After the first two Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Opens of 2012, Texan Andrew Upshaw finds himself in third place in the points standings. A strong finish at New York’s Cayuga Lake, the site of the final Northern Open, and Upshaw will finish among the top five that qualify for next season’s Elite Series.
Upshaw, 25, has long dreamed of competing against the world’s best bass anglers on the Bassmaster Elite Series tour. His other dream, fishing in the Bassmaster Classic, has already come true.
That happened at the 2012 Red River Classic. Upshaw earned his berth to bass fishing’s biggest event by winning the Carhartt College Series championship in 2011. He finished in 31st place at the Classic, which left him longing for more.
“I know I still have a lot to learn, but I want to prove that I deserve to fish at the top level,” Upshaw says.
The fastest way to earn respect in the world of bass fishing is by making your mark in one of the Bassmaster Open circuits. Upshaw is on the verge of doing just that.
A resident of Hemphill, Texas, Upshaw began working on his bass fishing Bachelor’s long before he matriculated to Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas, where he graduated with a degree in marketing.
Hemphill is a short cast from storied bass fisheries Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn Reservoir. Hemphill is also home to legendary bass angler Tommy Martin, who, at age 70, still competes in major bass tournaments, including the Bassmaster Opens.
Upshaw’s father was the football coach for Martin’s son. Martin returned the favor by teaching Upshaw the fine points of bass fishing. Upshaw’s bass tutelage under Martin began when he was 15.
“Tommy mentored me for a long time,” Upshaw says. “The first thing he taught me was how to use electronics on deep structure to find the spot-on-the-spot that holds fish.”
That training paid dividends when Upshaw fished the second 2012 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open at Lake St. Clair in July. He found scads of smallmouth bass in a mile-long reach of cabbage grass in 16 to 17 feet of water.
However, only a 40-yard stretch within the grassbed held the 4- to 5-pound bass he needed to do well in the tournament. Upshaw could have caught many more bass had he moved about. Instead, he kept his cool and concentrated on the key area within the grass bed. He milked 64 pounds, 13 ounces, of brown bass from it, good enough for third place.
Learning how to find the spot-on-the-spot in deep water made it easier for Upshaw to do the same thing when he fishes shallow cover he can see. Upshaw nabbed 16th place at the first 2012 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open at the James River by concentrating on large, isolated windfalls and bypassing secondary cover.
The success Upshaw is enjoying this season didn’t come overnight. He fished the Northern Opens for the first time in 2010. It was his initial experience fishing natural bass waters in the Northeastern U.S. and he fared poorly.
“It was a big learning experience,” Upshaw says. “It really helped me do better this time around.”
Upshaw is a quick study. A good finish at Cayuga will earn him a Master’s degree in bass fishing.