The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

Tight Lines

February 17, 2012

The mystery millionaire fisherman

TARBORO — Ever stop to think about the difference between rich, wealthy people, and average everyday rubes, like you and me? Simply put, people of means do WHAT they want WHEN they want, and go WHERE they want. They are free to pursue that which makes them happy, without the daily mundane tasks that fill most common peoples’ lives.

Who is my mystery millionaire fisherman? That would be me. Fishing makes me feel like the richest guy in town. Recently, I was fishing on the pier at the pipe on NC Highway 97 near Rocky Mount. I was doing exactly what I wanted, when I wanted, at a place I absolutely adore. All the money in the world could not have made me happier than I was fishing in those elements and circumstances. While catching fish with my buddy, Bobby Mason, and loving life, one of my favorite expressions is to say, “I don’t know what Donald Trump is doing right now, but he isn’t having more fun than you and me, I guarantee you.”

Fishing has a way of transforming me, back to being 14-years old, when I was carefree, and strong as a bull. I visualize those days in the 60’s when I was crawling and climbing all over those big rocks at Great Falls, Maryland trying to get at some of those Potomac River catfish, carp, and bream. My buddy, Joe Dean, and my brother, Charles, were at my side. We probably didn’t have $5 between us, but we were happy, content, and usually caught a few fish for our troubles.

On a recent outing when I was reflecting on my mental WEALTH, I fished several hours, but got nary a bite. I take that back. I did snag a tree limb floating by. After you scale and clean that, not much is left to eat, but fried tree limb is right tasty on a plate with a 14-ounce rib eye steak and a baked potato slathered in butter and sour cream.

Hotspot of the Week – The shad bite started early this year, but cooled off kind of quick. The relatively mild winter was thought to instigate this early activity. Those in the know tell me that mid-February should see some steady, consistent action. I caught 4-5 nice Tar River White Shad in Rocky Mount in late January, but not much since.

Even with my frustrating hearing impairment, I try to talk to fishermen I encounter on and off the water. I feel like I learn something every time I chat-it-up with an experienced angler. Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting a young white-haired gentleman like myself, while fishing the Shad Hole on River Road in Tarboro. His name is Dempsey Dupree. If your last name is Dupree in Edgecombe County, NC, you probably learn to fish immediately after you learn to walk. The Dupree family tree is most likely shaped like a fish. “The Fishing Duprees” might make an interesting book. I think I know a good potential author, and marketing hack that could make that happen.

Dempsey grew up fishing for shad on the Tar River over 50 years ago. He told me his theory that White Shad are mostly bottom dwellers, as opposed to the Hickory Shad who move up and down the water column. He suggests a painfully s-l-o-w retrieve if you want your offering to drag past the bottom where those big whites hang out. Sounds like a plan, Dempsey! Young people take note. Hush up and listen. We old dudes can teach you a thing or two.

Our Tar River First Shad Contest winner, Henry Knight, reels so slowly that I want to run over there, to that culvert pipe he stands on at the Shad Hole, give him an energy drink, and a swift kick in the seat of the pants to hurry him up. However, nothing succeeds like success, and Henry Knight usually catches more Hickory Shad than anyone else out there, so the s-l-o-w retrieve must be one of Henry’s untold shad catching secrets. Even when I consciously try, I can’t retrieve THAT slowly.

Rick’s Soapbox – Save the dates!

Tuesday, February 21st – You are invited to the annual TASS membership meeting at 33 Grill & Oyster Bar in Tarboro. A great time to sign-up, pay your dues, and register for the upcoming shad tournament. Matt and Ray Parrisher, your hosts at 33 Grill & Oyster Bar, will also help you slam some tasty eats down your neck. Tight Lines appreciates their sponsorship of our Tar River First Shad Contest.

Saturday, February 25th - Fisherman’s Post Saltwater Fishing School will be held at the Crystal Coast Civic Center in Morehead City. For more info call (910) 452-6378 or go online at I hear some good things about this school.

Saturday, March 10th – TASS Flea Market/Yard Sale at Marrow-Pitt Ace Home Center in Tarboro 7-10 AM. I just love this idea. You do not have to be a TASS member to sell or buy fishing and boating items. If you wish to reserve a free space to sell your stuff, call John Dupree at 252-823-2754.

Saturday, March 17th – Saturday, March 24th: it’s the 11th Annual TASS Hickory Shad Tournament. This weeklong event is my favorite tournament of the year. I lucked out and won top honors in this tournament with the largest Hickory Shad several years ago.

Let me brag a little. It was the biggest Hickory Shad EVER weighed-in in the past 10 years of tournament competition. I fed it 3 Big Macs before I brought it to the scale. All kidding aside, winning that tournament was a proud moment in my fishing life.

Tight Lines will give you the soup-to-nuts intel on the shad tournament in a future article, but tournament chairman, John Dupree, can answer your immediate, anxious questions now at 252-823-2754. John always works hard on this tourney, and does a very nice job putting on a first class event.

Catching fish? Tell us about it. Better yet, send us a picture with all the details. We love to hear from you at

See you on the water, my friend!

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