TRIBUTE TO A LEGEND by staff member Colby Hutzell
Mr. Smallmouth bass himself Nelson "Butch" Ward
There are no words in the English language to describe this great legend with over 20 tournament wins and holds a record on the Upper Potomac with the biggest bag of 10 smallmouth over 43 pounds,a record that will never be broken.
information on his cold water tactics for river smallmouth.
A good friend of mine Jim "Pint" Kline invited me over to talk about Butch.
Pint and Butch go way back and fished together countless times on both the Potomac and the Susquehanna river systems.He also fished with and guided for Ken Penrods Life Outdoors Unlimited
another great legend of our waters.
He shared the company on the river with the likes of Joe Gibbs,and other celebrities on his river journeys.Listening to stories from my long time friend Brian "Bassmaster" Sefsic how Butch got the greatest thrill of all just watching his clients catch fish.
Butch was also president of the MD Bass Federation for many years,this marine ran the federation like a drill instructor barking orders and eager to take on any other challenges that arose.
He was also at the forefront of Maryland PVA and in 1987 he was crowned BASS man of the year!
(At one time the federation had over 120 clubs and over 1300 members.Butch WAS MD BASS!.)
There are so many accomplishments this great angler was able to achieve in the short
time he was with us, but the greatest of all was his outstanding work with the kids,handing out
his own rods and lots of tackle to children and teaching them what to use and how to fish!
He had no children of his own but had over 10,000 kids that he would call his.
.He always wanted to start a scholarship fund but wasn't sure how to go about it, so he reached out to Jim looking
for help to start a scholarship fund to help kids pursue their college ambitions.
"Im just a dumb ole country boy from Clear Spring" he said laughing.
Before they could get the ball rolling Butch passed at the young age of 58 and after his passing Jim had to step up and assume the responsibilities as president of the federation.
Some very large shoes to fill, and he knew that was impossible to do, but would follow him in
Jim accomplished Butchs dream and setup the Butch Ward memorial scholarship fund in his name,local clubs came together and would raise money to support it,there are also a few open tournaments on the upper Potomac and Deep Creek lake in his name.
Many of the winners would donate portions of their winnings back to the fund in classic Butch Ward style.
Local DNR biologist were quoted at the service asking Ken Penrod "We need the names and
numbers for the 5 men you plan to replace him with" and that was the truth. Butch worked closely with DNR biologist,doing studies on smallmouth bass attaching transmitters to track migrations on the Upper Potomac.
Butch also led the charge in saving a lot of smallmouth during the floods that washed a lot of the bass into the C&O canal.He was #1 in conservation writing lots of letters to federal,state and local governments and attending meetings.The work he put into our Maryland and Pennsylvania fisheries was infinite and unrivaled to say the least.
Butch was also an innovator as he was one of the first to start the whole jet drive craze along with one of my great friends and living legend Les Milburn (i will write another story on Les in the near future.)
Butch would buy a boat every year,first thing he would do is turn his Duracraft upside down and tunnel it,move the batteries and fuel tank forward in his stick steer chariot and he could draft in 3 to 4 inches of water.
Jim told me about running with Butch and gritting his teeth going through the most tretcherous and rocky waters and telling the story about Butch being thrown clean out the front of his boat.!
A friend of mine Conway Barnes would tell me "There are two kinds of jet boat owners,those who have hit rocks and those who will hit rocks"
One thing Butch was well known for was his cold water tactics for river smallies.
Butch used an assortment of jigs and tubes to catch these great bronzebacks in the winter months.His all time favorite was a Bucktail bug eye jig in 1/8oz that he hand poured and tied himself,a #1 or 1/0 mustad hook and a unique jig head that came from a mold he modified himself. He would attach an Uncle Joshs 101 pork trailer to his jig,
His favorite color was what he called a "green on green"101.He would also throw his own color tube called the BW Express by C's Sportsmans Warehouse that went out of business, but is now made by Right Bite,
I believe they are special order,another great tube color he would use was Pints Poison #88(lime green) that was a similar color as a BW Express only with a Chartreuse core that gives it a unique color that is very hard to duplicate.
Murky to muddy high waters between 36-42 degrees is what he favored,firing his lures from his Tennessee walking stick like a .22 into and around deep "pockets"and Eddys along shorelines, some only a foot or 2 wide utilizing a 9 to 11 retrieve,
He hurled his jet boat from pocket to pocket,2 to 3 casts and on to the next
When the water is low the fish go deep,when the water rises you can almost feel the electricity in the air just knowing the total chaos that is happening down there.Bass do not stop feeding in the winter!
Their metabolism slows drastically but they will still feed.
Butch was a pioneer when it came to winter smallies As long it wasn't frozen he was fishing.
He had a hard time getting anyone to accompany him on his winter expeditions because it was to cold but Butch knew this was the best time to catch great big Bronzebacks.
Jim gave me a handful of Butchs hand tied jigs and tubes that you see in the photos,i was shocked to receive these great treasures just knowing that MR Smallmouth poured and tied these babies himself.
The Potomac was once dubbed a national disgrace but The Upper Potomac river is coming back slowly but surely, Ken Penrod offers a great book called Fishing the Upper Potomac River that's a must have,
He also offers lots of information and reports on his website on the Upper Bay as well.This river is a must if you are close by and have never fished it before,This stretch is best suited for jet drives but there are a few sections you can navigate safely with a prop.Big Slack water which is in the Downsville MD area and the Four locks ramp in the Clear Spring MD area.
I really felt a need to write this to keep Butchs spirit alive.He lives in us all every time we throw our lures into the water,not many anglers in our area even knew who Butch Ward was. I didn't even know the name until a few years ago. When i started this story i asked myself where do i even start?There is so much this man did for our sport how can i put it into words.
In closing i have to give a special shout out to a great friend Jim "Pint" Kline,without him this story would not have been possible and i want to thank him very much for everything he has done paving the way for the rest of us who love this great sport.Jim really showed me how rich our history is for great bass fishing and great anglers,the north east is truly where its at!
The tube photo is Pints #88 color. I have to send a thanks to W.T. Vanmetre he provided the original photo,
All of the photos and baits Butch used are in the rotating banner at the top of the page and we continue discussing this article and techniques further on The Bass College Facebook page.
You can get many of the same types of baits Butch and other Smallmouth experts use here at Tackle Warehouse.