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In Deep

How ‘The Doc’ became a US Freshwater Hall of Famer


A doctor who retired from medicine to focus on fishing has this week been inducted into the US Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame.

An authority on angling electronics and a pro-staffer with Aqua Vu, the manufacturer of underwater cameras, Bruce ‘Doc’ Samson is among the greatest walleye tournament pros of all time. The Minnesota angler has won ten major tournaments and more than $800,000 across the major walleye circuits and is recognised as a pre-eminent authority on angling technology.

An early convert to fishing technology – “I’ve always strived to drop my lure only where I knew fish were present” – Samson quickly learned the value of sonar mapping and GPS, using them to win numerous walleye tournaments. He went on to write a series of articles on electronics that led the way to a sonar training DVD and onto an educational career involving seminars, on-the-water training, online videos and more articles.

Samson has been working with Aqua Vu for over a decade. “It’s the best way to find walleye and other fish living in vegetation, brush, big boulders or timber,” he says. “Drop the camera into the weed beds and you’ll be amazed by how many walleyes, in particular, are there. Even for someone like me who’s looked at a sonar screen for thousands of hours, an Aqua-Vu camera remains one of the best teaching tools of all.

“For beginners, an Aqua-Vu is invaluable in helping them interpret their sonar screen. When you see a live visual of the lake bottom and can compare it to the sonar, side-by-side, your learning curve speeds up exponentially.” 

Samson is one of a group of seven named in the 2021 class of Freshwater Fishing Hall of Famers. The others are:

Douglas J. Austin Ph.D (Pennsylvania), the current Executive Director of the American Fisheries Society. He has also served with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, where he co-chaired the work group that wrote the first National Fish Habitat Action Plan.

Denny Guerink (Michigan), who introduced many children to fishing and conservation through fishing clubs he founded, both in the public school system, where he taught, and in his local community. Through his 40-plus year career in outdoor communications – including writing, TV broadcasts, videos and speaking engagements. Geurink has continued to educate many thousands of people on the techniques, values and joys of fishing.

Chris Gillman (Minnesota), who has been a dominant force in competitive walleye fishing for three decades, cashing more cheques on the National Walleye Tour circuit than any other angler. He also stands alone as the only fisherman to be placed in the top ten for seven years in a row in championship events and incredibly has won six majors. He has also won bass tournaments and ice fishing events.

Bob Izumi (Canada), who became his country’s first full time angler in 1979. His bass tournament career is unsurpassed among Canadian anglers, with more than 70 wins to his credit. He is also the only Canadian angler to win the ‘Triple Crown’ of fishing, capturing the Canadian Open, the Classic Championship and Angler of the Year title in a single season. He co-hosted the Real Fishing radio show for many years and published the Real Fishing magazine. In 2000 he created Fishing Forever, a not-for-profit organisation, to raise funds for conservation and educational programmes. It has assisted more than 100,000 young people to experience fishing.

Lee Kernen (Wisconsin), who spent 33 years at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, where he rose to Chief of Fisheries and where he avoided catastrophic collapse of the Pacific Salmon programme in Lake Michigan by anticipating and planning around a Bacterial Kidney Disease outbreak, assuring world-class fishing would continue. Kernen’s leadership in development of the Pacific Salmon fishery in Lake Michigan extended well beyond Wisconsin, leading the other Lake Michigan States in developing a sustainable recreational fishery that, across the Great Lakes, provides $7 billion in annual contributions to the nation’s economy.

Mike Mladenik (Wisconsin), a fishing guide and educator for more than 40 years, specialising in smallmouth bass fishing. He averages 150 guide trips and delivers around ten seminars at retailers, shows, fishing clubs and clinics per year, educating anglers on catching smallmouth bass using spinning tackle or fly. On a daily basis he demonstrates teaching methods to anglers of all ages. A champion for fishing and conservation, he has authored nine books and has been a contributing outdoor writer for numerous publications for 35 years.

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