I grew up a huge fan of fishing. Loved it. It was the single greatest childhood fancy I had. Sound familiar? Like most of you in the smallmouth world, my early childhood consisted of wading creeks with a cane pole and heisting Dad’s rod and reel and slipping down to the lake to make a few casts. Nothing in my life has stuck with me like the water at my feet and Mother Nature blanketing me in her special places on this earth. Since my first red-worm hit water, I have been hooked on fishing.

I remember during my youth going to the many outdoor sport-fishing shows in both Indianapolis and Nashville, and a few other cities. At each of these shows, there would always be special speakers and lecturers giving advice and helping hone every fishermen’s game, and they all had a book to sell. It was a neat time. It’s where I first met Billy Westmoreland, Ron Shearer, Bill Dance, and a host of others. And with my parents by my side, we’d stand in line and wait for the chance to buy the books these men wrote and have them sign them for little old me. Gosh, what wondrous times for a little kid. I was blessed.

Darren Shell smallmouth writer


The Grub Man Returns

Tony Bean’s Re-emergence to Smallmouth Bass Fishing

Of course, that was a long time ago. There’s been a lot of water down this old creek bed since then. I still have those smallmouth books on my shelf from yesteryear, and I still take them down once in a while to rummage through their rough and worn pages, hunting for the perfect thing to throw on my next fishing outing. I’ve even written a few books of my own about the lake I love most—Dale Hollow. Again, little old me has been blessed. In some small way, I’ve been allowed to be a part of that fishing world and smallmouth history so many have loved.

It wasn’t until late January of this year that I realized how much fun this fisherman/author/lake-lover was blessed with. I’d like to share a little story with you about what’s going on in my life this summer.

On a cold day in January, 2010, I sat quietly at my desk, typing away as usual. The windows of my marina were offering quite a show. Over one shoulder, the sparrows were toying in the snow, fighting over what the blue jays had tossed from the feeder. Over the other shoulder, a light blustery wind swirled over Dale Hollow Lake. My current computer work at hand was boring me to tears, and my mind was thinking more about grabbing my float-&-fly rod and bundling up for a day on the lake. I bet there’s a smallmouth swimming right over there…


That dang phone shook me out of my fishing dream and back into real life.

“Hello,” I mumbled.

“Mr. Shell?”


“This is Tony Bean. You might not know me, but I’ve been a smallmouth guide my whole life.”

I immediately looked up at my book shelf. Sure enough, there was that tiny blue twenty-year-old book resting

where it always did…when I wasn’t pouring over it and wearing out its weathered cover. Even though I’d

grown up on this smallmouth utopia of Dale Hollow, I still studied every written word about the subtleties

of bass fishing. I’d written a few books of my own about the history of this lake and its wonderful fishing.

I’d made my living directly overtop of smallmouth heaven and had sucked up every bit of lake lore and

fishing lore I could. I’d been from one end of that little blue book on my shelf to the other, studying all

the smallmouth wizardry within and treating it like the “good book” it had become. The name on the

spine read “Tony Bean”… the same Tony Bean I had seen and idolized as a child. The Grub Man was

on the phone … MY phone!

So, like the professional writer and savvy businessman I am, I gave a reply, “Dude…I’ve got your book!!!!”

That’s the day I first talked to the legendary smallmouth wizard, Tony Bean, as an adult instead of an anxious little kid.

I had studied how he’d won the World Smallmouth Championship in Arizona ansd the many other great tournaments across

the country. I pictured the dozens of bass magazine covers he’d graced over fifty years of bass fishing. It was a strange and terrific day in my life.

My simplistic nature seemed to strike a cord with my new bronze-back buddy, and we immediately started making plans for his new book—the book he said would be his last. A lump swelled in my throat, hoping against hope that this man had fifty more books left in him. Last One? Gosh, then he said the magic words… “I think I’d like you to help me write this thing.”

Holy Crap! The little fisherman kid in me was about to pee my pants.

I have to admit. I love people. I love fishing. I love what I do in life—making my living on the water and typing out a few words that hopefully people can enjoy. It’s allowed me to meet and enjoy many good friends and great fishermen from all over the country…all with the common thread of smallmouth bass fishing.

So, I just wanted to share that little story with my many fishing friends out there on the web. Tony and I are writing a great little smallmouth book that should be out late this fall sometime. I hope each of you will get the opportunity to read some of the future articles me and Tony will write for the websites and blogs. What we’ve written in the book so far has been fun and informative in many ways. I can’t wait to share it all with you.

I have to thank Tony for letting this old guy be the excited little kid to get that call…the call that let the little boy in me play Big Bass Man—just like years ago when I stood staring up at the giant seminar stage waiting for him to sign that little blue book. And you know what? I still look up to Tony. DS ~

Tony Bean's Smallmouth Guide book

By Darren Shell

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