Most of My Heroes Don't Appear on No Stamps


On a trip to India this past December, my nieces spotted Aziz Ansari on vacation with his girlfriend. They approached him and he proved to be exceptionally gracious, engaging in conversation, taking pictures with them and writing each of them a short note.

Later, the older of the two nieces, who is almost 14, confided that when she wakes up every day she dresses as if she’s going to meet a famous person.

Most of us have met or seen celebrities up close. Sometimes, as with my niece, who had just finished streaming “Parks and Recreation” on the plane to Asia, it proves to be someone we admire and who also turns out to be magnanimous. Other times it’s someone we’re less interested in, or someone we think we’d like to meet but who turns out not to want to be bothered.

While I enjoyed “Master of None” and share his love for delicious tacos, Aziz Ansari is not on my most wanted list. I’m not really itching to meet rock stars, Super Bowl winning quarterbacks or any of the Kardashians, either. Despite that, I still get excited when I meet important people from the fishing industry. Obviously, it’s even better when I get to spend time with them, and better yet when they turn out to be good people. After a dozen or so years in the industry, I’ve crossed off a lot of those bass geek bucket list experiences: I’ve had AMart tell me to take off my shoes before he led me to a frogging 6-pounder; I’ve ridden in a New York City taxi cab with KVD; and I’ve shared countless hours in a boat with James Overstreet, watching him eat pickled eggs and then re-taste them 20 minutes later.

There are few fishing superstars who I want to meet but have not yet met, and I took care of another last week at El Salto when I met Hideki Maeda of Japan. He may not have the name recognition of KVD or even J.O., but he’s every bit as important, having developed or contributed mightily to the development of many uber-popular lures – such as the Vixen topwater, a soft plastic stalwart that rhymes with “meat cleaver,” and more recently the Teckel Sprinker hollow bodied frog.

We’d corresponded for a number of years but had yet to cross paths. I typically go to the Classic and not ICAST. He typically goes to ICAST and not the Classic. We both go to Anglers Inn El Salto nearly every winter, but our stays had not previously overlapped. This time we were both there at the same time for a couple of days. I invited Hideki and his friend Yusuke to join our group for meals, and then proceeded to bombard them with questions about the international bass fishing scene.

Like Ansari, they were gracious and patient.

Like Ansari, they both appeared to like Mexican food.

I tried to remain calm and not turn into the over exuberant superfan, but at times it was difficult.

On their final day at the lake, Hideki gifted me some of his personal lures. It was like Michelangelo giving you a painting, or getting a personalized sonnet from the Bard, or perhaps a hot stock tip from Warren Buffett. I have a feeling I’ll end up fishing them, because that’s what they were built for, but I’m seriously tempted to put his gifts behind glass.