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Paul Elias: Born to fish

By Dale McKee

Paul Elias: Born to fish

Paul Elias was born to fish, and that is what he has done forever.

Elias discovered fishing at an early age and has enjoyed the sport for the past 71 years. His dad loved fishing and introduced Elias to the sport. When Elias was 9 years old, his dad had an accident that essentially crippled him for the rest of his life. His fishing knowledge went to a different level when an older neighbor, Charlie Reddoch, took notice of the youngster’s love for fishing. Reddoch stopped Elias one day after seeing the lad riding down Fifth Avenue in Laurel displaying his successful fishing day on his bicycle handlebars. The two formed a forever friendship that day.

“He taught me a lot. He took me hunting and fishing, and he really gave me an appreciation of the outdoors,” Elias said.

Another fortuitous event shaped Elias’ fishing future when he learned a valuable fishing tip one day at his uncle’s pond in Richton. “I was reeling in a bluegill. A bass swam up from under a log and ate my bluegill. It did not take me long to figure out that if I put a bluegill on a hook, I would catch bass.”

“My life’s dream was to fish professionally,” said Elias from his home on Lake Eddins in Pachuta. “I went to USM, and the only thing I could think about was getting out, getting a job, and getting a boat.” Following graduation from Southern Mississippi, the first thing he did was take a job offshore. The reason was simple: he needed a down payment to buy a boat.

The Bass Fishing Hall of Famer began his pro career in the 1976 Bassmaster Florida Invitational on the St. Johns River. Since that first event, he has earned over $1.5 million in tournament winnings and has added to his checking account with numerous fishing endorsements. Elias won his first tournament in 1979 at Lake Gaston in Virginia and won his last one in 2011 at Lake Guntersville in Alabama. In Guntersville, he introduced the fishing world to the famous Alabama Rig lure.

His famous Kneeling & Reeling Style, where he puts the rod tip under the water’s surface while crankbait fishing to get extra depth out of the lure, came at the 1982 Classic on the Alabama River in Montgomery. In 2008 in the Elite Series event at Falcon Lake on the Texas-Mexico border, he set the all-time record for a 4-/5-day event with a total weight of 132 pounds, 8 ounces.

Elias has won nine tournaments, including the Super Bowl of Bass fishing and the 1982 Bassmaster Classic. He has qualified for 16 Bassmaster Classic events and finished in the Top 10 eight times. He won six B.A.S.S. (Bass Anglers Sportsman Society) events and has posted 56 Top 10 finishes during his career.

It was not easy to turn professional, when at the young age of 25 he began his part-time fishing career. “Trying to work another job and still take time to pre-fish tournaments and then take three days to fish for the cash prizes was grueling, but in the same sense, I loved what I was doing,” Elias said. Elias had choices to make when he decided to go full-time on the B.A.S.S. Tour after winning the 1982 Bassmaster Classic. He looks back now with few regrets.

Even after two shoulder operations, Elias can still cast, but now he understands that his opponents in tournaments are the fish themselves rather than human competitors. Today, Elias trolls around Lake Eddins giving fishing lessons along with taking part in the MLF Bass Pro Tour that began three years ago.

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Dale McKee is a Waynesboro native who has been writing sports in Mississippi since 1973. He is a member of Dixie Electric. Contact him at

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