Armed to Fish: Ranger Goes High Tech
When Sgt. Maj. Jamey Caldwell isn’t busy with his job in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, he goes fishing.
He doesn’t just head off to the pond with a cane pole and a can of worms. Caldwell is a top tier sports fisherman, a bass angler aiming for a full-time pro career once his Army service is done.
He’s putting high tech training habits and skills he learned as a Ranger to use on the water, and he’s outfitted himself — and his bass boat — with space-age devices he uses to find the bass first.
On Thursday, he’ll be offering a free seminar at Bill Smith Ford, where they’ve cleared a showroom of cars just for the occasion.
There will be free food, lots of gear to check out, and expert high tech advice on hand from 5 to 9 p.m. on new ways to find and hook bass.
“The seminar I will give is titled ‘Bass Fishing Seasonal Patterns and Understanding Sonar,’” Caldwell said. “Topics covered will be current seasonal pattern for local bass — basic to advanced instruction on sonar — and include side and down imaging. I’ve got a projector with a PowerPoint and there’ll be a lot of me talking. I’m good at talking.”
He’s shown how there is science behind it that people can learn, along with a few tricks and skills.
“They can learn it, can go out there and catch fish,” he said. “I incorporate a lot of high-tech stuff into fishing, you know, with the satellite imagery and really get into the weeds on how sonar transducers and imaging stuff works. I think a lot of it came from the military, just my background and military training — how the military trained me to not learn how to use a piece of equipment, but all the ins and outs of it.”
Professional game fishers like Caldwell have sponsors just like stock car teams. Caldwell’s bass boat and pickup truck are both plastered with logos. His top sponsor currently is Armour, but there are many others large and small.
Caldwell gave his bass boat a military name: “Armed to Fish.” He approaches fishing missions with the same attention to detail as military ones.
Sport fishing is big business and getting bigger. Hundreds of thousands of dollars can be at stake in big tournaments. Caldwell has made a big investment especially in sonar tracking equipment. Every edge helps get him to the right place at the right time, and the right time means finding fish faster and bigger.
“All these fish-finders have auto settings,” Caldwell said. “If you take one right out of the box and turn it on, it’s going to do what you need it to do. But if you tune it — fine tune it — you can find those fish. You can find those little nuances. You can buy a good camera, but the guy that wins the Pulitzer Prize for his photo doesn’t use the auto settings. He knows how to work and do everything that camera can do to get the best picture.
“I am doing the same thing on my fish finders, getting the best picture that I can by looking at all the settings and getting the bait fish that are on this tree, see kind of the size of the fish and know ‘OK, I can target that fish.’ All that was ingrained in me in the military.”
When something fails, he needs to know how to troubleshoot it. Knowing his gear — whether for fighting or fishing — means knowing how to fix it, how to set it up and fine tune it.
Caldwell, his wife, Stacey, and 3-year-old daughter, Payton, have lived at their Pinetop home ever since he moved from the Ranger battalion in Florida to U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg. His father lives next door.
He’s doing the Bill Smith Ford event as a fundraiser to benefit a local no-kill animal shelter, the Moore Humane Society. He’d gone to the dealership to look at F250 trucks and found himself discussing a sponsorship deal and then planning this seminar.
“It’s free,” he said. “All you have to do is show up May 3 at 5 p.m. We are going to have hot dogs and hamburgers. We’ll be cooking free food. Beverages. I have a lot of stuff donated from my sponsors — a lot of fishing gear, hats, T-shirts, poles, fishing line. We will raffle some things, hand out a bunch of stuff. All the money we make, my wife and I are going to buy food and donate it to the shelter.”
Caldwell and his wife met in high school and he joined the Army after graduation.
“We moved down south and have been here ever since, and we love it,” he said as he changed a line and explained what he was doing. “That line was old for me. It was put on a month ago. I tend to change out my line as often as I can. If I am in a multi-day tournament there are particular techniques I’m using, and I’ll change out my line at the end of each day. If you eliminate any of the variables — weak line, or a nick in a line, un-sharp hook — if you can take all those out, you are just bettering your chances. The last thing you want to do is hook into that four- or five-pounder that you need and lose it because of a simple maintenance thing. A $2 hook could easily cost you $10,000 or $20,000.”
Caldwell fished one smaller tournament last Friday on Jordan Lake, and he’s setting up for a major B.A.S.S. Open in June.
Contact John Chappell at (910) 783-5841 or email@example.com.
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