It’s been 19 years this month when I first met Ted Takasaki. Since then, we’ve been one of the most prolific outdoor writing teams in North America. We’ve regularly appeared in Midwest Outdoors, Fishing Facts and a host of other top angling publications and web sites.
At the same time, Ted has gone on to become one of the leading fishing authorities in the nation.
Most of all, we’ve become the closest of friends. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing about fishing - the good people you meet and the friends you make along the way.
That’s why I asked him to allow me to write this article alone. He is the subject. Maybe you have heard the news already. He was named a Legendary Angler by the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame at Hayward, Wisconsin. Only 120 other anglers have achieved that distinction since the Hall opened in the early 1980s. Others include Al and Ron Lindner, Spence Petros, Bill Binkelman (who taught us the value of the lowly nightcrawler), Babe Winkelman, Jimmy Houston, Hank Parker, the late Tony Dean, and Bill Dance.
“I couldn’t be more honored and humbled to be a part of this prestigious group of anglers,” Ted told me while I interviewed him for this article.
Funny, isn’t it, how events you expect to be routine turn out to be life-changing? That certainly was true about a fishing trip I took in the early spring of 1992. I was just looking for stories for my fishing column in the Bloomington Pantagraph, where I worked. I phoned Bob “Kaz” Kaczkowski and his wife, Bev, who ran the Masters Walleye Circuit, which begins its season every year with a March event at Spring Valley on the Illinois River. I asked Kaz to hook me up with an MWC angler, preferably one from Illinois who could take me fishing on the river while I interviewed him. I remember Kaz said, “I know just the guy.”
The guy turned out to be Ted. He smiled that big trademark smile as we shook hands and he welcomed me aboard. He told me he grew up in a small town in Central Illinois. His brother used to deliver the Pantagraph newspaper. Then Ted laughed as he said he delivered the Kankakee newspaper because it came out in the afternoon and he didn’t like to get up too early. He told me how his father taught him to fish in farm ponds for bluegills and bass.
I grew up just a few miles away from the Illinois River, in Streator. My grandparents lived in Tonica, billed as “The Back Door to Starved Rock,” so I was around the river and its tributaries, like the Vermilion, all my life.
But, I’d never seen the river in the way Ted showed it to me that day.
Ted was just 34, a computer systems salesman with Hewlett Packard based in the Chicago area. His MWC fishing partner was John Campbell, who also worked for Hewlett Packard. They had been fishing together since they met at the University of Illinois.
They had decided to enter the MWC event on the Illinois River on a lark in 1989. They blanked. But, they were competitive and worked hard on the circuit