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Northwest Sportsman Magazine

Columbia Basin Fishing Guru Gordon Steinmetz Passes Away

Gordon Steinmetz, whose advice over the decades helped anglers catch more bass, walleye and trout in Washington’s northern Columbia Basin, passed away over the weekend.

Marge Steinmetz, his widow, posted a brief note on Facebook announcing her husband’s death early Sunday morning. He had been hospitalized the week before.

Steinmetz guided on Lake Roosevelt, Rufus Woods Lake and Banks Lake, and he and Marge operated Big Wally’s, only a couple hundred yards off the water, until 2008. It’s a one-stop shop for just about everything you might need to catch fish in Grand Coulee, and then some. While the Steinmetz name is most associated with bass and walleye, once I walked out of the shop with some chironomids for Lake Lenore Lahontans.

GORDON STEINMETZ MC'S  THE ANNUAL WALLEYE TOURNAMENT THAT BEARS HIS NAME. (BIG WALLY'S)

GORDON STEINMETZ MC’S THE ANNUAL WALLEYE TOURNAMENT THAT BEARS HIS NAME. (BIG WALLY’S)

Steinmetz was also a key source for writer Leroy Ledeboer of Moses Lake, who often called on him for advice when doing articles for Washington Fishing & Hunting News and Northwest Sportsman. Leroy provided the following remembrance:

When I first stopped in at Big Wally’s to see if Gordie would be one of my sources, his reply was perfect:

“All right, I’ll work with you,” he said, “but if you ever misquote me, make it sound like the fishing’s better than it is, we’re done!”

Now that’s the kind of tackle shop owner/guide you want as a contact, and we collaborated on a number of articles, mainly about walleye fishing but not exclusively.

Then when I covered and even helped out a bit on his walleye tournaments, I saw more reasons to admire the man. Once, two young anglers came in early, primarily to get a huge walleye weighed and free of their live well. Unfortunately, they also had another fish that was close to an inch short of minimum. Gordie had no choice but to disqualify this team, which meant they’d miss out on that whopper pay-out. He did his best to console this team, making sure they understood and knew he wasn’t denigrating them.

“I hated to do it,” he told me later. “I really like those two and know they’d never purposely cheat, just made an honest mistake, but those are the rules.”

The most enjoyable article I ever did with Gordie was one about how he and his wife Marge started and then built up Big Wally’s.

“When we opened our doors, we only had $200 we could stick in the till, and Marge wondered how we’d survive, meet all our expenses” Gordie told me. “Well, today we’ll sell something and just go from there,” I assured her, “and that’s exactly what we did.”

In the early years both he and Marge worked incredible hours and did a bit of everything, from flipping burgers to selling tackle and pumping gas, Marge handling the books. Eventually that shaky start became perhaps the best privately owned tackle shop in Eastern Washington, a major employer for Coulee City and a real gathering spot for anglers and town folk.

I think Gordie actually liked that article, but he did give me a little hell about referring to him as the “walleye guru.”

“If you ever think you know it all, you’re in trouble,” he told me about his personal fishing. “Always be ready to listen to the other guy; find out what he’s discovered because things are always changing.”

I could go on. I really liked Gordie, both as a fellow angler and an all-around good guy.

6 comments to Columbia Basin Fishing Guru Gordon Steinmetz Passes Away

  • Eric Braaten

    Great man that will sorely be missed by countless family, friends and fellow walleye fisherman. He was kind, hard working and was always willing to listen to your questions. I learned a lot from him over the years. Rest in peace Gorden and Fish On!

  • Very sad to hear this. Gordon was always very giving of his time and a wealth of information. I also called on him from time to time as I prepared an edition of Northwestern Outdoors Radio or wrote articles for Fishing and Hunting News back in the day. RIP Gordon.

  • Dennis Rudek

    Years ago Gordy and wife had a booth at the Seattle Sportsman Show and when fishing partner Steve and paused to B.S. , he would say “I’ll take you fishing but you’ll have to ware a blindfold.”

  • Eric Winther

    Gordon was a great ambassador for fishing opportunities here in Washington and was always more than willing to share a laugh along with some of his fishing secrets. I always enjoyed talking with Gordon and no matter how many years had passed between our meetings, he would always remember my name and go out of his way to say hello. Rest in Peace.

  • Gary Rittenmeyer

    A friend and I fished with Gordon several years ago and the fish few walleyes we caught were to small to keep, Gordon said that those were “Trainers” and were would catch the bigger fish as soon as we were properly trained. I always enjoyed seeing Gordon at Big Wallys and at the Sportsmans Shows. Gordon had lots of friends and that’s what counts. We will all miss him and he will be in our memories.

  • Ed Gianini

    I known Gordon and Marge since about 1989 when we first explored Coulee City area for Goose hunting- Used to hunt Yakima Reservation since 1956 but new Reg’s came in to effect so we moved to Coulee City. We met lots of new people and GREAT people. Gordon and Marge were great Welcome to a new area and We fished together many times and had great talks about life politics and business – We went on fish trip in his new Lund boat below the Dam and I brought my 6 month old puppy Springer Spaniel ( Buddy ) First dog he ever allowed on his new boat. He shed is hair and Gordon did not bitch a bit.. I cleaned it up and we drank pint crown royal.. Cleaned fish and had a BBQ on Walleye. Great guy. that’s just one of many stories Gordon is a legend of Banks Lakes and that Lake or the Boat launch should be renamed Gordon Steinmetz Launch or Park- That Coulee City council and dink mayor needs to do that.. IF Bog Wallys was Not there during the 80s and 90s .. Coulee city would be DUST

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