GREENFIELD — Three words said in jest made Terry McWilliams a fishing legend eight years ago.
“That stupid tube!”
Jason Roberts was the first to publicly coin McWilliams’ now recognizable bait on ESPN during the Bassmasters Classic in 2007.
Recalling it years later, McWilliams pleasantly laughs.
“It’s just a bait that represents a crawfish very well,” McWilliams reminisced. “They used to call it ‘that, stupid tube.’ … That’s all I used at the Bassmasters, and I was fourth that year. … After they aired that on TV people went nuts and wanted to know where to get it.”
Flash-forward eight years, and the Stupid Tube, which McWilliams credits Chris Schultz for helping him perfect it, can be found in many tackle boxes.
Made in Columbus and sold online by Secret Lures, its popularity when deployed during the super bowl of fishing has quieted, but McWilliams’ mastery with it hasn’t.
“The year I retired (from the police force) was also the first year I went to the Bassmaster Classic,” McWilliams said. “I made $35,000 at the Bassmaster Classic. The next year I went to the All-American and made $15,000. The first two years I retired I had a pretty awesome fishing season using it.”
Still active in the fishing game at 65, McWilliams competes in the FLW Bass Fishing League (Hoosier Division), traveling the region with stops in southern Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and in his own backyard.
The veteran fisherman continues to operate his central Indiana fishing guide service, taking first-timers and others to local reservoirs and the White River, his favorite spot to cast.
When he’s not reeling bass, he keeps a watchful eye on his nephew Matt McCoy, a former Bassmaster himself, and grandson Brody McWilliams, a Big Ten conference champion at Indiana University.
“I can’t complain,” he remarked on his life today. “I’ve been blessed.”
The Daily Reporter sports staff recently caught up with McWilliams. Here are a few exerts from our interview.
I see you’ve been competing locally and regionally. Are you participating in a lot of events?
Basically, I’m just fishing local tournaments around here in the senior circuit. This year, I’m fishing the Hoosier Division. Locally, we fish at a Tuesday night jackpot tournament at Geist Reservoir every week.
How would you rate Geist Reservoir?
It’s probably one of the best fisheries we have in the state.
Really, what makes it so great?
It’s got a lot of fish in it. It’s a very fertile lake. It’s been good for years, but lately, it’s gotten exceptionally good. We’ve had zebra mussels introduced into Geist. My guess is it’s from guys going up to Lake St. Clair or Lake Erie. Those things kind of attach themselves to boats and reproduce pretty quick. They got in and cleaned the water up just crystal clear. Weeds started growing, and when weeds grow it makes the bass population a lot better.
How have you fared out there?
There’s a five fish limit in Indiana, and on Tuesday nights we have anywhere from 35 to 40 boats and around 20 to 25 limits weighed in at the end of every night. That’s a lot of fish, but it’s all fish that we return.
What’s the biggest fish you’ve seen caught on the reservoir?
The biggest I’ve seen is about 7 pounds. There have been some eight and nine caught. I’m not saying it’s a big fish lake, there’s just a lot of good quality 2- to around 5-pound fish in it. My guide business is mainly on the White River for fishing for smallmouth (bass), but when the river is muddy or there’s high water, which there’s been a lot this year, I take clients to Geist because I know we can go out and catch a lot of fish.
What advice and tips do you offer to the first-time fisherman?
Most of the time, they fish too fast. What I try to tell them, especially fishing in a river because there’s a lot of current, is you’re trying to make a bait represent a crawfish in the water. The only way they can swim is with their tale, and that’s not really fast, so you want to be slow. One of my favorite sayings is, ‘Stop reeling and start feeling.’ One crank of a reel can bring in 27 inches of line. If they make three revolutions, they’ve moved that bait 6 or 7 feet. It takes a crawdad 15 minutes to go that far. My best tip is to just slow down unless you trying to imitate fast bait.
I’ve heard you have a few relatives making a name for themselves. How have they done?
My nephew (Matt McCoy) qualified last year to make it to Carlyle Lake in Illinois on the FLW side. He made it to the Bassmasters Classic in 2011 through the B.A.S.S. We also have another grandson (Brody McWilliams) that fishes for Indiana University on the college team. He’s been at five junior national championships, won the Big Ten Tournament two years ago. He’s been pretty successful. They both have. Part of it is because of the Stupid Tube. It’s our go-to bait.
Do you use anything other than the Stupid Tube?
I use some other stuff, but when it comes to Indiana’s high-pressure water, the tube is still my go-to bait.
In your opinion, how competitive are Indiana fishermen compared to other states and regions?
Indiana is the largest federation in the nation, and we have the least fishable water in about 75 percent of the states. So if I could pick five guys from the state of Indiana, I would fish against any five pros they can come up with. I believe we would beat team. If you can fish here, you can with the best.
Do you have any other goals you hope to accomplish as a fisherman?
My wife says I should have quit in 2007 when I finished fourth at the Bassmasters. My goal is to try to make it again. It’s not very likely anymore. As you get older things just don’t work out like they used to, but it is something in fishing where you can still compete. I have some friends that are 70 and 80 years old and still competing in the tournaments and winning. It’s something you can do, so who knows?