He's known as Captain Scooby, and it's an apt name for a man whose successful marriage of manufacturing prowess and fishing talent has him landing bass and business in ways that are certain to make him an enigma to many.
It's not surprising that Steve Stubbe catches big fish on Toledo Bend; the lake is full of massive ones. His setup is just a little bit different though in that he's landing monster bass with what would not typically be the equipment of choice: a fly rod.
"I design my own fly rods," Stubbe said. "Fly rods come in four pieces, so you can get them on airplanes. The problem with a four-piece rod is when you are up here for big bass, he hits four or ten feet from the boat, you don't have enough room for that fly rod to come up, set the hook ... that fly rod is going to break."
That breakage can be expensive. Stubbe, who also runs a guide service, has some of the traditional four-piece high end rods that can easily be broken by bass. A single rod and reel is $1,600.
Stubbe's rods are manufactured in one piece. He takes a 12 foot rod and cuts it down to where it will get a nice parabolic bend when a fish bites, but won't break.
Stubbe is well-trained in creating his own gear. Stubbe learned from the best.
"My dear friend and mentor Bill Gray lived in the Mid-Lake area, he had been handcrafting lures for 80-years when he passed away," Stubbe said.
Many examples of the highly detailed works of art created using wood and metal are on display in Stubbe's home.
"Bill and I spent countless hours on the water, in the weeds and treetops testing the lures," he explained.
Gray was a perfectionist with his craft, and each lure was tested to check the cast for ease and balance. Did it hop across the brush, or skip across the water? The lures were individually designed to work in specific terrain, and hand painted before being coated with epoxy.
"He was not just inspired by fishing, but by nature especially the lake and all the wildlife. That is really what inspired me," Stubbe said.
Stubbe and Gray spent weekends venturing out on the waters, coves, and tributaries testing the lures, and finding hidden treasures throughout Toledo Bend for almost three decades.
"There really is some magnificent wildlife very few folks get to see because it's just plain inaccessible, some areas are completely blocked by stumps, trees, and other vegetation. Those locations also tend to have a very shallow passage way," he said.
Stubbe explained that boaters and fisherman alike most often avoid those locations. Not so for Captain Scooby. His specially-designed boat allows him to maneuver the shallow waters of Toledo Bend and when he floated a Daily News reporter beneath a stand of cypress tress in order to reach big bass, he was unworried about something many would be: snakes falling from trees.
"We have grabbers," Scoobey said non-chalantly.
To show how rare fly fisherman on Toledo Bend are, one needs to only look at the record books. The record bass caught with a fly rod is 2.02 pounds. The record on a regular rod and reel? 15.32 pounds.
State record books show 26 different species for the rod and reel category, but only four for fly fishing. The lake record for a channel cat caught on a fly rod on Toledo Bend is .58 pounds.
Stubbe said he's already catching bass greater than five pounds on the rods, and when Daily News went out with him we caught the limit of fish, a couple that may have even challenged the record book. Stubbe's waiting for a real whopper before he takes a fish to be certified by the state.
Stubbe's is not only landing massive bass on fly rods on Toledo Bend, he's also got plans to build a manufacturing facility for them in Sabine County and have classes to teach others use them. It's taken more than two years for Stubbe to get the right rod length and design, but he thinks he has hit the sweet spot.
Land is being cleared in Midlake for Stubbe's facility and teaching venue.
"That's what I love," Stubbe said of teaching folks to chase big bass with a fly rod. "It's never been done before." The excitement in his voice is contagious.
On the banks of Toledo Bend, Stubbe walked a Daily News reporter through the set up... a 20 pound line leads to a section of 10 pound which leads to another smaller section, which leads to a teensy tiny tippet baited with a fly. The tiny tippet allows for graceful maneuvering of the fly: if you know how.
The style definitely requires a lesson for those who aren't studied. You can't just raise your rod to set your hook. Instead, there are different types of casts and movements to perfect. Stubbe showed us a handful in an afternoon, gracefully flicking and deftly swishing the rod in what appeared to be an effortless dance to cajole some whoppers from below the murky depths.
Then there's the question of what fly do you throw? How do you tie a fly? What kind of flies do bass and crappie and perch like?
Stubbe has a box of several fuzzy, bright lures.
"These are all homemade flies," Stubbe said.
He couldn't say which fly would catch the record Toledo Bend bass.
"I don't tell them, they tell me," he said.
Stubbe's fly of choice on a recent afternoon was a bait that mimics a frog.
He paused a moment.
"I hear a bass behind me," Stubbe said. He pivoted around and throwed in the direction of a noise that was beyond the untrained ears of a reporter who heard only silence.
"Fisherman's ear," Stubbe said.
Within 10 seconds of hearing the bass he had cast the line in a completely opposite direction and was on a fish.
"How easy was that?" Stubbe said of the maneuverability.
If it seems a little daunting, don't worry. In addition to manufacturing the rods, Stubbe plans to have classes for high school students and adult learners. He wants to bring in experts that teach casting and fly-tying.
He also guides fly fishing and nature trips under the name Mud Fish Adventures.
"It’s not just a fishing trip, it’s the adventure," Stubbe's website reads. "Every day is different and nothing is routine."
Those wishing to go on a mysterious ride with Captain Scooby can call
1-844-MUD-FISH or visit http://mudfishadventures.com/.
published July 5, 2019