Hey everyone, Eric Stewart here from Fishing Fanatics and I have an awesome guest here.
Mark Mendes who is a Bassmaster Elite Series angler.
He’s got $1.3 million in Bassmaster earnings and he’s a three-time Bassmaster champion.
He’s been a pro angler for 30 years.
How are you doing, Mark?
I’m doing well, Eric.
Thanks for having me on today.
And Mark, like we were talking a little bit before, I really appreciate you kind of taking
the time out, cutting it out of your busy schedule and kind of coming on here doing a
podcast with me.
Well, I’m glad to.
It’s cold here today in Kentucky.
The wind’s blowing about 30, so if I can’t go fishing, I can talk about it anyway.
I love it.
I love it.
So let’s dive right into it.
And 30 years of experience in professional bass fishing, I just love to ask you, how did
you get into professional bass fishing?
What was like the first step that you took to get into it?
And any mentors along the way that kind of helped you in your career?
Well, you know, any career that you choose to go in, it’s not one single step.
It’s a lot of little stutter steps along the way that get you there.
My parents have pictures of me where I’m two years old in a diaper, fishing in a minnow
bucket with a stick and a string.
And I’m chasing two minnow’s that are going around and around in a circle.
So it started at a very young age.
We moved into Paducah when I was about eight or nine years old, seven, eight, nine years
That was in the 70s.
And that’s when the Bass Club proliferation was really happening.
Bass clubs were popping up everywhere.
Ray Scott had that moving along with BASS.
And my next door neighbor was a big bass clover.
His name was Clyde Watson.
dad would come in from fishing on days of fishing and I’d seen back in and most time
I was playing basketball at his house because he had a basketball goal for his kids or his
young, his kids were younger or older than I was. And he’d back the boat in and I’d say,
well, that’s a this kind of bait and that’s a that kind of bait and this bait’s for this
and this is a Rapala and that’s an old Strike King spinner bait and blah, blah, blah, blah,
blah, blah, blah.
So I finally captured his interest and he asked to take me fishing when I was about 10 years
old and we fished all day and my dad went with us and at five o’clock he says, well,
guys, we’ve got to go home.
Ms. Watson will have dinner on the table.
I said, no sir, Mr. Watson.
We can’t go yet.
And he inclined says, well, why?
I said, well, it’s not dark yet.
So he knew he had a fisherman in the boat and I fished with him for the next four years
And he taught me pattern fishing.
He taught me how to find fish.
Clyde was an executive with a telephone company and he moved about four years later and we
fished all the time up until his death a year ago.
He passed away about a year and a half ago.
And there was another neighbor in the backyard.
My best friend’s dad was the tournament anger area in the area.
When you went to a tournament in the mid 70s, you had to beat Dave Hutchison.
Dave was a unique fella.
He was a civil engineer and was way ahead of his time with Lightline and Spinning Gear.
He used Spinning Gear an awful lot.
He taught me how to use Lightline 6, 8, 10-pound line.
He also taught me how to use heavier spinning gear when flipping bushes and willow trees
for different kinds of presentations.
and I fished with Dave forever and ever.
We won lots of tournaments together
and I went to Murray State after that.
Got my degree in fisheries biology,
was Dilly Dallian with a degree,
you know, a master’s degree in education
and now I came home one day and he says,
“Mom, I’ll see you.
“I’ll be back tomorrow.
“I’m going to Montgomery, Alabama
“to pay my entry fees.”
And that was in spring of ’91.
Or spring of ’91, yeah, spring of ’91.
I went out on tour of fall of ’91 and in spring of ’92,
I got a letter saying that I’d qualified for then
the Bassmaster top 100s, the BP top 100s.
And I’ve been there ever since there.
I’ve been very fortunate, very, very fortunate.
Wouldn’t absolute crazy ride that you had to.
And I’m just looking at my notes here
and correct me if this is wrong.
But so you entered the tournament in 1992,
but then in 1997, you called it the largest,
large mouth bass.
biggest largemouth bass in B-A-S-S-A or B-A-S-S and that record held from 1997 to 1999, that
bass was 13.9 pounds. 13 pounds, nine ounces and it was the biggest bass in the first 35
years, the Bassmaster Organization and that was really kind of the sounding board, the
shot that went across everybody’s bow that, you know, that maybe I was a quality fisherman
And what I had done prior to that, Eric, is I had started working with riders in ’95 and ’96.
And a lot of those articles, the lead time was coming up.
And so I was showing up in Bassmaster Magazine, made the finals of MegaBox with that fish,
broke that record with that fish, went to the classic.
And then the next year, I won my first tournament.
So all of that just kind of dominoed at one time.
And that gave me the formidable place to stand from.
and you know, my career was on its way at that time.
Yeah. Perfect storm.
And how do you even locate a fish in that size?
Oh well, you know, you know, Rick Glenn,
the all-time greatest bass fisherman there ever was
and I were good friends and he was sitting over there
when I weighed that fish in and he’s like,
“Come here, come here, come here.”
And he says, “Now Mark, I want you to think
of all the influences, all the people
that have helped you along the way.
All the fishing trips that you’ve been in,
all the tournaments you’ve been to,
and all the cast that you’ve made,
and you’re in this position at this time.
And he says, “How does that make you feel?”
And well, me, having spent a lot of time with Rick,
I always give him a hard time
of giving him a smart answer.
And I said, “Well, Rick, I just made a lucky cast.”
He got mad and walked off
because of the significance of what it was.
I winked at his wife, Melissa, and I said,
you know I’m just kidding. He says, he knows Melissa said he knows that you’re just kidding.
But we’ve talked about it several times and that’s been a mentor for me on tour in Rick all of the
years of experience that he has. When I’ve got an issue or I’ve got something I’ve puzzled about,
I’ll go to him and I did that very often in my early days and early career. Really a wonderful
person to have in your back pocket to be able to talk to. A great friend and great competitor.
That’s awesome and I’m sure on tour it’s probably a whole different level of what I’m used to and I’m just fishing with my buddies
But oh no, no, it’s the same thing
It’s just it just costs more entry fees at ours. We’re giving each other a hard time Eric
You know, I they saw me run through the back of the creek and knock my lower unit off
They saw me when I broke my life
But and you hear about it when you you do something stupid you turn around look good
there’s nobody there. Well, you didn’t see your best buddy, Matt
Haren around the corner over there behind that will of Bush
laughing his butt off at you because he saw us. Oh, no, it’s
the same. It’s the same, I promise. That’s pretty cool to see
that same culture carry over because it’s the same way. Like
when I go fishing out with my buddies recently, I actually put
a hole in the bottom of my boat because I was just just being
an uncle head. And man, my buddies gave me a bunch of crap. The
entire time I just never heard the end of it. I’m sure it’s
probably like, oh yeah. Oh yeah. We yeah, there’s there’s been
lots of things that I’ve done that I wish nobody had seen. So
yeah, you got to have thick skin if you’re going to be a
fisherman. I don’t care what level it is.
I love it. So as I mentioned, you won three major
tournaments there for best. And what was it like coming out of
that first victory? And how did that kind of like send you on
your way to just win more?
Well, that first victory was in 98. It was it was at Pickwick
and Wilson Lakes and I stumbled on to a pattern, something that I taught myself at a relatively
advanced age in fishing. I didn’t start throwing a suspending jerk bait until I was, my little
dog gone, I was probably, I’m going to say I was probably 25 or 26 years old. And I took that,
it just really clicked with me. There’s certain things that click, there’s certain things you get
comfortable with and that was one of them and I’m an extremely patient person. I understand
for whatever reason what Bass do in cold water. I love to fish in the late fall, I love to fish
in the winter, I love early spring. I never was a big hunter so I’d have the entire lake to myself
and I developed that technique with that that suspending jerk bait and it fell right into place.
Once I saw the way the shad were suspended and how the fish were related to my saying this could
be ugly. I think I locked up on Wilson the first day and I had 17 or 18 pounds in a matter of no time.
And I was very worried about bar tracks. So I locked down an hour early with that 17 pounds.
And at the bottom there in Pickwick, at the headwaters of Pickwick, there’s a lot of lay down trees.
And I picked up a jig and made a cast and I caught a seven-pounder and I’m in second place the first
day. And then the second day of the tournament, I caught 20 in the third day, I caught another
18 and a half and I won the tournament by seven pounds. What’s interesting about the tournaments
like that, for me Eric, is there’ve been times when I could look you in the eyes Eric, I’m going
to win at such and such place in three weeks. And you’d say, well how do you know I said,
I just know it. The planets are lining up. And it’s happened to me in each of the wins on the
the Bassmaster Tournament Trail. My second win was in 2005 and I had been sick that year.
I’d had meningitis. I almost died for meningitis at Gunnersville. I had to withdraw from an
attorney of the elite series at Gunnersville. I was out for several months. That was in February.
The first tournament of the Southern Opens was in June and I told my wife at the time before
she passed away. I told Donna said, “I’m going to win.” And she goes, “I just want you to do your
best Mark. I said, no, you don’t hear me. She said, what I said, the planets, they’re lining up
right now. And I’m going to win. She’s, well, how are you going to win? I said, I don’t know yet,
but I’m going to win. I told my best buddy that was rooming with me. I told one of my good friends
in Georgia. I said, watch out. I’m going to win. And I entered that space, that tournament
with the thought of what do I have to do to win? And it all just fell in perfect place.
The water came up a couple of inches. There was a late spawn in late May, so those fish were still
shallow. That little bit of water kept them up. Shallow the full moon came around the same time
of the tournament. It kept a few of those fish shallower. So the whole tournament, everybody was
fishing deeper and deeper and deeper off shore. I went shallower and shallower and I found a
group of fish that nobody was bothering. It was on West Point in Georgia, a lake that
it doesn’t take a lot to win on. I had 37 pounds basically and I won that tournament by over 7 pounds.
And it got me back on track. I made the Open Championship that year and I made the top five
of the Open Championship in the championship tournament and it sent me to the Classic. It was a
It was a miraculous comeback from the near brink of dying to standing on the classic stage and
having another trophy in my hand. It was an amazing time period. Shaped my life. It’s what it did.
True did. I got to tell you, man. Mark, I got chills right now. Just listen to that entire story
too about even just how confident you are going into it. Like you knew that something was meant
for you there and you were going to capitalize on it. You know, I won my first Bas Club classic
at 14, 15 years old. And I told my classmates, I needed the weather to do this. I needed this
to happen and this to happen. And it all just like Domino’s lined up. And that’s the first time I
knew I was going to win. I won that tournament by about five or six pounds in a very low weight
tournament. I had 12 and a half, 13 pounds and seven pounds was the next next place. And those
those guys were absolutely amazed that I was able to pull off what I did.
And I knew I would win that tournament, had no idea how I was going to do it.
And I sure wish that feeling would come around in 2023.
It’s been a long time.
It’s been since 2010 since I won, or 2009 since I won an elite tournament.
But I’d like to see that feeling come again.
So anytime would be great.
Yeah, just always waiting on it.
Just this today, today, look at the watch.
maybe it’s going to be tomorrow. That’s exactly. Exactly. That’s great. And I want to switch gears
a little bit right now because I know you do a lot of good work in invasive species and specifically
the Yamaha Wright Water Program. Is that correct? Yes. Sweet. Can you just share with our listeners
what that program is all about and how you’re kind of involved with it? Well, it’s a really neat
program, Eric. You know, Yamaha being a major manufacturer in the fishing and boating industry
has always been extremely good at forecasting,
whether it’s forecasting, how many nuts and bolts
they need for motors or wiring they need for motors
or props or whatever it is.
They’ve been really, really spot on
in forecasting things like that.
So the brilliant minds at Yamaha says,
you know, we really ought to give back
to the sport in which we’re making a living from
And they, you know, conservation and ecology were sort of things
that they thought would be really good to utilize
and they developed the right waters program.
And it’s a partnership with other organizations.
We’ve partnered with DU on coastal restoration.
We’ve done, we had a lot to do with the legality
of the red snapper fishing issues that were 10, 12 years ago in the Gulf of Mexico and
enter the Asian car. A problem that became at my home on Kentucky and Barkley Lakes in
the Tennessee River, a real economic factor that it took businesses, motels, gasoline
grocery stores, tackle shops, and they went out of business because no one was coming here because
the biology of Kentucky and Barclays completely changed with this new fish coming in. My boss is
there, knew that I had a fisheries biology degree, that I was fearless in talking to people and could
talk the lingo on the biology side, could talk the lingo on the manufacturer side, and they asked me
to go to Washington DC. And I went and I met with many, many lawmakers on Capitol Hill
and told them the economic issues that this one single invasive species of fish was doing to my
waters. And we had an obligation and they agreed. And I’ve been in front of about 60 percent of
the House and Senate members. I went directly to, at that time, Speaker McConnell’s office and we
we had multiple conversations about this.
And this whole thing developed, and I said,
“Sinner, we need monies.
We need monies because we’re behind,
our biologists behind, because they don’t know
the life cycles, they need equipment,
we need to do more research on this.”
And we were able to get that.
And is the Asian carp problem going away?
No, it’s not.
But we have lessened the Asian carp
in Kentucky and Barkley Lakes.
We’re keeping them out of the Cumberland River side,
like Barkley, with a bath,
a bioacoustic fish fence that is sound, light and bubbles
and that is keeping those fish from going through the dam.
We’re going to do, hopefully put another one of those
on Kentucky Lake.
We’re putting a secondary lock in,
so we need two of those there
and we’re stopping that progression of the Tennessee River.
Tennessee River is one of the most fertile rivers
in the United States and the bass fishing
off the chain on the Tennessee River. So we’re seeing those numbers of carp being slowed down.
We also developed an industry here for commercial fishermen to catch these things and get them
out of the system, which has been quite effective. These guys are there as dangerous as the top
bass pros are with rod and reels as far as catching bass. These guys have figured these fish out.
We’ve got a burgeoning market. They’re making a living. They’re getting them out of the lake.
Our bass, bluegill, crappie have come back, our baitfish have come back.
And now, you know, where I used to catch 100 bass a day, 50 bass a day, quite often on Kentucky
Lake, you and I can go Eric, you can go tomorrow. And we would expect to catch between 8 and 12
keeper bass a day between the two of us and probably have one 4.5 to 5 pound fish.
And the unique thing is, is our smallmouth have come back and have been the dominant bass
here over the last four or five years taking 20 pounds a day to win here now with small
mouth. That never used to happen. And our numbers are getting better. And it’s just a
great thing to see that the fisheries coming back. Economics are too for that matter.
That’s yeah, it’s a crazy twist Mark has been I was first looking at it with like we have
a lot of we have a lot of northern snake heads up here by me in Pennsylvania. Sure. I’ve caught
some up there. Yeah, me too on frogs and in buzzbaits. But you don’t really think about
the economics of it when there’s a small tackle shop there or a hotel there, people
travel down to those big lakes and they really want to fish because it’s premium fishing
They’ve got fishing spots in the world.
You don’t think about their small businesses, man, that are just impacted by invasive species
And it’s an interesting twist for sure.
It stopped the crappie fishermen from coming, which Kentucky Lake has always been known
as one of the best crappie locations in the world.
The bass fishing here has always been great.
It’s always taking a five and a half to six pound average here to win.
I mean, I’ve caught 30, I’ve got 25 pounds of fish, you know, in tournaments.
I bet I bet I’ve weighed 25 in 50 times and not get a check, not get a check because
the fishing was so good.
Call 32 one time and got beat by eight pounds.
Guys had five that weighed 40.
You know, this place was off the hook.
It was just ridiculous how good it was, but it’s good to see that it’s coming back.
Having a few more terms, it was good to let the light, you know,
take some of that pressure off.
But without the right waters program
and the war on carp that a local judge executive, Wade White,
got started, got me involved, and we went to Yamaha,
and then it proliferated from there.
Without Judge White and Yamaha,
we would still be behind the eight.
But we’ve got a lot of work left to do here.
We’re doing that.
Our fisheries people are learning more.
They’re learning more about the fish. They’re learning their habits more
Um, and so we can get them and they’re good to eat. It’s a carp
But it’s a basic plankton eater
So it eats the food chain from the bottom up and that’s that’s where it does the damaging the lake, but they taste really good
I’ve had them many different ways. So, um, it is a good food source for for people as well
Very cool, man. And you know, I appreciate all the work you do and yamahadas too
I’m going to link it into the bottom of this podcast and description of this podcast
For you guys to go check it out donate get involved there
And just see what more they have about and mark. I just want to say one last time. Thank you for doing this with me
I really appreciate when I was looking at you looking at your resume absolute legend
I know we talked before you’re just you said it yourself from just a normal advanced fisherman
but for me personally
Thank you for coming on this episode
And I just want to give you a shout out to real quick at the end of these podcasts if there’s anything you want to plug
Any of your social media handles that you want to talk about a little bit and that you want to give out to our listeners
You can go ahead and do that now.
- Sure, sure.
Well, you can find me on Instagram @markmanindesbas
or you can find me on Twitter @markmanindes.
Those are the two social medias that I use the most.
You can also go to YouTube
and watch past episodes of my television show.
Please link and subscribe to that.
It’s M.M. Bass TV.
I have a local television show here
on the local television station
and lots of those old episodes are there as well.
So that’s M.M. Bass TV at YouTube.
So I appreciate that Eric.
There’s a lot of old stuff.
There’s a lot of crazy stuff in there.
There’s some good fishing on Kentucky Lake.
There’s some fishing on a fabled place here in West Kentucky
called Lake X.
It’s good friends of mine own that.
I do a lot of filming there.
It’s because it’s such a good place to be able to teach.
And that’s what the show’s all about.
It’s about educating guys to be in gals,
to be better fishermen.
It’s not two bovers in a boat having a big time.
This is about technique and how to and how to get the job done that way.
So I enjoy doing that and we’re getting ready to get started for our fourth or fifth season
here on the WPSD here next in two weeks.
So I’m excited about that.
And they will all be linked in the description.
I appreciate it, Mark.
Good fishing to everybody.
Thanks for having me, Eric.
You just listened to the Fishing Fanatics podcast with your host, Eric Stewart.
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