By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Paul Michele has caught a lot of big fish from a lot of different bodies of water all over the Northern Hemisphere, but there's a renowned bass venue that seems to have his number.
"I've been to the California Delta three times and I've yet to catch anything over 4 pounds," said the gravel-voiced national sales manager for Navionics, the highly innovative marine navigational firm. "Something about that place doesn't like me."
The 45-year-old Michele (pronounced mick-a-lee) has spent his entire post-college life in the fishing/boating industry. He's been with Navionics for eight years and in his current position for the last six. Prior to that, he did a stint with Folsom (a major hunting and fishing distributor in the East and Southeast), served as national sales manager for SPRO/Gamakatsu, was a vice president at Yo-Zuri and headed up East Coast advertising for Florida Fishing Weekly magazine.
However, catching any type of fish that swam in fresh or saltwater was his obsession long before he was ever paid a cent for any of those professional endeavors.
"I grew up in New Jersey and my grandpa got me into fishing when I was 3 years old," he said. "I started in saltwater and eventually got into bass.
"I had numerous jobs in high school and my friends always used to say that I cashed my paychecks at the fishing store. As soon as I got paid, I'd be in there buying more tackle and then taking it out on the water somewhere."
Michele, a huge New York Giants fan who admits to having attended games wearing a gorilla suit and a Jason Sehorn jersey, has visited most of the top bass venues on the continent either for work or pleasure. In addition to the Cal Delta, he's spent significant time at Erie, Mille Lacs, Lanier, Okeechobee and a host of others.
The resident of Stuart, Fla. spends a bit more time pursuing saltwater fish these days than he does largemouths or smallmouths, but he's never lost his enthusiasm for bass.
"I like to catch hungry, stupid fish, but bass are near and dear to my heart because they're what I grew up on as a kid," he said. "I still love it, but the saltwater stuff has certainly taken a chunk of time away from that.
"Bass are what I go after when I really want to escape and get away from things and test my angling skills. With saltwater there's the aura of giant fish that fight really hard, but when I'm bass fishing I can just get lost in it. There's an allure to it that always brings me back."
He considers himself a pretty versatile bass angler, but he has a particular affinity for throwing a Senko or a frog. His tenure at SPRO coincided with that company's initial foray into the latter category of baits.
"I probably don't have a true specialty, but from my past jobs (with lure manufacturers) I tried to learn what each product did and what the advantages were of particular baits. I've fished with a lot of pros and I've learned from every single one why was this lure so important to them, or why did they fish it in that particular way?
"I'd say I'm above average with a lot of techniques, but not really an expert on any of them."
Always on the Move
Michele said he spends about 40 percent of his work days somewhere other than home. Add in the personal time he devotes to fishing and hunting (he pursues deer, pigs and turkeys in Florida and has made a couple of trips to South Africa for exotic game, with another one planned for next August), and he's away from home well over 50 percent of the time.
That doesn't bother him a bit he's unmarried, has no children and loves his job.
"Navionics is a lifestyle company and they want you out and about doing what you love fishing and boating and then taking that knowledge back. Having kids would not have worked for me because I fish and hunt way too much."
He often harkens back to when he was a kid himself, spending all of his earnings at the tackle shop and subscribing to more than half a dozen fishing publications.
"I read all the magazines and watched every show and I'd think about how great it would be to meet some of those (writers and TV hosts). Now some of them are personal friends and I have their cell numbers and I can just grab my phone and call them.
"It's all very humbling on some days."