There are countless good reasons for competing in Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open tournaments. One is to fish against high-level anglers in true, big-time events. Another is to win a pile of cash, a boat or both.
Many anglers regard the Opens as a steppingstone to a professional bass fishing career. Win a Bassmaster Open and you’re in the Bassmaster Classic. Finish high enough in the year-end point standings, and you’ll be invited to join the world’s greatest anglers on the Bassmaster Elite Series trail.
The motivation for North Carolina’s Tracy Adams is all of the above. He has certainly made the most of it since he began fishing the Bassmaster Opens in 2010.
Adams finished second in the Northern Opens point standings that year, which earned him a berth to the 2011 Bassmaster Classic at the Louisiana Delta. This was before the win-and-you’re-in rules change. He also qualified for the Elite Series, but he balked and missed the opportunity
“I’ve regretted not doing that,” Adams laments.
Over the next three seasons, Adams has competed in the Northern and Southern Opens. In 2012 he won a Southern Open at Lake Norman, his home lake. That earned him a spot in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic at Oklahoma’s Grand Lake where he finished in sixth place.
When the smoke cleared after the 2013 season, Adams found himself in fifth place in the Northern Opens, which prompted another invitation to fish the Elite Series. This time Adams is pooling his resources so he can take that leap of faith.
“I figured I’d better do it this time,” Adams says of the Elite Series. “It’s always been my goal to be a full-time bass pro.”
Adams’ father, David, will manage without his son at the family’s convenience store during Elite tournaments. Dad isn’t likely to complain. After all, he’s the one that encouraged his teenage progeny to fish team tournaments with him.
The teenager was hooked for life. Although Adams learned his bass fishing basics at Lake Norman and at other heavily fished reservoirs nearby, he has adapted extremely well to northern natural lakes that have strong populations of largemouth bass.
When Adams fares well in a Northern Open, it is usually with a flippin’ rod in his hand. Flipping and pitching a jig dressed with a Zoom Speed Craw into a grassbed produced a second place finish for Adams at New York’s Oneida Lake Open in August 2013.
The bass were bunched up tightly along an outside grass edge in 10 feet of water. Four of the bass that Adams brought to the scales were smallmouths; the rest were largemouths.
“I’m definitely a shallow water guy,” Adams says. “I prefer fishing anything 4 feet or less whenever I can.”
Flipping and pitching jigs, Beaver type baits and a Zoom Brush Hog is always high on Adams’ priority list. He also dotes on shallow cranking, sight fishing for bedding bass and skipping jigs under boat docks.
The first two Elite Series tournaments at Lake Seminole and the St. Johns River are likely to happen during the bass spawn. Adams is hopeful that his sight-fishing ability will get him off to a fast start.
The only Open tournament that Adams intends to fish in 2014 is the Norman Lake Southern Open, which happens in October. He will surely be skipping a jig under Norman’s many boat docks during that derby.
“There will be other ways to catch bass there, but I’m betting it will be won skipping docks,” Adams says.
That suits Adams just fine. It’s how he grew up fishing for bass. He claims that you have to become a skilled dock fisherman to do well on lakes like Norman.
“Skipping docks is my favorite way to catch bass,” Adams says.
His basic skipping setup is a 7-foot, medium-heavy baitcasting rod matched with 17-pound fluorocarbon line and a 3/8- or 1/2-ounce jig dressed with Zoom’s Big Salty Chunk or NetBait’s Paca Chunk.
“I usually swim the jig back 2 to 2 1/2 feet deep so it’s just out of sight,” Adams says. “If the water is deeper than 5 or 6 feet, the bass tend to like the jig better on the fall.”
Adams is currently sponsored by Nitro Boats, Bass Pro Shops, Cashion Fishing Rods, Humminbird and Minn Kota. He hopes to collect more sponsors as he makes his mark fishing the Elite Series.