When French bass angler Nassa Khanfour travels to Tennessee later this month, he won’t be breaking altogether new ground. As Don Barone previously documented, French national Jean-Pierre David competed in the first two Central Opens of the year as an amateur, earning a check both times, including a 4th place finish at the recently-concluded tournament on the Red River.
Khanfour’s transatlantic trip presents a more substantial challenge. He plans to fish the boater side of the Northern Open circuit and getting a little boat across the big pond is no easy feat. He’s been trying to resolve the logistical hurdles for a decade, but only this year did he arrive at a solution, when the folks at Livingston Lures arranged to provide him with a tow vehicle as well as the boat that Elite Series pro Hank Cherry used last season, plus a place to garage them in between events. It was a warmly-welcomed solution that arrived because of relationships he’d already built.
“Most people in Europe fish for pike and walleye,” he said. “There are bass only in Portugal, Spain, Italy and the south of France. I started fishing for them in 1996 or 1998, and for nearly 20 years I’ve been talking about coming to the US. It has always been my dream to do a tournament in the States.”
As his skills and his passion increased, so did his appetite for American lures. “A lot of fishermen here use only live bait,” he said. “In France, most of the shops only have three or four brands [of lures],” all of them manufactured close to home. In contrast, Khanfour assimilated the baseball, hot dogs and apple pie ethos of American tackle wholeheartedly. He turned that obsession into a business, selling only US-made products “that had never been seen here in Europe” to a rapidly growing customer base. Through that process, he got to know the management at Livingston, as well as Texan Lloyd Walker, who owns Xcite Baits, a manufacturer of soft plastics aimed largely at the Lone Star State’s outsized bass. Khanfour also started to represent several fiberglass and aluminum bass boat companies on his home turf.
His growing immersion in the sport fueled a desire to travel to the land where it had been created, so three years ago he traveled to Florida, where he fished the Stick Marsh and then headed to Okeechobee, where he witnessed a tournament weigh-in. Subsequently the quest to find a way to compete stateside became even more urgent. Now it’ll become a reality.
He’ll start the quest on Tennessee’s Douglas Lake, which is nothing like the Florida bowls he first encountered here. It is deep instead of shallow and has no vegetation. He’s not deterred, though, and in fact believes that he’ll be able to thrive through versatility.
“I see that a lot of tournaments on Douglas are won on hard baits, and I love fishing crankbaits,” he stated. “But I love all techniques. I have a lot of confidence in soft plastics and vertical presentations, too.” As his business has grown, his time on the water has shrunk, but he’s built a library of fishing memories that he expects to call upon when presented with new situations. Two years ago, he fished for bass 240 days. Now, he tries to get out at first light as many mornings as he can and then fish until early afternoon before hitting the grindstone.
While Khanfour expects to excel, he recognizes that with the difficulty of obtaining a boat in the rearview mirror, now he can let his on-the-water performance speak for itself.
“I’ve spent nearly 20 years chasing this dream, but this is just the beginning,” he said. “To finish in good condition is my biggest dream, but I know that in my second tournament I will do better than I did in my first one. In Europe, we say that the United States is the land of dreams. If someone trusts in you there, they’ll give you a chance.”