A love of preaching and bass fishing
Sept. 7, 2001
They called the fishing place "the railroad pond." The young boy was 11 years old or so. His fishing rod was made of steel and his line was the black braided variety common in the days before monofilament. His lure was a red and white Hula Popper that had glass eyes. At the cast, the lure floated on the surface briefly before a bass exploded on the water, but barely missed the Hula Popper. "My knees were knocking and my ears were roaring," said Bill Webb. "And I have loved fishing ever since."
That bass, that Webb calls "My first fish that I didn't catch," made a lifelong impression, because today bass fishing is the man's favorite angling pursuit. "There's only one endeavor I like better than bass fishing and that is preaching," said the retired Baptist minister. After his retirement 5 years ago, Webb has served as interim pastor for 8 churches and he accepts invitations to preach revivals often. Yet in his first year of retirement, his log shows he caught 900 bass! He kept about 50 to eat. This has been a slower year and he has only logged a bit over 600 bass.
The episode with the Hula Popper took place near Union, Mississippi where Webb was raised and finished Union High School. His undergraduate work was done at Baylor University and then it was on to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He courted the lovely and supremely talented Senita Wilson, a girl he had grown up knowing in Union, and they were married following his first year at seminary. Today the couple lives in North Meridian.
Bass fishing was the preacher's primary outdoor recreation throughout most of his ministry. A special buddy, Arnold Baucum, was his partner on many trips. "We fished Kemper Lake twice a week," remembers Webb. "And that rascal would beat me nearly every time," he said of his dear friend. "We would fish in his rig once and then mine the next time." The only time the pair would cancel a trip was if it "was raining – hard."
Fishing was his recreation, but Webb could not ignore his love of quail hunting, and he bought a puppy in Owen County, Kentucky for $25. Baptists will appreciate the name he gave his dog Deacon. He chose the dog's name "so I could yell at my deacons," he reveals with a chuckle.
Webb taught the dog to retrieve by using a frozen quail as a training aid. The liver and white pointer never lost but one bird that hit the ground and that was a pheasant that got under a cutbank in a creek and probably went into a hole.
One day Deke pointed in tight quarters and the bird only had one hole in the cover through which it could fly. Webb made the shot, and Deke struggled through thick growth to retrieve. Webb called out to the dog, "Deke, he's over to your left!" Immediately the dog looked left and picked up the bird. Word got around that "the preacher's got a dog that can tell left from right!"
Senita joins her husband often on fishing excursions. Webb had crappie lairs located on Okatibbee Lake so that if the bass weren't biting, they could try for some "eating" fish for their camp breakfast. Even the crappie bite was slow and the morning got progressively hotter. Senita complained more than once about the heat, and Bill's reply was that they needed a couple more fish for breakfast.
Presently Bill was startled by a loud splash and looked to see that Senita had jumped overboard into the lake. Her explanation was that she wanted to cool off. But her action scared away the fish, thus ending the trip. It remains unclear which of these results was Senita's primary objective, but it is rumored that she can be innovative in making a point.
Webb's love of the outdoors extends to other pursuits, including deer hunting. He enjoyed years hunting with friends like James McElroy at his Big Mac Club. But the first outdoor love of this preacher, who has done mission work in the Phillipines, Zimbabwe, Russia and Mexico, is bass fishing. And though a small bass once flopped and imbedded a hook in his thumb that had to be removed at the hospital, and a recent trip with Butch Flanagan had to be aborted due to some lost keys, he chalks these setbacks up as minor inconveniences.
He was coaching a grandson who caught a small bass and wanted to keep the fish to show it to his mother. Webb counseled, "If we put the fish back we can catch him again. But if we eat him." The point was made and the youngster made the important decision.
Webb has referred to bass fishing as his "big game" fishing. He says, "If a bass is attacking your calves, he needs to be caught."