The first time I met Bob Russell was on a dock that extended over the Columbia River at Richland, Washington’s Howard Amon Park.
The night sky was beginning to show an orange cast, a prelude to the oncoming sunrise. I walked onto the dock to capture a morning image. Bob was fishing on the end of the dock. I approached.
“Beautiful morning,” I said.
“Every morning is beautiful,” he said.
“I’m surprised you’re fishing so early. I wouldn’t think the fish would see your bait.”
He looked at me and smiled. “You’re not a fisherman, are you?”
“No, sir, I’m not,” I admitted.
“I didn’t think so. Fish can actually see better at night.”
“I didn’t know that.”
That’s when Bob told me he was a two-time Washington State large-mouth bass world champion in 1998 and again in 2018. “That’s a twenty-year span,” he said.
“What happen in between?” I asked
Bob reeled in and cast again. “In 2013, I fell forty feet through scaffling. That was in Arizona where OCHA safety standards do not exist. It was a long haul after that. I had both knees replaced, my back fused, and my shoulders reconstructed. I learned I couldn’t fly. I just feel so fortunate I can still cast a line.”
Now Bob has a new goal: to become a world champion small-mouth bass fisherman. “I fish every morning from 5:30 to 7:30 a.m. and then again in the afternoon. I caught fifteen this morning, three over five pounds.”
“Why here?” I asked.
“I’ll tell you. Years ago, my father said, ‘Son, if you ever saw the Columbia River, you’d fall in love with her.’ He called the river ‘her’ as if she were a beautiful woman. I took him at his word. The Tri-Cities has been my home for the last six months.”
Over time, Bob has told me more of his story. In his lifetime (he is now sixty-three), he has been a carpenter, a scout master, a world champion softball third baseman, and the proud father of a daughter and two sons. And now, his eight-year-old grandson wants to learn from his grandpa how to become a champion bass fisherman too. In Bob Russell’s words, “I’m living the dream.”
I’m just honored he was willing to share a bit of his “dream story” with me.
ABOUT THE IMAGE: I wanted to capture the satisfaction of a man in love with his passion. He kindly accepted my request to photograph him with his beloved Columbia River as the backdrop.
You’ve got to love his beard.