MOORE HAVEN — This book, Big Sam and the Big O, is about two American treasures.
Mostly it is about my friend, Sam Griffin, a legendary fishing guide and luremaker who was inducted into the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in 2019.
But by extension, it also is about Florida’s Lake Okeechobee, one of the nation’s premiere bass fisheries. Sailors talk about the sea being their mistress. For Big Sam Griffin, it is the Big O.
Sam was born and grew up on its waters. As an adult, he has spent thousands of hours there, field-testing his wooden baits, guiding clients, and catching the lake’s “little green creatures.” All the while, too, he has studied his mistress, her moods, her peculiarities, and, sadly in recent years, her declining health. Arguably, no one knows the Big O as well as Big Sam.
Part I, Life on the Lake, provides a look into Sam’s formative years, growing up on the lake, helping out his father Joe with commercial fishing - as only a rambunctious young boy can - and, later, at Uncle Joe’s Fish Camp. It reveals how he transitioned into the lure business. And it provides a look at the lake and its fisheries and how they changed as Sam grew to adulthood. You might be surprised to learn what Sam thinks about hydrilla on Lake Okeechobee, an invasive aquatic plant much prized by most anglers.
Part II, Baits and Bass, examines his handmade lures and reveals the fish-catching expertise that he has shared with me over the years, especially with wooden topwaters, his specialty. As with the Big O, arguably no one knows as much about topwater fishing as he does.
Part III, The Man, the Myth, the Legend, takes a look at the life of Sam Griffin, as related by relatives and friends, including me.
I don’t remember the specific year that I met Sam, but I think that it was in the early 1990s, during a Bassmaster Classic Outdoor Expo. Sometime after that, I started making a road trip annually from Missouri to Florida, with a primary objective being to fish with and learn from Sam on Lake Okeechobee. But I quickly discovered that laughing and sharing stories - fishing-related and otherwise - with this kind, gracious man and his wife drew me just as passionately.
Author Robert U. Montgomery and Sam Griffin have been friends for about 30 years. And for well over a decade, Montgomery has traveled annually from Missouri to fish with Sam and friend Dave Burkhardt on Lake Okeechobee.