The Ocean Pony Origin Story

Darold Gleason had a great day one here in Clarendon County, South Carolina for the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at Santee Cooper Lakes, weighing in 21-pounds 8-ounces of bass and finishing the opening round firmly in the top ten. His bag of fish was bolstered with the two “ocean ponies” you see him holding in the picture above.

If you don’t follow Gleason or live in the Toledo Bend area, you are probably asking yourself, ‘what the heck is an ocean pony?’ The phrase surely conjures all kinds of fantastical images for the uninitiated, but simply put an ocean pony is what Gleason affectionately calls a big bass. The former full-time fishing guide has used this term for years and it’s established a bit of a cult following.

This fact was evident today, when fishing fans who had followed BassTrakk yelled out, “let’s see some ocean ponies”, when Gleason pulled up to the dock this afternoon. At that moment it dawned on me I had never actually asked the likeable Louisiana pro where the name came from.

“The term ocean pony refers to a mythical big bass and is a name that I came up with after spending many, many hours guiding on Toledo Bend,” smiled Gleason. “I used to take a lot of Cajun folks out on guide trips and my forte is fishing offshore, so that’s usually where we’d be fishing. I’d get tons of questions like ‘bro, why are we fishing way out here in the ocean instead of fishing closer to the bank.’ Eventually, I started answering these questions by telling them we were out there searching for ocean ponies.”

Gleason’s clients and fishing buddies alike got a big kick out of the name, so it stuck. Any big bass caught in his boat, specifically while fishing offshore, was dubbed an ocean pony. This phrase followed the longtime Toyota Bonus Bucks participant during his time competing in the Bassmaster Opens and on the FLW Pro Circuit.

But much like Gleason’s fishing skills over the years, the name has evolved and grown, no longer reserved strictly for bass caught offshore. Gleason was quick to admit the two giants he caught today on Santee Cooper were not at all offshore, but they are still very much deserving of the ocean pony moniker.

“Typically, it is a big one you catch offshore but now I dub every giant bass I catch an ocean pony,” explained Gleason. “You know, I’ve learned they are nomadic creatures and will sometimes venture near cypress trees or up shallow to spawn. They are the biggest, baddest dudes in fresh water and they go wherever they want to go.”

Along with being an incredible bass angler, Gleason has a great sense of humor and loves a tongue-in-cheek conversation about the mythical ocean pony. He and his wife / sidekick Randi are as good of people as you will find and are super easy to root for. They’ve started a YouTube channel, Darold Gleason Fishing, chronicling their travels with the Bassmaster Elite Series and his never-ending hunt for ocean ponies.

While he wasn’t sure he could repeat his day one efforts tomorrow on the massive fishery of Santee Cooper, Gleason was enjoying today’s success and remaining optimistic about what tomorrow may bring. With any luck, he’ll stumble on a few more ocean ponies to bring across the weigh-in stage tomorrow.

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