During my childhood, I used to ride my bike past the stone home of Tunis Knight, who displayed a sign that always caught my attention.
“Tuni” was about 90, but spry and full of life. There was something about a 90-year-old man, thin as a rail with a friendly smile, that didn’t intimidate a kid. Eventually I stopped to talk with him about his bait shop and fishing.
Tuni was that guy you’ve heard about, the one who could take a cane pole and his nightcrawlers and catch more fish than you could with a powerboat, Fish Finder and $300 of plugs and spinners.
Andrew Luck was blessed with a golden arm, Tunis Knight was blessed with a sense of where to drop a fishhook.
Of course, we’ve heard about the other side of fishing, where the first-timer buys a Zebco beginner’s outfit and hooks into Jaws first time out. How many times have you fished all day and not felt a bite, only to watch as the unattended pole on the beach is bent over with a lunker?
Some might say that luck is 75 percent of fishing. Chase Banister would disagree.
Banister just graduated from Columbus East High School, where he started a fishing club as a junior. On Saturday, he combined with East student John Weddle and Eric Johnson (an adult is required to drive the boat but can only net fish) to produce an 11.5-pound, five-fish haul that won the BASS Indiana High School event at Lake Monroe. It was the final high school event for Banister, who is headed to Indiana University.
No other group in the event caught more than 8 pounds of fish on a difficult day, but the Banister-Weddle-Johnson team were not just lucky. They were prepared.
“We actually went east of the causeway on the lake,” Banister said. “We were fishing the idle zone that leads into the creek. We had gone up there previously in the week and found fish up there. We found fish that could win
The trio fished alone in that portion of the lake. Everyone else was out in deeper water.
Nobody even ventured over to check out what they were doing. Usually, fishermen always keep an eye on the competition.
“Everyone has secrets to hide,” Banister said of checking out the other guy. “But we really didn’t have anyone the rest of the tournament fishing with us. We went outside the box.
“This time of year, everyone kind of gets in the mindset that it is a summer pattern, and you have to fish deep. We found something other than that. For whatever reason, it didn’t work out that day to deep fish.”
You can call it luck, or you call it Tunis Knight-like talent in action.
“Winning a bass tournament is one of the hardest things to do,” Banister said. “I’ve only won three in my lifetime. It takes a great amount of preparation and experience. It’s about knowing what to do and knowing that days always are different.
“It’s also about a lot of patience and perseverance.”
Banister admits that the luck factor does play a role, but not as much as you might expect.
“When you are fishing a one-day high school tournament, somebody can catch 20 pounds of fish in the last 10 minutes,” he said. “But when you get to multiple-day tournaments, you have to know what you are doing.”
He is going to compete for the IU fishing club but isn’t sure if he ever will tackle the pro tours. “It would be cool, but there is a lot of money involved,” he said.
A lot of money and talent. Banister said nobody reaches the top through luck.
“It still boils down to the fact those guys are the best in the world in what they do,” Banister said. “That is a special breed of guy.”
Banister knows it would take a lot of work to be that breed, but he isn’t sure he wants to go down that road.
Still, he appears to have the passion. Banister and Weddle, who will be a junior at Columbus East in August, were neighbors who grew up fishing on Grandview Lake.
Although he is a fish-aholic, Banister said he keeps things in perspective. Heck, he has a girlfriend.
Those around him know that, like it was to Tunis Knight, fishing is simply a big part of his life.
Need an example? Banister played defensive back on Columbus East’s football team his junior year, but gave it up his senior year to concentrate on fishing. East won a state Class 4A title in football.
His feeling hasn’t changed recently. He finally is taking a break after a busy senior year and before he enrolls at IU.
His vacation? Two weeks on the English River in Ontario, Canada.
Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 379-5632.