SYRACUSE, N.Y. — “Dare to fail.” That’s been Brandon Card’s sign-off line in several of his recent blogs on Bassmaster.com.
“This sport is about taking chances, and you can’t be always second-guessing yourself when you take a chance,” Card said.
The philosophy works well for him. Saturday, Card, 26, from Caryville, Tenn., was declared the 2012 Bassmaster Elite Series Rookie of the Year.
“All rookies set out at the start of the year to try to win this award,” Card said. “It helps people learn who you are and see what you can do. I’m honored to win it.”
Card outscored nine other Elite rookies by amassing 479 points over the eight tournaments of the regular season. His nearest challenger was Cliff Prince of Palatka, Fla., who came close to overtaking Card during this week’s season finale on Oneida Lake, the Aug. 23-26 Ramada Championship.
Card was one short of a five-bass limit on the second day, and he didn’t make the cut. But Prince survived, giving him another chance to earn enough points to overtake Card. Card had to sweat out the outcome on shore.
His trophy was presented to him at The Great New York State Fair in Syracuse, where the tournament’s Saturday weigh-in took place.
Card started his rookie season with a 21st place finish on the St. Johns River in Florida. Prince, competing on his home water, bested Card by five places, so Prince took the initial lead in the rookie points race. (One point is awarded for every place achieved.) That was the only time Card was not No. 1 in the rookie ranks.
“I’ve had a blast this year,” Card said. “It’s been an incredible year. I wish I’d ended a lot stronger, but I couldn’t be more pleased with my season. Hopefully I can make a career of this, do it until I retire. That’s my goal.”
Card has been a fisherman as far back as he can remember as a kid in Tennessee. His father broke him in on bobbers and bait. They fished from shore. Card didn’t know much about casting for bass until his older brother Jordan bought a boat. The two spent many hours on Norris Lake near their hometown of LaFollette, Tenn. They began to enter local tournaments in their early teens; Brandon said his first derby was at age 14.
When he left his hometown to attend college at the University of Kentucky, Card joined the fishing team. Coincidentally, this week’s Oneida Lake event marked a return to the place where in 2007 he won his first collegiate tournament. He served three years as team president before he graduated in 2009 with a degree in landscape architecture, and he and his father now own a landscaping business.
Card also has B.A.S.S. Federation Nation experience. He competed for Kentucky, qualifying in 2009 and 2010 for what is now the Cabela’s B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship.
In 2011, Card joined the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open circuit. His goal was to qualify through the Open for the Elite Series. He made it in one season. He was second in points, well above the Top 5 automatic-in cutline.