The St. Marys Rotary Club held their weekly meeting on Wednesday and hosted Auglaize County Dog Warden, and Crappie Fisherman Russ Bailey as their guest speaker. The first order of business for the meeting though was the donation of $500 from the club to the Auglaize County Crisis Center.
“Anytime I get to talk about fishing, I love it,” said Bailey as he started his talk. Bailey stars in a successful TV series called BrushPile Fishing, and he recounted to the club, just how that came to be.
St. Marys I got into the police department. One night a bunch of guys said they’re going crappie fishing at the lake, so of course I told them I’d go,” said Bailey. He said it was the first time he used light weight and long rods, even thought he had been fishing since he was a kid.
“From the very first time I went out with the knuckle head cop friends of mine, I was hooked on it,” said Bailey. He said that six months later, he wanted to get involved in fishing tournaments.
“I put the work into it. Research and time on the water. Like any other sport, if you want to get better, you have to put the time in,” said Bailey
The end result of his career was finishing in 14 national championships, winning a total of 15 tournaments, and placing in the top eight at his last national tournament. “Then I started a guide service.”
He said that starting the guide service was a change.
“When I tournament fished, I was competitive, I wanted to win, taking every advantage I could,” said Bailey before continuing. “When I started guiding, a lot of people I took fishing, had fished maybe one or two years and didn’t have a lot of skills.”
He said that seeing the experiences the people he was guiding have, and the learning, was a huge payoff.
“I would always offer to clean peoples’ fish for them, and I can tell you almost none of them wanted them clean, because they wanted to go show their buddies,” said Bailey. He said that after tournament fishing for so long, that he no longer has a competitive bone in his body. “I could not fish another tournament. I get a lot more out of seeing someone learning skills and seeing how they benefit from it.”
He said that the first TV show he had, came about because of a sponsor.
“I got a call from one of my old sponsors who asked if I thought about doing a TV show about crappie,” explained Bailey. He said that he was interested, but that he had no idea of how to do it at first.
“The series was called Midwest Crappies, and it ran on the Sportsman Channel for eight years,” said Bailey. He then was contacted about doing a DVD series.
“B&M called me out of the blue and wanted me to work on a DVD series based on informational crappie fishing that would go into Bass Pro Shops,” said Bailey. He said that those DVDs would eventually go on to become best sellers. “That first year, including hunting and fishing, we were the #1 selling DVD at Bass Pro Shops.”
“Then NKTelCo calls me asking to meet with me,” said Bailey. He said they were looking at doing their own video production, and that they wanted him to do their first TV show.
“I remember going home and telling my wife that it’ll last one year and we’re done,” said Bailey before continuing. “Last year we completed our 100th show, and we’re on season 10 now taping.”
As BrushPile Fishing saw success, Bailey said he was able to have famous people on the show.
“Every week I have a different guest and its still the same thing, information. If you’re my guess, that week your’e my show,” said Bailey.
But something he is the most proud of, is working with veterans.
“The thing I’m most proud of is our veterans. We’ve put together two tournaments for the Travis Mills Foundation,” said Bailey. Travis Mills served with the 82nd Airborne Division and lost all four limbs to an Improvised Explosive Device in Afghanistan. Mills started the Travis Mills Foundation for disabled veterans to spend a week on vacation at their location.
“They have fishing lakes, counselors and doctors. They have everything, and its for the whole family,” said Bailey. He said that through the fishing tournaments they’ve raised $30,000 for the foundation.
“We’ve had this tournament and it pays pretty good. Three years into this and not one person has taken their money. Its all been donated back. That’s what we do. Any time we can give back, I’m big into giving back into the community and anything we can do for veterans,” said Bailey.