Bobby Myers: An angler to watch

Oklahoman Bobby Myers has signed on to fish all nine Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens in 2012. The lean, 34-year-old’s goal is to earn a berth to the Bassmaster Elite Series, as he did in 2007.

That’s when Myers fished the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Opens. He did well enough that year to be invited to a wildcard tournament at Lake Okeechobee.

After the final weigh-in at Okeechobee, Myers knew he was on the bubble to finish among the Top 10 that would qualify for the Elite Series. While everyone else crowded around the stage to hear the results, Myers sat alone in his boat at the dock.

He was thinking about his father, Patrick, who had passed away, and his bass fishing mentor and biggest supporter, Grandpa Charley Bailey. The names of the top nine boomed over the loudspeakers one by one. His was not among them.

Then he heard: “And the tenth and final angler to qualify for the Elite Series is Bobby Myers!”

“When my name was called, I couldn’t stop the tears,” Myers said.

After the first four Elite Series tournaments in 2008, Myers had to drop out, mainly due to a lack of funds. The closest he came to earning a check was at Florida’s Harris Chain where he finished in 56th place.

The real heartbreaker happened during his final Elite Series tournament at Falcon Lake. On the first day of that event, he literally stuffed his livewell with a limit that weighed 35 pounds. His emotions were practically in orbit –until his outboard wouldn’t start.

The breakdown prevented Myers from making it to the weigh-in on time. As he released one giant bass after another to Falcon’s fertile waters, he lamented what could have been.

“I knew there was no catching up in that tournament,” Myers said. “I would have needed 50 pounds the second day to make the top 50 cut.”

An experience like that would have soured many fishermen on bass fishing. Not Myers. His love for the sport runs deep. He vividly remembers fishing a pond with Grandpa Bailey and his father when he was five years old.

Grandpa Bailey cast a Jitterbug past a brushpile in the middle of the pond. Then he handed the rod to Myers and said, “Reel it in nice and smooth like you always do.”

As the Jitterbug sputtered past the brushpile, a 3-pound largemouth pounced on it. An elfin-sized Myers struggled as he wrestled the bass ashore while his grandfather and father rooted for him like high school cheerleaders.

Although Myers’ father wasn’t a fisherman, Grandpa Bailey of Bartlesville, Okla., was a bass fanatic. As far back as Myers can remember, he was a regular companion in Grandpa Bailey’s two-seated, stick-steering bass boat. Most of their outings were to Grand Lake.

“I spent my summers fishing with my Grandpa,” Myers said. “When I was in school, we’d go and fish Toledo Bend on spring break.”

When Myers wasn’t fishing in the summertime, Grandpa Bailey kept him busy doing chores. Myers credits this for his strong work ethic. However, as soon as his chores were done, Myers grabbed a bass rod and headed straight for one of the area’s many ponds.

Grandpa Bailey didn’t fish bass tournaments, but he didn’t discourage Myers from doing so. When Myers was nine years old Grandpa Bailey bought him a B.A.S.S. membership. Myers eagerly read about the accomplishments of pros like Rick Clunn, Larry Nixon and Denny Brauer. 

Grandpa Bailey also helped pay the entry fees when Myers qualified to fish the Elite Series. Two years ago, Grandpa Bailey passed on at age 76. Myers still can’t speak of him without his voice shaking.

The Bassmaster Opens were not Myers’ first tournaments. When Myers was 13 years old, he convinced Harold Martin of Tulsa to be his partner in local team tournaments.

Martin had the boat, and Myers’ mother, Terrye Stephenson, agreed to drive him to and from the tournaments. The caveat was that Myers had to do chores to earn the money for gas and his share of the entry fees.

When Myers was 15 he teamed up with Kevin Tramel of Catoosa, Okla.  Myers credits Tramel for teaching him tournament strategies, especially time management. He fished with Tramel until his senior year of high school.

This is when Myers moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, to live with his father, whom his mother divorced when Myers was 10 years old. There, Myers fished Corpus Christi Bay for saltwater specks and red fish. That’s also where he met Ben Boyce of Alice, Texas, who remains one of Myers’ biggest supporters today.

After Myers graduated from Portland, Texas, high school in 1996, he joined the Marines. He believes the self-discipline he learned in the service helps him focus through long tournament days.

In basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina, Myers had to endure things like standing at attention in a sand pit while a squadron of sand fleas chewed on his bare legs. He has little trouble putting foul weather and minor inconveniences out of his mind while fishing. 

Myers admits to being something of a neat freak before enlisting. The Marine’s emphasis on being orderly magnified this trait, especially when it comes to bass boat organization. Myers can put his hands on anything in his boat in seconds.

“I don’t waste casts looking for stuff in a tournament,” he emphasized.

While stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, Myers bought a secondhand bass boat, a 17-foot, 10-inch, 1991 Ranger 362V powered by a 150-hp Evinrude. He had few chances to use it while he was in the service, but it kept him afloat for the next nine years.

After deployment in the Middle East, Myers was honorably discharged in June 2000. He stayed in California a year afterward, building phone towers, dating a local girl and fishing maybe once a month. When the relationship fell through, he moved back to Oklahoma.

Myers worked several jobs over the next three years. He still had a passion for bass fishing, and he occasionally competed in pot tournaments. Then, his father passed away from throat cancer in 2004. He was 46.

“I suddenly realized just how short life is,” Myers said. “I made up my mind that I would chase my dream of becoming a pro bass fisherman.”

After being away from serious competitive fishing for so long, Myers knew he wasn’t ready to jump into the Bassmaster Opens. He took on a second evening and weekend job at Staples to earn money for tournament expenses.

Over the next two seasons, he competed in local weekend bass circuits, and he was regularly finishing in the money. He qualified to fish a Regional at Ouachita River through the Bassmaster Weekend Series and finished in seventh place, which led him to the Weekend Series National Championship in 2007 where he finished third.

And, while working two jobs and fishing tournaments, Myers somehow managed to get a two-year marketing degree from Tulsa Community College.

The next phase of his tournament life was qualifying for the Elite Series in 2007 and dropping out after four tournaments in 2008.

When he returned home from the Elites, he took a short break, dusted himself off, and teamed up with Kevin Tramel again. The two won an event soon after, which awarded a boat. Myers continued fishing local team tournaments, finishing first in two others.

To help him get back on track financially, Myers sold his bass boat, started his own landscaping business and enrolled in Northeastern State University where he earned his bachelors in marketing in 2011.

“The best thing I did was marry Crystal,” Myers said.

Crystal works with her father Gary Dollahon, at Dollahon Public Relations. Dollahon has been involved in the fishing industry for decades, which is how Myers and Crystal initially met. DPR represents Gene Larew, Lew’s, Plano and several other companies.

Crystal is tuned into the fishing industry and fully supports Myers in his quest to become a bass fishing professional. Together they have collected a supporting cast of sponsors that include: Gamma Line, Gene Larew Lures, Legend Boats, Lew’s Reels, Lowrance, Mercury Motors, Motor Guide, Power Tackle (rods), Stealth Chargers, and Wave Away Sonar and GPS Screen Cleaner.

“I know there are a lot of great fishermen in the Bassmaster Opens,” Myers said. “But, I know I can compete at that level.”