Twenty Questions with Walleye Pro Eric Olson
This week's article features veteran Walleye Pro, Eric Olson. Eric is known as the "Butter Boy" to his friends, because he's run the Land-O-Lakes colors on his Ranger for as long as I can remember. With new prospects for the coming year, Eric is upbeat and thinking positive... let's take a moment to find out a little more about this talented angler, and what makes him tick.
As a bonus, join us Wednesday night, January 6th, at 7PM Central Time in the Walleye Central Chat Room. Eric has graciously accepted the invitation to host the "Fireside Chat", so don't miss out. Bring your quesitons and pick his brain...he's all yours for an entire hour!
Hope to see you all there.
Juls: Who is Eric Olson?
Eric: Might as well get the tough questions out of the way first huh? I'm an only child, that explains a lot huh?? Eric Olson is:
Stubborn/ Passionate ( Norwegian part), I really don't give up on anything very easily. If I believe in something I'll give it 150%, Why? What we are is made up of our beliefs, stick by them and be passionate about them and you will succeed.
Fun (German part), "positive guy" (Reality part) I try to look at everything in a positive light, life's really too short to sweat the small stuff and be negative.
Oh yeah... Love fast boats, love making boats go faster and will never stop wanting to learn more about boats, engines, props, and how I can help people make their boats perform better. Fortunately as a consultant in the Assistant Product Manager role with Evinrude, it affords me opportunities that most don't have. I get to try props and other performance stuff though all my tournament rigs are stock, from the factory with no special "stuff" on it. If I quote speeds or performance numbers they are stock and real numbers.
Let's see... I really enjoy the people I have met on the circuits and through the fishing industry, it really is amazing when you look back at the friendships that I've made... WOW!
Lastly, I love the guitar, more so in the last 4 yrs. I've had an acoustic for a long time and just played at it and 2 yrs ago I bought a Les Paul electric, believe it or not, I consulted Sonny Reynolds (former band guitar player and great player) and Babe Winkleman (also a former band member and great player) on what to buy! I'm a metal guy, Metallica has always been one of my favorite bands, so I play a lot of they're heavy ballad stuff, Nothing Else Matters is one of my Fav's!
Juls: How old were you when you went fishing for the first time? And, who was it with?
Eric: I think I was around 4,. Mom and Dad and I would vacation up at a resort on Lake Kabetogama for a week or two every year. Thats where I learned to love jig fishing and live bait rigging. I also think thats where I first developed a love for outboard engines. We had a 20 hp Johnson and I used to sit on my dads lap and steer the tiller (don't tell Pete H I'm a tiller guy!) I also developed an odd love for big waves and rough water, though not during tourneys, but I remember learning from my dad how to run the boat in some pretty hairy conditions.
Juls: When did you start fishing tournaments?
Eric: I started fishing the MWC in I think it was 1997, had an idea that I wanted to start tourney fishing, talked to a vender I knew (was a buyer at Gander Mt) and he connected me with Jim Antolik who was the then director of Marketing for Crestliner. I fished 2 tourneys that year and ... lets say I learned a lot and started the fishing career!!
Juls: What is your most memorable experience while fishing? (Either tournament or fun fishing...doesn't matter)
Eric: Wow... there are so many... I guess I'll pick 2. The first is the Spring Valley FLW tourney. I took third, but the key to that tourney being memorable was the way I got to that finish. Day one I took a chance a the dam bite being "on". pitched jigs for a limit and spent nearly 4 hrs tied up next to Jimmy Bell and Ross Grothe. To great anglers we all were able to fish, compete and joke with each other since we were 2 ft apart. No negative comments just a great day on the water. Finished the day handlining and upgraded most of the fish but as many understand, you fish differently with a limit in the box! Day 2 I saw the change in the jig bite so handlined and pulled into the top 11, day three hail, sleet and wind, all day, and 34 degrees. (thats the "dream job " type day!) in the top 5. day 4 water up in the morning and debris everywhere, made the call to go back to the dam. had a limit in 19 min...(I timed it!) Fished with Kelly Klemm that day had a blast and formed another friendship and co angler fishing partner on the tour. He's another example of the quality people I've met and hopefully helped along the way that is now a top pro on the circuit!
The other is when I took my dad out on lake Erie with Joe Whitten. The weather was good, caught lots of big fish and got dad hooked on planer board fishin' ! He also caught the largest fish of his life, but the laughs and good times were the best part!
Juls: What does it feel like to win a tournament? What goes through your head when they hand you the winning trophy?
Eric: You know the whole "high" can happen before the trophy is awarded. what I mean is, you work hard for 3 or 4 days and get to the last day, go into it with a plan to execute, knowing roughly what it will take to win, then at the end of the day , If thing go the right way, the feeling starts there. You kind of have a "quiet high" you gave it the best shot let the chips fall where they may. So many things have to go right to win a tourney as well, especially the 3 and 4 day events! I think to pick 3 words they would be, Elation, validation and chills from the excitement of the moment. You know people talk about the money and "what's it like to win money on the tour". I think the big thing is long after the money is gone, the trophy remains. the trophy is a lasting reminder of the work and struggle you went through to get there. Kind of like listening to certain songs that bring you back to moments in life, looking at each trophy they bring you back to the moments along the way to get it, kind of strange but incredible as well!
Juls: Who are your sponsors?
Eric: A lot of people had faith in what I was about, starting out, and have stayed with me through some tough times (as we're in right now).
Evinrude has been there since day one, tremendous engines and really designing products for what people want and have said they need.
Ranger has been incredible as well, great people, great product and one that really listens to the anglers to make a better boat for everyone.
Minn Kota, Cannon, Humminbird again tremendous people, friends and feel like family. Really looking forward to an expanded role with them this upcoming year with the new products on all fronts
Shimano Rods and reels, since day one they've supported me and I've helped them in some small ways with the development of the trolling products lines and catalogs
Rapala, tried and true, as well as innovative tackle
VMC, now making jigs and spinner rigs all with the great VMC hooks
Gamma, I've been fortunate to spend time speaking with these folks helping them understand the scope and retail opportunities in the northern tier, The best monofilament I've used!
Navionics, innovative products I can't live without that really helps me find fish!
Big Idea Sign, (bigideasign.com) They've been there for me for a long time and developed my new website, which I think is pretty cool ! www.getonthewater.com
Juls: I know you are involved in creating new products for some of your sponsors...what are some of those products? And, do you have anything new coming out for 2010?
Eric: Well the one that I can comment on is the Evinrude 15HO. This as been a labor of love for me, trying to blend all the things anglers want into a package that meets pricing, manufacturer and dealer needs as well. I think by putting just about every anglers wants into this engine it will suprise a lot of people and really make anglers look closely at the Evinrude E-TEC as a complete package , I really think this is that innovative a product!
I was instrumental in the development of first Panther kicker lift to fit Ranger boats, the first Panther electric steer, static kicker plate, manual jackplate and electric jackplates.
Some other product that are in the works but can't quite say much more than that... or I'd have to kill ya!
Juls: What did you do for a living before you started in this business as a living?
Eric: Let's see,
High school downhill ski coach
Marker ski binding rep
Summer ski camp coach, at Mt Hood Or
Buyer, Holiday Sports/ Gander Mt
Brand Manager, Panther Marine Products
Co-Host Thursday Outdoors Radio Show, KFAN Radio
Juls: Now that it's the "off season" what do you do?
Eric: Boat shows... Sport shows, Dealer training, as well as continue to work on future engine projects with Evinrude, there is no such thing as "off season" in the fishing industry, no complaints here, I love my work and the people I work with are passionate about their roles as well so it doesn't seem like work at all!
Juls: Besides seminars, what other things do you do at the Shows?
Eric: Well, with all the sponsors you try to cover all of them and spend quality time in each booth helping them sell product, providing consumer advise as well as learn about any new product from your sponsors as well and what the competition has come out with. knowing the competition is just as important as knowing your own product I think thats overlooked by many anglers looking for sponsorship as well as those that are struggling with the ones they have
Juls: Do you guide? If so, how can people contact you?
Eric: I will be guiding this year on the mississippi river, Mille Lacs, Green Bay and maybe Erie. I'm getting my captains license this spring to be legal. You can reach me through my website or on Fishpepin.com, I'm partnered with a former FLW angler Kenny Poole and we work together to provide regular trips, groups, and even teach specified methods the customers may have. I also will do seminars for those with large groups. pretty much full service deal! Really looking forward to the upcoming season!
Juls: Of all the waters you have fished in your lifetime, what are your top five favs? And, why?
Erie- big fish , trolling, and jigging
Mississippi Delta- Redfish what a fish... sight fishing with light tackle, ever hook a freight train??
Devils Lake variety of presentations, expanse of water, good people
The Test River, Netherwollup, UK Fly fishing the best trout stream in the world.... what else can I say??
Mississippi river, pools 2-4. year round fishing and it involves jigging, plastics and its 5 minutes from home what else is there??
Juls: Who are some of your fishing idols? Who did you look up to when you first got into tournament fishing?
Eric: My dad, he started rigging with slip sinkers way before it was the norm and I learned that finesse from him. In the tourney side of things I'd say Bill Leonard. He always looked good his boat was clean, and presented THE tournament angler image I wanted to portray. Always has a smile and something nice to say to everyone. I miss seeing him in the tourneys but I know he's havin' fun just playin' around for sure!
I also think Al Lindner, simply because he was the most visible and pushed the development of what tournament angling is today
Juls: Do you do any kids events?
Eric: Well, I don't call them kids events, in fact the NPAA doesn't call them that either... they're youth and family fishing seminars and really are for the whole family. I participate in the events that are associated with the FLW Walleye Tour.
Each location we visit we have one evening that we advertise, take an hour or so, and conduct a short seminar on the local fishing, hold some awesome giveaways... stuff like rods and reels, and other donated products. Rick Zachowski really is the organizational king on that deal, and does a tremendous job getting everything lined up. I just have to talk, and for those that know me, they know that's a job I can do in my sleep!
Juls: What is your favorite presentation to use? What is the most fun for you?
Eric: Trolling and casting shad raps. I think if I had one crankbait to use it would be a Rapala Shad Rap.
The most fun is pitchin' jigs... nothing better!! Finesse, feel, action and placement. If there's a jig bite I'd love to be on it! There's nothing like the feel of that... "THUNK" when that fish hits!
Juls: How do you break down a body of water you've never fished before? How do you approach your prefishing?
Eric: Start with the internet, no question about it! This resouce is probably one of the most valuable you could find. Look for fishing reports, general tackle ideas like, "Is it a live bait fishery?" If so, what primary bait is used? Is it readily available? Are there distinct big fish areas vs small fish areas etc?
Then, I'll call local bait shops to get a rough handle on the immediate bite conditions, best ramp locations, etc. Get a paper hydrographic map of the area and then a Navionic map for your graph. The Navionics mapping is one of the most important things on any body of water, regardless if you're new to it or not. It'll help you understand the body of water, make navigation a non issue, and pinpoint special cuts, turns, or humps that you may have never found.
Normally during prefishing, I'll highlight 5-6 spots that are my day one targets to check, set up the route so it's efficient, then fish. I also want to watch my graph...I'll use the side imaging for specific rock humps rather than drive over the spot really saves time as well. I also want to make sure I understand the wind conditions when I'm fishing that day. The wind can change everything and unless you make note of it you can find yourself on tournament day wondering "where'd they go.......?"
Lastly, make note of the fish you catch, regardless if you're a tourney guy or not. Start recording the fish, water temp, depth ,speed , wind, time of year, also for the trip see what the overall lake cycle is (meaning is it ahead in temp and bloom or behind or right on schedule vs average) Once you put together the info, patterns emerge, plans take shape, and fish will come. Be prepared for the Mother Nature monkeywrench, the coldfront! That a whole article in itself!
Juls: What are you most proud of in your life?
Eric: I think being a good friend is one of them. I think the other would be the kids and families that I've been fortunate enough to impact through our events. I know it may sound a bit contrived, but I really see the difference it makes and it really makes all the work worth every minute of it and I'm just glad I can participate!
Juls: If you could only give ONE piece of advice to a new angler who wanted to start fishing tournaments professionally, what would that be?
Eric: Understand that the tournaments are NOT going to pay you to fish. They will develop your credibility and knowledge in the fishing world, do not be confused!. You are a promoter/ Sales/ product developer-tester #1 fisherman #2. As long as you understand that, take public speaking and marketing classes. Many are offered through extension in cities everywhere and they ARE worth time!
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