The story sounds familiar at first. A young angler tunes into The Bassmasters TV show for the first time. He becomes mesmerized at the sequence of pros fighting trophy bass, posing with fish before cheering spectators, and holding the winner’s trophy. An impressionable teenager, he’s so awestruck at the scenes played out on screen by the pros that he dreams of becoming one of them.
That is where the routine part of this story ends. The viewer is Marcos Malucelli, and the year was 1985. He was 18 years old. It was the second season of the iconic bass fishing show airing on The Nashville Network (TNN) at the time. Malucelli watched the show from Brazil, where his family satellite TV picked up the rogue signal that would forever change his life.
Some 27 years later, the blurry image from the TV screen is coming into focus in real life. Malucelli is competing in the 2012 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Opens. By all accounts, he is the first Brazilian B.A.S.S. pro. He also gets paid to do a job that should be the envy of any American bass angler.
Malucelli is a technical consultant for Aquabrazil, a wholesale distributor of top name brand American fishing tackle. It’s his job to field test lures and other gear in a growing market for bass tackle in Brazil. Once a match is found, Malucelli and Aquabrazil work with American companies to modify the product and create packaging and marketing materials suitable for the Brazilian market.
“The tackle in the United States is the best tackle in the world, but sometimes it’s not exactly suitable for our fishing,” he said. “So I do the evaluation of the product for how it can be adapted to our fishing styles for golden Dorado, peacock bass, and now largemouth bass.”
That’s right. Largemouth bass. Malucelli said bass were introduced into Brazil in 1967, the same year Ray Scott held the All-American Bass tournament, the forerunner of the B.A.S.S. organization.
Malucelli is originally from Curitba, a city in southern Brazil. His angling credentials include 17 years guiding for peacock bass in the Amazon River. Golden Dorado and other highly prized saltwater species round out his guiding resume.
Malucelli’s college studies found him in southern California. He went from the heart of peacock bass country to the epicenter of trophy largemouth fishing. While there, he tirelessly studied English so he could understand American angling techniques. His classrooms were Lake Casitas and Castaic, the two famed fisheries where world-record largemouth have been on the lines of American trophy anglers.
Brazilians are a passionate people, and Malucelli’s experience inflamed his desire to pursue his dream.
“I told my wife that one day I will have the opportunity to fish B.A.S.S. and one day make the Bassmaster Classic; and here we are,” he said. “I’m trying to reach the Elite Series. These are my dreams.”
The turning point came in 2007 when the Malucellis were offered an opportunity to come to the United States. Aquabrazil intended for them to live in south Florida, to take advantage of Malucelli’s saltwater credentials. But the bass won out.