It was 2006 and up-and-coming professional bass angler Chad Morgenthaler had a decision to make. Would he join the Bassmaster Elite Series or dedicate himself to the FLW Tour?
Morgenthaler had fished both B.A.S.S. and FLW with some success, but big changes were in the wind. He felt he needed to pick one tour or the other, and it wasn’t an easy choice.
He’d already competed in three Bassmaster Classics — 2003, 2005 and 2006 — and received an invitation to fish the new Elite Series. For most anglers that would be a dream come true. For Morgenthaler, it was more complicated.
Among other things, entry fees and expenses were going up.
“I was green at the time,” he says, looking back on the situation. “I didn’t know what to make of everything that was going on around me. I could catch bass, but I really didn’t understand the industry or my role in it.
“There was a lot of bonus money available to me on the FLW side because I was running a Ranger boat and Yamaha outboard,” he says, looking back on the situation. “I decided to go with FLW.”
Morgenthaler won’t call that a mistake. Nevertheless, there’s been something missing since the day he made his decision. He wanted to fish with B.A.S.S. More than that, he wanted to fish in the Elite Series. It was something that never went away. His desire to give it a go grew stronger over time.
“I’ve dreamed about winning a Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title or being able to call myself a Bassmaster Classic champion since I was a little kid," he explained.
By 2012, Morgenthaler’s fishing world had changed. He's more established, and he's no longer with Ranger and Yamaha. He now runs a Phoenix boat and has a primary sponsorship deal with Jasper Engine & Transmissions, an affiliation that was in its infancy in 2006.
So, he came to a decision. In 2013 he will fish all nine Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open tournaments in an effort to qualify for the Elite Series. That’s a serious commitment, one that will require lots of travel, few days off, careful financial planning and the support of an understanding wife.
“I’m not going to kid anyone, though — least of all myself," Morgenthaler added. "It’s not easy to qualify for the Elite Series, and fishing all of the Opens doesn't guarantee anything. Sometimes, though, you just have to set a goal for yourself and go for it.
“I don't want to look back at my career and wish I’d tried to qualify. It’s time to take the chance.”
(Editor's note: Morgenthaler finished 4th in the first Southern Open of 2013 on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in Florida.)