It’s an overcast autumn morning on the Milner stretch of the Snake River. Just before dawn, the Burley Golf Course Marina is overrun with trucks and boats, lined up for inspection. This is a rarity for a bass tournament — having tournament officials scour your boat with flashlights, making sure there is absolutely no tackle on board. But this won’t be your typical bass tournament. Brad Perkins will make sure of that.
After all 44 boats are inspected, each angler is handed a box of Dry Creek Outfitters tackle. Everyone is placed on an even playing field by having to fish the exact same tubes, jigs and spinnerbaits – another anomaly for a bass tournament.
The idling boats in the water are mere silhouettes as the sun peaks over the horizon. Anglers make last-minute preparations while praying the river will cough up the fattest, ugliest bass it’s got. Some wear flannel shirts and jackets to keep the morning chill off. Others sport jerseys plastered with sponsor logos. The most visible shirts this morning, however, are the vibrant yellow, almost glow-in-the-dark Dry Creek Outfitter shirts worn by the tournament staff. Brad hand selected 28 committee and staff members from Southern Idaho’s three bass clubs – Magic Valley Bassmasters, Idaho Bass Hunters, and Mini-Cassia Bassers – to plan, organize and carry out the tournament.
The Star Spangled Banner is played over a loudspeaker before Brad gives final instructions. At his word, each bass boat revs up and zooms across the water, headed toward one of seven predetermined sections where the anglers will fish for an hour before rotating to the next section – yet another unique twist to the tournament’s format.
To understand the first-ever Dry Creek Outfitter Open Bass Tournament, held in September 2007, you must first understand Dry Creek’s founder and owner, Brad Perkins. From the format to the food, Brad set out to organize a tournament where friends could come together toward the end of the fishing season for a fun event. Instead of the usual bass tourney mainstay of hot dogs and hamburgers, the participants are treated to an incredible Mexican feast the night before at the Burley Inn. On Saturday evening after the tournament and weigh in, the anglers gorge themselves on all-you-can-eat barbeque chicken and ribs with all the fixings. Most tournaments only pay out to about the top six placers; at Dry Creek’s tournament, the top 21 cash checks.
Indeed, the first-ever Dry Creek Outfitter Open Bass Tournament isn’t your ordinary bass event. But then again, Brad isn’t your ordinary man.
In and around Idaho fishing circles, Brad Perkins is known as the guru of local fishing. When it comes to taking care of local anglers, Brad is the big fish. “There aren’t enough kind words to describe Brad,” says John Lancaster of the Dry Creek pro staff. “He is the most giving, most caring, big-hearted person you’ll ever meet. You can talk to 100 people about Brad and they’ll all say the same thing.”
“Brad is a wealth of information and a big supporter of all types of fishing in this area,” says Scyler Hill, president of the Magic Valley Bassmasters. “He supports all three bass clubs in this area with probably more than we deserve sometimes. His heart is as big as there is.”
To find the roots of Dry Creek Outfitters, you have to go back to 1954 when Brad’s father Rufus Turner opened a lumber yard in Murtaugh. Every day before school and on weekends, young Brad helped out by sweeping floors and stacking lumber. When he graduated, he went to work at Rufus’s full time.
“Growing up working here, I always knew this is what I wanted to do,” he says. “I always wanted to work with Dad and I always wanted to raise my kids here in Murtaugh. I’m really lucky that I got to do both.”
Rufus’s evolved into a farm store, and then started carrying sporting goods in the 1980s. Today, you can find anything you can think of at Rufus’s. The hardware store is frequented by locals, as well as regular customers who travel from afar; people make the drive to tiny Murtaugh for the service and attention you won’t find elsewhere. Rufus, who retired about seven years ago and is now in his mid-80s, became a well-respected man with a reputation for being honest and giving back to the community – a tradition Brad carries on today.
“He taught us we had to work hard and be 100 percent honest,” Brad says. “Dad always said you need to give back to your community that takes care of you.”
About the same time Rufus retired, Brad had an idea.
“I saw a need and I had an idea for how to take a bait and improve on it by making better, more effective colors and styles in the bass plastics world.”
And with help from friends, Dry Creek Outfitters was born. With limited marketing, the Dry Creek baits have grown by word-of-mouth and grassroot efforts and are now being sold all over the country and Canada. Every single bait – of the hundreds of thousands sold each year – is hand-packaged in a storage building across the street from Rufus’s store in Murtaugh by friends, family, scout troops, school kids, and ladies in the community.
Several nationally-recognized celebrity anglers use Dry Creek baits, albeit incognito (tackle sponsors pay pro anglers big money to promote their baits; Dry Creek doesn’t have that kind of cash, but there are plenty of big-timers who have their sponsor’s bag on top of their boat, but a Dry Creek bait on their line because it works so well).
When Brad does something – whether it’s running the hardware store, putting on a bass tournament, or manufacturing tackle – he intends to do it with quality and class. “Anything I do, I want it to be the best; I don’t want just another product,” he says.
Before mass producing a new lure, Brad perfects it by giving prototypes to pro and amateur anglers. He’s also been known to get a room at a Twin Falls hotel so that he can test the bait’s underwater movement in their swimming pool.
The fishing section of Rufus’s store in Murtaugh is arguably the best bait-for-bait tackle shop in Southern Idaho – if not all of Idaho with regard to quality products, customer service and expert advice. From the beginner to the pro fisherman, Brad takes care of them all. The store isn’t large, so there’s no room for junk or filler. Besides Dry Creek tackle, Brad carries other top name brands; however, he promises you’ll only find stuff that catches fish.
“If it doesn’t work in our area and it isn’t any good, we don’t have it. We don’t want anyone wasting their money,” he says.
Brad’s concern for the local fishing community is what inspired him to organize the Dry Creek Outfitters Open Bass Tournament. The idea came to him when he was “driving down the road one day with too far to drive and too much time to think.”
With three bass clubs in just the Southern Idaho region, there are many tournaments each year. But Brad wanted to do something different. He sought to bring anglers together for a friendly tournament full of camaraderie, good food and a light-hearted atmosphere where competition and winning wasn’t the focus.
Brad? He means everything to the fishing community here,” says Rocky Vickers of Heyburn as he works a sparkly double dip Dry Creek tube through the water. “He does a lot of stuff for a lot of people. If we didn’t have Brad, I don’t know what we would do.”
Rocky and his partner, Jack Brooks, are in their second section of the day, a hole anglers refer to as “The Kitchen.” Jack is crouched at the prow of the boat, his ball cap on backwards and an energy drink in his veins.
And then along comes big ugly.
Brooks feels its mouth close around the bait and watches his line begin to swim. With an emphatic jerk, he sets the hook.
“Rocky, get the net!”
Vickers drops his rod, fumbles his way to the prow and pulls a solid three-pounder from the water. Brooks plucks the hook out of the fish’s mouth, plops the fish into a tank and flips his bait back into the water. No time to celebrate the first fish of the day, now that they’ve hit the trifecta: the right spot, right time of day, and the right bait. Bass are a fickle bunch; figuring them out is half the battle. Before their time is up and they have to move to another hole, Jack and Rocky have caught their limit (each team fishes for a limit of five bass and are ranked by the weight of their total catch). Now the challenge is to hook bigger fish to replace the smaller ones in the tank in order to increase their overall weight.
Unfortunately for the Vickers/Brooks team, their time runs out in The Kitchen just as the bass feeding frenzy begins. They return to the hole during Happy Hour – the final 90 minutes of the tournament when all anglers are allowed to fish any section they wish – but it’s too late. Still, they end up in a respectable seventh place with 10.91 pounds.
Weighing in at 12.68 pounds, first place goes to the father-son duo from Wilder, Idaho, Sonny and Kelly Sarceda. With major sponsors Parts Plus Auto, Goode Motors, Northwest Foam Production and St. Croix rods, the total payout for the tournament is over $9,000, plus more than $1,000 worth of Lamiglas rods and Diawa reels.
After weigh-in, the participants gather at the Burley Inn for an awards banquet. Sitting around tables, plates overflowing with barbeque ribs and chicken, the anglers swap stories and fill out comment cards. With all the unique twists, did Brad’s vision for his Dry Creek tournament succeed? The bold writing on one comment card left at a table sums it up:
“Best tournament I’ve ever been to. Don’t change a thing!”
DRY CREEK OUTFITTERS
309 Boyd St.
Murtaugh, ID 83344
TO CONTACT OR JOIN SOUTHERN IDAHO’S BASS CLUBS:
MAGIC VALLEY BASSMASTERS
Scyler Hill, 324-1346
IDAHO BASS HUNTERS
Lou Probasco, 543-6497
Dave Verburg, 431-5807