As New Berlin, Wisconsin angler William “Bill” Schultz looks back over his life and athletic career, he doesn’t always focus on the victories themselves. Instead, he tends to remember the individual goals that led to those victories. “The process of setting goals and then putting in the effort to achieve them is what makes winning possible. This is how I approached my swimming career at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as my almost 50-year career in the sport of racquetball,” says the 2008 inductee to Wisconsin Racquetball Hall of Fame. “It was all those swimming practices and thousands of hours on the racquetball court that led to my improvement and, ultimately, the success I enjoyed in competition.”
Like many other anglers, Schultz fished throughout his youth, but then life got busy and he drifted away for a bit. “The bug bit me again in 1991, and after buying my first boat during the winter of 1992 I was ready to go,” recalls Schultz, who quickly found a passion for smallmouth bass. “Keeping a simple fishing log seemed normal to me. Did I have any idea when I logged my first smallie catch and release in 1994 that it would lead to 25,000 entries 27 years later?” Schultz says the answer is a big no, but it’s looking like the milestone is happening, likely this season.
“Once I got that bug to catch and release all those thousands of smallmouth bass, I’d have to say the adventure of the pursuit really became an enjoyable passion,” he shares. “I began wading small Wisconsin Rivers, enjoying the solitude and amazing scenery, along with using my boat to fish various lakes and larger rivers across Wisconsin, all the while logging my smallmouth catches.” It was about 15 or so years ago that Schultz began setting the goal to catch and release 1,000 smallies each season. “I missed the goal some years, but the pursuit of the goal became my passion and was always exciting.”
A St. Croix pro-staffer, Schultz has had a relationship with the Park falls, Wisconsin-based rod crafters and has been fishing with the Best Rods on Earth® for 24 years now. “It’s been really rewarding to be involved with an American company that’s done so much for anglers over the years,” says Schultz, who has been involved with many of the company’s rod introductions, but has never been as excited as he was by this year’s Victory Series launch.
“These rods are really special because they bring American-crafted, technique-specific, high-performance fishing to any bass angler. I really enjoyed reading all the personal Voice of Victory stories other anglers were sharing, and I began thinking about the pursuit of my own angling passions,” Schultz says. “Shortly thereafter, I saw an email where Jesse Simpkins, St. Croix’s Director of Marketing, said, ‘the real victory is the pursuits of passion, the idea of setting a goal and the journey to get there,’ and that’s when I realized there’s probably some anglers out there who would enjoy hearing about my story.
“All my bass have come on a relatively few great presentations,” continues Schultz, who primarily employs finesse techniques with 6’9” to 7’ medium-light and medium power rods with extra-fast actions like those found in St. Croix’s Avid X, Legend X and Mojo Bass series. “Right now, much of my fishing is being done on the big water of Sturgeon Bay, Green Bay and Lake Michigan. I am either using the Ned Rig with Z-Man ElaZtec finesse plastics, swimming a Kalin’s Lunker grub or Keitech FAT Swing, or using a Right Bite 2.5″ Tube. These rods work great for any of these presentations,” advises Schultz, who most often matches them with 2000- or 2500-size spinning reels spooled with ten-pound Daiwa J-Braid 8X in Chartreuse with a 3.5 to 4.5 foot section of ten-pound fluorocarbon leader attached with a double uni knot.
“Swimming a Kalin’s Lunker Grub in the 4″ and 5″ versions has been a winner for me going back to 2007,” Schultz reports. “A variety of colors can work, but by far my best is the 4″ Smoke Salt and Pepper. The Keitech FAT Swing is similar. I like the 3.3 and 2.8, but occasionally use the 3.8. My best colors have been Shad, Black Shad, Goby, Alewife and Electric Shad. Thread both onto a longer shank mushroom head jig, then cast it and swim bit back as steady and slowly as you can. If you tick the bottom, speed up a little. I’m mostly using black and unpainted jigs for these two presentations.”
Schultz says there’s a reason why tubes remain so popular with smallmouth anglers. “They work! I use them mostly in deeper water in Sturgeon Bay, as there is quite a bit of scum on all the rocks up to about 15 feet of water. The Right Bite Baits 2.5″ tube is my favorite, and their prices are good. A variety of colors work, but I’ve had the best results with Amber Purple, Amber Red Pepper, Irish Whiskey, Squash, and Green Pumpkin with various colors of flecks.”
Schultz says it’s likely that smallmouth bass number 25,000 will likely come on one of the new Victory rods. “Every one of those beautiful bronzebacks have come on a St. Croix rod,” Schultz says with pride. “Sitting here in mid-April, I’m just a few weeks away from having my first chance to fish with the new Victory, and based on all I’ve heard, the excitement is warranted.” Schultz says he’s looking forward to fishing the VTS610MLXF, as well as the VTS73MXF, as those two spinning models best match his style of fishing.
“This journey has been so much fun,” says Schultz, whose simple passion for chasing smallmouth bass has grown into speaking at over 100 sports shows and fishing clubs, writing dozens of articles, and communicating regularly with thousands of other smallmouth enthusiasts on social media. “I even have my own event that has sold out each of the last ten years called Smallie Night Out. Even among smallmouth bass anglers, everyone has their own passions and interests, and I place a high value on being a part of the smallmouth-angling community.”
For athlete-turned-angler Bill Schultz, his primary rewards have always come from the journey and the experiences, not just in the actual victories. But stay tuned; because it looks like victory in the form of a landmark catch of his 25,000th smallmouth bass is eminent later this season. If and when it happens, it’ll be a win worthy of recognition, and we’ll be celebrating right along with him.