I have to admit I was really excited when Eric Galasso agreed to an interview. The joy Eric gets from the sport is so evident and incredibly infectious. Our interview with Eric just shows how deep his love for fishing is. He also has a hell of a crankbait collection, which we discuss. So keep reading to learn about the fishing of Eric Galasso.
In every single picture I see on Instagram of you fishing, you always have a big smile on your face. When you are a guest on the Smallmouth Crush YouTube channel, the joy that you get from fishing is so evident. What do you love about bass fishing?
You’ve got that right! I’m still loving every minute of being on the water and figuring out the pattern to catch quality bass. The magic of bass fishing for me is that I’m still learning from every trip, and that I get to be creative by tweaking baits or finding that unique bait that the bass really respond to. I’m a tackle junkie for sure!
As an example, several years ago I really got into baits from Japan. In fact, I found a few JDM products that flat out catch fish! One example was a “Chatterbait” style lure from Japan that has built-in hunting action. I used that bait several years before ZMAN released the Jack Hammer. Had that one exclusively and man did it produce numbers of big fish.
So for me, it’s not only hunting for good fish on the water, it’s the off the water search for special custom baits or tackle modifications that make a difference when conditions are tough. I especially like to figure out new techniques or put a spin on a proven technique. I also like breaking down why or why we didn’t catch a good bag of bass. It’s what keeps me coming back for more!
In 2018, I’m looking forward to some shooting some new episodes this year with Smallmouth Crush and breaking out some wild baits for the viewers…it will be BOOM or BUST! Either way, it’s going to be a blast exploring these new techniques on tidal waters.
When did you start bass fishing?
I started bass fishing in the late 1960’s. Got into heavy when I was 12. At the time, I delivered newspapers and took some of the money I made and bought a lifetime subscription to BassMaster Magazine for $150! Everyday, I’d take one rod and my tackle box with me on my paper route. After I finished delivering my papers, I’d head to the “Front Lake” in my town and fish until dinner time. My original tackle box was a Bass Boss.
Back then, I can remember throwing a Shyster inline spinner in yellow/black or white/black with gold or silver blades and catching good bass. Mepps inline spinners were also a staple in my box as was the Rapala floating minnow in gold or silver…that bait always came through for me if I could figure out the cadence and speed that they wanted. The Mann’s 6″ Jelly Worm in Grape or Black was a big player that I could always count on. Bushwacker Spinnerbaits, Lunker Lure buzzbaits, and the Hula Popper in a frog pattern were in the mix too. As far as crankbaits, I’d have a few Norman and Cotton Cordell Big O’s in the mix.
There was one special day in March that stands out in my mind. It was chilly and the wind was blowing straight in on a bank at the Front Lake. Oddly enough, I was throwing a Size Zero Mepps Silver Blade inline spinner on 6lb test and reeling it as slowly as could through a little channel swing…and caught twelve bass! The biggest was close to 5 pounds! I was shocked that a micro size spinner could catch such big bass. That day taught me a few things. It got me thinking that big fish eat little baits, still true. And that depth and speed are several of the keys in bass fishing!
Who were your early influences in bass fishing?
My early influences in bass fishing were Larry Nixon, Gary Klein, Tom Mann and Rick Clunn. Loved reading articles about them in BassMasters and then going out and trying to make those new techniques work for me.
You fished with the legend Larry Nixon on Bull Shoals. When did you fish with him?
I fished with Larry on May 24, 2016. I won a trip with Larry by bidding on an eBay auction for the Future of Fishing Foundation. The money raised would go toward supporting youth fishing programs for underprivileged kids. I think it’s a great cause to get kids into fishing, so I bid and won!
Fishing with Larry Nixon, a.k.a “The General” was an amazing experience! We used a finesse technique that I was dying to learn and boy did we smash them that day! Caught over 75 bass on Bull Shoals. Oddly enough, I found the same jighead from Japan that Larry used for this technique. He was floored when I brought it out of my bag! I told him that I was a “tackle junkie” with an affinity for Japanese baits. He smiled, cast out and then stuck a good smallmouth while I was rigging up. It was neat to see that Larry only had three rods on the deck. He had a plan that day and he called it right!
Since it was post spawn, he had a good idea where the fish would be located and what techniques to use. He was spot on! During the day, we talked about his career in bass fishing, the toll it takes on your body, proven tournament techniques, limit catching baits and how he got his nickname “The General”. I was surprised to learn that he earned it from making a great move in a tournament. On the final day of an event, he had a cameraman in the boat with him and was headed down lake to catch a limit. About halfway to his area, he came off plane and stopped the boat. The cameraman asked him if he had boat trouble and Larry said “no”. What he did say was that “if I’m going to win this tournament, I need to go fish for the winning fish and they are not where I’m headed!”. He turned that boat around, fished a completely different area and won that tournament! His cameraman said later on “that only a GENERAL would have made that call”. The nickname stuck and that’s how Larry Nixon became The General.
If you could fish with anyone else, who are you picking and why?
That’s a tough one but probably Andy Morgan, Bryan Thrift or Shin Fukae. Andy Morgan is so crazy consistent, that I would love to see how he approaches a body of water. Just to tap his brain for a day would be totally amazing.
Bryan Thrift is on such a roll, I want to see how he runs and guns to win so many events. He keeps those rods so organized on the deck of his boat…he’s OCD about it.
And finally, fishing with Shin Fukae, who, in my mind, is the Finesse Master! I love finesse fishing, especially when the bite is tough. Learning the nuances of those finesse techniques would be really interesting. Plus he’s from Japan and I love Japanese baits so getting a look in his tackle box would be really cool too.
What do you consider your favorite home waters to fish for largemouth bass?
I’m a River Rat! The Potomac is my home water and Upper Bay is a close second! Both are full of grass and offer a variety of hard cover options too. Because they are tidal fisheries, they are a challenge to fish! Tide and time can be super important on these rivers. You can spend hours in an area, and unless the tide is right, you can haul a bunch of water…but if you get there when the tide is right, the big girls will eat! You can literally get healthy in 30 minutes with a limit of solid keepers.
Finally, because they have massive grass beds, the fish have abundant cover, the water is also cleaner and the baitfish thrive. During the spawn, post spawn and summer months, the grass bed bite is off the chain! I love throwing a buzzbaits, walking baits, poppers and frogs, and our tidal bass love them too. Nothing beats the thrill of a bass smashing a topwater.
You have traveled to some amazing largemouth fisheries like Guntersville. Where are your favorite places to fish for largemouth outside your normal home turf?
The Guntersville trip was right after I fished with Larry Nixon. Spent three days with Matt Lee and got to see him work his electronics like a wizard! It was post spawn and the ledge bite was coming on. It was interesting to see how Matt used his electronics to find deeper fish before we would cast a single lure.
We spent tons of time looking…but when he found em’, WOW. We used a variety of techniques. From burning a big giant 10XD…my arm was about to fall off…to Neko rigging, to Drop Shotting and finally chucking a huge Osprey Swimbait, which caught the biggest fish of the trip. I remember that the bite felt like a little “tick” rather than a big hit. I threw a big sweep set and the fight was on. I landed that big girl and after that, we had a giant limit in the well which we took the picture of our best five bass.
Recently I’ve had the chance to fish a little further South on lakes like: Gaston, Buggs Island, the Chick and Chowan rivers. What I like about the lakes is their sheer size and options for different patterns. Not having to deal with tides is also nice, but when they pull water from the Dams on these lakes, the bite can turn on in a hurry! I’ve also learned that wind is your friend, if you can stand it, because those fish move up in a hurry to feed big time!
This fall you crushed the Smallmouth on Lake Ontario with Travis Manson from Smallmouth Crush setting your personal best. How was that trip overall?
That was my first time on Lake Ontario and it was chillllllly. I think the air temp below freezing at sunrise and was in the low 40’s mid-day. Despite the frigid temps, it was an amazing experience to go up there in late November. It was all about the Drop Shot that trip and dragging a tube was a close second.
I caught the big fish of the trip on a Drop Shot. Gotta give a shout out to Will at Gajo Baits for making the Spirit Shad! That bait is the schnizzle! It catches numbers and GIANTS. I ended breaking my PB on back to back days. The largest was just shy of 8lbs! I was using my Shimano NRX rod paired with a Shimano Ci4 Stradic lined with J-Braid X8 with a 10lb flouro leader and a Gamakatsu drop shot hook tipped with a Gajo Spirit shad. That combo was on FIRE for detecting the super light bites during our trip.
How many tournaments do you fish a year?
Right now, I’m just fishing team tournaments. Probably 20 to 30 a year depending upon my schedule. I’m fishing the Anglers Choice series with Scooter Lilley which takes me to Smith Mountain Lake, Buggs Island and Gaston. Also fishing the Virginia Region 7 tournaments with Brian Briesmeister from Bass Alarm Buzzbaits on Gaston, Buggs Island, the Chick and Chowan rivers.
I also love my Wednesday nights 3 hour tournaments with my buddy Jim Spencer that start up here in May! Finally, I am fishing some local tournaments on the Upper Bay with Travis Manson and Jack Rinkers. The All-In series draws a solid group of teams and has a great payout. I fished my first All-In with Jack Rinkers last year and we took 3rd place.
What do you consider your best attributes as a tournament angler?
My best attribute as a tournament angler is my versatility. Since I’m a lure hound that really likes to explore new techniques, I’ve spent time using a wide variety of lures to catch bass. I’ve also been fortunate over the years to fish with some absolute STICKS! Learning from them has been the best experience, and showing them some new techniques has been pretty cool too. Over the past 40 years, I’ve built up a solid collection of vintage and new baits that are proven winners.
Finally, I am not shy about throwing finesse baits on a spinning rod when needed. I love a tournament when the bite is super tough. That’s when the finesse baits shine.
Your crankbait collection is truly impressive. You even describe yourself as Custom Crankbait Nut. Why go custom with your crankbaits as opposed to just using standard baits?
Thanks! It took some time to collect those crankbaits. What attracted me to vintage, custom balsa and Japanese crankbaits, was the search for something different.
As an example, the old Bomber crankbaits from the 70’s used a different ABS plastic that is denser and has a different “one knock” sound than the newer Bomber models. While they both catch fish, the vintage version just seems to be more consistent for me for more bites and bigger fish. They stay in the box until tournament day!
With the custom balsa baits, they just have unique hunting and overall action that the plastic baits can’t produce. On top of that, each bait is different because of differences in the wood, lip angle and belly weight position, so you can truly have one bait that is super special. I mark those with an X and reserve them for tournaments.
Some of the Japanese baits are truly different. While they are plastic, they have some really cool engineering or unique design elements to make them hunt consistently. One bait that I discovered is a bladed crankbait that destroys post spawn fish. It’s a package that the fish haven’t seen and the erratic hunting action triggers viscous bites!
As you’ve seen on an episode of Smallmouth Crush, I like to make small modifications to some of my crankbaits. In the Fall, I love to wrap a thin piece of lead wire around the back of my Flatsided custom balsa crankbaits. I’m throwing a CP Baits or JawJacker flatside when the bass start keying in on the shad. The lead wrap works in two ways–first, it adds weight to the tail so the bait so it’s easier to cast on spinning rod. Second, it slows the rise of the bait, suspends it or causes it to slowly sink which triggers more bites because the shad in the fall are starting to be impacted by colder water temps. I’ve had some epic days on the Upper Bay and Potomac throwing that flatsided balsa bait in a grey back silver foiled pattern.
What are your three favorite crankbait color patterns for bass on your home waters?
Firetiger, Spring Craw and a Shad Pattern. Firetiger anytime. Spring Craw in the Spring and Foiled Shad in the Fall! If you gave me four colors, the last one would be a brim pattern, Bull Bream.
One question that I keep thinking about since I love the joy that you show for fishing. You are even smiling in one pic with a hook in your hand. Do you ever get grumpy on the water?
Appreciate that…If I’m fishing, I’m happy! Fishing is believing that the next bite is coming. The joy is in the journey to figure out the puzzle. The reason that I love team tournament fishing is sharing that journey with a good friend. Talking about the conditions, the game plan and the back-up plan. What depth, speed and presentations might work. Where we might find the better fish. No matter what the outcome, talking about why we crushed em’ or why we got crushed by the competition!
The only time I get grumpy is when my team partner won’t explore new options…or slow down and pick up a spinning rod when the bite gets tough. Because when finesse fishing is called for, I will grind out the bites to catch a limit! You gotta believe the fish are there…the magic is in figuring out how to trigger them to bite!
What can you tell us about your sponsor Bass Alarm Buzzbaits and Jigs?
My Virginia Federation partner sponsors me from his Buzzbait and Jig company which is called Bass Alarm Buzzbaits and Jigs. It’s one of the best buzzbaits ever made. It’s a short arm model that is great for throwing around grass and cover. Has a compact design with a blade that’s positioned to “knock” on the head of the bait which makes a racket! It can also be a silent buzzbait by adjusting the arm. It flat out catches fish!
Thank you Eric! I will be following all season long on Instagram @flyinfish2000 to see all of your big bass photos this season and watching Smallmouth Crush to see the episodes with the wild baits. While the fishing could be Boom or Bust, I am sure the episodes will be Boom…can’t wait!