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.
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.