JASPER, Ala. — A formal education that could be applied in a professional bass fishing career was part of the plan for Brandon Lester. Marketing, therefore, was a deliberate choice as his major.
Early on, Lester’s classmates and instructors at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga learned about the sport, like it or not. At every opportunity Lester worked bass fishing into class projects.
One of those involved a demonstration for a speech communications class. Lester’s demonstration required taking the class outdoors.
“Four types of casts that you can make with a bait cast rig,” he said. “I got a perfect score.”
It might be easy to assume Lester used bass fishing as an academic crutch of sorts to coast through school. Listen to him speak about applied marketing in his emerging career and you’ll think otherwise.
“With a sponsor you must know the brand’s target market and customer demographics,” he said. “Knowing how the sponsor’s brand trends against the competition is a must.”
Here’s more legitimate marketing speak.
“The company signs you up to build the brand and marketing awareness is how you help meet that goal,” he continued.
Lester gets the chance to do all of the above in the coming year. He’s just signed a title sponsorship with Mud Hole Custom Tackle. The company calls itself the world’s largest rod building e-commerce and mail order catalog company. Its business model allows customers to custom-build their own fishing rods.
The chuckles from classmates over Lester’s casting demonstration ring loud with irony. He’ll now apply his communication skills to connect with customers. Those are the target audience for the title sponsor of his rookie season coming up on the Bassmaster Elite Series.
Success is eminent for Lester, 25, from Fayetteville, Tenn. It’s where he grew up fishing the impoundments of middle Tennessee for panfish and then bass. The future came clear at the age of 16, when he started competing in club tournaments.
From there he went to college and earned a spot on the bass fishing team for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He was a leader on the UTC MOCS team and led them to success at the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series.
The college B.A.S.S. experience fueled Lester’s desire to fast track his way to the pro ranks. In 2012 he finished 24th in his rookie season in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open circuit. Last year he won the points title, paving the way for his entry into the Elite Series.
He’s also very much a student of the game.
“I’m fairly laid back and try to avoid allowing a mistake to throw me off,” he said. “Mistakes. I will make them.”
“I see some guys make a misstep, lose a fish and it takes them hours or days to get over it,” he continued. “In this sport you can’t let that happen. Mentally you must use mistakes to improve on the present, build on the future.”
Even so, some of the kid who grew up watching Bill Dance and The Bassmasters on TV remains.
“Sometimes it gets to me, seeing those guys and I do get star struck,” he admitted. “It’s been a wild ride so far and I’m looking forward to more.”
A roller coaster wild ride is coming up - Saturday, Lester is in contention to win the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open on Lewis Smith Lake. Next week he’ll launch his Elite Series career at Lake Seminole.
Indeed, it’s been a wild ride so far, and there is much more to come.