June 18, 2014 by David A. Brown
It's a friendship formed from a common passion, a bond built by mutual respect.
Walmart FLW Tour pros Randy Haynes and Mark Rose - two of the nation's top ledge fishermen - are not lifelong buddies. They met about seven years ago during Rose's victory at the FLW Series event on Pickwick Lake. However, the close relationship they've established since then is solid and a bit incongruous in a sport where individual accomplishment is paramount and friendly rivalries predominate.
What got the ball rolling? Haynes sort of downplays the answer, but if you know this salt-of-the-earth straight-shooter, you can detect the sincerity in his words that bespeaks a deep regard for his pal and genuine appreciation for a kindred spirit.
"I've always kind of kept this stuff to myself," Haynes drawls. "I don't know why I warmed up to Mark; that's just how it worked out."
Rose is a little more forthcoming: "It's fun having someone who has as much passion for something as you do. I share stuff with him; he shares stuff with me. It's a good relationship."
That's how it is. The ledge scene can be one of the most competitive, temper-testing deals in fishingdom. Secret spots typically stay that way, at least until the first day of the tournament rolls around. Otherwise, loose lips will guarantee a scrum of boats precisely where you don't want one.
Yet Haynes trusts Rose with such information, and vice versa.
"There aren't many people who I share 100 percent of offshore fishing with, but Randy's one of them," Rose says.
Case in point: Haynes and Rose roomed together at the recent Rayovac FLW Series event on Kentucky Lake and finished first and third, respectively. The evening conversations in which they compared notes no doubt helped each of them.
Growing up near Pickwick Lake, Haynes latched onto the offshore approach early in his career. Intrigued by the same bunch of "old-timers" who consistently hauled monster sacks from this Tennessee River powerhouse, he knew he needed to learn their game.
For him, ledge proficiency meant a couple of key things: first, understanding when and how big fish utilize certain areas of the ledge; second, developing an intuition for bait selection that enables him to stretch a good bite. Both he learned the old-fashioned way - time on the water.
For Rose, it was one of those next-level things. After eight years as a pro angler, he was making a decent living, but yearning for more - something to ignite the kind of career that he had dreamed about even before he got started.
Seeking to complement what he felt were above-average shallow-water skills, and inspired by the maverick offshore success of one of the original ledgemeisters, David Fritts, Rose immersed himself in ledge studies. Anyone can go down a bank and pick up fish here and there, he felt, but Rose wanted to master a skill that, though extremely difficult to learn, would add another strong dimension to his game.
"There's more to it than just learning what fish look like on a graph - it's understanding what you're looking at," Rose observes. "I never want to say that I know it all, but I've been a student of that game.
"I'm in a comfortable spot - offshore fishing revived my career," he adds. "I now have a passion. I can go out and idle ledges all day long and scout. It's like hunting. Part of successful hunting is going out and patterning a big buck."
Rose doesn't hesitate to credit his pal Haynes for helping him refine his ledge game. But in fairness, the notion that Haynes taught Rose all that he knows simply isn't accurate.
Rose had not yet met Haynes when he won his first ledge-oriented tournament (that Pickwick event). So, it wasn't so much that Haynes "trained" him; it was more of a refinement: graduate school, if you will.
"I became good friends with Randy after I developed a passion for offshore fishing," Rose adds. "We started fishing together and really feeding off one another."
Haynes recalls that he was impressed at how quickly Rose would grasp any piece of insight he provided.
"I understood where the fish set up and the times they use certain things," he says. "I knew what time fish would pull up on certain holes. I showed him these things, and he ran with it. It was a pretty neat deal."
As Rose adds: "Randy helped me understand that there's a bank out there offshore. I was used to looking with my visible eyes. He helped me understand structure - the contour of a lake. It's what we don't see with our eyes. He helped me understand how fish move in the offshore realm. Once I understood that there's a bank offshore, then it became a matter of having the confidence to rely on electronics.
"It's like a pilot having to fly at night or in a storm. Now I can't fish without my electronics. I can't go bream fishing without a depth finder."
Traversing the Two-Way Street
As with all good relationships, these guys have mastered the give-and-take.
Haynes, who won the 2013 Tour event on Lake Eufaula, notes that while he's very confident with his offshore game, going shallow on some Walmart FLW Tour lakes is like a strange new world for him. That's where Rose never hesitates to reciprocate with advice that will help Haynes deal with a shallow bite.
"It's an honor to have helped Mark's career, but at the same time, I'm learning stuff from him too," Haynes says. "I feel comfortable fishing offshore, but I'm trying to back up now and learn some other things like the shallow stuff - how to flip, for instance.
"Mark's still holding my hand right now - I'm not afraid to say it," Haynes adds. "He gives me confidence to help me get by on lakes where I haven't got a clue. Without him I wouldn't be able to fish the Tour."
Rose acknowledges his impact on Hayne's shallow game, but thinks that his friend is being modest about his well-rounded skill set. Nevertheless, the lines of communication remain open.
"Anytime Randy has a question, I answer it with sincerity and honesty," Rose says. "He's taken it and applied it, and he's competing at a good level."
This mutually beneficial relationship includes a healthy dose of sportsmanship on the water.
"We respect one another's areas, and a lot of times, we rotate spots," Haynes says. "If he does better [in a tournament], he gives me a couple spots to help me to do better, and vice versa."
Friendship aside, both anglers have families to support, and careers to build. They help each other, but when they're on the water in a tournament, they fish to win.
"In a nutshell, I think we help make each other better because he's always wanting to beat me and I'm always wanting to beat him," says Rose. "But at the end, we're really good friends. We're good friends before we're competitors, and nothing's going to get in the way of that. We've worked really hard at that, and no matter what we're going to keep our friendship intact before we let the fishing get in the way of that."
So, it's not so much a mentorship, but a complementary friendship - often spurred by two competitive personalities.
"Tiger Woods needs Phil Mickelson, and Phil Mickelson needs Tiger Woods; Lebron James needs Koby Bryant and vice versa," Rose says. "When it comes to ledge fishing, knowing that I have to beat Randy means that I have to work hard at it."
With the final Tour event on Kentucky Lake, the scene is set for Haynes and Rose to finish the season in their preferred scenario. Haynes says he's looking forward to competing against his friend, and he's confident they'll both have plenty of good spots to fish.
"Kentucky Lake is such a big body of water; people move around, and fish move around," Haynes says. "I feel good about us both doing well here because we'll be able to move around and find fish without being on top of each other."
For Rose, there's no need to even consider anything but the obvious.
"I can guarantee you one thing, I won't have a flipping stick on my boat," he notes. "I know what I'll be doing. The goal is to find as many schools as we can and figure out which one has the biggest fish in it."