod case?

You could, I expect, apply similar questions to the guy who plays golf, another who goes hunting in Alaska or perhaps the bird hunter who's just itchin' to take a whack at those pheasants in South Dakota. Believe me — it applies every bit as much or more to the angler who is heading for a distant destination with a limited amount of info on what he'll find when he gets there.

You'll run into some tackle busting whoppers in the Amazon but you can also find those you're able to handle with a spinning gear. That's how I boated this big black piranha and the small peacock bass I'm holding here.

Most readers will agree the best golfer in the world isn't going to beat par unless he's got a bag full of clubs designed to enable him to solve the different problems he's certain to face as he tours a course. It won't take the newest newcomer to sport fishing long to figure out he's in a similar situation.

There simply is no single fishing outfit that's a cinch to be best for every angling problem. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out. Be that as it may, the way I see it there is one outfit that comes a heck of a lot closer than most. My thinking is the result of having had a line in the water in a whole lot of different places around the world. I'd like to share some thoughts in this regard.

What outfit, for example, would you select if you could carry only one and you were about to take off on a long-range fishing adventure? You knew this trip would take you into parts of the world where you weren't sure what conditions you'd encounter. For that matter, you weren't even certain what kind of fish would be available.

I used a spinning outfit and trolled a small Flatfish lure to take this dandy trout from a lake high in the mountains of Argentina.

I've had to make that kind of determination many times over most of the past century. Fishing adventures of one kind or another have taken me from the Amazon to Alaska, from Honduras to Hawaii, from Panama to the Pacific and a whole lot of spots in between. I've rarely been stuck with packing just one outfit, but many times I've been limited to only a couple.

I've reached my own decisions in regards to gear. I don't care where my travels take me; the outfit I pack first is a spinning rod and an open-faced spinning reel. I'm aware it won't be adequate for everything that swims in freshwater, but I do know that chances are great this set up will get me by reasonably well under a variety of conditions.

Having made that choice doesn't mean I think the spinning outfit is always going to be the best choice to solve every problem I encounter. No way! You can't, of course, use a lightweight spinning outfit for many kinds of Alaskan salmon fishing. You couldn't even throw the big surface lures often used for the Amazon's peacock bass with a light rod. If you did hook one of those wild-eyed buggers with such a rod, it would likely resemble a pretzel before the battle was over.

You can be sure I'd rather have a bait casting outfit in my hands if I have to tackle a mad largemouth in heavy cover.

I'd much rather have a casting rod and a level wind reel for most kinds of bass fishing. But again, day in and out, no single outfit does the variety — underline that word, variety — of jobs that can be handled by a good quality spinning rig. And it's going to cover a whole lot of bases when you're not certain of what you're up against going in.

I've had experienced fishermen, some who have traveled extensively, attempt to tell me the only outfit worth carrying on a fishing adventure to New Zealand is a fly rod. Baloney! I've had occasion to fish in that beautiful land almost daily for a month on two different occasions. On both trips I had opportunity to use my spinning outfit every bit as much as my fly rod if I chose to do so. You can, if you choose, do the same.

As I've indicated, the thing that makes the lightweight spinning outfit such a wonderful tool is its versatility. Purchase extra spools for your spinning reel. Load one with 4-pound line, another with 6, a third with 8 and a fourth with 10. Those four different line sizes let you cover a tremendous variety of fishing tasks. Today, with some of the new strong but small diameter braided lines, you can go even heavier than that in line test and still handle relatively lightweight lures. I'll have some specifics on that in my next column.

You can slip a 4 or 6-pound test spool onto your spinning reel and throw tiny jigs in the 1/32nd-ounce class. Such tiny jigs, equipped with miniature curly-tailed plastic worms, are among the most deadly of lures for panfish such as crappie and bluegill. They also work well for some of the exotic species you'll find in other parts of the world. I've whacked piranha with them in both Colombia and Brazil. I've done the same with tilapia in the waters of Mexico.

I'd never have hooked this beautiful trout at the New Zealand Lake I'm pictured on if I'd not had the spinning outfit you see in my hand.

Your spools of light line work just fine on a spinning rig for lightweight trout fishing with small lures. If you choose, you can use the same outfit to throw a floating bubble and a fly. I've had the opportunity to spend a couple days fishing with General Chuck Yeager, the famed test pilot. Here's another guy who has fished all over the place. One of his favorite angling adventures is hiking into the high Sierras for golden trout. He often catches them with flies. On a fly rod? No way! He uses a lightweight spinning outfit and one of those baubles I mentioned.

Yeager told me he has done the same thing in some of the top trout waters of Montana as well as in New Zealand and other parts of the world. "I can get way out there where the fish are with my spinning outfit," he says. "Often, conditions wouldn't permit me to do that with any other kind of outfit."

As I've already mentioned, be assured that if I have a choice, I'll do the same thing those pro golfers do. I'll carry an assortment of rods and reels that will give me a shot at solving the different problems I'm a cinch to encounter. Having access to the right tools is one of the basic ingredients to consistently putting fish on the bank or in the boat.

There are some other factors to consider. Watch for my September column, where I'll discuss some of the additional reasons I feel the way I do about the versatility of a top quality spinning outfit.

-To be continued-

May 01, 2012

Billy Chapman Jr. Does it Again! Anglers Inn is Now in the Jungle

by Stan Fagerstrom

Some men spend much of their life trying to put bass in the boat.
Such individuals aren't hard to find. You'll find them participating in professional bass fishing tournaments now staged in almost every corner of the country.

Some of those professional contests now pay winners the same kind of bucks other professional sports like golf or tennis did when they were first getting established.

I know a bunch of those professional anglers. You probably know some too. But how many men do you know who instead of attempting to put bass in the boat themselves have spent a lifetime making it possible for others to do so?

Such individuals are hard to find. But I know one. You might have heard of him yourself. If you haven't you should. I say that because now he has again done something really big to assist bass anglers.

This time it's for anglers who choose to go after those fantastic peacock bass of the Amazon jungle. Let me tell you about him. His name is Billy Chapman Jr.

If you've followed bass angling, and so many thousands do and have, Chapman's name is probably already familiar to you. Few individuals have had a greater impact on the bass angling world.

Billy is the man who led the way in providing the wondrous bass fishing now to be found in the lakes of Mexico. Anyone who has ever had the opportunity to be Chapman's guest at his Anglers Inn on Mexico's Lake El Salto knows what I'm talking about. The same could be said about his Anglers Inn Lodge at Mexico's Lake Mateos.

But it isn't the almost unbelievable largemouth angling you may run into at either of these lakes that I'm talking about. Now this internationally recognized outfitter and lodge operator has taken his tremendous talents back into the heart of the Amazon.

I say "back" into the Amazon because it was those peacock bass of the Amazon and its tributaries that really gave him his first opportunity to polish his skills in the world of making bass fishing dreams come true.

Billy was still in his 20s when he began booking trips for jungle bass anglers in Venezuela. Within his first five years in the jungle he supervised the construction of the first two bass fishing lodges ever built in that part of the Amazon.

What he's doing in the Amazon today almost has to be seen to be believed. Again, if you've been to Anglers Inn at Lake El Salto or Lake Mateos in Mexico you know what he's done in Mexico. Believe it or not, today he's doing even more with his brand new operation now known as Anglers Inn Amazon.

Billy Chapman Jr. has been helping bass anglers from all over the world ever since he was a kid. He's pictured here with one of the Amazon's beautiful peacock bass. Chapman's Anglers Inn floating suites Amazon operation is attracting international attention.

I'm no stranger to the Amazon. I've had the opportunity over the years to make three different trips there to fish for peacock bass. The first of my three trips was through the country of Columbia decades ago. The two more recent adventures were both into the Amazon by way of Brazil.

In my earlier trips I never had the opportunity to experience anything resembling the kind of set up Billy Chapman has now made available.

Please note the pictures that accompany this column. Chapman told me a few years ago what he planned to do for anglers hoping to experience the thrill of tangling with one of the world's greatest sports fish---the jungle's peacock bass.

"Stan," he said, "I'm going down there and build a series of floating mobile suites. I want to be able to move them into different areas of the Amazon and its tributaries. That way I can put our clients where fishing prospects are best."

I'll be damned if that's not exactly what he's done! It's already attracting the attention from anglers all over the world.

You won't always find peacock bass in the same areas of the Amazon. You're not limited to any one spot when you book a trip with the Anglers Inn Amazon operation. Billy Chapman's floating suites take you where the fish are.

It's not at all difficult, having fished the jungle's rivers myself, to see what Chapman has been successful in doing. There are a few places in the jungle that accommodate visiting Amazon anglers. But for the most part they are permanent structures built on land or larger boats with limited space for their clients.

The boats they provide are able to take their customers into nearby areas of the jungle. Depending on water conditions, they might or might not be able to put you where the prospects for peacocks are good.

I've seen times on some of the Amazon's rivers where you couldn't buy a strike. On other occasions I've seen areas where those lure smashing peacock were all over the place. Usually by far the best action came in the most remote spots.

The chance for you to reach those remote spots is exactly what Chapman's Anglers Inn Amazon operation provides. The Amazon, you see, has an almost unbelievable fluctuation in water levels. I'm told the floating dock at Manaus, the place that really serves as the major city of entry into the jungle, fluctuates as much as 48-feet.

"Peacock bass fishing," Billy says, "is usually best when the water level is low. Mobility and exclusivity is the combination that creates the best chance for a great peacock bass fishing trip.
"Our Anglers Inn floating mobile suites move like a water train beyond natural barriers to pristine and exclusive Indian reserves. Our entire operation may move every other day during your visit and keeps you in new water where the competition can't go. You have my guarantee you'll experience the usual Anglers Inn style of personal service in the process."

Here's what the interior of the Anglers Inn Amazon floating suites look like. Each air conditioned unit has its own bath and shower.

Here you see Chapman's floating suites anchored in an isolated area of the Amazon while clients enjoy an evening meal on the beach.

Going to the Amazon with Chapman's floating suites also offers another major advantage. You're never going to be more than a relatively short boat ride from your home base.
I've been in the Amazon when our guide took us way the hell and gone back into jungle. Sometimes it took far too long to get back to the lodge.

I've also had the unpleasant experience of having our boat run into motor trouble and being left in a situation way back in the boonies where it wasn't at all certain that we'd be able to get back at all.

"We recommend," Billy says, "that you return to your floating suite at noon for a hot lunch, a cool shower and a siesta. Because of our mobility we can keep the good fishing close enough so that you're usually only looking at a boat ride of from five to 15 minutes to get back."

You're never far from the security of your own floating suite when you're in the Amazon with Anglers Inn. Anglers who get out early in the morning often come back for a shower and siesta at mid day.

I could write 10 more pages about what you'll find on an Anglers Inn Amazon adventure. There's really no need for me to do so. It's easy to find everything you need to know from times and prices to what to bring and what's provided.

You can do that at your own convenience by simply calling 1 800 GOTA-Fish or by visiting on the Internet.

I know Billy Chapman Jr. and I know what he stands for. Few men anywhere have done a better job of making the dreams of countless anglers come true more often than he has. That's undoubtedly why he's one of the very few, if not the only outfitter/lodge operator, ever inducted to the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame.

As I write this I just have one regret---it's that Anglers Inn Amazon didn't exist when I made my three earlier visits to the rivers I've mentioned.

Be assured that's where I'd of headquartered if it had been.