In the Spotlight: James Bryant
by Tim Huffman
James Bryant is owner of the American Crappie Trail (ACT) and is co-owner of Bryant’s Osage Outdoors in Laurie, Missouri. He agreed to answer questions concerning his new ownership of ACT and answer some fun personal stuff.
What’s new with ACT?
“It’s only been a few months so we are still in transition. My first step has been to hire and surround myself with good people. New camera crew, production, website and more. There is so much more work than what the general public sees. The TV shows, production, working with fishermen, sponsors and CVBs, selling advertising and running the tournaments. The tournaments are the easiest part.
Why jump into ownership of the ACT?
“It’s a dream come true. Matt (Morgan) wanted to preserve the integrity of the tournament trail, something he had worked so hard to build to a professional level. We both wanted those ideas and traditions moving forward, so I bought it.
The ACT Difference?
“That’s hard to say because I don’t want to say we do things better than other trails. We run it at the level we have chosen. We do what we say we are going to do, we pay what we say we are going to pay and we always hold the rules to a high standard. We’ve been consistent and that’s important to the fishermen.”
Tournaments have lost a lot of the older, faithful and financially stable fishermen for a new wave of high-tech younger to middle-age crowd. How is that working for tournaments and what will it mean in five years?
“Let’s talk LiveScope because that’s what this conversation is about. As a tournament trail we’ve allowed this to happen and we can’t take it back. To ban it won’t bring the old anglers back. ACT wants to maintain a professional level and at this time that means including Livesope, and I don’t see that changing.
“Fishermen have come from dropping a weight on a string, to sonar and flasher, to color, to side imagery and now Livescope. We’re learning much more because we can see fish and how they react. My personal opinion is that over time, hunting fish down will change the way fish act and bite, and we are already seeing it. I hope and believe fish will get use to this style of fishing and nature will find a way to protect them.
“For tournaments, smaller bodies of water like Grenada, D’arbonne and Sardis make it easier to find big fish. Tournaments will always be at traditional great waters, but the future may be at large lakes where finding the bigger fish will be more difficult even with the new technology. A huge body of water might help even the field and add some new challenges.
“I love the interaction with the fishermen and listening to their stories about fishing and the outdoors.”
“ACT is doing good but I’m not sure about crappie tournaments five years from now. A 13-foot pole, weight and hair jig means fishermen are not buying multiple poles, baits and they are buying fewer accessories. The sponsors will determine the future because as we buy fewer crappie products the sponsors make less money and probably reduce funding to our tournaments. I hope that doesn’t happen but I certainly don’t like where LiveScope is taking us. That’s not being negative, it’s just the truth.”
What do you love and not love about your job?
“I love the interaction with the fishermen and listening to their stories about fishing and the outdoors. I don’t like the drama and people creating problems where none exist. I don’t like those who drag down other people and our sport.”
Do you fish? What’s your favorite lake?
“I try to fish twice a week. Lake of the Ozarks is my home water and I really like it because I know how to catch fish there. We don’t have big fish but we have huge numbers that allow us to catch a limit almost every day. But like everyone else, I do love Grenada when I get to fish it.”
Highlights or memories?
“I fished the FLW tour professionally in 2000 to 2002. I didn’t do very well but it was an experience of a lifetime I’ll always remember. I also fished Crappie Masters a few years and enjoyed it.”
“Someone fishing on top of me or moving in front of me the direction I’m fishing.”
“I love working on old cars. I’m rebuilding a 1957 truck right now and I’ve got two VW’s.
American and fishing heroes?
“Harry S. Truman and Guido Hibdon.”
“Trail mix. I don’t have superstitions but I do have a rule in the boat that nobody eats until we have a limit of crappie.”
Something most people don’t know about you?
“I’m horrible at directions. I can get lost anywhere and on any lake, even my own lake.”
How would you like to be remembered?
“As someone whose interest was to grow the sport and the outdoors. Respected as one who always did what I said I would do.”
(Tim Huffman has specialized in crappie fishing writing and photography since 1988. He is currently the Editor/Senior Writer for Crappie Masters Magazine, freelance contributor to four magazines, book author and Senior Writer for CrappieNOW Digital Magazine.)