Robert Hargrove - Angler of the Year, Again

Robert Hargrove, an unimposing 51-year-old Master HVAC technician from Dallas, Texas, looks like thousands of other middle-aged weekend bass fisherman - he carries a little to much weight from one to many meals at greasy road side diners and he’s been etched gracefully by decades of harsh Texas weather and thousands of cold, early morning runs behind the wheel of a high powered bass boat.

But beware, for behind the benevolent countenance and sparkling blue eyes of this kindly looking angler lurks the soul of a diehard competitor.

Mention the name Robert Hargrove in Century Bass Club and Northeast Texas B.A.S.S. Federation circles and this humble fisherman inspires a sense of awe in those who know and compete against him with his uncanny ability to consistently find and catch fish, and finish in the money more times than not - regardless of the conditions.

In 2001 Robert won two of five Northeast Texas B.A.S.S Federation tournaments, an astonishing 40 percent, and took home his 8th Century Bass Club Angler of the Year title.  As if that wasn't enough, Robert turned right around and won the Century Bass' Angler of the Year award once again in 2002. An amazing feat made all the more remarkable by the fact that he never fishes deeper than 6’ in Northeast Texas waters that range from less than 45 degrees in the winter to over 90 degrees in the summer.  Ask Robert and he will tell you unequivocally, “There are always some fish swimming in shallow water.”

Success doesn’t come without a large dose of dedication and sacrifice for this Federation angler.  While working full-time with lots of overtime tossed in, Robert still finds time to fish 125 to 150 days a year - a feat most weekend anglers and bass clubbers have a hard time duplicating.  Perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that he has never missed a Century Bass Club tournament since the club’s inception in 1976. An amazing feat spanning more than two and half decades and 286 consecutive tournaments. Included in this span were tournaments fished with an injured back, hobbling on one leg, and fishing with one hand bandaged and in a cast.  Nothing seems to stop this fishing Iron Man.  With such dedication it’s easy to see how this hardworking angler has managed to amass 31 tournament victories and literally countless 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finishes in an extraordinary and ongoing rein of dominance.

It’s possible that a record like Robert’s is a small feat in some clubs, but considering he fishes against one of the strongest bass club fields in all of Texas, a club that produced three B.A.S.S. Federation State Champions and three B.A.S.S. State Championship teams in the past decade alone and you see why his tournament success has become legendary.  Simply put he is a one-man tour de force, where the fish and other fishermen often finish in second place.  Although Robert has never won a State Championship himself, consistent stingers have made him a defining member of the three teams that did win championships in the ‘90’s, along with two other teams that finished in 3rd place, two that finished in 4th place and one that finished in 5th place. In the process, Robert has himself qualified for two B.A.S.S. Divisional Tournaments - his first in 1991 on Ross Barnett Reservoir and then again in 1995 on Truman Reservoir.  Both times he was just a few pounds shy of qualifying for the Wrangler B.A.S.S. National Federation Championship.

Fishing from the bow of a nondescript Triton 186 powered by a Mercury 150, Robert uses a simple technique and modest tackle consisting of Shimano reels, All-Star graphite rods, Stren MagnaThin line, Zoom baits and a little dose of Smelly Jelly to work his magic. Fellow competitors quickly discover that to fish down a bank behind Robert will put them on the “in-dangered” fisherman list - “in-danger” of not catching a fish and in turn not cashing a check. Other competitors have found it equally, if not more frustrating to fish a shoreline ahead of Robert only to turn around to see him catching fish they missed.

Well known as a master shallow water finesse artist, many would consider Robert a one-dimensional angler, which is just fine with him. But, no one can debate his overwhelming success. While he has always been a shallow water fisherman Robert’s techniques have changed somewhat since his early and equally successful tournament days as a spinnerbait expert.

We all know that finesse techniques are sweeping the country, but many fishermen are only just now discovering what this gifted angler has known for nearly two decades - a little finesse will almost always catch a few fish and sometimes it is the only way to assure a limit or at the very least a place in the weigh-in line at the end of the day.

In the mid 80’s, as many bass fishermen were still using pool cues with guides and monofilament rope for line, Robert was years ahead of the curve. In a day and time when it was practically unheard of to use finesse techniques in the stump filled waters of northeast Texas, Robert was perfecting a rig of his own design and a style of fishing all his own.  Today, an 1/8 ounce, short leader Carolina or Mojo rig is a known fish catcher, but when this innovative angler started throwing it, it raised a lot of eyebrows and caused more than a few to laugh out loud at the absurd little rig.  But, just try to rig one up and fish in front of this human seine, as his fellow club members like to refer to him, and Robert will quickly demonstrate in head-to-head competition that there is more to it all than just the rig itself.  Perhaps it's his polished and unmatched skill level, or perhaps something else, but very quickly you realize he is feeling, seeing or sensing something you’re not. A humbling experience felt by a considerable number of fishermen over the years who have tried to duplicate his style of fishing, including more than a few confidant and accomplished tournament anglers.

If Robert’s first tournament of 2002, a 1st place finish on Martin Creek Lake in East Texas - on his little finesse rig of course, is any indication of the year ahead then once again, as in years past, the only one laughing will be Mr. Hargrove himself as he captures several more Federation victories and yet another Century Bass Club Anger-of-Year title.