Robert Garrigus: Scratch Bass Fisherman

Robert Garrigus had another fine round Friday at the Valspar Championship on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor (Tampa), Florida, adding a 66 to his first round 69. At 7-under, that gave him a 3-shot lead over Kevin Na who has a 1-shot lead over the foursome of Pat Perez, Justin Rose, Matteo Manassero and the first round leader, Matt Every.

And he had some interesting things to say about how his game and particularly his putting has come around:

After all the work you put in as a professional, you just — your positive outlook on your game has to help you at some point and I kept saying, “I’m not making bad putting strokes, my line is good, I’m making good strokes and they’re not going in.”

When they do start going in like, okay, I’m working on the right stuff and that’s the most important thing.  You know, with the training and your diet and everything that you do and everything you put into your game, you know, it’s nice to see everything kind of funnel into place and that’s what’s happened with the putting. 

I don’t know if I’m going to putt good this weekend but I know I’m doing the right things and that’s the most important thing.  It might not be this week, could be next week, could be at the Masters.  You never know.  That’s why we keep going and keep fighting

All well and good. But that isn’t what ended up being the major topic of discussion in his Media Center session; fishing was. After the obligatory reports on his round, the state of his game, the course and conditions, the bulk of it was all about bass fishing and how much it relaxes him. It’s the reason he plays so well in Florida; he spends more time fishing than practicing.

It’s the fishing, to be honest with you.  Honestly, all the golf courses, Disney I get to fish all week.  I got a cart, my rod is on the back.  I fish all week.  Didn’t play a practice round that week at Disney.  Didn’t even look at the golf course and I shot 21-under par and won the tournament [and saved his career].

This week, I showed up on Monday, fished Monday night after I got off the plane.  Fished all day Tuesday, I practiced a little bit, and then Wednesday I had a Sponsor Value thing I had to do and went home, took a nap, came back and went fishing for another five hours.  Didn’t even look at the golf course [he has a 3-shot lead and never played a practice round].

I think that puts me in a good frame of mind because I’m clear and not thinking about anything, just going out and have some fun.

His target is large mouth bass.

Probably caught about 35 fish over the three days.  The biggest one was 9 1/2 pounds and the next biggest one was 8 1/2 pounds.  We were sticking them.  It was a lot of fun.

He considers himself a scratch fisherman. He says he’s not a plus. He’s scratch. And like all fishermen, he has tales to tell:

Maybe Disney when I won in 2010 was pretty darn good.  I caught about 8 fish over 5 [pounds] that week from Tuesday and Wednesday.  I was watching them in front of everybody.  “All right, man, let’s see your magic.”

I catch another six, seven pounder.  That was actually one week I caught a five pounder and there’s always gators hanging in the ponds.  I saw them over there and I caught a five pounder and [a gator] made a bee line for it.

I yanked that five pounder up on the bank with my rod because I didn’t want to go down and get them.  [The gator] snatched him right off the bank in front of like ten people (laughter).  [Now the gator’s] on my rod.  What do I do?  Should I get him in?  It was a 5-footer.

He could have taken a limb off.  But I snapped my line off and let him go.  The Park Ranger came over, the Disney Ranger came over and said I was feeding the gators.  He almost ate me (laughter). [Your government in action.]

No wonder that so many golf pros fish. When you have adventures like that or even if you just idly have your line in the water, you don’t spend too much time thinking about golf:

So, I mean that week was fun.  This week has been fun with the fishing and stuff.  It’s nice to play some good golf on this golf course.  It makes it a better week when you catch fish and you play well.

So how did he come to fishing?

My father taught me how to fish.  I kind of taught myself how to bass fish.  Bass fish and trout fishing and salmon fishing are completely different.  You can throw a shrimp in the lake and maybe snag a little.  Throw a fly out and catch a steelhead.  Bass are a completely different animal.

I’ve spent half million dollars on boats and trucks and gear and rods just to try and figure out this elusive fish and it’s a lot of fun.  It’s addictive.

Different times of years are — if it’s warm, they’re biting one thing, if it’s cold, they’re biting another.  Bed fishing.  I go to [Lake] Havasu after the Masters or before the Masters when I have time to bed fish for small mouth.  It’s just relaxing.

It’s what I do to kind of relax and if I can bring my son, he’s three and a half, I took him out a week and a half ago before I came out here and that’s the best thing in the world.

And where does he think the best fishing stops are on Tour?

Here, Bay Hill [Orlando] is really good.  Disney was good.  Took it off the schedule.  Honda [Palm Beach Gardens].  Houston is awesome.  There’s a pond on the left hand side of the 18th of the member course that I kill it every year.

I know more where to eat and where to fish every week than where to stay because I’ve done it for so long.  It’s just fun because I know I’m coming here, I’m like, “Well, I got to bring my rods and tackle.”  If I don’t have them I’m going to buy them. [Hence how equipment costs could get to half a million dollars.]

And spend some time and the guys at the island course are awesome.  Give me a cart every time.  Fill it up with water.  Cart girl comes around.  It’s awesome.  It’s so much fun, especially when you’re catching fish.

Just how much fishing gear does he bring with him?

I packed an extra suitcase with three little mini tackle boxes and a backpack and I brought two rods and actually ended up buying two more because my buddy, JJ, came with me.  He heard about the fishing.

The first fish I caught was 8 1/2 pounds.  I probably spent about 600 bucks on fishing stuff this week just because — I did bring some more stuff.  I always travel with it.

But for some reason I left it off of the [Tour players’ luggage] trailer.  It gets carried around for me.  Yeah, I probably — I think I have about five rods and a few tackle boxes with me.

He lives in Phoenix, not exactly the place you think of when you think of fishing. But you don’t know what you’re missing:

Yeah.  There’s 8 lakes within two hours of me that there’s 10, 12-pound bass in them and people don’t know that so I guess don’t say that.  I don’t want anybody up there.

We get it pretty much to ourselves because I go fishing during the week.  No boats out there, and usually not a lot of wind.

What advice would he give to others interested in fishing:

You know, when I’m fishing, I usually know what’s going on.  I fish so much that I know the type of year or I know the type of weather.

If it’s warm, you throw certain things during the day, at night you throw worms.  If the water is down they’re going to be a little sluggish because they have less room to roam, so to speak.

I mean I know a lot about bass fishing.  I have guys come up to me all the time on Tour, Bill Haas, and I talk about it all the time, what baits do you use, what lakes to fish and it’s just a knowledge thing.

I’ve been playing professional golf for 17 years and I’ve been bass fishing for 8.  I’m not even close to the potential I could be bass fishing-wise as I am golfing-wise.

People ask me all the time; if I wasn’t a professional golfer I’d try and be a professional bass fisherman and it’s the same thing.

It’s like one week at a time, one cast at a time, one shot at a time.  Kind of the same premise.  It’s a lot of fun.  It relaxes me.

I think of Inside the PGA Tour deal out here a few years ago and they had me go fishing.  So, that was a lot of fun because I got to relax and be on camera and catching fish.

Q.  I take it fisherman don’t worry about every position where they’re releasing it like golfers do.

The casting it a little different.  There is an art to it.  I can’t just send it in and let the lures splash and make big noise.

Sometimes you got to finesse it in there a little lower.  Got to use your other hand and flip underneath a tree or dock.  There’s a lot of stuff that pertains.

Q.  Lot of parallels, then.

There really is.  When you’re bed fishing, like I talked about earlier, the fish know you’re throwing it at them.  They can see you.

So if you back off a little bit and make sure the bait when it hits the water does not make a ripple, you throw it underneath — underhand and when it hits the thing you kind of lift up on the rod and it makes it so it doesn’t make a sound or make a ripple and you catch more fish that way, I’ve noticed.

You don’t throw it in there overhand and let it splash and they swim off the bed.  There are parallels.  It’s fun.  It’s a challenge bass fishing.  Just golf is the hardest game in the world.  Bass fishing is not much easier.

Q.  You’re the best fisherman on Tour?

It’s been said, yes.  I’m not going to say it, but it’s been said (laughter).

Q.  You think you’re Top-5 in the world?

Top-5 in the world for sure.

I spent so much time with this fishing thread because I think it’s fascinating that Tour players seem to universally find it so attractive. But until I read Garrigus’ transcript, I thought these guys were just dropping a line in the water to kill time. I didn’t have an appreciation for just how much knowledge and skill they bring to this part of their lives too.

If you’re wondering what sort of carnage he’s inflicting on the fish population, don’t. He releases everything he catches, always has…unless the gator gets there first.

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