The Modest Approach
to Michiana Lore:
A Look at Greg Mangus
By: Andrew Buss
Look up the word modest in a thesaurus and you will come across synonyms such as plainness, simplicity and simpleness. You may also find a photo of Greg Mangus. The Michiana bass legend claims the key to becoming a successful bass angler is being diverse on the water. But after talking with him, in depth, of his success, I conclude it’s a bit more than this. He possesses two qualities, not one, in ample supply, leading to his success: Mangus carries a lethal combination of diversity in his arsenal, created by his modest approach: diversity led by modesty.
All tournament anglers in Michiana seeing Mangus arrive to a tournament have something register in their heads; and that registration typically is not positive. We know when Mangus is around, we better bring our A game, or we will be fishing for second place; few people finish in the money as consistently.
Impressively, Mangus has gained this level of respect in twenty-two years of tournament fishing, but not all of those years were fruitful. He recalls, “The first two tournaments I ever participated in, I made out pretty well. But the next several years were very humbling.” It took several years for him to score another check in a tournament.
Greg Mangus of Fremont, Indiana, is largely considered the best angler in all of Michiana. His unique approach to fishing has allowed him to reach a level that few others achieve.
Mangus takes a modest approach towards fishing. Most fishermen remember the intricate details of their biggest catch, successful tournament finishes, and other history pages giving personal glory. And it is this mentality that separates him from most others.
Case in point, Mangus has no idea how many tournaments or how much money he’s won He admits, “I honestly don’t know.” Only the trophies he’s accumulated over the years provides him some record keeping, “I do know I’ve won fifteen Classic Tournaments and thirty-four point championships, but that’s only because I was cleaning the basement recently and came across my trophies.”
Introduced to fishing at the age of 3, he wasted no time. Above, Mangus holds a five pound bass from his youth.
Through his fishing pursuits, the sixty-year old has landed a pair of seven-pound largemouth bass; one from Diamond Lake of Cassopolis, Michigan, and another from Table Rock Lake, of Missouri. He has no idea when. He also recalls a trip when he landed two seven pound smallmouth from Pickwick Lake of Alabama, but can’t remember when. His modest explanation: “I don’t keep track of these things. I go with the flow and focus on what’s in front of me.”
Mangus was first introduced to fishing when he was three years old. He reminisces, “I remember my dad taking me fishing, and I was instantly hooked.” He remembers most vividly the intricate details of nature, “We would anchor in a shallow area and I spent most of the time studying the turtles and bluegills. Even at that age, I was attracted to small details.”
Vintage Mangus: posing with a 6-pound smallmouth from Wilson Lake of Alabama.
This 5-pound smallmouth anchored, one of many, Tri-State Tournament victories.
At an early age, the stars were lined up to make Mangus an angler, “My uncle owned a cottage on [Indian Lake], and my parents would rent it from him.” Here he spent countless hours pursuing and studying several species of fish.
Although he got acquainted with bass at an early age, he did not initially become a serious bass angler, “I have spent more time in my life chasing trout and salmon than I have bass.” But in 1987, he competed in his first tournaments. Again, he recalls very little: “I remember a multi-species tournament on Lake Monroe where I fished with Terry Smith and we won the Big Bass award and scored in the top five for two other species. My first bass-only tournament was on the St. Joe River, also with Terry. We finished second.”
For a moment, Mangus did not feel modest, “We remember thinking with that instant success, that [tournament fishing] was quite easy.” But he discovered shortly thereafter fishing is a humbling sport, “We quickly learned otherwise, and struggled to make any money for the next several years.”
However, the learning process was not a painful experience. Mangus’ desire just intensified, and he learned at a rapid rate, “My success is a result of my desire to learn. I spent, and spend, as much time fishing as I possibly can.” He is not driven to hoist trophies or earn money, rather, “It’s important for me to become the best fisherman I can become.”
“The great thing about tournaments and competition is that it forces you to get better. It forces you to find new ways of catching fish, and I enjoy this.” Simply said, “I have a burning desire to be the best that I can be, but not a desire to beat others.” Consequently, his first year of tournament success was 1991.
Mangus is now a Manufacturer’s Representative for ten different fishing-related companies. This has helped him grow as an angler and he doesn’t take any of it for granted, “I’ve developed great relationships with clients and colleagues.” He quips, “I am also fortunate to work for companies I believe in.”
On top of being a superior angler, Mangus is also known for the development of the Mango Jig. Named after him, the jig received national attention after Nichols created their own spin off of the jig. Many believe that he was robbed of a large profit for his creation by Nichols. But Mangus refutes this.
He got the idea from angler Jim Sexton on the St. Joe River. Mangus explains, “[Sexton] caught lots of fish with finesse jigs on the river. I liked the technique, but I got tired of losing jigs snagged up in the wood. So I made my own with a bullet head.” The invention was dynamic: no more snags. “It’s an amazing wood and weed jig.”
Mangus’ ingenuity with the Mango Jig was the result of his modest approach and growing diverse arsenal. It is a simple design, and one that was created with a simple approach to a common problem. The rest is history: the Mango Jig is now used from coast to coast. But no one tosses it more efficiently than the inventor.
On April 4, 2009, he teamed up with Kevin Fletcher and used the jig to land over fifteen pounds in a local tournament on the St. Joe River. “I fished from the back of Kevin’s boat. While he caught fish on a tube, I caught them on the Mango Jig.” They blew away the competition in a day that saw rain, sleet, and snow with temperatures in the thirties by nearly five pounds.
Today, Mangus excels with more than just the Mango Jig. There are few techniques he is not proficient. He credits his level of comfort with a range of techniques and lures, to the time he has spent on the water. He fishes 2-3 times per week, regardless of weather, totaling well over 100 times per
year.Consequently, he’s not only comfortable with techniques
but also all weather conditions.
Diverse skills come in especially handy when preparing for an upcoming tournament. Mangus advises anglers to adopt a routine. On an unfamiliar body of water: “Find out everything about [the body of water]. Learn where every weedbed, log, rock, shallow dock, deep dock, sandbars and shellbeds are located.” He stresses the importance of gaining an intimate profile of a lake because, “It makes establishing a pattern much easier. If your deep water bite disappears, you already know where shallow weedbeds are located and vice versa.”
On familiar bodies of water he still recommends diversifying your approach, “First, go to places you have had success in the past, but then force yourself to do something new. Try a new area and take notes of every detail in those areas.” His rationalization is simple: “The more knowledge you have, the more opportunities you give yourself.” He adds, “If you really want to be the best that you can be, you can’t afford to be narrow-minded. Average fishermen do the same things over and over. Good fishermen are constantly learning and adjusting to conditions. Diversify your approach.”
Mangus claims to have learned just as much from local anglers, such as Jerry Ware (right), as he has from the professional anglers he has developed relationships.
Despite being considered, by many, the best bass angler from the Michiana area, Mangus has chosen not to pursue professional tournament fishing. He offers a humble explanation: money. “I am not willing to go broke to become a professional angler.”
He knows what is required. He has built relationships with several professional anglers, including Kevin VanDam, Chip Harrison, and Stacy King, and adds he has gained a tremendous amount of knowledge from these anglers. But he also credits learning just as much from local anglers. He quickly points out Kevin Fletcher, Pablo Gonzalez, Steve Schweisberger, Jerry Ware, Terry Smith, Pat Tappenden, Don Watts, and Mark Zona. Mangus testifies, “You can learn a tip from anyone. Sometimes it’s what not to do, or what is not working. But you can take something away from anyone you fish with, even children.”
Through all of the success, Mangus has not been spared from criticism of jealous anglers. Some have attacked his preparation, claiming he is a member of a network of anglers working together to gain an advantage. He denies this, “I humbly acknowledge this can be advantageous for anglers who have this at their disposal, but success is not dependant on a network of people.” People naturally gravitate towards those who share common feelings and interests and Mangus is no exception, “I have friends that have a strong desire and love for the sport like myself, but they can not catch fish for me. When it comes down to it, if you want to do well, it’s all up to you. You must make the cast, set the hook, and make the adjustments; not a network or friend.”
Mangus walks with confidence and dignity, which is intimidating to many, but his personality does not warrant this. “I’m not very secretive and I want to share information with other anglers. I enjoy meeting people. This helps the sport and I enjoy talking about what worked and what didn’t on the water.”
Pat Tappenden (right) and Mangus pose with the winning sack after a late Fall Open Tournament on Coldwater Lake. Mangus considers Tappendon one of the best Coldwater fishermen today.
What is intimidating, is the crowd of people that gravitate towards and circle Mangus, but he has proven himself as willing to discuss fishing with anglers at all skill levels. In fact, on countless occasions, Mangus has stayed late after tournaments and fishing outings, helping others whom he does not even know. His willingness to help others is exemplary for all.
Mangus has used his fishing platform to help more than fishermen. He’s made a commitment to help others less fortunate than himself. The past two years he has used fishing to help raise fifteen thousand dollars for the Lifeline Youth and Family Services in Fort Wayne, Indiana (a Christian Organization that provides help for at-risk children and their families) by directing two events for the Fishing with the Pros charity.
These unique charity events offer novice anglers an opportunity to partner up with a professional angler, and also allows competitive anglers to compete against some of the best. However, their main objective is to raise money for the charity. Mangus admits, “It’s a lot of work, but the most rewarding work I’ve taken part in.”
Revered as a superior angler who has helped countless people, Greg Mangus has been leaving prints across Michiana for nearly six decades. He will continue, no doubt, striking fear into tournament anglers with his diverse skills; modestly, of course.