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 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.
You know, and I always ask this of the people that we interview, is do you have a set limit of how much time that you’ll work a specific plan, and if it’s not working, then you move on right away? Or are you one of those anglers that’s more of a feel kind of person?
It is definitely by feel. I think that speaks for most guys. I mean, try to give your game plan every opportunity to work, but at some point if it becomes futile, you just have to scrap it. That’s what separates a lot of anglers on the water in how successful they are in their careers, is how well they adapt. You have to adapt constantly. As the sun gets higher, the water begins to warm, or if you have a cold front come in during the hours of competition, things are going to change. If the barometer changes, if there’s current flow that’s… You know, like if you’re fishing on a reservoir and they start running water through the turbines to create electricity, that generation puts fish in key places, and you have to adapt and find out where those key spots are. It’s always adapting and trying to adjust to whatever the situation brings.
What do you find is the hardest part about implementing your plan when you have wildly changing variables?
Just staying up with it. Timing. You know, so much of fishing successfully in tournaments is keyed on timing. It’s knowing where to be and when to be there, and having the right approach of the right lure, the right presentation. I mean, it could come down to casting angle. There’s so many variables. It’s incredible to try and take all that in and try and process it. I know I may make it sound a little harder than it is, but sometimes it is that challenging.
When you’re going through your tournaments, and the variables are changing and you’re kind of making changes as you go, are you taking notes as you go, or are you one of these guys that just keeps it in your head?
It’s in my head. Very few guys keep notes. I mean, there are guys that keep logs after an event’s over with, and maybe they record things at night after they’re off the water, but I don’t think you’re going to see any high-level tournament competitor stop what he’s doing to write down any notes during a competition.
Do you rely on your electronics?
Absolutely. I run Garmin electronics, and I’m using the new Livescope. It’s incredible what you can see underwater with that thing. I can actually see fish swimming beneath the surface with my electronics. I can see them approach a lure. They’re that good. I can make a cast, I can see my lure fall through the water column, and I can watch fish react to it. It’s incredible what you can see with electronics now. I rely heavily on the GPS aspects of them as well.
That’s amazing. What have you learned that’s made you better since you’ve started and as you’ve gone along over the last 30 years?
You don’t have enough time for that, I can tell you. I mean, it’s a constant process. If you’re not learning, you’re falling behind. This sport is constantly evolving. The technology, the equipment we have, and the strategies. I mean, that’s not to say that old tricks don’t apply. They do, and they work well. At times, it’s the old-school tactics that work the best. But anymore, the level of competition is so high and so skilled and so evolved that you really have to be on your game, and electronics is a big part of that.
Right. I think in any sport, technology is really playing a bigger and bigger role every year.
Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, any sport, I think that speaks to.
Yeah. Lastly, as we come to the end of our interview, I want to ask you… I always ask these two questions. What is your most successful fishing secret?
It’s not a secret, but the best advice I can give your listeners is time on the water. The more time you spend on the water, the more exposure you’re going to have to what’s going on, the elements, the habitat, and how the fish are relating to all of that. Sitting in an armchair watching fishing shows on TV, that’s not going to get it. You’ll learn some basic things, but until you’re on the water applying what you know and learning by trial and error, you’re not really going to progress as quickly. So get out there and spend some time on the water and get to know what’s going on.
Nice. Second question. What’s your most successful or your favorite fishing lure or bait?
That’s tough. I have several. As far as lures, the convention term lure and plug, probably a Rapala Original Floating Minnow would be my first choice. It’s so versatile. It’s shaped like a minnow. It’s buoyant, but it can be worked beneath the surface as well. It’s a really good tool. Then a Yamamoto Senko. It’s a soft plastic worm. Most of your listeners, I’m sure, are very familiar with that. I really like those a lot. Then probably for a third choice would be a Hildebrandt spinnerbait, a tin roller, a bait that I designed for them. Those three baits are probably my most confident go-to lures that I can recommend.
Nice. I’d like to thank you for being on our show.
But before we go, of course this is professional fishing, so do you have anything that you want to promote? If you do, tell our listeners what it is and how to get it.
Well, you know, anybody at this level of the game is supported by companies, both marine, tackle, and sometimes companies that aren’t involved in the sport directly. Non-endemics is what we refer to them as. I have a sponsor page. You can find all the sponsors that support me there. They’re the biggest brands in fishing. I mean, I’ve got Ranger, Mercury, Motor Guide, Garmin, Hildebrandt, Rapala, Fuji Rod Components, T-H Marine. I mean, I’ve got a lot of companies I represent out there, and I’m probably not going to get them all in.
You can learn a lot from what I write and what I share through those websites, those publications. There’s also an index for antique angling. If guys like old lures and they want to learn about them, I have an index of antique lures on my website.
Bernie, that’s a lot of great information for our listeners. Again, I want to thank you for being on our show.
Yeah, man. Any time. Just give me a shout. I’m happy to help.
All right, great. Hey, good luck in the Elite Series this year.
Thank you, sir. You have a good day.
All right. Take care.