Touchdown bass

Editor's note: Anglers across the U.S. are buying fishing licenses in record numbers. Following is a story in our new series, Fishing America, representing a slice of American angling pursuits.

BRYANT, Ark. — Fishing on a cool, dark morning can be relaxing for anyone, especially a high school football coach.

"If you're going to be addicted to something, it might as well be fishing", said Paul Calley, the head coach at Bryant High School near Little Rock. "Fishing is my kind of therapy."

"I fish alone a lot," he said. "It has taught me how to have a peace of mind. With no phone, and no noise, it's hard to not fall in love with.

"A few weeks ago I was fishing and I lost track of time. All of a sudden I started to see a meteor shower about midnight, so I decided sit back and watch it. I rarely stay out late fishing on weeknights, because I don't know if I can be as good of a teacher the next day as opposed to getting some rest."

Calley's influence can be seen and heard on the field and in the locker room.

"It's great to be affecting the next generation," he said with a smile.

He also has the same ability on the water.

"I never take a fish home with me," he said. "I always catch and release, because I want to preserve nature for the next generation after me, like my son."

Calley uses tactics and logic, not to mention fiery passion, to catch fish.

"I like to fish creek channels, because if you can get your bait right where shallow meets deep water, the fish will eat you alive. If my television is ever on, you can bet that it is turned to something with fishing. I watch all of the tournaments and read Bassmaster (Magazine).

However, Calley's His love for fishing goes beyond the television shows and fishing magazines.

"Spring break fishing is my beach. I took my family to Florida for a week a few years ago," he said, "and when we got there, a hurricane hit. And I sure didn't want to spend my vacation in the hotel room, so I did what any avid fisherman would do. I went to Wal-Mart and bought some bait, tackle, and a poncho, and fished the ponds on our hotel's golf course."

After pausing for a laugh, he said, "Man I slayed them. I caught 15 fish over 4 pounds."

Paul had an uncanny ability to relate fishing back to football.

"You can have failure on the turf on Friday Night and you can have failure on Saturday morning. But it all depends on how you deal with it. Motor problems can kill a good fishing day, but you have to be prepared. You can be on the goal line about to score a touchdown, and the quarterback could throw an interception. It's the same concept on the water, because you can be reeling in a fish, wondering how much its going to weigh, and then let it get away at the last second."

The coach's passion was undeniable. One of his catch-phrases was appropriate, considering the situation. Right after he would catch a fish, he'd say, "Man that's a touchdown right there."