This was an interview I did with Larry Dahlberg back around '09 for Tackle Tour's Blog site. Following him over the years really opened my mind to many things as an aspiring bait maker.
Ever since watching the Hunt For Big Fish show for the first time I’ve anticipated each new show with a huge set of eyes and ears. So many ideas and perspectives are shared from arguably one of the most humble and respected anglers on the planet. I had a chance to do a little q&a with one of my heroes here’s how it went….
xtrachewy:Not many people can say they have fished every continent for exotic species, held many unaccounted line class records, designed and patented some of the most innovative lures and fishing rod accessories, authored and co-authored many great articles/books for the likes of the In-Fishermen, guided for over 25 years, helped restore fishing communities by serving on the board for the Fish America Foundation, edited and produced soundtracks for a fishing show that has aired once a week for the last 16 years! and have even answered questions and acted as moderator for your own fishing forum (would have to invite a friend over just to help wear a hat on every finger and toe to keep up with you Mr Dahlberg! how do you do it?!
LD: I get up really early!
xtrachewy: I bet there’s no shortage of coffee at your house! what is your earliest fishing memory that has stuck with you over the years?
LD:I still remember my first fish very clearly. I was 4 years old and caught it ice fishing. I was never the same again. From then on all I wanted to do was fish. While the other kids were swimming or water skiing I was fishing. At age six, I was allowed to go alone to the little reservoir a couple blocks from my house as long as I wore a life jacket. I was there just about every day at daylight all summer long and would come home for supper.
xtrachewy:I’ve read you used to be a fishing guide before you were old enough to drive a car? what kind of fish did you guide for and where? and do you miss it?
LD:I began guiding at age eleven on the upper St Croix river for smallmouth bass. I strictly guided fly fishermen because my dad wouldn’t let me show anyone where the muskies were!I miss being on the water every hour of every day and having only to worry aboutwhere my next fish was coming from.
xtrachewy:where was your first trip outside of the United States and for what species?
LD:My first trip outside the USA was to Belize in the mid 1980’s, where I caught bones, tarpon, snook, sharks, snappers, groupers and a 114 pound wahoo. I think the second place was Venezuela for peacock bass in Guri Reservoir before it was at full pool.
xtrachewy:Having fished for so many different species what is your favorite species to fish for big or small?
LD:That’s a tough question. I love river small mouths on topwater. I love muskies, especially when they follow and don’t
before I cast and get to watch it and hear it and experience it with as many senses as possible, that’s what I like best.
xtrachewy: And of course the question everyone wants to know…what in your opinion is pound for pound hardest fighting fish in both fresh or saltwater?
LD:Hands down it would have to be any member of the tuna family. Only problem is they don’t jump and most fights are pretty much the same.
xtrachewy:with all the trophy sized fish you have caught how does one release so many potential world records?
- LD:Easy, just let them go! When I did the first pilot for HFBF I was going to see if I could break and register some world records. I’d figured out a temp thing where giant lake trout intersected with the arctic sucker spawn and figured I could get them on big d the first morning I broke every line class record and it felt weird. Non-organic. All of a sudden, for the first time in my life it wasn’t about the fish. Also the weighing and measuring and documenting was uncomfortable to me because I knew it was taking too much time and even though we were keeping the fish in the water as much as possible I knew I was risking post release mortality because of it. I tore up the registration documents, and decided the world did not need a balding middle aged jerk running around the world trying to break records. I support the IGFA, and like to use the record book as a barometer as to what “big” is.
xtrachewy:I’d like to change gears here a little bit…with the new popularity of bigger baits and swim baits growing it seems that the fishing market has really taken off….what are your earliest memories of throwing big baits? what do you see that makes them so effective?
LD:My earliest big baits were at age 6 when my dad first took me musky fishing! We used to catch some huge small mouths and walleyes by accident on them. It actually surprises me it’s taken the bass world so long to find their application.
xtrachewy:Are there any parallels to targeting trophy fish in the fresh and saltwater such as solunar phases you like to focus on?
LD:There is no question the whole solunar deal is for real. I don’t like the full moon, but 3 days on either side is usuallyyou’re fishing species that use flats and run in and out on the tide cycles, often the big tides of spring and fall can be great, especially for permit.I’ve found that if local weather and water conditions are stable the major solunar periods are remarkably consistent in terms of best activity of the day. Especially if the majors occur at dusk or dawn. Check out the book, “Moon UP, Moon Down”, by John Alden Knight.
xtrachewy:I’ve seen you throw some very interesting big baits for the exotics most of which looked homemade and unique. How long have you been making fishing lures and do you see an advantage to fishing something unique?
- LD:I’ve been making lures/flies for over 50 years. If you are tuned into the water and the fish, and are objective enough to actually observe what it is that makes them respond, especially in heavily fished water it is an ENORMOUS advantage
xtrachewy:I’ve read you are going to create a lure making dvd any ideas as to when that will be released?
LD:Hoping to shoot the final stuff today and should be done editing it before the end of this week. Hope to have it on the website as soon as it’s done.
- xtrachewy:During the course of your show I notice you use a range of rods/reels for throwing big baits… what is your favorite all around combo for casting bigger 1-4oz plugs in the freshwater?
LD:My favorite all around reel is the Curado 300. 1-4 ounces is too big a range for one favorite rod.
xtrachewy:Do you prefer braid or mono when throwing big baits? do you ever tie shock leaders if so under what conditions and what knots do you use?
LD:I use braid 99% of the time for big baits. Usually 65#. I use either wire or hard mono which I attach with either double uni knots, twist melt, or crimps,snaps and barrel swivels depending on the situation.
xtrachewy:With the many hours and casts it takes to find success as a trophy angler what are a few inspirational tips you can give guys that are trying to go out and throw bigger baits targeting trophy fish?
LD:With each cast you make you are one cast closer to your next bite.
xtrachewy:And last but not least I’ve read that when you pass on you have left instructions to have your remains made into lures, fished, and then snipped once a fish hits is there any truth to this?
LD:Yes, but I only want to be broken off if the lure gets hung up. I want the lure to be fished to death, or used until a fish gets it fair and square. No snipping. I’d starve to death or die of thirst before I cut the line on a fish.
I’d like to thank Mr. Dahlberg for lending his time and perspective for this interview.
Larry would like to thank Jack Links Snack foods, Shimano and Costa Del Mar for continuing to support his efforts. Without their continued support I’d not be in business. Due to Sufix and Rapala abrogating a 2 year television contract, unless I can find a sponsor to replace them, there’s a 50/50 chance or better you’ve seen the last season of the Hunt For Big Fish.
Most of the cutting edge destinations I’ve either filmed, discovered, (or both) can be accessed by contacting Steve Yatomi at Adventure Travel Alliance.--