Between them are 718 tournaments and 39 years of competition on the Bassmaster tours. After nearly four decades you might think Paul Elias and Shaw Grigsby are slowing down as they near the end of their careers as full-time pros. Use the age card as excuses to go out late, come in early during practice at the Bassmaster Elite Series.
Not so and not even close.
Without fail the first two boats launched on any given morning of competition belong to Elias, 67 years old, and Grigsby, age 62. Arriving on average 90 minutes before the first boat leaves the dock defines why the two stalwarts of the game remain competitive.
“What a great sport, one that we can just continue enjoying, while remaining competitive,” said Grigsby, bearing his usual smile, as he sipped a cup of coffee.
“It’s all I’ve ever known, just part of who I am and always will be,” added Elias, the softer spoken of the two running mates. “I still enjoy it now just as much as when I started.”
That was a long time ago. Elias joined the tour in 1979 and Grigsby came along three years later. Both enjoyed early success, Elias winning the 1982 Bassmaster Classic and both anglers racking up 16 appearances in the world championship. Grigsby has $2.1 million in earnings and Elias has $1.1 million. Any doubt either has backed off the throttle was erased when Elias won an Elite Series event in 2008, or 26 years after his Classic victory.
Going against the grain of textbook bass fishing was a trait developed early on by Grigsby and Elias, and in fact, they refined two mainstream bass fishing techniques.
Elias won the Classic on the Alabama River using until then an undefined technique. He kneeled on the casting deck, thrusting his 6-foot fishing rod below the surface to gain more depth for his crankbait. Bassmaster Magazine called the technique “kneeling and reeling” and deep cranking was born. Elias then worked with Mann’s Bait Co. to develop the first true deep diving crankbait, namely the 20+ model capable of running 20 feet.
Grigsby developed a knack for seeing and catching bedding bass in the spring fed rivers and lakes around his home in north Florida. Sight fishing as we know it today originated with Grigsby, as he honed the technique across the country by winning B.A.S.S. events.
Here’s how the brotherhood began and endures between two old friends.
How did you meet?
We met at a photo shoot on the phosphate pits in central Florida, sometime back in the mid-1980s. Everyone had gone back to the hotel except for us. We found an old johnboat with a paddle, and Paul said he knew how to scull. We just whacked ‘em and have been friends ever since.
We already knew each other as competitors on the tour. We were the only anglers choosing to stay and just fun fish after that photo shoot. We had a blast. Shaw was the same competitor, and enjoyed it so much, as he was when we fished for money. We’ve been close friends ever since.
What keeps you close friends, running mates, after 30 years?
It’s the trust factor from having known each other for so many years. Also having gone through so much and witnessing the sport grow and evolve. When one of us needs motivation the other is always there to help.
How close we are in age, just having been around each other on the road for so many years. It’s really much different than being around home, because the guys you are close to become your family.
What keeps driving him to compete at the highest level?
There is a constant drive to always do well, make the Classic and have another shot at it, even after all those years since he won it.
His enthusiasm. Shaw gets pretty animated when he tells a fishing story or what happened on the water. It’s obvious he not only enjoys it but lives for it, every single day.
What do you envy about him?
That he still has that burning desire to win. In practice I take pride in getting in a solid 12 or 13 hours on the water and then call it a day. He could go for 15 hours or more, no question. I really envy his endurance.
Just the opposite of how he works. He can get out at a decent hour like 5 o’clock, come back 12 hours later and be satisfied. I don’t have that level of confidence. I'd feel like I left something out there if I came in that soon. I envy his confidence level.
What is something about him most people don’t know?
That he is very religious and family oriented, keeps up with his kids and grandkids.
The same thing, he is very much a family man and it takes priority over his fishing.
He can’t see worth a darn.
He’s hard of hearing, or at least pretends to be when I’m trying to make a point.