A Legend Has Passed…
A LEGEND AND PIONEER HAS PASSED
It is with a heavy heart and great sadness to announce that my father, Ron Speed, Sr passed away on November 7, 2022. My father was 83 years old. Ron Sr was an icon in the Mexico bass fishing industry and many considered him a legend and pioneer. My father brought me into the Mexico bass fishing business 35 years ago (1987). He wanted to teach me the business and groom me to someday carry on his legacy. I have tried to do just that since his retirement in 2012…and I will continue to do my best to carry on his great legacy.
RON SPEED CHILDHOOD AND EARLY ADULT YEARS
Ron Sr was born in Corsicana, Texas in 1939. He grew up and went to school in the small town of Kerens, Texas…the same town that “Big Tex” of the State Fair was built/created. My grandfather John “Van” Speed helped build Big Tex in Kerens but it was a Santa Claus back then or before it became Big Tex. My father and his parents were poor and my grandfather worked long hours to make ends meet. In 1948, my grandfather took a job with better pay in Troy, Pennsylvania and moved the family there. My father did not like it up north and asked if he could go back “home”…??? My grandparents knew my father wasn’t happy and they sent him back to Texas to live with his grandfather “Bunk” Layfield. My great grandfather Bunk raised my father for several years while my grandparents were in PA. Bunk introduced my father to fishing and hunting and my father absolutely fell in love with both. Ron Sr. couldn’t go enough to his favorite fishing holes…whether it was to Richland Creek or Chambers Creek or just some small pond in a pasture. HE LOVED IT! My great grandfather was as hard nosed on discipline as there was in this world. You crossed the line, you paid the fiddler. He was also a great mentor and taught my father how to succeed in life…to never quit something that you start. You fight, you claw, you do everything it takes to NOT QUIT…and NOT FAIL. These teachings would shape and mold my father into becoming a major success throughout his many endeavors.
When my father was a junior in high school (Kerens H.S.), he was a tremendous running back in football. He was not blessed with size, in fact he was on the small side…but he was lightning fast. After his junior football season, he was starting to receive phone calls from various colleges with interest in offering him a football scholarship. This was going to be his “ticket” out of that little small town and opportunity to continue playing the sport he loved. Prior to starting his senior year of high school, my mother, his girlfriend at the time, informed my father that she was pregnant. She was 15 at the time, my father 17. The dream of playing football in college was gone and the two were married not long after my mother became pregnant. My father did not finish high school and went to work for the Texas Department of Highways…hard labor work and not much pay. Still, he had a baby on the way and knew he couldn’t quit his job. In fact, the pay was so low that he took a second job at Adam Hat Factory in Corsicana. It wasn’t too far into my Mom’s pregnancy that she suffered a miscarriage. Both she and my father were saddened and vowed to try again later. It was around that time and the long hours of hard labor work took a toll that my father said to himself, “I know I’m cut out for more than THIS in life”…Therefore he decided to go back and get his G.E.D. After that he kept his day job but started taking night courses at Navarro Junior College in Corsicana. My father continued with this schedule for a couple of years until he finally accrued enough class hours to apply at a 4 year college. Ron Sr. applied to Texas A&M University and was accepted. My grandfather (mother’s father) had a little money and helped support my parents while my father attended classes at Texas A&M. After earning his B.S. Degree at A&M in Physical Education (He wanted to be a football coach), he decided to stay and work on his Masters Degree in Biology. However, my mother became pregnant and had their first child in 1962…my older brother John. My father was only able to earn a “Minor” in Biology as it was time to go to work to support his family. My father applied at many schools until finally he was hired as an assistant coach at Hereford High School in the Panhandle of TX. He was also tagged as the head baseball coach at Hereford.
RON SPEED FOOTBALL COACHING YEARS
After taking the assistant football and head baseball coaching job at Hereford, Ron Jr (me) was born. Soon after being born, I became very sick and caught Pneumonia. My lungs were so damaged that the doctor told my father he should consider moving his family out of that part of Texas due to the constant dust in the air…and if I caught Pneumonia again, I may not survive it. So my father started applying for jobs but this time he was determined to land a head football coaching job….yep, this young man with ZERO head coaching experience thought he could land such a job with just one year out of college. My father, being the determined man he was, applied for every head football coaching opening around the state. It wasn’t long that he was contacted by the Bandera High School Superintendent to come in for an interview. My father must have hit a home run with that interview because one day after the interview, he was informed he had the job!
After having 2 years of success at Bandera H.S., my father heard about a new lake about to open near his hometown….the lake was Cedar Creek Lake. My father loved to fish and wanted to be able to fish/hunt when he wasn’t coaching in the summers or weekends outside of football season. Therefore my father called all of the schools around Cedar Creek Lake to see if there was a head football coaching position open…from Trinidad to Kemp to Mabank to Malakoff…and YES…Malakoff had an opening. My father interviewed and was hired to become the HC at Malakoff High School in the summer of 1966. My father felt as though he had died and went to Heaven…he could continue his football coaching career, be closer to his parents and siblings in Kerens (15 minutes away from Malakoff) and fish a new lake in his spare time!
My father spent 3 years as HC at Malakoff High School. The class of 1969 (1968 football season/team) were just sophomores when my father arrived at Malakoff and were a very special group of young men that my father loved. They went through the rebuilding two years with my father until they became a District Champion caliber team their senior year…and if not getting “robbed” of the championship by the refs in their game against Mabank, they would have won the District Championship. That’s all I have to say about THAT…but will say that when they graduated, my father felt an “emptiness” with them gone. He has also just suffered from a divorce from my Mom. After winning custody of my brother and I, my father wanted to move away…there just seemed to be a “dark cloud” that he needed to get out from under. So my father started looking for HC openings …but of course at some place that was close to a good bass lake and fishing. He found an opening at Goliad High School and back then, the closest good lake was Lake Falcon. So he interviewed for the job and got it. After taking the job at Goliad, he learned that school was also needing a rebuilding job….not many upperclassmen in the program. Still, he was up to the challenge. He would take a lot of losses that season at Goliad and my father didn’t like to lose. Still, he was enjoying the great bass fishing on Falcon. The financial situation was not good as he was only making $12,000 per year as a single parent raising two young boys. One of his assistant coaches, Tom Payne, told my father about a new lake about to open near Hemphill Texas called Toledo Bend Reservoir. My father immediately searched the area for HC openings. Lucky for him, Hemphill H.S. had an opening. My father applied for the job and you got it….he was named HC at Hemphill H.S.
RON SPEED…THE INTERNATIONAL FISHING BUSINESS YEARS (1ST ROUND)
In the summer of 1970, shortly after marrying his second wife, Virginia, and just after taking the job at Hemphill H.S., my father told his assistant coaches about a lake in western Mexico called Lake Dominguez. A friend of my father’s had told him about the lake and it was full of bass. My father asked his assistant coaches, most of whom owned their own fishing boats, if they wanted to carpool/convoy to western Mexico and fish this lake before they would have to begin “two-a-day” practices? Several took my father’s invite and they headed to western Mexico. They found a small motel near the lake in the town of El Fuerte, Mexico. None of them had enough money to stay more than 3 days but that’s all it took for my father to come up with this crazy idea of…”If I could find someone with money to invest in bass boats and a camp, package it with guides and meals, wonder if I could sell it and make more money than I’m making now?” Of course he was still making around $1200 per year coaching football and wanted to support his family better. He loved coaching and mentoring young students but again, he wanted MORE for his family.
Upon returning from that short fishing trip to Lake Dominguez in Summer of 1970, Ron Sr made a short list of people he knew that probably had the kind of money to invest in his crazy idea and hopefully would have an interest. The first person he contacted was a man named Travis Burton. Travis owned a company called Educational Enterprises. That company developed game films from high schools. My father had a good relationship with Travis and decided to give him a call to run his crazy idea by him. Travis wasted no time in agreeing to invest in my father’s idea of a fishing operation in Mexico. However, they both agreed to delay building a camp on Lake Dominguez since neither were certain my father could sell enough trips to make a living or be able to pay back Travis for his investment. Therefore they just bought 8 “not so fancy” fishing boats. My father with the help of the motel manager was able to assemble a team of fishing guides as well as work a deal for the motel stay, then package it all together. Travis only wanted to be a “silent investor” but not a partner. Therefore my father asked his best friend Hugh Walker from Yellow Pine, TX (close to Toledo Bend) to become his partner. Hugh accepted and the name S & W Fishing & Hunting was born. Now time to promote and get the word out! Oh but there was this little thing called “coaching job” that would limit the time Ron Sr would have to spend on Mexico. He was about to start his first fall football season at Hemphill.
Ron Sr had some cheap “pamphlets” printed up with photos from the coaches’ trip to Dominguez. Ron would obtain a bunch of Yellow Pages books from all the major cities in Texas and mail out his pamphlets to all the fishing tackle stores he could find as well as lake marinas. Ron would go hard at coaching football during the day, getting home late at night from the field house, then go to work stuffing envelopes with his Mexico information. My Mom (stepmom) Virginia would see my brother and I to school, cook for us and make sure we had everything we needed daily while my father worked tirelessly to manage two jobs.
After months of sending out pamphlets, the phones weren’t exactly ringing off the wall. He had a few small groups (6 people or less) book trips but even those small groups were far and few between. My father thought maybe this was too crazy of an idea…but he said he immediately put that thought out of his mind. He was raised not to quit and he taught his young boys and football players to not quit. So he wasn’t going to quit. Then in the spring of 1971, he got a call …a HUGE call…from a big fishing/hunting group out of Austin, TX…called The Austin Woods & Waters Club. They were interested and wanted more information. After talking with the President of the Club (Bob Landis) for over one hour and then mailing out the pamphlets, the group decided to book 12 members for the trip to Lake Dominguez. My father was so excited as he felt like the ice was finally broken! The trip would take place that summer of 71′ and allow my father to go with the group. My father wanted to really roll out the red carpet for this group because he knew if they had good fishing and good time, they would not only want to return but also spread the word. Therefore my father helped the group charter a DC-3 plane out of Ft. Worth, TX so they would not encounter many stops/layovers to get to Los Mochis, Mexico…the closest airport to Lake Dominguez. By using a chartered plane, they would merely fly to Juarez, Mexico, one stop to clear Immigration/Customs, then straight to Los Mochis. My father was beyond excited and so much that he invited his former high school football coach (Tommy Phillips) from Kerens, Texas to go and be a part of it…free of charge! Coach Phillips gladly accepted.
Departure Day finally arrived and my father and Coach Phillips met the Austin Woods & Waters Club group at Meacham Airport in Ft. Worth. The DC-3 flew to Juarez, stopping only long enough to clear Customs/Immigration, then back in the air again, headed to Los Mochis. About one hour into the flight and witnessing the beautiful scenic mountains of Copper Canyon, my father claimed he felt the plane shake vigorously for about 3 seconds…then the shaking went away. A few minutes later the co-pilot entered the main cabin, found my father and whispered to him, “Ron, don’t panic but we just lost an engine. Don’t worry though because these planes will fly a thousand miles on one engine. Just keep it to yourself so we don’t alarm the customers or cause a panic.” My father took the co-pilot at his word that the plane would fly a thousand miles on one engine, then resumed talking with his old football coach, Tommy Phillips. About 10 minutes later the plane shook again…vigorously…and this time for much longer. Only a few seconds later, the co-pilot ran into the main cabin yelling, “WE’VE LOST BOTH ENGINES. THE PLANE IS GOING DOWN. BUCKLE YOUR SEATBELTS AND PUT YOUR HEADS BETWEEN YOUR LEGS!” My father looked out the plane’s window and saw nothing but mountains and the plane was definitely losing altitude FAST! Coach Phillips said to my father, “Ron, I can’t believe I’m going to die this young…especially in Mexico!” My father replied, “Coach, I just don’t believe that today is our day to die”…and about that same time, a miracle from God came as the pilot noticed a narrow winding road in a valley between two mountains. There was just ONE small straight-a-way in the narrow road that MAYBE…JUST MAYBE…it would be long enough to set the plane down safely. Of course having very little control over the plane, the pilot guided the plane as best he could to that small narrow road. After touching down, the plane fish-tailed side to side but the pilot was finally able to bring the plane to a safe stop. The passengers could not get out of the plane fast enough and my father said they ALL kissed the ground while thanking the Lord. Here they were in the middle of nowhere, in the mountains of Mexico….but they didn’t care because they WERE ALIVE!
While on that narrow road, for more than one hour and huddled up in the shade of the wings of the plane, along came an old taxis bus…jammed packed with passengers (approximately 30 or more). You can imagine what the driver and passengers’ first thought was upon seeing this big plane in the middle of the road. My father knew a little Spanish at the time (later becoming fluent), he told the bus driver that he would pay $10.00 to anyone willing to give up their seat on the bus…but he needed 18 seats (16 customers plus Ron and Coach Phillips). The bus driver turned around and told the passengers….the ENTIRE bus unloaded. They wanted that $10 dollars!!! The group loaded up on the bus, one pilot stayed with the plane while the other (19th guy) rode with the group to the next big town so he could call back to Ft. Worth and get a mechanic to Mexico. The customers, Ron Sr and Coach Phillips would buy bus tickets to Los Mochis. By the time they arrived in Los Mochis, about half of the customers decided they had already had enough and would buy airline tickets to return home. So the rest of the group that stayed went on with the fishing trip to Dominguez. The fishing was “ok” but not like it had been in previous months. It certainly wasn’t enough to overcome a crash landing in the mountains of Mexico. My father said he felt like he had been punched in the gut 1000 times by Joe Frazier! The opportunity he had been waiting for was ruined!
After returning home from that ill fated plane crash and mediocre fishing trip, my father was pretty down. Still, he prayed about it and decided to not quit. He still believed he could be successful in the fishing business. Plus, he still had an investor he owed money. My father would continue with his football coaching but decided he would do some guided fishing on Toledo Bend on the side or during times he wasn’t coaching or at the school. He guided out of Six Mile Marina. He and his partner in the fishing business decided to start a small marine dealership in Yellow Pine called S & W Marine. They sold Lee Craft Boats made in Malakoff, Texas…where my father had previously coached football. Between the marine dealership and the Mexico fishing operation, Huge and my father made just enough to keep the doors open. In June of 1972, my father was returning from Lake Dominguez with a small group of customers. The fishing at Dominguez was terrible and my father feared the end of his crazy idea was near. On the flight home between Tucson, Arizona and Love Field in Dallas, a gentleman from Tamaulipas, Mexico was sitting next to my father. His name was Jose “Pepe” Martinez. During some idle chit chat, Pepe asked my father what he did for a living? My father replied he was a high school football coach but was trying to make a living selling bass fishing to Lake Dominguez, Mexico…but that wasn’t going so well because the fishing had declined a lot in the past year. Pepe was amazed that a “gringo” would try and sell fishing trips for bass fishing in Mexico. Pepe told my father, “I know of a new lake close to my home that will be opening within the next year or so. It’s a giant lake, close to 100,000 acres in size,,,,and it’s already full of Lobina (bass in Spanish)”…this definitely got my father’s attention and he asked Pepe if he could get my father permission to go check the lake before it officially opened? As it turned out, Pepe and his family were high up the Political Ladder in Tamaulipas and he told my father he could get him permission to fish the lake before opening. The two exchanged phone numbers and promised to contact each other upon returning home. Oh and the name of the lake? You guessed it…Lake Guerrero!
Upon returning back home to Hemphill, my father wasted no time contacting Pepe Martinez. The two set up a date for July (1972) for my father to go check out the fishing in Lake Guerrero. After the first half day of fishing and landing over 80 bass that first morning, my father realized his ship had come in! The day ended with my father and Pepe landing over 150 bass combined with a lot of the bass weighing 4 and 5 pounds…most of them on a Lucky 13 black topwater lure. That one day was more than enough to convince my father that Guerrero was going to be his new bass lake in Mexico. My father cut his trip short so he could return home and begin promotions as he had more than enough good fish pictures. He also needed to return home and visit with his investor about money to build a new lodge on Guerrero and buy more bass boats. He also needed to give the good news to his partner, Hugh Walker.
As soon as the fall football season ended (November 1972), my father was convinced he could make enough money off this fabulous new lake (Guerrero) to support his family and give up coaching. However, he knew he had to move closer to one of the bigger cities so as to have a better opportunity to promote and find business. He told his partner Hugh Walker of his plans to move and asked Hugh to move with him. However, Hugh had lived in east Texas his entire life and didn’t want to move. Hugh decided to bow out of his partnership with Ron Sr. Since my father had already started promoting the business name “S & W Fishing & Hunting” he decided to leave the name alone…even without Hugh’s participation. In January 1973, two months after the football season had ended, Ron Sr resigned as Athletic Director and Head Football Coach at Hemphill High School. The next month, February 1973, Ron Sr moved his family to Forney, Texas. Forney at the time was a small town surrounded by cotton fields and about a 25 minutes drive from downtown Dallas. Ron did not want to raise his two boys in the big city and Forney seemed perfect…not a big city, but close enough to the big city to promote his business. Ron’s investor Travis Burton had an office close to downtown Dallas and insisted Ron make his office there.
Ron immediately began promoting in the Dallas area. He hit the two of the biggest and most popular tackle stores at the time…Smitty’s Sporting Goods AND T.C. Hall Sporting Goods. The Smith and Hall Families were great people and willing to help my father by displaying his new brochures in their stores as well as spreading the word about Lake Guerrero and S&W Fishing & Hunting around the DFW Metroplex. My father also contacted Hank Stowers, the outdoor writer at The Dallas Morning Newspaper and invited him to come to Guerrero and hopefully write an article…in which Hank accepted my father’s invite. Everything seemed to be falling into place as far as promotions and now it was time to start building a lodge on Guerrero. Ron also met a man from Dallas named Pete Peterson, better known as “Poor Ol’ Pete”…Pete loved to fish and knew many fishermen from around the Metroplex…particularly fishermen with lots of money! Pete would become one of Ron’s best friends and bring Ron a lot of customers for the next 6 years! Pete would also bring his son, J.W. Peterson…who would later become Ron’s biggest booking agent for the next 30+ years!
Ron Sr went to his investor, Travis Burton, and asked for investment money to start building a lodge and buying more bass boats. Ron Sr was “floored” when Travis turned him down. Travis not only turned Ron down but informed him that he needed to get his things out of his office and gave Ron until the end of the day to “get out”…umm, another setback. Ron was feeling depressed over Travis turning his back on him but Ron had been through a lot of “obstacles” to get to this point and wasn’t about to give up. Ron contacted his new friend Pepe Martinez in Mexico who had set him up at Guerrero…and asked Pepe if he would join Ron as an investor and partner in the business. Pepe gladly accepted and Ron was back on track.
In the Spring of 1974, Ron and Pepe began construction on a lodge on the “Purification River” at Guerrero. They named the lodge “El Sargento”…which would later become the most famous lodge ever on Lake Guerrero. As soon as the lodge was finished and new boats purchased, Ron joined his first group of customers along with Hank Stowers (DMN writer) and a host of other outdoor journalists. The fishing was incredible and everyone was amazed at how many quality bass were caught. Hank would return home to Dallas and devoted a full page article in the Sunday Sports Section about this new incredible bass lake in Mexico. It didn’t take long for the word spread like wildfire and the phones began to ring off the wall. Ron made a deal with Rio Airways out of Love Field in Dallas to fly his customers to Cd. Victoria and bus the customers from there to El Sargento Lodge. The major oil & gas corporations were booming and Ron was able to land some of the biggest in the industry to include Halliburton, Dresser and Western Company to name a few. Business was so good that Ron was booking anywhere from 50 – 75 groups per week in his office. The lodge was booked out for almost one year in advance and Ron knew he needed a 2nd lodge to accommodate all the people wanting to come fish at Guerrero. So he and Pepe built a 2nd lodge and named it “La Retama”…facing the main lake and halfway between the Purification River and the Corona River.
The first two years were like nothing Ron had ever imagined. After the disaster at Lake Dominguez and the fishing declining, Ron didn’t like the idea of having all of his eggs in one basket. Ron knew he needed to find another lake…or two…or three. By the third year at Guerrero (1976), the size of the bass had declined to the point where most of the 4 and 5 pound bass had disappeared. The average size had become 2 – 3 pounds…but the numbers were still outstanding with most boats (2 anglers) still landing over 100 bass per boat, per day. Ron believed the reason for the decline in size was due to the vast amount of commercial nets and the size mesh of the nets caught more of the 4 and 5 pound bass rather than the smaller bass. Ron wasn’t going to wait until the end of the lake to find a new lake. Ron had made enough money to buy his own plane in 1977. He needed to scour every inch/mile of Mexico to search for another lake. Here was a man who just 4 1/2 years prior was making $12,000. a year coaching football and now owning his own plane. Life was good.
In late 1977, Ron found that second lake he was looking for in Mexico…a lake named “Palmito” near the city of Torreon. After a successful checkout of the fishing at Palmito, Ron purchased more bass boats and began an operation on the lake. Now Ron had TWO hot bass lakes in Mexico with 3 lodges staying booked full time. Once again, Ron didn’t want to become complacent and began to look for more lakes and other ways to protect his investment in the international fishing and hunting business. There were a lot of whitewing doves near Guerrero and Ron made a deal with a local Mexican in the town of San Fernando, Mexico. This town was close enough for Ron to package a fish/hunt combo…hunting two days, bass fishing 2 or 3 days. This was a HUGE hit with his customers! Ron didn’t stop there as he expanded into Canada that same year (1977) to become a primary booking agent for Tall Timber Lodge and Dogskin Lodge in Manitoba, Canada…fishing for Walleye and Northern Pike. Ron was no longer just the King of The Mountain on Lake Guerrero but the largest outfitter in the world for International Fishing & Hunting!
One year later (1978), Ron ventured into the far southern part of Mexico to start his own Snook/Tarpon operation near the small town of Isla Aguada…located in the state of Campeche, Mexico…also close to Ciudad del Carmen. The Tarpon fishing in the gulf of Campeche and the snook fishing was in the nearby Usumacinta River. Ron “thought” he hit a homerun with this new venture but not long after starting the operation, he experienced some “not so fun” happenings in the nearby area of Chiapas. Since Ron had always made “Safety” as his #1 priority, he decided to close the Snook/Tarpon operation. It simply wasn’t worth putting customers in Harm’s Way.
That same year of 1978, Ron heard from a customer about the great bass fishing in Cuba. This customer told him that he fished Cuba every year and the lakes had some really GIANT bass! This peaked Ron’s interest and the customer set Ron up with his contact in Cuba. Ron didn’t waste time traveling to Cuba to check out a few lakes. After back to back checkout trips to Cuba, Ron settled on two lakes…Treasure Lake and Cuyaguateje. Both lakes had plenty of trophy bass over 10 lbs. However, this was not like Guerrero and lakes in Mexico…no, these lakes were not about numbers or “100 bass a day’ catches. These two lakes were about early and late afternoon BIG BASS. Still, it was sellable for Ron because Guerrero still did not have trophy bass. Ron did stock that same year (1978) the very first Florida strain bass in Guerrero…and that was also the first “known” stocking of Florida Bass anywhere in Mexico. It was going to take a while for those Florida Bass to grow up in Guerrero but until then, Cuba would be the location to satisfy Ron’s diehard trophy bass clients.
Now Ron had operations on Lake Guerrero, Lake Palmito, two lakes in Cuba (Treasure and Cuyaguateje) and booking for two operations in Canada for Walleye and Northern Pike. Most people would think that’s more than enough operations…but considering what Ron had been through to get this Mexico bass fishing business off the ground, he just couldn’t sit and ride on that gravy train….can’t get complacent. Ron heard about an old lake just across the Texas/Mexico border in the state of Coahuila named “Don Martin”…again, it was a very old lake but supposedly had a lot of big bass. Ron went to check out the lake and sure enough he found the big bass he had heard about. The lake was very low on water due to a crack in the dam…but the big bass fishing was superb nonetheless. Ron began an operation there but unfortunately the fishing did not hold up long. Like a lot of very old lakes, they have their “moments”…some years good, a lot of years bad. They go through cycles and Don Martin was headed into a bad cycle. Therefore the operation did not last more than two years.
Ron suffered another setback in 1980 with his Cuban bass operations. Ronald Reagan had just won the Presidency in the U.S. and vowed to ban trade with Cuba once inaugurated. Reagan kept his word and shut down trade with Cuba in 1981. Ron Sr did not want to break any laws and therefore shut down his big bass operations in Cuba. Still, Ron had Lake Guerrero, Lake Palmito and Canada. He also had his whitewing dove operations near San Fernando. By this time Ron was beginning to suffer from “burnout” as he had been going full throttle for many years. He was already a major success story. So he decided to hit the pause button on finding more lakes for fishing. In 1982, Ron’s partner, Pepe Martinez was diagnosed with Lung Cancer and wasn’t given more than 18 months to live. Prior to Pepe’s passing, Ron sold out his half of the lodges and boats to Pepe and his wife Yoya. Ron wanted a break, and since he had made more than enough money to satisfy him and his family, it was time for such a break. Ron just couldn’t stomach the thought of going forward without his dear friend and partner, Pepe. In 1983, Ron took up retirement.
RON SPEED…THE INTERNATIONAL FISHING BUSINESS YEARS (2ND ROUND)
Shortly after retiring, Ron decided to spend his time with his second love in the outdoors…training bird dogs (Pointers). Ron also invested in the cattle business but just for a brief spell because the bird dog training required too much of his attention and time. Ron would go on to enter his prized bird dogs in the Field Trial competition events and won regularly with them. He built a name for himself in the Field Trial and Bird Dog Training Industry. So much that at one time his kennel had over 40 dogs he was paid to train. He would also become a “Judge” for Field Trial events. In 1985, Ron decided to open a movie rental store in Corsicana, TX. Ron didn’t need the money but he wanted a new hobby. Ron continued training bird dogs for the public and competing in Field Trials while still managing his new “toy”…the movie rental business.
In August of 1987, Ron received a call from an old friend from Los Mochis, Mexico he had met during the Dominguez years (early 70’s). His friend was Roberto Balderrama and he was Secretary of Tourism for the state of Sinaloa. Roberto called Ron to ask him to come check out a new lake that had just opened in Sinaloa…that lake being Lake Comedero. Roberto, being head of Tourism for the state, wanted Ron Speed to be the one to promote the new lake and bring fishermen and tourism to the area. Ron told Roberto he really didn’t have any interest in getting back into the Mexico Bass Fishing business. However, Ron owed Roberto a big favor from those early years on Dominguez and Ron felt obligated to at least listen and even go check the fishing…but with no promises. Ron invited his good friend Jimmy Olive from Port Arthur, Texas to go with him to check Comedero. Jimmy was a professional angler like my father and had been with my father to every fishing operation he owned and represented. Ron and Jimmy fished Comedero in late September of 1987 and found the fishing INCREDIBLE. It reminded Ron of that first time he fished Guerrero. No big bass but TONS of 2 – 4 pounders! Ron was so impressed with the lake he gave thought to returning to the business…and that thought lasted about ONE minute…then his mind was made up. He was returning to the Mexico Bass business.
Upon returning, Ron made a call to Roberto and reported to him about his recent trip. Roberto and Ron agreed to become partners on Comedero and the rest is history. My father called me (Ron Jr) in October of 87′ and asked me if I wanted to go to work for him? He had fired me from the movie rental store the year before so my first response was not no but **** NO! I had no clue he was talking about working for him in the Mexico fishing business but rather his movie rental store. I was making pretty good money working for a marine construction business on Cedar Creek Lake and putting in galvanized retaining walls. I knew my father didn’t pay well….I’m talking about minimum wage “didn’t pay well” …he was also very hard to work for as he demanded a lot from his employees…and even more from his son! After telling my father ‘No”, he replied, “That’s ok, I’ll just handle this Mexico fishing business by myself”…I almost choked. I said, “Wait…wait a minute! Are you telling me you’re going back into the Mexico fishing business?” He said, “Yes sir…still don’t want to come to work for me?”….I replied, “YOU BET I DO! How much will you pay me?” He said, “I’ll start you off at minimum wage and you’ll have to earn your pay raises from there.” I replied, “I knew it…but count me in” My father then told me he was doing this FOR ME and he would be in it for just a short time…maybe 5 years…just long enough to groom me and teach me the business as well as the culture of Mexico. Well, 4 lakes and 25 years later (2012), my father finally retired…again. This time for good. After re-entering the international fishing business and hiring me, I helped my father get these lakes (Comedero, El Salto, Oviachi and Huites off the ground. I’ve also helped him get into the Peacock Bass fishing business in Venezuela (1989) and Brazil (1992). Today, the company is Ron Speed, Jr’s Adventures and we’re still going strong in Brazil and Mexico.
During my father’s 40+ years in the fishing business, he operated on 8 bass lakes in Mexico, two bass lakes in Cuba, one Snook/Tarpon operation, two Canada fishing operations and two peacock bass operations in South America (Brazil and Venezuela). He coached high school football for 10 years. He was a fishing guide on Lakes Cedar Creek and Toledo Bend. He trained bird dogs to compete in Field Trials.
My father leaves a legacy behind and one that I have accepted the challenge of carrying forward. My father became a household name among anglers that fished abroad and particularly in Mexico and South America. Ron Speed, Sr is a legend and a pioneer. Today there are numerous outfitters and fishing operators on many lakes in Mexico…but Ron Sr is one of the pioneers that helped get it all started. I have great self esteem and confidence in everything I do but I have to admit that I could NOT have done this without my father. To overcome all the obstacles he did in not just getting this fishing business off the ground but also the obstacles he overcame to go from a poor upbringing, supporting a wife and child while getting a college degree…well, my hat’s off to him. I’m not that good….nowhere close. My father was a blessing from God. He was a great father, teacher and mentor for not only his 3 children but also to those student athletes he coached in football. My father impacted many lives over his 83 years…and that’s an understatement. There will never be another Ron Speed. He blazed a trail so bright, influencing the hearts and minds of so many and affecting generations to come.
My father is survived by his wife of 52 years, Virginia Whitaker Speed, his two sons, John Speed and Ron Speed, Jr and daughter Mary Speed Kent. He also leaves behind his sister Jean Speed Calloway, eight grandchildren, two great grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.
Dad, while I’m sad because I’m going to miss you greatly….I’m happy for YOU because I know you’re up there catching BIGGUNS every day and no longer in pain. Save a few for me. I love you and I am already missing you!