LAUREL, Miss. (WDAM) - When Paul Elias first started fishing in Laurel, he had one pole.
The 68-year-old now has 50 poles, a heck of a nice boat and nine professional wins.
And he still loves the sport just the same as when he was seven.
“I was at my uncle’s pond in Richton, Mississippi and I was reeling in a blue gill,” Elias recalled. “And a bass swam up from out under a log and ate my blue gill. It didn’t take me long to figure out if I caught some little blue gill and put ‘em on a hook that I was gonna catch some of those bass. So, that’s what I started doing.”
So began a life of bass fishing.
From the first time he picked up a pole, Elias kept getting reeled back in.
It wasn’t until the late ’60s when he realized he could turn a hobby into a professional career.
“I went to Southern Miss and the only thing I could think of was getting out, getting a job, get a boat and start trying it,” Elias said.
His first year on the Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour – 1979 – Elias took home a win. Forty-one years later he’s got nine trophies, even setting a record at Falcon Lake in Texas for the heaviest total weight in a four-day/five-fish-limit tournament – 132 pounds, eight ounces.
Though many consider fishing a leisure sport, it’s the competition which keeps Elias engaged after all these years.
“Sure, I can’t hear as good or I can’t see as good as I used to but I can still cast as well and I still understand the fish,” Elias said. “So, if you’ll always remember that you’re fishing against those fish and not necessarily any certain angler or any certain team.”
It’s another muggy summer morning in Laurel as Elias sits on Lake Bogue Homa, where he first cast a rod.
He’s been hooked ever since.
“My dad broke his hip when I was nine-years-old and he broke it really bad,” Elias said. “He was basically crippled the rest of his life. I was riding my bicycle down Fifth Avenue with a stringer of fish and a rod and reel. This older guy [Charlie Reddick], he saw me come by there several times and he stopped me one day and said, ‘You wanna go fishing?’
He taught me a lot and I just took it to the next level. He really was an inspiration to me, taking me like he did.”