- 64-year-old Polar Kraft Jon Boat looks and works even better now than it did in 1957!
- Memories are one key to future fishing fun, make them with your family
- Humble Pat Richardson has won 43 fishing tournaments, his story follows
By David Gray
One thing can be said about the sport of fishing, it doesn’t take long for extraordinary memories to start. Pat Richardson, a fisherman from Louisiana, will be a young 80 years of age in April this year. Like many of us that enjoy a passion for fishing, he remembers his early start with squirming fish from a very young age. His introduction to fishing came at age 5 when he participated in an annual family tradition. Pat’s Dad fished, but it was his Mom who really got him started as a fisherman. “Mom liked to fish, and she always used a cane pole.” Every Good Friday, the family would gather at the Bayou with cane poles, lines, hooks, and worms. The fishing fun started upon arrival, and after catching enough Bream, everyone headed for the traditional family fish fry. Delicious.
While Pat has enough fond family fishing memories to fill volumes, he went ahead from those early years to make new ones. Pat used his cane pole to fish until he was 14, that’s when he got his first store-bought sport rod. It was a fly rod. When asked why not a casting rod? Pat said, “Back then, casting reels and glass casting rods cost more.” The fly rods and reels were in his price range. Pat noted that first fly rod is gone, but he still has that fly reel in the original box with a price tag that says $1.05. The whole rig, 8-foot rod, reel, line, and tippets went for $7.50. It was easy to catch Bream on the fly rod, but catching Bass on it was another thing.
It wasn’t long before some Fenwick casting rod blanks became available. A friend wrapped them up and Pat went in search of Bass with casting gear. The challenge, then, was that Bass were not as easy to catch as Bream. So Pat began paying attention when and why he caught them on some trips and not on others. With special consideration to details and conditions, he learned more. The more fishing logic he acquired, the more Bass he caught. Pat said, “Dad was a kind of fair weather fisherman, but when the bite was on, he liked to go, so I would take him.”
We were fishing in old wooden boats back then. You know the type—paddle some, bail some, fish some – the whole day.
One day Dad surprised us by saying, “You boys (3 brothers) love to fish, and I am going to buy you a good boat. They are making boats out of metal now, and we are going to get one.” Off they went to the Western Auto Store in Gonzales, La. Dad negotiated for a new 14-foot Polar Kraft Bateau, a 12Hp Wizard outboard, 2 life-preservers, and a paddle. All for $300 – the year was 1957. For those not blessed in the language of the Louisiana Bayou, a Bateau is a flat bottom Jon boat.
That Polar Kraft Bateau served them well. The boat helped Pat learn more about how to catch Bass. Pat got quite good at catching Bass, so he decided to try fishing tournaments. At first, they were “Fruit Jar” tournaments. All the anglers gathered at the launch ramp Friday evening and put $10 in the fruit jar. They launched, and the tournament weighed in at midnight. The winner got the jar.
Pat needed a boat upgrade to fish bigger tournaments so a bass boat with a 45hp outboard was purchased. The Polar Kraft Bateau was retired to the back of the backyard. Pat won 43 open tournaments in the next 8-year period. Pat also joined a Bass Club and took first in 11 tournaments and second or third in 7. Pat said, “At one of those tournaments, I took first place, big Bass for the tournament and big Bass for the year. Then the club switched all their tournaments to Sunday. I never fish on Sunday, and the club knew that, so I guess it was a polite way to ask me to look for another club. I got my son, Patrick Wayne, fishing and at 14 he fished his first tournament with me. I like fishing tournaments, but it was never about the money. It was the competition and camaraderie that made it fun for me. Because it was fun, I kept entering open bass tournaments and did pretty well. Well enough that it caught the attention of some sponsors. My last tournament rig had a 225HP motor. Quite different from the 12 HP Wizard on the Bateau from which I learned so much about Bass fishing.
One day I got to thinking about the Bateau. We had caught thousands of fish, literally tons and tons of fish out of the Bateau. Bream, Gar, Bass, and when not fishing, we used it for pleasure cruising. The Bateau was a family heirloom, a part of our family, and I thought about it lying in the backyard with junk piled all over it. So in 2019, I decided to pull this 60-year-old Polar Kraft out of the pile and see what shape it was in.
I took it to the welding shop and was sure it needed a new wood transom board. I asked them to check the entire hull and fix everything and anything needed to get it back in the water.
When I went to pick it up, the shop said, “This was a well-built boat. We only had to replace 3 rivets and tightened 6 others.” That was all it needed. The 60-year-old Polar Kraft Bateau was ready to fish.
But Pat decided that was not enough. He would totally upgrade up. “I decided I wanted to convert to bass boat style and dedicate it to Dad, who took us to buy it. The family approved of the dedication idea to Dad. We added fishing decks, Bass Boat seats, a new 20Hp Merc 4-stroke electric start, Xi3 trolling motor, bilge pump, and a Lowrance sonar with map. My Dad’s name was Clyde, he died in 1976, so we all agreed to name the boat after him and to honor his US Navy military service. So we added Mr. Clyde and Pacific Theater 1944 and 1945 to the new paint scheme.
This 63-year-old Polar Kraft Bateau is not only seaworthy, but it was ready to help us catch thousands and thousands more fish. I added a hoop hand-rail to help me get in and out of the boat, at my age, when I’m at the dock.”
Pat added, “It is those fond old memories of family tradition and fishing competition that helps me share that love for squirming fish and free fun on the water with family and friends, and others. Remember this, if you don’t have family, you don’t have anything.”
Author Note: Special thanks to Kristen Monroe for details and interviews noted in this story.