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Have fishing pole, will travel: Moore angler knows all the honey holes

Bill Tharp shows off four bass caught in March of last year all in the same week at different locations. (Top left) A bass from a watershed in Wewoka. (Top right) A bass from a pond at Seminole State College. (Bottom left) A bass from Lake Helen in Lawton. (Bottom right) A bass from Shannon Springs Park in Chickasha. All were between 5 to 7 pounds. [PHOTOS PROVIDED]
Bill Tharp shows off four bass caught in March of last year all in the same week at different locations. (Top left) A bass from a watershed in Wewoka. (Top right) A bass from a pond at Seminole State College. (Bottom left) A bass from Lake Helen in Lawton. (Bottom right) A bass from Shannon Springs Park in Chickasha. All were between 5 to 7 pounds. [PHOTOS PROVIDED]

Bill Tharp probably knows more good fishing holes than anybody in Oklahoma.

That's not news to anyone who follows the 65-year-old Moore angler on social media. Tharp has posted photos of big bass he has caught from small lakes and ponds all over the state.

Just last week, Tharp shared photos of bass caught in Oklahoma City, Norman, Lawton and Durant. That seems to be a pretty typical week for Tharp, judging from his Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Although we have never met in person, I have been friends with Tharp on Facebook for a couple of years. On Wednesday, after he posted another photo of a big bass and crappie he had caught near Durant, I decided I needed to hear this guy's story. Nobody has that many friends and relatives with good fishing spots.

So I messaged Tharp on Facebook and asked him to call me on Wednesday, and he promptly did. He was driving back from Durant where he had landed several bass and a big crappie at some local ponds.

Tharp explained that he is a self-employed non-emergency medical transporter. He has two wheelchair-equipped vans and picks up Medicaid patients at their homes or nursing care facilities across the state and drives them to and from their medical appointments. During the wait, Tharp will go fishing at a nearby lake or pond.

"Wherever I am at, that's where I fish," Tharp said. "Sometimes I only have 15 minutes to fish. Other times, I have three or four hours."

As a result, Tharp has discovered hundreds of small lakes and ponds in Oklahoma and caught thousands of fish over the years. He finds the fishing spots by various means. Sometimes he will get on Google Maps, find out what public lakes or ponds are nearby, and start exploring.

Sometimes he will go to the local Walmart and ask for tips from employees in the sporting goods department. One time, a couple of teenagers overheard his inquiries and invited him to tag along with them to a local honey hole.

Other times, he will call the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's fishing biologist and ask for a suggestion. Sometimes the patient he is transporting might know a good pond nearby, like the one behind the Marietta hospital.

"I walked back there and caught 15 bass," Tharp said.

Sometimes he finds fishing locations just by chance, like a pond near Seminole. Ahead of schedule to pick up a patient from the nursing home one day, Tharp stopped to fish at a pond where he had seen others casting a line on previous trips.

"I just pulled off the side of the road, grabbed my rod with the square-bill crankbait and I caught six bass. And I bet the best one was a 6½-pounder," he said. "I was standing on the shoulder of the road casting into this little pond catching lunker bass."

Tharp fishes at locations that most bass anglers drive by heading to a major lake.

"I caught a bass more than 5 pounds out of the pond in Chickasha where they do the Christmas lights," Tharp said.

These are not just fish stories. Tharp has the photos to prove it. Eric Faucett of Norman, who fishes on the FLW Toyota Series, became friends with Tharp through social media. He nicknamed Tharp "The Land Hammer" because he catches so many fish from the bank.

"Any time of year, any day, he can catch them," Faucett said. "I fish all kinds of lakes and stuff, but if I needed a pond to fish, he would be the first person I would call. I guarantee he would win a tournament against land fishermen any day of the week."

Ask Tharp where he has fished in Oklahoma, and the list is practically endless. He has caught bass on small state lakes and ponds across the state that most of us have never heard of. Frequently, he will fish the "Close to Home" waters in the Oklahoma City area, such as Kitchen Lake where he posted a photo of a nice bass on Thursday.

Tharp now has fishing holes he regularly visits on his travels, but he is still finding new places to practice his brand of CPR: catch, photograph and release.

Some of his friends have suggested he write a book, but Tharp is reluctant.

"I don't want everybody to know where I go," he said.

Ed Godfrey

Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more... Read more ›

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