From Texas Ranger to the Amazon and Beyond

NAH Editor Gayne C. Young former Texas Ranger All Star Pitcher Jim Kern about baseball, hunting, and fishing!

How did your baseball career start?

I was from Michigan.  Played high school baseball.  Signed after high school when I was 18.  I never was drafted or got a college offer for a scholarship.  I could throw the ball through a cement block wall, I just couldn’t hit it with any consistency.  Back then I got credit for a no-hitter when I didn’t hit anyone!  Spent seven years in the minor leagues scaring the hell out of hitters while learning how to hit the wall “kinda sort of consistently”

Give us the highlights of your career.

I was in the playoffs with the Chicago White Sox in 1982 (you might want to leave this off as I destroyed my elbow the 2nd game of the season and did not play at all that yr.)  I played in the major leagues from 1974-1986 for six teams including Cleveland Indians, Texas Rangers, New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies. In 1977 and 1978 with Cleveland I was selected to the American League All Star Team as well as 1979 when I was with the Rangers I won the Rolaids Award as the best relief pitcher in the American league going 13 & 5 with 29 saves, sporting a 1.57 ERA and striking out 139 in 71 appearances. 

So, you were a great pitcher. How were you at bat?

I couldn’t hit a pig in the ass with a canoe paddle!  I was so bad that in 1982 while playing at Cincinnati, I fouled a ball back to the screen behind home plate and MY team mates including Johnnie Bench, Tom Seaver, Caesar Cedeno and Davey Conception walked to the top of the steps of the dugout and gave me a standing ovation!

Baseball cards, action figures, any of that?

They put 18 baseball cards out during my 13 years in the bigs.  Got my Huckleberry Finn card and several others that will scare the cockroaches out of the closet.  Back in that time frame I had hair on my shoulders and three, four inches of beard.  Intimidation was the name of the game as a relief pitcher.  I could throw the ball in the upper 90’s consistently.  I was inherently wild & was given the nickname of the “Amazing Emu” (the worlds largest non-flying bird) by my teammates in 1976.  At at 6’5” and 185 lbs I looked like Icobod Crane standing on the mound yelling at yourself to get the ball over the plate I looked the part.  My idea was that the talent in the major leagues was so close that having the best 800 baseball players in the world on a given year, confidence played a big part in ones success on the field.  And if you could erode somebody’s confidence just a little, it gave you a huge edge.  The beard, the hair, the acting crazy was the modus operani and being a “one trip pony” with a 98 mph fastball and inherent lack of control making 3 All Star Game appearances….I would say it worked!

So did you always enjoy fishing? 

My earliest memory, when I was 3 my mom tells me, is my dad putting me on his shoulders and carrying me out one of these artificial piers in Lake Michigan and tying me to the pier with a rope around my waist and then around one of the bulkheads on the pier and fishing all day and then him carrying me back in the evening.  From the time I was nine, if he went hunting or fishing, dad asked me if I wanted to go.  It was a huge part of my life, always has been, always will be! 

So when you were in baseball, did you ever think, after this I want to go into fishing?

My wife has always said I played baseball simply to finance my hunting and fishing.   But when I was playing baseball I really never had considered being an outfitter.  I had been on a number of guided hunts.  Liked the concept, liked the idea.  I destroyed an elbow in 1983 & modeled uniforms (I didn’t get many people out after 1983), I didn’t really retire in 1986, I simply “ran out of teams”. 

So what did you do after that in 1986?

In 1986, I didn’t do much.  In 1987, I started an outfitting business named The Emu Outfitting Co,” running Texas hunting leases.  I did a little bit of booking for Rainbow Bay Resort in Alaska as well.

How did that lead you to the Amazon?

I took Bobby Witt and Roger Pavlick, Texas Ranger pitchers down to Peacock Bass fish in Brazil’s Amazon with Amazon Tours in 1997 and then managed the American office for Amazon Tours from 1998 – 2003.  From there I managed a fishing and hunting lodge on Lake Iliamna in southwest Alaska for 4 years while still running Emu Outfitting.  Then in 2010 I was hired by the Brazilian Peacock Bass fishing company Captain Peacock to created and run an American booking office for them.  I did this until the end of 2013 when I had a difference of opinion on how the business should be run and I quit and went back and managed the lodge in Alaska for 2 year during an ownership change.  Then in 2015 River Plate Outfitters in Brazil’s Amazon offered me the opportunity to design an upscale floating camp for them and market and handle all the bookings for it.  This really interested me as with the huge interest we had developed in Peacock Bass fishing since 1997, the fishing pressure created by an onslaught of mother boats on the main Rio Negro River had gotten intense.  River Plate Outfitters was leasing fishing rights on over 8 million acres of private Indian lands and government preserves with over 1,000 miles of black water tributaries flowing thru them allowing River Plate to manage the fishing pressure on them.  To top everything else off, River Plate was flying their anglers directly into their camps by float and wheel planes so their anglers were in prime Peacock Bass fishing waters the first day of their trip.  This was huge, it was the same concept as in Alaska where the fly-in fishing trips were the premium fishing trips putting anglers into waters where fishing pressure was light to non-existent.  Since 2015 we have been running a upscale Single Occupancy floating Safari Camp where private groups of 6 anglers all have private mobile 250 sq ft air-conditioned floating cabins with queen beds and private bathrooms and showers on remote waters where fishing pressure is light and we can enjoy the type of Peacock Bass fishing we did in the late 1990’s.

How big do peacock bass get?

The IGFA All Tackle World Record Peacock Bass weighs 29 lbs and was caught in Brazil’s Amazon in November of 2010.  There are 4 or 5 different species of Peacock Bass you have an opportunity to catch there including the largest subspecies being “Temensis” which are commonly known as the 3 Bar and the Paca, the Orinoco subspecies that will go up to 16 lbs, the Butterfly subspecies that will go upwards of 10 lbs and the Popoca subspecies that will weigh upward of 5 lbs.

Mythical?  Or real?

I’ve never seen a 30 pounder.  I’ve seen some pictures of ones they said were 30 or 32 pounds natives had netted or speared and they were huge.  The big Temensis Peacock Bass will rarely exceed 36 inches, they tend to get very thick through the shoulders, just behind the head.  I have heard the native guides talk about the mythical 14 kilo Peacock Bass, the 30+ pounder for 20 years now, but have never seen one.  But then again when the 27 lb world record was caught in 1994, we did not think it would ever be broken.  Then in February of 2010 a 28 lb fish was caught and then in November of 2010 a 29 lb Peacock was caught!  I do believe we will see a 30 lb Peacock Bass caught, it may be a huge female full of eggs pigging out, but then again the last 2 world record Temensis were both males sporting humps on their heads!  I know if I saw the world record swimming I probably couldn’t hit it with the lure, just my inherent wildness, but I could surely hit the tree behind him!!!

Visit Emu Outfitting HERE


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