Around my house I often hear my husband refer to someone as a legend in the outdoor world. According to the dictionary, a legend is a title placed on an object or person for whom stories are written, though often they are unverified stories handed down from earlier times. "A Legend in his own time" would be someone whose fame promises to be enduring, even if the renown is created more by the media than by oral tradition. Thus we speak of the legendary accomplishments of a major-league baseball player or the legendary voice of a famous singer. This usage is often common journalistic hyperbole or exaggeration. A phrase used to describe someone who seems to be making a tremendous name for himself at the time or great accomplishments which might be remembered in the future. But on the otherhand, they may be forgotten when the next great singer or baseball player arrives on the scene.
But I'm here today to tell you that I believe I have met a legend... a fishing legend. Someone who will be remembered for a long time. He may never make it to the history books, or be found in a Hall of Fame, but he's a legend in his own time... a legend in his own town... and no doubt his fishing stories will be told for many years after he is gone. He is known as Crowbar Russell.
Now, no mother in her right mind would name her son "Crowbar". But Crowbar earned the right to that nickname growing up in an small rural town where being tough was an asset if you wanted to survive. Being the only child and a little spoiled rotten helped to add to Crowbar's tough demeanor, but when I first met Crowbar I discovered a soft side, a gentle "Grizzly Adams-type". I also discovered he was a great fisherman.
One of the first things I noticed about Crowbar was his crooked fingers on his right hand. Absolutely no amount of prying could straighten those crippled fingers out, which were broken in a fight years ago. And he wouldn't want them staightened! They fit perfectly around his fishing pole handle, cradling the pole where he can cast accurately for his next trophy. With his long hair and often rough appearance, you'll almost always find him knee-deep in the river somewhere, reeling in one fish right after another, casting into the shadows under brush where he knows the big ones are hiding. He knows the bait to use and watches the clues that the weather and water conditions give him to find the fish he is in pursuit of.
Crowbar can read a body of water as well as any fisherman anywhere, due to the fact that he grew up on the South Fork River in North Arkansas and was surrounded by great river fishermen his whole life. Learning is another of Crowbar's strong points because it is a challenge and the challenge of learning to read the water was right down his alley.
He's as intense a fisherman as they come, but also one of the funniest! His antics are always fun and the good folks around him always have a good time - at times the laughing riot he makes trump even the joyous celebration of people who just won a jackpot in bingo. You never know what he's going to do next and fishing with Crowbar is always an experience in itself. On one of our fishing trips, Crowbar caught a large smallmouth bass and while reeling it in, he reached down and plucked a 2 foot gar from the water with his other hand. The gar struggled to be released, while Crowbar laughed and said, "I've got a fish in each hand!" while proudly showing off both trophies for the cameras. Crowbar is also the only fisherman I've ever known who has purposely set out to catch two fish on the same lure.. at the SAME TIME and did it successfully!
So what makes this man such a great fisherman? He doesn't own a bass boat, doesn't fish with expensive tackle or rods and I'm not even sure he owns a tackle box. But he has fished for years...day after day, learning the river he fishes and knowing the fish he is in pursuit of. More than anything else, he loves the sport, loves the intense thrill of pursing the big ones, and respects the waterways and marine life. It's his passion.
So, is Crowbar a legend? Will he BE a legend? Will unverified stories be told years down the road of a man with crooked fingers who caught gar bare-handed and laughed as the fighting fish struggled to be released? Well, he may not be famous... may not be Roland Martin, but he's good. He's a self-taught, highly knowledgeable, extraordinary fisherman and in my book... he's a legend.
Watch for Crowbar as he heads to the Sportsman's Channel later this year, hosting and producing his own show, "Ozark Outdoors". For the last three years Crowbar and his sidekick Jason has produced and hosted "Ozark Outdoors" and every week they air on a regional ABC station in Arkansas. Meet the Legend and my friend, Crowbar Russell.