Anglers Share What Keeps Them Hooked on Fishing

Best Catch

Fishing is a great way for anyone to get outside and bond with loved ones; but for those who are passionate about the sport, it is a lifestyle. Here, we asked several avid fishermen in the area to tell us all about life on the water. From cherished memories to generational wisdom, this is what keeps them hooked on fishing.

Photography by Nathalie DuPré

Jeremy Roerdink fishing in Chattanooga


Jeremy Roerdink, Rising Fawn


What initially sparked your interest in fishing?

When I was a kid, my dad would take me fishing on Lake Michigan. It was the time spent with my father, the time spent in the outdoors, and the anticipation of hooking a 25-pound King Salmon that hooked me for life. I have been fishing for 45 years now.

What is your favorite type of fish to go after?

Rather than specifically targeting one species of fish, I prefer to target all the many species that the great state of Tennessee has to offer.

Do you have a favorite local spot to go fishing?

My favorite spot to fish is Dale Hollow Lake in Celina, Tennessee. This lake has some of the clearest water in the United States and amazing views of the Tennessee Smoky Mountains. It is easy and fun fishing!

Can you describe a memorable experience you’ve had on the water?

This past summer, I was able to fish with my son and my father on Lake Michigan. It was great to have three generations on the boat doing something that we love together. The memories we made on that trip will last a lifetime.

Any advice for beginners?

Always try to keep fishing simple. Do some research on a single species of fish, study lake maps, make a plan, then go fish. Even if you don’t catch anything, nothing will help you improve more than time on the water.

What is the most rewarding thing about fishing for you personally?

For me, it’s the relationships and memories that are made with friends and family on the boat. Oftentimes, it is not the fish we catch but the conversations about faith, family, and life that I enjoy most. Nothing is more rewarding for me than watching a father and son spending quality time together and making memories that will last a lifetime. 

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Chase Pritchett, Hixson


How did you get into fishing?

Watching Bill Dance on television as a little boy sparked my desire to fish. Bill always had a jolly demeanor and knowledge to share with his audience. For me, Bill Dance was the embodiment of fun. 

What is the most rewarding thing about fishing for you personally?

Without question, the relationships I have made with people along the way. Fishing has allowed me to connect with others in deep and meaningful ways that I have not experienced anywhere else in life.

Any advice for beginners?

Pay attention to your elders when they speak. Read the words of those who came before you. Be these things for the next generation of fishers.

Can you tell me about your biggest catch to date?

I always get this question, and my best answer is that the biggest fish always get away. Those fish keep us humble and are perhaps the best stories we share. All the big fish are in pictures and a picture is worth a thousand words, but stories are priceless.

Can you describe a memorable experience you’ve had on the water?

A few years ago, my friends and I rented a house for a weekend of fishing. One morning, I received a call that my Uncle Vic, who had been instrumental in my love for fishing, had passed away. A sudden snowstorm kept us from leaving the rental house, so we decided to push the boat in and float the river. It was quiet and peaceful. I felt Uncle Vic’s presence that day, and I couldn’t think of a better way to honor him. 

Is there anything you’d like to add?

All anglers need time on the water because it helps them mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Imagine what it would do for someone who does not fish. Take a friend out with you; make their day.

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Rick Thompson, North Chattanooga


What sparked your interest in fishing?

I started when I was six years old. My uncle Harold, a devout fisherman, taught me his ways. I loved to help dig up worms for him and watch as he caught, cleaned, and fried up the fish. I also liked to throw rocks into the lake, but he wasn’t very encouraging about that …

What’s your biggest catch to date?

The largest fish was a 23-pound Brown Trout in Argentina, but the best large fish ever was a 36-inch Rainbow on the Soque River in North Georgia. I broke my rod at the very end, and the owner of the property jumped in the river to help keep my line from getting tangled in the bushes while I hand-lined it to the bank.

What is the most rewarding thing about fishing for you personally?

It’s my Zen time. Whether I’m fishing alone on a beautiful stretch of river or with my buddies, I love the quality of the time and place that I’m in. 

Can you describe a memorable experience you’ve had on the water?

I lost my best friend a few years ago. He was the most talented and graceful fly casting artist I have ever seen. After he passed away, a group of us took his ashes on six trips to six of his favorite rivers and released them where he loved to be most.

Any advice for beginners?

Like a wise fly shop owner in Montana told me 30 years ago, “Keep your gear wet and your powder dry.” But seriously, make the time to go, watch the folks around you, don’t be afraid to ask a million questions, and keep your gear wet!

Is there anything you’d like to add?

For all you fishers out there, pay it forward … pass this love and respect of the outdoors on to the next generation. Fishing builds character. 

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Caleb Bell fishing in Chattanooga


Caleb Bell, Hixson


How long have you been fishing?

As soon as I could walk with rubber boots, my dad and pawpaw had me fishing with them on the bank at our lake house. I absolutely loved it from the very beginning. I was like a kid in the local neighborhood pool – they had to beg me to get off the water.

Do you have a favorite local spot to go fishing?

Chickamauga has always been my home lake. It is a special lake because it has a ton of diverse fishing habitats not offered by many other lakes. You can learn a bunch of techniques and practice them on this lake throughout the year. I believe that is why our local pro anglers are some of the best in the world.

What is your favorite type of fishing, or what fish do you prefer to go for?

I have always loved to fish for absolutely anything – from huge halibut and sharks to tiny creek chub minnows in ditches behind the house. If there is something swimming, I want to catch it. Over the years, I have gravitated toward bass fishing because I enjoy the challenge and the exciting fight.

Can you describe a memorable experience you’ve had on the water?

My favorite days on the water have been with my kiddos. Last year, I had both kids out and got to see my daughter and my son each catch a large bass. I get more excited when they catch large fish than when I do!

Can you tell me about your biggest catch to date?

The biggest bass I have ever landed is one I caught while fishing with a buddy of mine in Florida. The beast was nearly 27 inches long and 22 inches around. Unfortunately, his scale was not working, but it must have been over 12 pounds. 

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Ty Goodwin fishing in Chattanooga


Ty Goodwin, Chickamauga


What initially sparked your interest in fishing?

My dad has always been an avid fisherman. I’ve been fishing since I was old enough to hold a rod and reel. Our family comes from a long line of outdoorsmen, so a lot of my earliest memories involve fishing, camping, and generally being outdoors. Being around that as a kid naturally sparked my interest, and it just grew from there.

What is your favorite type of fishing?

I enjoy just about any type of fishing, but these days I fly fish more than anything else. I’ll fish for just about anything that swims, and one of the great things about Chattanooga is the variety. I can fish for bass one day, then trout, carp, or gar the next, and the list goes on.

Do you have a favorite local spot to go fishing?

That’s tough. We’re fortunate here to have so many outstanding rivers and lakes. If I had to choose, I would probably go with the backcountry streams of the Smokies. There are few things more serene and beautiful than a pristine trout stream working its way down a mountain slope. I love that I can hike into those mountains for a mile or two and have a spot all to myself for an afternoon. That kind of solitude is a rare thing these days.

Do you have any advice for beginners who want to improve their skills?

Get involved in the local fishing community and get to know experienced anglers. There are plenty of instructional books and videos out there, but nothing beats time on the water with other fishermen. We’ve all been beginners at some point, so don’t be afraid to step out there and get involved. I think you’ll find plenty of folks are more than happy to share their knowledge and help you along.

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