Reading Bassmaster Magazine and dreaming about fishing in the Bassmaster Classic inspired Shaw Grigsby Jr. to join a Federation club when he was 18 years old.
The Florida Bassmaster Elite Series pro joined the Bassmasters of Gator Country in 1974 to learn more about bass fishing and pursue the same dream as his fellow club members.
"It was always on our minds that we could make the Classic," recalled Grigsby. "Back then, we didn't do a whole lot of projects: We just fished. The main thing with us was that we were federated, we got Bassmaster Magazine, and we had an opportunity to go to the state tournament through the six-man team and possibly go to the Bassmaster Classic."
Grigsby ran into some pretty tough competition in his formative years with the club. "We had some really stud fishermen in our club," remembered Grigsby. "You had to be pretty good just to make the top six in our club."
He recalls some of the top competitors in his club were Gary Simpson, Dave Tanner and Tom Burke, who all competed in Bassmaster Invitationals, and Mike Gough, who was a contender in the 2003 Bassmaster Classic.
Grigsby recalls winning several club tournaments and qualifying for some state championships, but he never advanced to the next level. Plus, Grigsby never set a goal of turning pro.
"That just evolved," he said. "I always thought it would be cool to fish the Classic, but I never really thought this is what I wanted to do to make a living. I just kept catching fish and I was doing pretty well in my local club. Then I started thinking I needed some experience so I started fishing regional stuff, and that led me to fishing some bigger tournaments."
Competing in his first Bassmaster event in 1977, Grigsby earned a check by finishing in 27th place. He competed in two more invitationals in 1982 and finished 11th in the 1983 Bassmaster Super Bass Tournament.
"I remember when I went pro I was still in the club," he said. "I stayed in our club pretty regularly until the mid- 1980s, and then I didn't have time to keep it up." Grigsby also continued to run his pest control business until he turned pro in 1985.
The Federation Nation allowed Grigsby to gain plenty of tournament experience yet keep his full-time job until he was ready to turn pro. "It is a route I would recommend for people who have regular jobs because it gives them the opportunity to make it big-time and yet they can still carry on their jobs," he explained.
His days in the Federation Nation were the ideal training grounds for becoming a top-notch pro. "It forced me to fish other bodies of water," said Grigsby. "A lot of times as an angler, people only fish locally, so being a part of the Federation made me move around a bit and experience more waters."
That training eventually helped Grigsby qualify for 10 Bassmaster Classics.
The Florida pro admires how the Federation Nation has changed since his club days. "The guys are much more involved now in state, local and community activities and kids with the junior anglers clubs," Grigsby marveled.
"That is really special. It's not just fishing tournaments." He also appreciates how Federation Nation volunteers help with the Elite Series tournaments and serve as tow vehicle drivers and volunteer for other tasks during the Bassmaster Classic.
Grigsby has been a speaker at the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship and has spoken at other Federation Nation events.
"Any time they ask, I am usually around to help them," he said. "I am firmly behind them. Those guys have done great work for BASS and great work for bass fishing. They are a tremendous asset to us."