Simple curiosity is what motivated Chris Malone of Ironton, Ohio, to join the 2011 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open circuit, his first venture into pro-level Bassmaster fishing.
“I have some buddies who are in the Opens, and I’m always ready to fish, so I just jumped in to see what would happen, where it would take me,” he said.
It took him to the top. Going into the Sept. 22-24 season finale on New York’s Oneida Lake, Malone is the Northern Open points leader.
Keeping in character, on Monday he said he’s very curious to see how this week turns out for him. If he finishes in the Top 5 in points, he’ll be offered a spot in the 2012 Bassmaster Elite Series.
“I’m totally stoked about that,” he said Monday from his boat on Oneida Lake. Malone’s been on the lake since Friday to put in some extra practice time so he has a good chance at maintaining his No. 1 position.
To step up to the Elite Series is an achievement. To do it after one season warrants bragging rights. But Malone is close to opening a marine dealership to sell Legend Boats and Mercury motors, so an Elite Series career starting in 2012 would be unlikely.
“I have a lot of irons in the fire right now,” he said.
He has never competed on Oneida before. His first look at the lake was last Friday.
“I thought this would be my best tournament (of the three Northern Open events), because it sets up like I like to fish,” he said, “but I’ve been struggling. But we have a chance of rain here. I think that weather will make the fish bite better, at least for what I’m wanting to do. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping.”
Fishing since he was 3 or 4 years old, Malone has made a name for himself in several tournament circuits near his home in Ohio. He also was his state’s points leader in the 2010 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series operated by American Bass Anglers, and the 2006 FLW Series co-angler champion.
Regardless of how his first Bassmaster pro-level season turns out, he’ll never quit fishing. “I had a boat before I had a pickup truck to haul it with,” he said, laughing. “Fishing’s about the only hobby I’ve ever had.”