Guide Eric Olliverson loves making his living on area lakes following in the footsteps of his grandfather Bill Olliverson, who guided more than 50 years on the White River in Arkansas and held the old world record for a 29-pound brown.
Eric literally paid his way through high school graduation by fishing, he says, since he could then enter Table Rock Lake tournaments four nights a week. He was living on his own as a high school junior, also stocking shelves at a local grocery store in Republic, MO.
Even though his grades were good, he said, “I graduated from the Academy of Table Rock Lake.”
“But I’m not just a bass fisherman; I like to go after anything that swims in these lakes.”
Post high school Olliverson did anything and everything, from roofing to selling vacuums, to pursue his fishing fever. He began Eric’s Elite Guide Service in 2002 at the age of 21, studying diligently for 18 months before he had the courage to take the U.S. Coast Guard license required for guiding.
Today he has stepped up to the national level in competing on the FLW (Forrest L. Wood) Tour, with competitions that start each January.
“I love to be challenged,” he said. “and the fishing tour is a great way to be challenged. A lot of it is just learning the special styles needed for each new lake.”
Olliverson can guide up to four people at a time, for half-day, six-hour or all-day trips. As the father of four daughters, ages 13,12,8 and 3, he is quite comfortable with anglers of all ages and skill levels.
“It’s funny because in the summer it’s mostly families, and the parents will be apologizing for their children — and I will be completely numb to their behavior,” he said. “I will tell them, this is my daily normal.”
One outing last winter was quite memorable, he said, not just because of the cold. A female translator had arranged the trip for two Japanese businessmen. The clients came layered in their new Branson clothing to stay warm, but the translator declined to go with them.
“They literally spoke no English, so all we did for four hours was gesture, nod and smile a lot,” Olliverson said, “but I found out fishing really is a universal language.”
Despite the 17-degree day, they caught 40-50 bass, he said, including three to four smallmouth in the two-to five-pound range and a seven-pound largemouth — making it an amazing day for all of them.
Although Olliverson is on the lakes 250-plus days a year, he also works sports shows for his sponsors, which include Ranger Boats, Evinrude motors, Vicious Vision and Power Pole.
In fact, he met his wife, Christy, at the Kansas State Fair, where she had worked at a friend’s close-by concession stand. “I saw her one year — and did not say anything to her for 10 days but then literally thought about her the whole next year. “ The next year he was disappointed to learn her friend had sold the concession stand to new owners and she was no longer working there. “But on the third day I was getting the booth set up, looked up and she was standing right in front of me. We have been together ever since.”
Christy and usually some of their girls go out fishing with Olliverson a couple nights a week. (The three-year-old has been dubbed “boss of the worms,” he said.) “There is just nothing better than being on the water at sunset with your family.”
Clients are often surprised that Olliverson seldom picks up a rod himself while guiding. “I live vicariously through my customers,” he said. “It’s so cool to see them carry out a presentation you have taught them and then land a fish. I like the new challenge of each trip to see where the skill level of the person is and go from there.”
“I will probably be guiding — and my wife knows this — until I am 85 years old. "