Brady Bounds says he is semi-retired. By that he means he no longer books 250-plus charter days on the water during a relentless 12-month season. For his own enjoyment of life plus some past health issues, he’s cut that down the last few years. Still, he probably fishes more than 90 percent more than the rest of us.
Bounds was one of the first guides to embrace light-tackle fishing on the Chesapeake some 50 years ago. It happened almost by accident.
Loosely defined, light-tackle Bay angling is pursued with medium-power spinning or casting rods about seven feet long, lines from eight- to 20-pound breaking strength and almost any fly rod setup. This is equipment designed for freshwater fishing and, before Bounds, not often seen on the Chesapeake, where stout, six-foot boat rods and 30-pound test line were the norm.
Bounds was a young man living in Leonardtown in St. Mary’s County when he and a friend planned to buy a boat to get in on those years’ great middle-Bay fishing for rock, blues and other brackish water game fish. They decided on a used Chesapeake Bay deadrise. When the time came to sign the papers, the friend backed out and Bounds had to go it alone.
Miffed, he dedicated himself to demonstrating to his buddy just what he had missed. Bounds became a skilled Bay fisherman, then got his commercial license and earned money chartering the deadrise. Trolling, chumming and bottom fishing, he acquired quite a reputation for delivering a good day on the water.
He was working on his equipment at the dock one afternoon when, all of a sudden, a fellow who had been admiring his boat and setup offered to buy it. It was at a price Brady just couldn’t refuse, despite the fact that up to that moment he’d had no thought of selling.
A local marina signed the boatless Bounds on to captain charter boats, and he liked the work. Meanwhile, friends had discovered freshwater bass fishing and the tournaments then new to Maryland.
Bounds often spent the morning running a Bay charter and the afternoon fishing sweetwater with his buddies for bucket-mouths. Finally he invested the money from the sale of his deadrise and bought a used bass boat of the new, shallow-draft, flush-deck design that was sweeping the largemouth bass fishing world.
To be competitive in tournament bass fishing, Bounds soon found, he had to perfect his structure-fishing game. Structure fishing is a freshwater technique that targets open water and the unseen bottom contours such as sunken creek beds, lumps, drop-offs, submerged trees, brush and other fish-holding features. Structure fishing in lakes and impoundments was far more productive in terms of numbers and size of fish than fishing shoreline edges.
It was difficult fishing in those days as there was no GPS technology. Bounds mastered the skill of triangulating shoreline features and keeping close notes on bottom readings from his fish finder. His techniques are now called Conceptual-Pattern Fishing
He shared his tournament knowledge and promoted bass and striped bass angling by writing for local fishing journals. A popular author, he also hosted a fishing program on local cable TV for five seasons.
Next he tried advertising light-tackle charters for striped bass in a Bay journal. Over a few months, he had no inquiries. Disappointed, he told the journal editor he might as well cancel.
The editor suggested tweaking the ad. The next edition carried the same small ad but with one modification, a narrow red border emblazoned with the words fly fishermen welcome.
Bounds’ phone began ringing off the hook. He knew little about fly fishing but was certain he could get fly anglers on fish and in position to catch them.
Soon he was swamped with charters.
The fly fishermen brought non-fly fishing friends who used Brady’s freshwater bass fishing tackle. Those anglers came back with other friends wanting the light-tackle, big-fish experience.
Word spread, and the number of anglers and guides using this new equipment and approach multiplied exponentially for years thereafter.
Fly- and light-tackle fishing had arrived on the Bay.