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The heart of teaching: The art of learning, bass fishing to chemistry

Ron Urick takes another step, a collaborative book, in his long career in teaching and learning, from bass fishing to chemistry.

Ron Urick tells teaching stories while taking a break in late-October bass fishing in Lake County.
Dale Bowman

Ron Urick launched into a story of Marvin Miller giving him advice.

“He told me, ‘Get out of that jon boat and get a big boat,’” Urick said. “It was like Mickey Mantle talking to a Little Leaguer. I couldn’t believe my idol was telling me this. He will always be my hero.’’

That would be Marvin Miller, the late legendary Mississippi River bass angler (11th in the first Basssmaster Classic), not the late same-named executive of baseball’s union.

Idols, teachers and fishing came together last week as Urick, 71, took me around a small lake in Lake County. We boated a dozen good largemouth bass. The stories mattered more than flipping jigs on wood for fall largemouth.

Urick had no idea that I wore 7, Mantle’s number, in every sport I played. I wanted to be the scrappy second baseman who ran with the slugger, Billy Martin to Mantle.

Teachers and students, idols and followers, are unique relationships.

Urick understands. He is finishing a book--``Teaching with Heart (Inspired Teaching --Stories, Pathways, and Strategies by a Five Decade Teacher and His Former Students)’’--working with 31 former students, 23 to 66 years old.

“It’s my Mr. Holland’s Opus,’’ Urick said. “I am giving kids freaking homework. Who could assign homework decades later?’’

On July 27, I wrote about Urick, his teaching career and fishing. He taught 33 years at Stevenson High School. He came out of retirement to work another 10 years at Chicagoland Jewish High School (now Rochelle Zell Jewish High School).

He offered to take me fishing on one of the lakes he used when taking his top students in chemistry fishing as a reward.

Urick also knows being a student.

After getting whupped in a tournament on Michigan’s Grand River by flippers, Urick taught himself to flip in 1981 when few were doing it. He bought a 7 1/2-foot flippin’ rod, then learned the technique from Bassmaster magazine. Now younger anglers turn to YouTube to learn new techniques. Then, it was Bassmaster.

He practiced flipping on Sylvan Lake while rowing and anchoring a jon boat. Between 1974 and 1980, he caught 15 bass over 5 pounds. After learning flipping, he caught 43 5-pounders in the first year. He made wagers with friends that he could catch a 5-pounder within 30 minutes on a flippin’ rod.

“Of course, eight out of 10 times I won the bet, flipping a jig on docks, logs and laydowns,’’ Urick said. ``Really exciting time for me. Flipping changed my whole flipping world.’’

He won two boats while flipping in tournaments on the Chain O’Lakes.

Urick had Buddy Ryan’s twins, Rex and Rob, in his class. Buddy would come to teacher conferences with shirt out of his jeans.

“He would say, ‘I know my boys are doing OK in your class, can you give me a couple bass tips before I get out of here?’” Urick said.

I hope to never stop learning either.

Urick’s favorite jigging is with a Strike King 1/16th- or 1/8th-ounce Bitsy Bug jig with a black Uncle Josh Mini Frog Trailer (pork rind). Urick received early word when Uncle Josh went out of business and bought nearly 200 jars.

One of Ron Urick’s go-to jigs for fishing: Strike King 1/16th- or 1/8th-ounce Bitsy Bug jig with a black Uncle Josh Mini Frog Trailer (pork rind).
Dale Bowman

Urick tipped me off to the new Daiwa J-Braid Grand. The 8-pound version is about a 1/10 of a millimeter in diameter, “slightly heavier than human hair.’’ Dark green is essential “because it hides in the water.’’

“It is going to change fishing,’’ Urick said. “But you have to watch for nicks in the line, you have to check constantly. Being able to cast 75 yards is an unbelievable advantage.’’

Innovations come in teaching as well as fishing.

He would ask former students to teach. Eileen Rose brought in all the chemicals to make luminol.

“She got all my kids excited, just phenomenal,’’ Urick said.

The late Dr. Rohen Jobanputra of Hoffman Estates brought in a video of a surgery on the big toe joint of a runner.

This week there was the first Tuesday night discussion groups by various book contributors at Spear Training Center in Vernon Hills.

“We brainstormed what are the qualities of special teachers, what do they possess and can these qualities be taught?’’ Urick said. “That is kind of the crux of what I am trying to do, help other people who want to inspire. Doesn’t have to be teachers. It could be anyone.’’

Amazon will release “Teaching with Heart’’ on Valentine’s Day.

“What I am doing is having a final class,’’ Urick said.

As to teaching fishing, Urick set up On The Water Bass Clinic, his guiding service, in 1985. He runs a jon boat on small lakes in McHenry and Lake counties and a Ranger walleye boat on bigger waters. Call (815) 477-7174 or email

For the July 27 column on Urick and former student Brad Rubin, go to

Ron Urick caught the first bass of the day on an outing to talk his upcoming book, “Teaching with Heart.”
Dale Bowman
Dale Bowman caught half as many as Ron Urick, but all around it was a good day.
Dale Bowman