Fox more clever than fish
June 3, 2008
BELTON, Texas - The sun hasn't even risen above the horizon, yet there is a quiet flurry of activity down by the shore of Stillhouse Lake in Belton, Texas.
The Fox's prey is quieter than he is, aside from a periodic breach of the water's surface; a mere taunt - a challenge even.
But this Fox has been at his craft a long time and is already orchestrating the demise of his quarry. Unfortunately for the fish, this fox is a different breed than the average four-legged creature - he's a Soldier from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.
Proctorville, Ohio, native Chief Warrant Officer 4 Carl Fox, an AH-64D Apache attack helicopter senior instructor pilot for Company B, 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div., has been fishing his entire life and it has recently paid off in dividends - for him and the Army.
Growing up in a small farming community in southern Ohio, outdoor activities were a mainstay in keeping oneself entertained. It was also a family affair, said Fox.
"I went out with my dad and my brothers when we were younger," he said while he began baiting his hook out in the middle of the lake.
"I've been fishing all my life, since I was a kid. Back on the farm we used to fish the creeks and the Ohio River," he said.
He added that he didn't ever fish from a boat worth $55,000 when he was a kid either.
No, he didn't pay for the boat and, yes, fishing has been good to Fox. He may have started off small, but now he's on to bigger and better things.
"I didn't start competitive fishing until I got to Fort Hood," said Fox.
It started out with a local club that had competitions, but the winnings were only points and bragging rights, he said.
Still, he won the first club tournament he entered, said Fox.
"Now I've kind of moved on and am doing larger tournaments which pay money," he said.
After he returned from his second deployment, his wife of 10 years, Amy, paid his entry fees into some large fishing tournaments as a Christmas gift, he said.
On his second tournament with the Forest L. Wood Stren Series, he won his pricey, state-of-the-art bass fishing boat and about $60,000 in cash, he said.
"I fish the FLW Stren Series ... and right now I'm ranked twentieth on the co-angler side in the Texas division," Fox said.
Fox has one more tournament to do well in and he could be on his way to winning the FLW Stren Series Championship - a high honor as it automatically puts him through to the Forest L. Wood Cup where the first place angler nets a cool one million dollars, he said.
That is a ways off and he is concentrating on the next step which is a tournament in Missouri, said Fox.
When Fox pulls up to the lake to put his boat in the water - it's easy to tell it's him. He doesn't run around yelling "I'm the best fisherman in the world" nor does he wear sequins.
It's because his truck is a rolling billboard for the Army and his boat is a bright yellow floating Army commercial.
Both his truck and boat are wrapped with a panorama of silhouetted Soldiers, gold stars, an Apache helicopter and the Army's logo, "Army Strong," in big, bold lettering.
Many quickly assume that he is sponsored by the Army, but not so, he said.
"I'm not sponsored by the Army, but I represent the Army," he said. "I try to turn my competitive fishing events into recruiting events as well by making sure that the recruiting stations in the areas where I'm competing know that I'll be there."
He's represented the Army at NASCAR races, rodeos, bass pro-shop demos and much more, he said.
Fox also attends Army events like the Army All-American Bowl, a highly recognized high school football event, which was held in January in San Antonio, he said.
"Anything the Army is involved in I try to go to and help out," Fox said.
His work as a professional fisherman and ad hoc recruiter has given back to the Army.
"I know for sure that I've actually recruited a couple of people into the flight program already," he said.
The flight program was how Fox got into the Army and into the cockpit of an Apache, he said.
Actually, flying is the only thing he loves more than fishing, said Fox.
"Flying is my first love. I will always fly; even when I retire from the military, but I'll probably stay in the military until they kick me out," he said with a laugh.
What goes without saying is that he loves his family more than both flying and fishing combined, but it can be difficult to juggle work, play and family, he said.
Sometimes he will fly at night, get off work and go fishing for a couple of hours while his family is at home asleep. That way they aren't missing any time with him, said Fox.
"I try to minimize the affect that fishing has on my family as much as possible. So far I've been pretty successful at that," he said.
But, not to his dismay, his fishing has affected his family. His six-year-old daughter, Sydney, has already attended her first fishing tournament. She won first place, Fox proudly proclaimed.
"Now she wants to travel with me to the big tournaments because she thinks she's ready," Fox said smiling.
Fox also has a son, Carl, almost two years old who is a handful, but isn't quite fishing in tournaments ... yet.
As his children start to learn his craft, he knows that they'll learn values which were handed down from his father and which he believes most fishermen obtain, he said.
Not only does he teach his children, but he is involved in the local community.
"(My fishing club) works with kids in the high schools and gets them introduced to the outdoors, the environment and how to take care of their natural resources," he said.
To Fox, fishing is more than just bringing in that next big fish, it's about conservation and education, he said.
"You always want to try to leave nature better than you found it; and fishermen are really good about that because we use the resource," he said.
When Fox catches that eight pound largemouth bass, he doesn't kill it, gut it then send it to the fryer or have it mounted.
Instead he releases it back into the wild where it can continue to grow and reproducing. This type of fishing is called "catch and release," he said.
It's a competition between fish and man, but a respectful competition.
That fish will live to be caught another day by someone else or maybe even by Fox - he plans to be fishing for a long time, said Fox.
"My dad comes down from Ohio at least once a year, if not two or three times a year, to fish with me along with my brothers. It's something that we'll do until we're both too old to do it anymore," he said.
Fishing is also his way of relieving stress and tension, he said.
Fox has a rule that he never talks about work while fishing and he never answers the phone unless it's his wife - and even she knows only to call in an emergency, said Fox.
For Fox, fishing is a money maker, a recruiting tool, a conservation education, a stress reliever and, on top of all that, it's fun.
Let's not forget that he's an Apache helicopter pilot by trade who protects ground forces in intense battles and dire situations.
No wonder the fish don't have a chance against the Fox.