Buzz Ramsey Interview - A Life of Fishing, Retires at 70
He's been a fixture of Salmon & Steelhead fishing, a most-recognizable hat and a helpful and informative resource. Buzz Ramsey, age 70, has retired from his full-
time duties in the fishing world, but something tells me, Buzz won't be staying any way from fishing anytime soon.
Quotes from Friends & Associates of Buzz Ramsey:
"Buzz Ramsey, through his fishing creativity, has influenced more cold-water anglers in America than any other angler, in my estimation."
- Frank Amato
"I've personally been good friends with Buzz Ramsey over 40 years. I First met him in probably 1980 and have been riends with him ever since. I've been inspired by his innovation. I've always admired his representation in fish politics and the manufacturer of fishing goods."
- Jack Glass (Team Hookup Guided Fishing)
"For me, I watched Buzz my entire life, through paper or on film. A lot of times people say never to meet your idol because you'll be disappointed, but Buzz exceeded every expectation. I don't know how to explain how much he's taught me and elevated my career. I'm in debt to that guy for ever. My gratitude to him and everything he's done for fishing you just can't put a price on. My favorite part of my morning at Yakima Bait on every Tuesday, was when Buzz would poke his head in the door and say 'love you buddy.' The human, the man that most people don't get the chance to know, it's been great to see what makes Buzz tick. He deserves everything he's ever got and he's worked hard for it."
- Jarod Higginbotham (Yakima Bait Company)
"Buzz was an idol as a kid and an angler I have respected for decades. I have been fortunate to get to know how over the last decade personally. Getting to know your childhood idol is a dream for every kid, and even as an adult. Yes he is a fantastic angler, innovator and person...but what most folks don't see unless you are in Buzz's inner circle, is how incredibly funny he can be with his witty humor."
- Cody Herman (Day One Outdoors)
I've been fortunate to meet Buzz Ramsey at a few sporting events, and have only a perspective of him from our brief encounters. Each time you could tell he's steadfast in his dedication to the art of catching salmon & steelhead. Not to mention, an affable guy.
After getting his phone number from Tony Amato here at Salmon Trout Steelheader, I gave him a call later in the evening, hoping to get a few questions in.
What follows is this brief interview.
Retirement: Hello Buzz! Fishing Plans for Retirement or the Near Future?
During the first 15 years or so of my career with Luhr Jensen, I spent a 4-6 weeks on the Oregon Coast chasing winter steelhead each and every year. What I did was host outdoor writers, editors, tackle industry leaders, buyers, jobber salesman and retail owners and their employees. Oh, and was featured on many fishing shows too. That did a lot to promote steelhead fishing.
My first destination in 2021, considering the timing of the season, will be to chase steelhead on the North Oregon Coast. Uninterrupted steelhead fishing!
Buzz Ramsey has put on countless seminars about fishing for salmon, steelhead and trout.
What are the biggest impediments to recovery of salmon and steelhead stocks in the Columbia River?
While there are many things that affect salmon and steelhead abundance, like too many predators, the biggest impediment to recovering salmon, steelhead, sport fisheries and the many dependant businesses are the 4 Dams on the Lower Snake River. The deal is, to reach the last free-flowing stretch of the Snake River, salmon and steelhead must pass 8 dams - four on the Lower Columbia River and another four on the Lower Snake River.
When you look at the Columbia River watershed in total, half the salmon’s historic range is blocked by dams. Of the habitat that remains 70 percent is in Idaho, which adds up to 5,500 miles of rivers and spawning tributaries, of which about 1,200 miles of that habitat is in pristine condition.
You see, the most and the best habitat remaining in the Columbia River Basin is in Idaho. What stands in the way of recovering these fish is just too many dams. It's not that any single dam is bad; it's the cumulative effect of so many.
The dams that offer the least benefit to society and are responsible for the killing of too many fish to allow fishing are the four dams on the lower Snake River. The momentum around not letting these fish go extinct is the idea of having no losers. To recover salmon while making sure everyone is taken care of involves all whom might be affected working together. Congress needs to do their part if we are to recover salmon.
Subsidized freight can be had in ways other than with a barge, if we plan for it we can backfill the power generated from these four dams, and keep irrigators whole – after all, water for ranchers and farmers can be pumped from a free-flowing river.
I'm not willing to sit back and watch those fish go extinct.
If we were to remove those dams, every scientific study says that salmon and steelhead stocks would recover, and I believe quickly.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m supportive of most dams just not the salmon killers on the lower Snake River.
Working together with our neighbors and friends we can develop a plan that recovers salmon while ensuring there are only winners. It could and should be a jobs project bigger than the one that built these dams so many years ago.
It was February second of 1979 when then girl friend (now wife) Maggie Wilson caught this winter steelhead from Oregon's Kilches River
What are the newest techniques you've been testing/fishing?
I've been involved in a lot of lure projects during my tenure in the industry. When working for Luhr Jenson, I was responsible for the development of the newer Hot Shot sizes like the 35, 25, 40 and 60. My last lure project at Luhr Jenson was the K11X Kwikfish. Of course, at Yakima Bait, I've been involved in upgrades to all the FlatFish sizes to make them swim and fish better.
My most notable contribution in regards to plug design is the addition of the six new Mag Lip sizes and the total re-engineering of the Hawg Nose FlatFish. Although I did not design the original 4.5 Mag Lip size, I was in charge of making sure all the follow up sizes performed. This takes more effort than most anglers realize.
The goal during this process was to do everything possible to ensure that every lure would fish right out of the package. I’m thinking the extra effort I put in has helped many anglers enjoy better success than might have otherwise been possible.
Buzz remembers catching this Tiamen while filming an episode for Larry Schoenborn’s Fishing The West while in Russia back in 1989.
Any activities besides fishing & hunting in the near future?
I'm going to continue to write for Northwest Sportsman, and likely author a few other articles for magazines like Salmon Trout Steelhead. Some people have suggested I write a book, and I might play around with it, but not sure if I'd ever publish it – depends on its chances of actually selling in volume. I haven't had a lot of time to do this before now due to my job responsibilities.
What do you think about your career?
I feel that during my 30 years working for Luhr Jenson, I helped the company dominate the salmon and steelhead market. It wasn’t just me of course as it took a team of people to make it all happen.
The same can be said about Yakima Bait. While the company has produced many staple products like Rooster Tail, FlatFish and Spin-n’-Glo I helped expand their stable of fish-catching products. For me it was more than just adding products to the offering, it was helping anglers find success via my writing of tech reports, and know-how reports, magazine articles, seminars, and television show appearances.
Through it all my goal was to help anglers enjoy the sport and find success.
I worked at GI Joes in 1967-1968, and after completing high school got into a four year sheet metal apprenticeship program. After the completion of my apprentice training I worked as a journeyman for three years. During that last summer in the trade I was foreman of the swing shift where I managed 16 workers, I was 24 year old. All this was to support my fishing habit.
Then I got a chance to take a 50% pay cut to go work at a fishing tackle company in Hood River, and I jumped on it!
Looking back I owe a lot of my success to several factors, one was my unique name - as it contributed to anglers remembering me. Another aspect was having a trademark look: my cowboy hat. Of course providing quality fishing success photos to every magazine and newspaper out there didn’t hurt. Those attributes helped propel me to a different level than most.
Caught and released this fall Chinook from Oregon’s Wilson River in 1987. Pretty late for a fall Chinook, sometimes referred to as winter Chinook, but I hear anglers have caught them even later
End of interview:
And he certainly has. It was nice to speak with Buzz. It's fair to say without distraction now he can fish, catch and relax! I wouldn't be surprised to see him toying with some new fishing lure or idea in the future though...
- written by Lucas Holmgren