By MATT SAXTON
Bartlett Express Editor
What started as a kid’s hobby more than two decades ago has earned a former Bartlett man national recognition.
“If it can bite and pull, I’m not ashamed to catch it,” said Cody Smith, a full-time professional guide and angler who will be featured on the Outdoors channel this week.
Smith, a 1997 Bartlett High School graduate, will appear on Byron Velvick’s Guides’ Eyes at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Friday. The show will run again at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.
The show, which features professional angler guides across the country, will be the most recent of growing interest in Smith. He started fishing professionally about five years ago and already has a strong local following near his home in Tumbling Shoal, Ark. Smith serves as a professional guide on Greers Ferry Lake and the Little Red River and prides himself on diversity in his sport.
“A lot of guys get hung up on a specific species or method,” Smith said. “I try to cater to a client’s needs or wants.”
Smith caught his first fish – a bass – at Shelby Farms Lake when he was a kid. His father, Dennis Smith, who is the president of the West Tennessee Elite Bass Club, got him started on the hobby. Smith said he’s been hooked ever since.
“We literally moved (to Arkansas) for the cost of living and overall quality of the life we wanted,” said Smith, referring to a decision he and his wife, Billie, made when seeking a hot spot for world-class fishing. “Arkansas has scenic beauty and what I call the best of both worlds: great fishing and duck hunting.”
Touching on his second passion, Smith said he’s able to hunt ducks and turkeys on his property, which was another strong draw for moving from Cordova to Arkansas. It also was a place where his wife could run her home-based advertising and promotional business. Smith, who studied marketing and business at the University of Memphis, worked for his wife until he decided to make his love for fishing a career.
“That’s what enabled us to be able to do this,” Smith said, referring to the business.
The Smiths had searched locations in Oregon, California, Michigan and Billie Smith’s home state of Wisconsin for the ideal match. But they chose Greers Ferry because it holds the record for the largest walleye and hybrid sample, and a coldwater discharge behind its dam previously had the record for German brown trout.
It’s the diversity of the fishing available at his lake that draws clients from across the country to learn from him. That diversity also led the company that produces Guides’ Eyes to seek his expertise.
“(The people at JM Productions) found me on the Internet,” Smith said. “They had wanted to do a show on the Little Red River, found my info and decided to do a show on the lake.”
During the show, Smith said the focus is on Greers Ferry’s large and small mouth bass and Kentucky (brown spotted) trout. He hopes the publicity will help him continue to grow a national following for his guiding tours, which already has corporate sponsors that advertise on his boat and truck.
“I think it’s an opportunity for showing my abilities as a guide,” Smith said.
Some already appreciate what Smith offers and keep coming back for more. For example, he said, his very first client – a Kansas man – comes back every year to fish with him. He said he believes his approach to offering a variety of angling opportunities that hits home with his clientele.
“Most people just want to go out and have a good time,” Smith said. “But if people want to target a specific species, they seek it out and I provide that service.”
Meanwhile, Smith said he loves the fact that he can do something he enjoys doing and make a living doing it without worrying about competition. Even among professional anglers, he said, some people battle the tournament circuit to make their name. Smith takes a different outlook.
“I’ve taken the approach that I’m going to fish for a living,” he said.
Information about Cody Smith’s guides can be found on his website, at http://www.fishgreersferry.com.