People have activities they pursue for a variety of reasons. The ones that tend to get the most enjoyment out of it are not the ones who do it to be better than somebody, or to always win — these people do it for the nature of the activity itself.
It may be no surprise that these people are often highly skilled at whatever the endeavor they have chosen and usually experience success. And so it goes with fishing. Approach it for the intrinsic values and don’t worry about “winning,” the success will follow.
Chris Ellis goes fishing for the pure joy of it, the opportunity to experience things he could not otherwise and share those experiences with his friends and family. It’s not an accident that he also happens to be quite good at it and is one of the people who will be catching fish when others might not. By focusing on the why and the how instead of how much, he gets more joy and hence more success. Fishing is a journey, not a destination. The fish will follow.
A native North Carolinian, Ellis was born at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and he lived out his formative years in Carrboro. The lakes and ponds of central North Carolina proved to be his training ground.
“I’d do any kind of fishing I could — bass, bluegill, and crappie in local farm ponds, creeks, ditches, or lakes like University Lake or Jordan,” Ellis told Coastal Review.
Ellis credits his family members for getting him started.
“My father Wayne Ellis and grandfather Robert Ellis were my main influences and they took me everywhere. My whole family fished, from my grandparents to my mom.”
Even when he was young, Ellis knew the saltwater would be calling him.
“We’d take weekend trips to Atlantic Beach and Pine Knoll Shores to fish the piers and I loved it,” he said.
Catching spots and blues would have to suffice for a few years though. Like so many, he moved away from home as a young adult.
“After college, I headed to the Midwest, living in the Indianapolis and St. Louis areas for work,” he explained.
In 2000 Ellis started working for Auto Zone as regional loss-prevention manager for 100 auto parts stores in the St. Louis region. He said his philosophy then and now has been all about training and taking care of people.
“Coworkers need to understand the why behind the what of their jobs. If there is no understanding of the end result, it’s just another task,” he said.
That includes treating the people who work for him well, with the understanding that they will then do well. He said that family-style communication led him to becoming the loss-prevention manager for more than 1,000 stores and leading a whole division in the largest auto parts retailer in the nation.
For the past five years, Ellis and his wife Rachel, son Emerson, and daughter Lelaina have been surrounded by water in Sneads Ferry. Ellis takes his family with him to the beach that’s less than 10 minutes away, often to fish, but also many times just to eat ice cream and enjoy the view. Emerson loves to fish the ponds on the golf course where they live.
“My wife and kids enjoy being around the water and love to fish. My son is a lot like I was growing up and spends his free time fishing, if he’s not playing baseball or golf,” said Ellis.
He also has a brother who loves to fish, “Scott and his family enjoy fishing as well. They mainly fish in Atlantic Beach area where they have a house,” He said. “My mom enjoys fishing when she can get away but not as often anymore.”
There really isn’t any kind of fishing Ellis won’t do but he has his preferences.
“Fly fishing for redfish has got to be my favorite, whether hunting for tailers and crawlers, or sight fishing in clear water,” he said.
And for Ellis, fishing is not just a loner’s endeavor. He said the aspect of time together with others has genuine appeal.
“It’s really a team effort with you getting your fellow angler in the right position to make the cast while poling the skiff,” he said.
The fall run is really where Ellis gets a lot of action, especially chasing false albacore and casting for speckled trout in the surf. And although there is so much fishing possible nearly just outside his front door, he likes to travel, too.
“We take a few trips a year to West Virginia or the North Carolina mountains to trout fish,” Ellis said, adding that he’s caught some big rainbows out there. He is always attempting to fish beyond what he has already mastered, because he knows that is the only way to grow.
Ellis’ philosophy is reflected in his professional accomplishments. Auto Zone recently made him an offer of promotion, and he and his family are set to move to the company’s corporate offices in Memphis, Tennessee. But he said there is zero chance that he won’t find the best fishing near his new home.
“The key is being out on the water and fishing. Time on the water makes a better angler. Even when you aren’t catching fish you are still learning,” he said. “I think a successful day is being able to spend some quality time with friends or family. Regardless of if you catch fish or not.
“The true test to whether you enjoy someone’s company is if you are able to spend a whole day on the boat with them and want to do it again.”