I have a great read for you in this one. Check out how DMV angler Shawn Holder approaches the Potomac River and tournament fishing.
What can you tell us about the companies that you pro staff for? What do you like about representing each of them?
I used to be a Pro-staff member for a few small fishing companies, but right now, I am not Pro staff member for any companies. I am going through a transition where I want to focus and connect with the Deaf community nationally. To understand what I mean with the Deaf community, it is the same impression of right now with the American being strongly focused on the entrepreneur and small business growth. This is the same idea as I want to do with the Deaf-owned business and to see the Deaf communities and Deaf’s economic growth success.
I have been working on sponsor packages, making sponsorship videos, updating my fishing works and need to work on my website. It needs a lot of changes and improvement. There are many good Deaf-owned companies out there that we both Deaf and Hearing can use. I would like to get their names out in the public, to the Deaf communities and at the same time, create bridges to the Hearing world. Don’t get me wrong; I am very open-minded and more than willing to work with anyone including the Hearings. Also, I do have 2 big long-term fishing projects I have been working on. One of them involves a possible 6-member team world traveling and the other one is to become a DMV bass guide.
Also, I would like to give a shout-out to Peter Lerner, the owner of Rod Warrior USA. He has been very generous and an awesome guy. We roomed together twice, competed against each other since he fishes as co-angler too. And more importantly, he looks past my deafness, treat and talk to me as a normal person, which I greatly appreciate him and anyone who does that. His products are also great. It’s rod and power-pole protection sleeves. It does the job and protects your gear. Even Shaw Grigsby, Chris Dillow and many well known anglers use them.
Looks like you spend a lot of time fishing the Potomac. You often fish it from the bank. What are the keys to being a successful bank fisherman on this terrific fishery?
Beside DC being one of the largest Deaf communities in America; Potomac River is also the biggest reason why I stay here in DC instead of going back to San Diego or somewhere else. People don’t realize what a world-class fishery the Potomac is. They can fish from the Upper Potomac at Harpers Ferry all the way down to the Lower Potomac at Nanjemoy Creek. I only fish for bass – large/smallmouth bass and yet I catch catfish, snakeheads, snakes, striped bass, and many more different fish. People even catch sharks in the lower-mid part of the Potomac! The river is vast with mixtures of outdoor natural with some of the most gnarly stuff you will ever see, urban, factory, the cities, people’s homes and way too many different structures in the Potomac River. You can even catch some decent size fish in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial or the Washington Monument. I consider these areas “open water” and it’s loaded with catfish. Just have to be there at the right place, right time to catch some bass.
Plus it’s a tidal river-rise and fall water level based on the moon phase. 90% of the time, you will find me fishing falling-low-rising tide. The reason why I prefer those tides is because that’s when it concentrates fish, depends on the structures. When it comes to high tide, some of the fishing spots become no longer a fishing spot due to the high water and the fish being spread out. A lot of time during the low tide, you will see a lot of baitfish schooling around the structures and that means the bass are likely to be there too.
I am always looking for the pattern to go with the covers such as laydown trees, grass/weed, rock piles, bridges, even the debris that often tend to be left behind from the storm. There are many fishing spots in the river that are so remote. Also it’s a bonus if it’s not boat accessible and that means more chance of catching more fishes and catching a BIGGUN or a GIANT! Another reason why I like the low tide, it will expose the structures and you will know what to do when it comes to high tides especially in the tournament. It does help me a lot, which bait to use, depending on the day and the conditions.
You also want to pay attention to the weather if you are fishing the Potomac. The relationship with the Potomac and Mother Nature is unbelievable; it’s like the Potomac has it’s own weather system. I remember one time when I was fishing near Georgetown on a bluebird day and this thunderstorm came in from out of nowhere, from a thin air and hell got loose so fast. And I have experienced during the tournament where the river turns into an ocean. Scary stuff, no jokes. The structures, the tidal and Potomac’s weather, all of these factors has definitely amped up my game in a good and bad way as a bank fisherman and definitely sharpened my skills as a bass competitor too.
What are you favorite baits to throw for catching Potomac largemouth?
Well, just remember that the “favorite bait” don’t always guarantee the catch. Although, I do have 2 or 3 favorite baits and for now, I’m not going to reveal the favorites due to respect of other anglers who introduced me to their baits. Plus I am making some living and banking on Potomac River so I am not ready to release the details.
However, I can tell you this, you really can use any lures. Depends on the day and condition; you can catch fish with whatever you throw in. If I had to pick just one bait, then it probably will be jig. With the jig, it is pretty much concept of “all-terrain” baits. You can drag it, hop it, swim it, and you can use many different trailers to go with the jig. Also you can fish it all year-round and those Potomac bass love jigs anyway.
What are your other favorite DMV bodies of water and what makes each so special?
It used to be a creek next to IKEA in College Park where I used to work there for 2 and a half years. With my 15-minute break or lunch break, I would walk over to the creek and fish there until my time is up. That creek was loaded with big bass and catfish but now the creek and its environment are not the same after the city zoned it. As of now, I don’t have any favorite places to fish. I do fish all over DMV and I do appreciate every body of water around in DMV.
Lately, I have been venturing to the north in Baltimore-Washington area due to the club I recently joined a year ago. I fish up north maybe once or twice a month. Living in Washington DC and the time as me being a stay-at-home-dad plus driving in DMV…DC Metro…can be a pain in the ass. So I fish the Potomac and its creeks 99.9% of the time since its only 5 miles from where I live to the Potomac. The other .1% is either the fishing tournament or the routine trip to Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, which I fish there a lot too.
What got you started into fishing and who has influenced you most as an angler?
The earliest I can remember is when my auntie Deb took my sister, brother, and me to Chollas Lake in San Diego where I was born and raised. During my childhood, it was all saltwater fishing. I would bug my parents almost every weekend to take me fishing at Shelter Island Pier. I even had a birthday fishing party there at the pier once. As soon as I enrolled into Helix high school, my mentality shifted to football 24/7 plus I played other sports there too. The only time I had some time for fishing was by watching “Fishing with Dan”, a huge fishing icon in San Diego and Bill Dance almost every Saturday. I don’t remember ever fishing during high school. It was pretty much of eat-sleep-football for the next 7 years including high school and college football. I ended up playing football at Gallaudet University in Washington DC after transferring from Grossmont College.
One day, I bumped into this guy, Mitch C. holding fishing poles and gear in the dorm hallway right before I was heading for football practice. My first reaction was, “Where the hell do you fish in DC? There’s no fish here in DC!” because at that time, DC was filthy, riddled with crimes and it wasn’t safe for anyone to walk around in DC back then. He simply offered me to join him and fish to find out if there’s fish or not. So I decided to skip football practice for the first time ever in my life and joined him for fishing. Boy, it was the best decision ever because that day, I caught a BIG smallmouth! And not only that, I saw the “beauty” in the ugly city of Washington DC.
Plus our friendship, fishing trips, our skipping classes and work, just to go fishing and many more memories had led my path to become as a bass competitor today. So as you can see, I was a late bass boomer plus I had no idea about San Diego’s bass fishing reputations. I would love to go back to San Diego and catch me some Daygo bass…San Diego is commonly referred to as the word “Daygo”. If it wasn’t for Mitch, I probably wouldn’t be fishing all the time right now. He had influenced me in a lot ways and I am very thankful for that.
You mention on your Instagram that you are deaf. In what ways does being deaf affect your approach to fishing?
I look at it as “Deaf Gain”. You know how we human have “5 senses”. When someone loses a sense, the other sense gains. We Deaf people strongly depend on our visual and intuition so our eyesight and sensitivity average is really higher than the hearing people. Someone once told me that my hearing sense is being replaced with the “bass sensory.” It’s essential for me to use the right arsenals, to hone my fishing. I use those as advantages such as to increase the sense of feel of rocks, piles, grass, etc. and especially when a bass strikes. Also able to scan the water well and keying where the bass are positioned at. It has served me well so far. If Sport Science or some kind of challenge contests were to be present, I would like to see the catch ratio between Deaf and Hearing fisherman and see who got the most.
What do you enjoy most about tournament fishing?
“There are other kind of riches in this world beside gold and silver” – Laurent Clerc
This is my “riches.” I love everything about fishing the tournaments. I fish the national and club level including the Deaf fishing tournaments. Traveling, local foods, networking and meeting open-minded people. Typically, I do encounter people, who are pretty much “ignorant” and not deaf-friendly. In another term that most of you are familiar with, the “bigotry.” That is the most and only downside for me.
Other than that, me being on the water with some of the most amazing scenic views and there have been so many different animal sightings. Banking incomes off from fishing the tournaments than doing those 8-5 jobs. Top of all, I love when they turn their heads sideways when they find out that I’m Deaf. I want to show them that Deaf can fish too. Even there are some Deaf anglers that will flat-out whoop me and any other anglers in the competition.
When I fish for the FLW, I fish as a co-angler and I love seeing different bodies of water, learning from the pro/boater and see what they use and how they do in the certain situations. For sure it will help me in the future when I get my own boat and to be my own “captain” with my own game plans.
It’s my dream/job to be the first Deaf to fish in the FLW Tour, the Elite, any of those big fishing circuits as Pro/Boater. At the same time, I have wanted to be a bass guide. So I am and will be soaking in all the experiences as much as I can. I enjoy everything, the good and bad because I am endeavoring through all the experiences and it will be molding me into who I am today and in the future.
What has been your most memorable tournament?
Mmm. There are too many memorable events. My first BFL and Rayovac, now also known as Costa. I almost got killed in the tournament, twice. Got to fish in front of our first USA President George Washington’s home. Made 2 big different trips to West Point Lake and Kentucky Lake without driver’s license. Got to meet and picture with FLW’s Forrest L. Wood. Paired up with a legend, Gary Yamamoto. Rode in Jim Dillard’s boat where I lost my GoPro 3 with whole bunch of epic footage on it. I was able to witness my good friend; Billy who is Deaf too, win the Big Bass honor in one of the BFL events. Bringing my daughter, Mila who is also Deaf with me on stage for the weigh in.
The list goes on but the number one, tied, out of all. I placed in 3rd place at Kerr Lake, which was the exact same day of my graduation ceremony at Gallaudet University. It was funny when people were texting me and asking me where I was because Gallaudet University announced my name with the diploma ready to be hand out during the ceremony and I was in North Carolina, fishing.
Second would be Lake Champlain-Plattsburgh with my family. During the road trip, I got to see 2 friends who I haven’t seen for long time. The hospitality in Plattsburgh, their local foods, the campground we camped at, is one of the best campgrounds anywhere, two thumbs up. The fishery at Lake Champlain is off the hook! Even though I lost my spinning rod and GoPro 3 during the boat ride, it was still super fun to fish that water. For a small town like Plattsburgh, there was a good number of people that can do sign language/gestures and that made it super easy for us to interact around the town. Almost all the small towns in America are not like that, and not often that we, Deaf people, get to experience something like that. So it was really cool to experience a small town with open-minded people.
Let me end the interview by saying that I think I am n the Shawn Holder fan club. Love what this guy is doing and his approach to fishing and life. Follow him on Instagram.