Bassmaster Elite Series rookie Justin Lucas serves as an inspiration to all co-anglers who aspire to turn pro one day.
When he joined the FLW Series in 2007, Lucas decided to enter the tournaments as a co-angler despite some successes he had in team tournaments in California. “I knew that I needed to learn a little bit,” Lucas said of his decision to start as a co-angler. “I wasn’t financially ready to go as a boater, so I didn’t want to jump ahead of myself. I didn’t want to just throw all my money in and start fishing as a pro and go into debt. I wanted to win money as a co-angler and use that money to jump ahead and go pro.”
That is exactly what Lucas did as he fished as a co-angler for three years and won four tournaments and qualified for two Forrest Wood Cup championships. His co-angler winnings of $122,346 gave him the confidence and set him up financially to enter the pro ranks of the FLW Tour trail in 2010.
The 27-year-old Lucas remembers fishing his first tournament with his Uncle Phil on Clear Lake in California when he was 11 years old. His Grandpa Jack became his next tournament partner when Lucas turned 12. “He actually bought a boat so he and I could go fish tournaments together,” said Lucas, who recalls they fished in a team trail division limited to engines of 100hp or less.
The young angler was hooked on competitive fishing when he won his first tournament with his grandpa. “I remember thinking I want to do this — make money fishing — for the rest of my life."
A couple of years later Lucas and his grandfather upgraded to the team trail division for 150hp engines. “The one thing that was really cool with my grandpa was that he would always have me drive the boat and always have me run the trolling motor ever since we started fishing tournaments,” Lucas recalled. “He would just drive to the boat ramp and back it into the water. I would pick him up off the dock, and he would fish off the back of the boat the whole time.”
While fishing with his grandfather in team tournaments the next five years Lucas saved enough money to buy his own boat. “My grandfather would always give me a little bit of the money we won and would put a little bit away for me and then he would keep the rest to cover all of his expenses,” Lucas said.
When he was 19, Lucas fished team tournaments with John Dillheimer, and the duo won a boat at an event on Lake Oroville. “That kind of jump started everything for me,” Lucas recalled. Prior to entering the FLW Series events, Lucas started fishing the Western Division of the Rayovac Series in 2006 and fished it for two years as a co-angler.
The Guntersville, Ala., pro believes his experience fishing a variety of lakes in California made him a versatile angler. “I still love throwing swimbaits, and I love my spinning rod techniques from growing up out West,” said Lucas, who also feels comfortable with power fishing tactics. “I feel I can go anywhere in the country and at least compete. I don’t feel like I am at a disadvantage anywhere we go.”
When B.A.S.S. announced the 2014 Bassmaster Classic was slated for Lake Guntersville, Lucas decided to enter the Bassmaster Opens to earn a chance to fish a Classic on his home waters. He had previous B.A.S.S. experience fishing a Western Open in 2003 as a co-angler and opted to try the pro side of the Northern and Central Opens.
Though he failed to make the Classic, Lucas finished fourth in the Northern Opens point standings and got the call to fish the Elite Series, achieving a longstanding dream. “Ever since reading Bassmaster Magazine as a kid, I have always looked at B.A.S.S. as where I wanted to be fishing,” he said.