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Interview with Carl Woods, tournament director of the Jimmy Houston Outdoor Tournament Trail and member of the board of directors for the Oklahoma Anglers Unlimited.
By Jerry Corbett

 

Carl Woods one of the leading figures in the sport of bass fishing in the state of Oklahoma has agreed to share some of his thoughts on the world of bass fishing, the Jimmy Houston Outdoor Tournament Trail, and the Oklahoma Anglers Unlimited.

David Miller (owner of Cross Communications-sponsor) Carl Woods (director-Jimmy Houston Outdoors T. Trails) and Jimmy Houston in May,2003 at the "Kerr Lake I-40 Bridge Memorial Tournament"


OBF-What do we need to know about the person, Carl Woods?

Carl-I'm now starting my 30th year since I became associated with this sport. I fished my first tournament in 1974 on Greer's Ferry Lake. We were on vacation there, with our little 14' boat and 35hp Evinrude. We saw a poster at the marina on the tournament on Saturday being held there and decided, "well that would be fun, never fished a tournament before" ..as a matter of fact, Jimmy and Chris Houston were there, and they were fishing the event too. I asked Jimmy some questions about the tournament and he was very polite and told me that it would be fun, but that we should probably try and get to the back of the group of boats the next morn, to avoid getting "run over", because everybody had "shotgun" starts back then. Boy, that was real good advice. Everyone had bigger boats and bigger engines than us, we almost got swamped by just the boat wakes. We couldn't understand why they all "ran away so fast"! We understood when we got to our first "spot", a little cove where we had caught some fish the day before. There were already four boats there. I didn't know what to do. So we just left and spent the day trying every other spot that we could. My wife kept asking, "why can't we just go back to that cove"? We finally did, but by then everyone was gone from there and we spent the rest of the afternoon wasting our time there, ended up with two fish, these were the days of (10) fish limits..so we didn't do too well, but I was "hooked" on tournaments, talked about it all the way home. Joined a bass club the next week, and that all "rolled into" today. Now my boys fish a lot, and I have never regretted getting them involved. I think that's what I look back on the best. In this world of drugs and crime and simply "bad manners", it pleases me that thru fishing both my boys have grown up in this sport and we have never had any problems. Some day when I'm finished with all of this, I just would like to be remembered as one of the people who helped change this sport, hopefully for the better, for a lot of fishermen in Oklahoma and their kids too.

OBF-How did you get started in the world of Bass Fishing?

Carl-My father is 87, he was a fisherman and hunter in his younger days also. He used to take my brothers and I fishing. We didn't have a boat in those days. We fished off the bank. He always said, "Carl just sits there and watches his cork and line and never moves. But Bob and Stu lose interest in about (10) minutes and run all over the place." In later years we did get a boat, a metal boat with 6hp engine. The first time that he took me out in the boat I was amazed. We could now go anywhere. I remember when I bought my first boat from a dealer here, long gone now. The salesman was so happy with the sale of that little boat. I asked him why? He told me that the National Average showed that if you ever bought a boat, that you would own (7) in your lifetime! Sometimes I think that we all forget that maybe the important thing here, should just be getting others involved in the sport. I wonder how many times our contestants actually "invite" or think to tell someone else, "hey, why don't you come go out with me sometime, you might really like this"?

OBF-What are your hopes and expectations for bass fishing in the state?

Carl-Because I'm older than most of the guys getting involved in this sport today, I don't think that fishing will ever be as "good" as it was when we all first started, years ago. Our lakes are getting "older" with less cover each year and just less fish each year. It seems to me that "cover" is the absolute answer to more productive waters. I'm concerned that if we don't start to solve that one single problem, that instead of having more fishermen in years to come, that it can reverse, and we will see people "drop out" of bass fishing, because they just get tired of not catching any fish. So my "hope" for fishing in the future is that we as the folks enjoying this sport, will get more personally involved in the issues of this sport. I think that I'm seeing more of that concern this year than anytime in the past from fishermen around the State.

OBF-What are your concerns and frustrations for bass fishing in the state?

Carl-My single largest frustration in Oklahoma is that the legislators and government of this State don't recognize the amount of monies that "fishing" produces for this State. They also at the same time don't recognize how much more we could produce in "recreation and tourism" dollars that we could
produce if we adopted a plan to improve the fishing in Oklahoma, such as Texas has, as an example. Does it surprise anyone that we don't have one single person out there representing fishing on either the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Committee or the ODWC group of Commissioners?

OBF-Who or what has helped you the most over the past couple of years?

Carl-The single person who has helped me the most over the past few years has been my wife. I know how that sounds. But how many wives would enjoy having their husbands on the phone at all times of the day and night talking fishing. Or listening to fishermen all the time? Year after year! We have
a lot of guys who come here to the house too. That's "OK" but for a wife, it all becomes a "life trend" that they didn't expect. My "hat goes off" to all director's wives because I know what they put up with.

OBF-What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment in your time you have spent in the fishing industry in the state?

Carl-This is a hard question to answer, because its going to sound very arrogant, like I'm "patting myself on the back" and I don't mean it that way. Tournaments have changed a lot in and become much bigger with bigger prizes than ever before. I had the first "guaranteed" prize offered, it was
$3,000 and only back in '98. Look at where everything has gone now. The first to have real sponsors who actually sponsored events. A "State Championship" for (11) years that offered real monies and prizes to winners, starting back in 1988. At any time that I thought that I didn't "like" where all of this tournament fishing has gone to in Oklahoma over the past years, I would have nobody to blame but myself for how much it has changed. It does make me wonder, where is all of this going? I still remember the time, not that long ago, when if you won $500-$1,000 , that was a big "win" around this State. In 1990 as an example I placed 4th in a RedMan tournament here on the River
and won $360, things have changed a lot.

OBF-What is your favorite lake in Oklahoma? And why?

Carl-My personal favorite lake in Oklahoma is not a lake, its the Arkansas River. Its very close to home and I have fished it for years. I also like the different patterns that it takes to catch fish there. In the next couple of years I predict that there will be a lot more events on the River at "Three Forks" because of the 15 million dollar marina being built there right now.

OBF-How long have been directing tournaments?

Carl-I directed my first tournament in 1988. I had worked for a tournament director in the mid-eighties named Doyal Rose. Doyal had some of the largest tournaments in the State back then. In 1986 he had an event on Grand that had over 500 boats. That was real big back then, there were not big events
like there are now.

OBF-What are your thoughts about the JHO Tournament Trail in 2003?

Carl-The JHOTT in 2003 taught me some more about tournaments. Each year I keep reminding myself that nobody, certainly not me, knows it all. I have enjoyed it this year, but its still not where I want it to be. The Chev trucks that we gave away this year were a great prize, I thought, but we have given away (5) now and every one of those trucks have been sold, not kept by the winners. The average cost to us of each of those trucks was $17,500 apiece. Now in 2004 I'm considering doing nothing, but MONEY...$$$$. Maybe that is just simply the easiest thing to split between partners. Not boats or trucks..just $$$. We have some plans for 2004 that will, I think be alot of fun for the fishermen, and raise the level of fishing up some more yet!!

OBF-What do you attribute the success of your tournaments?

Carl-I think that the main reasons for our successes in the past is that we are always looking for a way to make it better for the fishermen. I think that the food at each event has been a good thing. I remember how hungry I was when I came in off the water. We are all human, and so we will all make
mistakes, and I'm no different. But I think that the fishermen who know me, also know that if I make a mistake, I made it as an honest mistake and we always try hard to "fix it".

OBF-What kind of work takes up the majority of the time for a tournament
director?

Carl-A director's time is mainly taken up with "paperwork" in making sure that everyone who wants into the tournament is "in" the tournament. The newsletter takes time. The upkeep of the equipment takes time. I have always said, I wish there was a way to make every contestant be a director even for
just one tournament. I think they would be surprised. As I get older, I'm finding that I have less patience than I used to have. No matter what someone said, used to just "roll off my back"....that's not true anymore. I think the single thing that I hate today about the tournament scene in Oklahoma, is that there are some people who just simply tell lies. They do it to spread untruths about this person or that tournament trail, in hopes of "hurting" that person or that group. I see some of that on the "message board's". Somehow now everyone thinks that they are an "expert" on tournaments, just because they have fished some. Some also have gotten the idea that somebody "owes" them something. A director owes only these few things. 1. Stand by your own rules, don't waiver or play favorites. The rules are for everyone. 2. Always payback what you agreed to payback, no more and no less. 3. Tell the truth, even if you made a mistake, just admit it, and do better the next time. 4. Don't be ashamed that you made some money from the tournament, nobody in this world works for free. 5. Never, ever keep anything that a sponsor gave you for the fishermen. If you follow these simple rules, you don't owe anybody anything else. Its not anybody's business what else that you do, just like its not my business what else that they do.

OBF-What have you enjoyed the most about directing tournaments?

Carl-The thing that I have enjoyed the most from being involved in bass tournaments are the friends that I have made over these years. A lot of the guys are friends, I think for life.

OBF-How much involvement does Jimmy Houston have in the tournament trail? Does he basically leave most of the decision making power in your hands?

Carl-Jimmy Houston has been great to work with. He is not the type person to order or tell you to do this or that. We talk a lot about the events, and he does make suggestions, which is great. He has a lot of experience around bass tournaments. But he leaves the decisions to me. Jimmy is a lot different than
most people think that he is. I know that over the last two years that it has been good for people to be able to get closer to him, at the tournaments, meet him, talk with him. It has also been good for him. He enjoys being around the contestants too and talking with them. I think that the fishermen around the State are probably starting to see him differently now, thanks to these events and talking with him. He is just another fishermen who has gone a long way in this business and has made a real impact on the sport. No matter where we are, there are always people who come up and want his autograph, everywhere and want to talk with Jimmy. He always seems to have time for all of them.

OBF-What do you think about having deadwater rules for the tournaments?

Carl-The question of "deadwater time" is another tough question. Some people say that its good for the fish, but often I think that those same people really don't want the people who can go pre-fish to be able to pre-fish just because they can't go pre-fish themselves. The main reason that I'm apposed
to dead water time is this. For many years I have heard fishermen say, "these towns that get all this money from our being there for the tournament need to start doing something for us"! Well now some of those towns are starting to recognize that fact and are starting to do something. Example; the new marina on the River at Three Forks, or the new ramps and parking lot at Keystone. How can we continue to ask cities or towns or even places like Martins Landing to do anything when we hurt their business by having "deadwater" time. The economy is not that strong at some of these places around the lakes and you hurt their business with dead water time, less gas bought, less motel rentals, less of everything because of fewer trips. That's just my opinion. We can't have everything all our own way!

OBF-What do you feel is the most controversial rule facing tournament
directors?


Carl-I personally think the most controversial thing with the tournaments right now is; "who should be allowed to fish". Meaning this. Should somebody who is a "pro" be allowed to compete at this level. Who is a "pro"? There are a lot of descriptions of a "pro", but the one that I like the best is the same one that the IRS uses. Its someone whose employment is simply fishing and that's it. They don't have another job. Then they are a "pro". Now should they be allowed to compete? What about "ex-pros"? Somebody who used to be a pro but has retired? They are always just a "one-time" contestant who is just in town and is "jackpotting" the event, because otherwise they won't have the time to compete with you. I get asked that question more than any other.

OBF-What do you feel is the biggest reason for the slow fishing on Eufaula? What would you suggest we do to fix the problem?

Carl-Eufaula is suffering from the same thing that all of lakes are. They are older lakes with less cover and fewer fish, thanks to the LMBV. From what I understand from the ODWC meetings. The years that we have had higher water during the spawning periods, we had good spawns. The years that we
have had low water, we had almost no spawn. They say its because we have very little shoreline cover for "fry" to hide in. That's also the reason why right now they think that stocking fry won't work, because the predators just gang up and eat over 99% of the stocked fry. So logically, what do we need? Sounds like shoreline cover to me. In other States where cover exits, those lakes have rebounded much more quickly. Eufaula of course falls right into this description too.

OBF-What are your thoughts on the Oklahoma Anglers Unlimited?

Carl-I think that OAU could possibly be a real factor in all of our problems, if the fishermen of Oklahoma support it. If they don't, then OAU will fail. Then I don't know what the answer is.

OBF-How did the OAU come about?

Carl-OAU is the "brain child" of Robert Cartlidge. He had the idea in 2001 and invited a lot of directors to a meeting in OKC. We all talked and discussed a lot of problems and the idea of starting the association.

OBF-Where will the OAU be able to help?

Carl-Everything, every sport needs a "voice" and the fishermen don't have anyone. That's a real shame. If we don't unite and create a membership with some numbers, some day we will all suffer. There is a famous saying, and I quote old Ben Franklin; "No man's life, liberty or pursuit of happiness is safe while the legislature is in session"! I think that just about says it all for those of us who are fishermen. At some point we may be in danger of becoming extinct from some new law or act. That's why OAU should be most important.

OBF-How is the membership drive going for the OAU?

Carl-The membership drive for OAU is going fine. I will be trying to attract members at each of my events. Plus I plan on holding a "public meeting" in my district, here in Muskogee also. I have contacted two other bass fishing organizations and they are now trying to get members. That will be part of each director's job also. To go out to groups, clubs and organizations and try to get them interested. It won't always be easy. We won't have any "quick" easy answers for everybody. When somebody says to me, "what are you going to do to make fishing better"? The only answer that I can give is, "everything that we can, but I don't have any fish here in my hip pocket". We all have to start somewhere, so we are starting!

OBF-What are the hopes and concerns that are facing your district?

Carl-1. How can we get more fish into our lakes? 2. What do we need to do to get the ODWC to start stocking? 3. Why can't we fish around some docks? 4. Should tournaments be regulated? 5. Where does all the money go that ODWC gets? 6. Can you talk with the Corp of Engineers for us concerning water elevations during the spawn? There are a lot of questions and a lot of problems that we will face in time to come. What the anglers of Oklahoma need to understand is this. There are no "quick" solutions and if we have big numbers of members, then people will listen. Nobody listens to a small
number of people, it just doesn't work that way.

OBF-How is OAU project #0001 Texoma coming along?

Carl-That is in Robert Cartlidge's area. He has taken on the job of helping with the organization of that project. As time goes on and we get more people involved, some of these things will be assigned to the Advisory Board and some to other committees that will be formed. We never, ever thought we seven(7) directors could begin to do it all ourselves.

Final comments from Carl-I have said this before, and will again. Part of making things better, fishing that is, can't only be just getting more fish into the lake. There are a lot of people who still to this day try very hard to return the fish back to the lake alive. I know that sometimes its hard for smaller groups. I know that it means more work. I also know that it might mean a little more money out of the club funds or whatever. But the bottom line is this. If we have less fish than we used to have, but more fishermen than we ever have had. Then it is just logical to think that we have to take better care of the fish after being caught, while they are in the livewell and while they are at the weighin and then while being released. I will just give this one example. About a month ago now a person put a message on the message board that criticized us for having released our tournament fish out of our release trailer at a different location than the weighin site. He also criticized us for not making it public knowledge as to where we released those fish. We do tell people, contestants when they ask us. Its true, we don't make it public knowledge. Why not? Have you ever seen the public come down to Eufaula Cove and fish off the bank and load up (5) gallon buckets with bass that were just released. Well I have! So why would I make it public knowledge where we took the tournament bass. For the same reason that we don't release them at the weighin site. Now that's just pretty logical, but it wasn't to him was it. There are a lot of people out there that need to really watch what happens at their own club event or other events. Go down to the water and see if those fish are alive or dead. And if they are dying...don't just go home. Say something to someone, whoever is in charge. Make a difference! Or this could be over and done with someday sooner than you think.

We here at OklahomaBassFishing.com would like to personally thank Carl Woods for taking the time to answer some tough questions regarding the state of bass fishing here in Oklahoma. Thanks Again!

For more information regarding the Jimmy Houston Outdoor Tournament Trail or the Oklahoma Anglers Unlimited you can contact Carl Woods at 918-683-8689 or by email at jhott@emptychair.net.