I’m excited today because today we have Bernie Schultz.
Bernie is a native Floridian with more than 30 years of experience competing at the highest level of tournament fishing.
– With two US and two Canadian titles, he has won well over a million dollars in prize money.
– In addition to competing on the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bernie Schultz serves as a consultant to many of the biggest brands in fishing, including Shimano, Rapala, Mercury Marine, Power Pole, Garmin, and others.
– He also serves as a columnist cadiahoangtuan.com for several major fishing publications, including Bassmaster, Florida Sportsman, Ontario’s Just Fishing, and Inside Line.
How you doing, Mike? Good to meet you.
All right, yeah. Great. Tell us, what are you up to today?
Oh, I got a few renovations going on at the house. I’ve got a little bit of a down period between tournaments, and we’re doing a kitchen remod. That sounds pretty boring, I’m sure, to your listeners, but that’s what’s going on at our house today.
What’s your next tournament?
Next tournament is on Lake Hartwell. It’s on the Georgia-South Carolina border. It’s right on the state line, and it’s a fabulous fishery. That’s in the first part of April. Then we leave directly from there to Winyah Bay, which is on the coast just north of South… what is it? Charleston.
Okay, gotcha. How long have you been fishing?
Well, I’ve been fishing tournaments over 30 years. I’ve been fishing my entire life. Even as a really young kid I was on the water. My grandfather and my mother were kind of the inspiration for me. We lived on a lake in Sanford, Florida. That’s where I learned to… I mean, I learned the basics there.
Nice. So it was your grandfather and your mother?
Correct, yeah. My dad didn’t fish, but dad always made sure there was water nearby and that I had a boat. My grandfather was a fisherman, and my mom was exposed to that early on. That’s where I got it, was through them.
Wow. Tell us, how did you start fishing competitively? From when you were a kid and you were just doing it for fun, and then all of a sudden you decided to start fishing competitively?
Well, I kind of backed into it, Mike. I was a student at the University of Florida, and one of my instructors was in a bass club. We figured out pretty early on during the class that we both fished and that we had a common interest, and then we started fishing together. He encouraged me to come to a bass club meeting, and I did. As a guest, I was invited to fish in a tournament, and my first draw was Shaw Grigsby, of all people. That kind of hooked me at that point. I mean, I’d been fishing long before that, but that was my first exposure to competitive fishing.
Your first exposure to competitive fishing, and you get partnered up with Shaw Grigsby.
Yeah. Pretty strange turn of events, but… And we’ve remained friends to this day. Shaw was a great angler when I got involved with the club. I knew how to fish, but I didn’t understand the mechanics of tournament fishing. It’s a completely different thing. I mean, fishing under the clock with the pressure of money on the line, and at this level, with sponsors and media and fans, it really changes the whole way you approach the game. Fishing for fun is… you know, that’s one thing, but when you start a career in competitive fishing, you figure out pretty quickly that there’s a big transformation.
Well, let me ask you. This is always interesting to our listeners, is, what’s the biggest problem, or what’s the biggest challenge you found when you got into competitive fishing?
When you go fishing for fun, there’s not a lot of pressure. When you’re fishing for survival, for your income, for raising your family, or for the companies you represent, it puts a lot of pressure on you. I think the biggest challenge is staying up with the fish and managing all those pressures. Fish move. You know, most tournaments are multi-day events, so it’s not like you can go out there for one day, and whatever happens that day determines the outcome. Most tournaments are three to four days long at the level that I compete at. That kind of takes the luck factor out. You have to be consistently productive over those three or four days. With all the pressures that I mentioned earlier, it becomes a challenge. Like I said, fish move around. You got to stay up with the fish, and things change constantly.
Yeah. You know, when it comes to tournament fishing, I understand experience plays a big part of it. What did you learn over your career in competitive fishing that’s helped you to succeed?
You know, it’s just a matter of time on the water, and you start picking up things. I mean, you learn tricks and techniques, and you learn how to use all the lures that are applied to different depths and types of cover. You know, bass are cover-oriented creatures. They like to be around things, usually. That doesn’t mean they’re not free-roaming. There are free-roaming fish. There are schooling fish that just travel chasing bait fish. But for the most part, bass are cover-oriented, structure-oriented. They relate to something. It’s the lessons I learned throughout my career trying to figure out how the bass are relating to key structures or features of a body of water that kind of has helped me survive.
Right. Let me ask you, when you’re going into a tournament, especially at your level, and you know it’s going to be a multi-day event, do you put together a plan of attack for each day, or one plan of attack for all four days?
Well, ideally, you want a single plan to work throughout a three or four day event. But you know, like I said earlier, fish have fins, and they use them. I mean, they move and they do different things. Their mood changes. Weather constantly changes. Even if you have stable conditions, the fish sometimes make a dramatic change in their habits. So you know, it’s constantly adapting and trying to figure out what the fish are going to do next. Usually, there is some consistency with minor variations, but there are some days when it’s dramatically different, where you have to scrap what you’re doing and start from scratch.