The Man behind the Lens

James Overstreet

If you have ever picked up a Bassmaster magazine or looked at, then you have seen the photography of James Overstreet. James has captured some of the greatest moments in the recent history of B.A.S.S. From KVD’s Classic win, to the missing front tooth of fisherman (thanks to a tungsten weight), to the most recent Bassmaster Champion, Casey Ashley, James has been there with his camera. If you are like me, you know James’ face, but I really didn’t know James until we sat down for this interview.

James lives in Arkansas and for many years fished tournaments and dreamed of being at the Bassmaster Classic. James has been to a lot of Classics, 9 to be exact; he hasn’t been an angler though. Even better and more interesting, using a Canon 1D Mark III and 5D Mark II, James shoots anglers deep in their tournament mode. James watches and shoots anglers in action from a view we only dream about. Dos Equis claims to have the most interesting man in the world, but I think Jerry McGinnis has him in James Overstreet.

BS: What is the best moment you have spent on the water shooting? JO: “The last day of the Bassmaster Classic when that angler catches the fish that wins him that Classic. Like Chris Lane on the Red River, those anglers know what they need to win. When they catch that fish and I capture it, that moment of catching that winning fish; that is the best feeling”.

BS: What has been the scariest moment in a boat? JO: “The scariest has to be when I worked for ESPN and was in St. Augustine for a redfish tournament. A lightning storm came up on us and we could not make it back to the shore, so we rode it out under a bridge. As you know, lightning usually goes across the sky, but this particular day it was coming straight down and hitting something every time. There were other boats under this same bridge seeking shelter; they had women and children who were screaming and crying in fear. My hair was standing up because of all the static electricity in the air. I shot several photos that day. Lightning is hard to shoot because of the speed, but it was striking fast and straight down.”

BS: What is life like “shooting” the most famous anglers in the world? JO: “I had always dreamed of being one (a professional angler). I fished tournaments for 20 years, but never got to that level of fishing. When I met my wife, and we got married, I had a stereo and two huge cardboard boxes. In those two boxes were issues and issues of Bassmaster Magazine; they had highlighted articles and writing in them where I had made notes. This was my dream. So I guess I still get the dream because I am in this job and the bass fishing family.”

BS: What is it like to fish with Kevin Van Dam? JO: “Kevin is one of my closest friends. I could pick up the phone right now and call him, and he would answer right away. When you get Kevin out of his tournament mode, he is a lot of fun and a really funny guy. He runs with Mark Zona, so you know he has to be fun. I missed the Angler of the Year tournament one year when it was in Iowa because my dad was sick and in this hospital. Kevin called me, and we talked for probably 30 minutes. Kevin had a lot of other things he needed to be doing, but he called to check on me and see why I was not there and if I needed anything. That is just the kind of guy Kevin (Van Dam) is, very caring. I fished with Kevin one time on Lake Guntersville. He couldn’t get out of the tournament mode; he would fish a spot, say “no good” and move to another spot, we were all over that lake. We caught three and four pounders, but that wasn’t the quality fish that Kevin wanted to catch. I went fishing with KVD and Jerry McKinnis on Lake St. Claire and Kevin got my camera and kept snapping pictures. I told him if he took a good one I would post it and give him photo credit, which I did. I have spent more time in the boat and on the water with KVD than any other angler. Kevin is a really good guy; he stays busy and yet he makes time for his family. I don’t know how he does it all; he is just a stand-up guy. Kevin is very popular with fans that follow him and cheer him on; Kevin is very receptive to his fans.”

Dennis Tietje

BS: Have you ever knocked out an angler’s tooth? JO: “As a matter of fact I have. I was fishing on Toledo Bend with Dennis Tietje. We were fishing hydrilla with heavy action rods, braided line (you know it has no stretch) and one ounce tungsten weights. I got a bite, and when I went to set the hook, I put all my might in that hook set. The fish came off and when the weight came back it hit Dennis right in the mouth. It sounded like a gunshot. Dennis held his front tooth in his hand; man did I feel bad. But when I finally realized that Dennis was ok, I couldn’t stop laughing.”

BS: Was the tooth “payback” for anything? JO: (laughs) “Well I guess we are even now. Dennis is my best friend, and we normally room together when we are on the road. Dennis was recovering from an injury and couldn’t fish, so he drove up to Arkansas from Louisiana and went with me for three weeks while I covered events. We were in a hotel, and they had the sleep number beds, you know the kind that you can make to your liking. Well, they had remote controls. During the night, I would notice my bed was hard as a rock and uncomfortable. Then it would feel like I was in the middle, and the bed had caved in. Dennis and I are both early risers, and that morning I woke up about 4:30. I think Dennis laughing is what woke me up. I was in that bed, sunk in the middle, and there was Dennis with the remote. I had wrestled that bed all night long and not got any rest. He had messed with that remote and those numbers all night long.”

BS: James, this is your first Bassmaster Classic Expo, what do you think? JO: “Man, it is like ICAST on crack. It was full of people. At ICAST it is just companies and isn’t open to the public. The expo was booming, which is good, it means turn out and support was good which is good for the anglers and BASS. But I have to say; I’d rather be on the water. It makes me feel like I am not doing what I am supposed to be doing by being at the expo. Normally, I am on the water all day and barely make it to the arena and to the weigh-in because I try to be last on the water.”

BS: Why are you not in the camera boat this year? JO: “Neck surgery, I had three bulging discs fixed.

BS: Is the neck a result of boat rides in rough water over the years? JO: That is part of it, but I also had a bad wreck a few years ago. I was in a jeep with no top, and it rolled a few times and then went end over end. I have dealt with the neck pain for a few years, but it was time to fix it and get to feeling normal. Back where I want to be.”

If you have ever seen any photos by James Overstreet, then you know he is a legend in his field. If not, I implore you google his work. You will be amazed at the eye this man possesses. There is nothing ordinary about James Overstreet; he has a dream job, a loving family (and a dog person too, that’s a plus), and the most artistic eye I have seen in a long time. James is a fisherman who fishes among the elite of the elite for fun, and “shoots” them for work. So Dos Equis, eat your heart out, the bass fishing community truly has the “most interesting man in the world” in James Overstreet.

Betsy Steele

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