Shaw Grigsby, 66, laughs when he talks about what bass fishing was like when he first got involved.
“The boats were ‘boxy’ and some of them even had stick steering,” he said. “A 125-horse motor was considered huge.
“We didn’t have all the electronics we do today. We had flasher units and that was about it.
"We just figured out things as we went.”
Grigsby and his fishing partners figured out plenty. The flasher units were designed to send a signal in a cone below the boat. Grigsby and his friend came up with a way to get the transducer to read what lied ahead. That innovation paid huge dividends.
“We were catching black drum on the Suwanee River and when we got the flasher unit to show us what was in the water ahead of us, we found some schools of fish from 30 to 60 pounds,” Grigsby said. “We just mashed ‘em.”
Today, Grigsby uses sophisticated forward-facing sonar to catch bass in Major League Fishing events. He relishes chasing smallmouth bass in northern waters during Bass Pro Tour tournaments.
And he is still competitive in a game that has changed drastically over the years.
“Back when I got started, there weren’t as many guys who had a shot of winning when they fished a tournament,” Grigsby said. “You could eliminate a lot of the field. A lot of them just weren’t that serious about it.
"Now it’s much more competitive. There’s a lot more knowledge out there, and these young guys know what they’re doing.”
Grigsby fished his first B.A.S.S. tournament in 1977 and finished 26th. “I won $625 and I thought I was rich,” he said.
Grigsby began fishing professionally fulltime in the B.A.S.S. circuit in 1984 and won nine tournaments and qualified for the Bassmaster Classic 14 times before he moved to Major League Fishing’s Bass Pro Tour.