It’s fair to say Bradley Roy’s professional bass fishing career launched not in his home state of Kentucky, but at North Carolina’s Lake Norman.
“It really did all start here,” he said. “This lake has been good to me several times already.”
Most recently Roy placed second at the 2012 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open. Last year, he claimed fifth place at the Open held on the lake. His combined winnings equate to $28,400.
The Lake Norman connection began in 2004 after Roy won his age division at the inaugural Bassmaster Junior Championship. He was 13 years old. The seemingly innocent win became his launch pad for an ascent to the highest ranks of pro bass fishing.
The tournament was held during the Bassmaster Classic on neighboring Lake Wylie, S.C., and Roy received the red-carpet treatment, claiming his trophy and a fully rigged Triton boat before a crowd of thousands gathered for the weigh-in show in Charlotte.
“Until then I had no idea what I wanted to do,” he recalled. “But being around all the professional anglers inspired me to think maybe I could really do it as a career.”
That didn’t take long. At age 17 he competed in the 2008 B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship after advancing through divisional, state and local elimination club tournaments.
The next year he fished the Bassmaster Southern Open series and placed fifth in the season standings. At age 18, he became the youngest angler in B.A.S.S. history to earn the right to qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series. He signed up for the sport’s top tier league on his 19th birthday.
The “firsts” continued after Roy won the 2010 Bassmaster Rookie of the Year title in his first season as an Elite Series angler. At the age of 20, Roy had climbed to the top in a sport where it can take years or decades to succeed at that level.
Along the way Roy caught the eye of the fishing tackle and marine industry, and not because of his novel success as a young angler. His standout, outgoing personality and honest, unselfish character are traits that appeal all around.
“My goal then and now is to promote the growth of the sport,” he said. “It’s not all about me and me branding myself. That part will take care of itself.”
He continued, “It’s very important to keep your record clean and be honest with yourself and your sponsors. There’s more to succeeding in this sport than just catching fish. It takes reaching out to the media all the time and being willing to go the extra mile for your sponsors.”
Roy’s sponsor portfolio is impressive. More than endorsements, the sponsorships prove his marketing strength – his ability to reach a younger audience. The list includes Pure Fishing brands Abu Garcia, Trilene, and PowerBait. Triton and Mercury came on board early on. His boat and truck are wrapped with the logo of BioBor, a fuel additive.
Academics would not take a backseat to bass fishing along Roy’s path to success. He completed high school in 2009, one semester ahead of his scheduled graduation time at Garrett County High School.
“I graduated early to fish,” he said. “I had enough credits by Christmas break. I went before the school board and presented it to them; I told them what I’d planned to do.”
That plan was enrolling in Kentucky Community and Technical College, where he continues enrollment and studies today.
Roy is convinced that he’ll be joined by a legion of younger anglers at the pro level, due in part to the new focus that B.A.S.S. has put on recruiting new anglers to the competitive ranks.
“I think we’ll see it happening more and more partly because of the Carhartt College Bassmaster Series,” he said. “There’s also still the very strong commitment at the Federation Nation level with the junior clubs as well.”
He continued, “When I was a teenager, you basically stopped after becoming ineligible for the Junior Bassmaster level at age 17,” he continued. “But B.A.S.S.’ College Series has bridged that gap. It gives you the chance to start in a club and keep going.”
Roy plans to keep going as well. He survived a “sophomore slump” last year by ending the season with a third-place finish in the final Elite Series event. He’s off to a better start after the runner-up finish in the Open at Lake Norman, where it all began.