College is designed to prepare you for life and the successful career you have dreamed of.
For me, that has revolved around bass fishing since I competed in my first tournament at the age of 14. As a student at the University of Kentucky, I fished for the bass team for four years. College fishing was substantial to my growth as a tournament angler. I competed in tournaments from Texas to New York.
I learned how to find, pattern, and catch fish on new fisheries just like anglers do on the Elite Series. Shortly following graduation, I qualified and fished in the 2009 and 2010 Bassmaster Federation Nation Championships presented by Yamaha and Skeeter.
This year was my first year fishing the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Opens, and I finished second in the season standings and qualified for the Elite Series. But something keep telling me my education is just beginning.
Thinking back to my last Mercury College B.A.S.S. National Championship in 2009, I remember hearing something that really hit home.
It was during the orientation meeting when Jerry McKinnis talked about the sport of bass fishing and how it has grown, and how he loves to see younger guys get involved.
He said, “One day, maybe five years from now, maybe 10 years from now, we will see a former collegiate angler fish the Elite Series.”
I am pretty sure every angler in the room got chills, because for most of us, that was our dream. I feel very blessed to be “that” guy that Jerry was talking about two years ago.
Being the first collegiate angler to qualify for the Elite Series seemed to open doors this past week at ICAST. I did a few interviews with Bassmaster, and was able to follow up on some contacts that I had made from Mercury College B.A.S.S.
I also got to talk with two of my fishing heroes, Jerry McKinnis and Bill Dance, about college fishing and being a rookie on the Elite Series.
I watched The Fishin’ Hole with my dad when I was young. Our favorite episodes were the shows that Jerry shot in northern Minnesota, fishing for smallmouth in the Boundary Waters. He would catch so many 3-to 5-pound smallies it was ridiculous, and not to mention, he was fishing out of a canoe.
It was because of those shows that I actually decided to work a summer job in northern Minnesota at a canoe outfitter. That summer was a tremendous learning experience, and I really got better using finesse techniques and fishing for smallmouth.
My grandpa and I used to watch Bill Dance because he loved how Bill made it look so easy. He lived in southern Georgia and was a diehard UGA fan. After every show, he commented about how ugly Bill’s orange UT cap was. I’m pretty sure that Pa was just mad that UT typically got the best of UGA in the rivalry football games. Haha.
Speaking of rivalries, we have a good one coming up this next week at Toyota Trucks All-Star Week in Alabama. Besides the Top 12 and the Legends, the Auburn and Alabama bass teams will be competing against each other in a head-to-head bass battle.
These two teams squared off at the 2010 Mercury B.A.S.S. College Classic, where Alabama came out victorious. I will go out on a limb and say that Auburn will get a little payback and pull out the win.
Keeping with the Auburn theme, I will also bet that Tigers fan Steve Kennedy will show up in a big way at All-Star Week. He has fished great all year and has already had a win this year on one of his home waters. He could do it again.
Remember to chase your dreams!