The 2008 BASS Federation Nation champion, Bryan Schmidt, very nearly took the 2009 Bassmaster Classic by storm. In three days on the Red River, he showed the pros that he has the skills to compete, finishing sixth and turning in the 10th best day in Classic history (5-bass limit era) in the third round when he weighed in 22-1. Here's how the aspiring Texas pro handled our 20 questions:
1. Where are you from, originally?
I was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, and grew up in Olney, Texas. I've lived there ever since.
2. How did you get started in bass fishing?
When I was a kid I fished local tanks [farm ponds] with my dad. We were usually fishing for catfish, but I always took a lure or two and tried for bass.
3. Who were some of your earliest fishing heroes?
Mostly the guys on TV — Roland Martin, Hank Parker, Bill Dance. I liked to watch them catching fish.
4. When did you realize you had made it in the bass fishing industry?
I haven't made it yet. Right now I'm an amateur trying to get to the pro level. As the Federation Nation champion, I had the opportunity to fish the 2009 Elite Series season, but I passed because didn't think I was ready — financially or as a fisherman — to take that step. Now I'm fishing the Central Opens and trying to get back to the Classic.
5. What's the biggest bass you've ever caught?
It weighed 10.33 pounds and came from Lake O.H. Ivie. I caught the fish on a 5-inch Senko in green pumpkin with green and purple flake.
6. What do you love most about bass fishing?
I really enjoy the competition and the friendships that develop out of it.
7. What is your greatest strength as a bass angler?
Probably flipping and cranking. If they can be caught by flipping and pitching or will hit a crankbait, I'm going to have a lot of confidence.
8. What is your greatest weakness as a bass angler?
Probably either finesse fishing or finding bass. If the bass on the Red River at the Classic had backed out of the shallows, I would have had a really tough time with them.
9. Where is your favorite place to fish for bass and why?
Definitely Amistad Lake on the Texas-Mexico border. It's a great fishery with lots of big bass.
10. What question do you get asked most by fans and how do you answer it?
The question I get most is: "What do I need to fish with?" It's a question that spawns lots of other questions. The answer depends on what time of year you're fishing, the weather conditions, the water conditions. It's definitely not a simple question.
11. What's the biggest mistake you see from casual anglers?
They get caught up in the places and lures they caught them in and on before. They'd do better if they just wiped the slate clean and started fresh without thinking about how they did the last time they were fishing.
12. Do you have any fishing superstitions?
No, not really — although I may have a lucky coin now. My friend J.P. Greeson gave me a Ray Scott coin before the final day of the 2009 Classic. He said it was good luck for him, so I carried it on the water and had a really great day. When the Classic was over, I gave it back to J.P., but then he mailed it to me and told me to keep it. I might start carrying it on the last day of tournaments.
13. What has been your greatest accomplishment in the fishing industry?
I'd have to say that my greatest accomplishment was winning the BASS Federation Nation championship. My second greatest accomplishment — and they're very close was finishing sixth in the Classic.
14. What goals have you yet to accomplish in your bass fishing career?
I want to fish another Classic or eventually turn pro and fish the Bassmaster Elite Series.
15. What keeps you motivated to reach those goals?
The fellowship and competition drive me. The competition in tournaments brings out the kid in me.
16. What has been the greatest regret of your fishing career?
I don't have any real regrets, just a few letdowns. You're not going to catch them all the time. I do regret not getting started in tournament fishing at an earlier age. I started in 1999 when I was 28.
17. When you're not bass fishing, how do you like to spend your time?
Most of the time I'm not fishing, I'm working. I work for Air Tractor, a company that manufactures crop dusters.
18. What other sports do you enjoy?
I like to hunt, and I used to play a little golf. My handicap was 17 or 18, but I really enjoyed the challenge of the game.
19. What's the biggest lesson you've learned in your career?
As a tournament angler, I've learned that preparation is key. You can't just show up and expect to do well ... at least I can't.
20. If you could only fish one lure for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Probably a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver. There's just so many ways you can fish it. I like to Texas rig it on a 4/0 or 5/0 Gamakatsu Superline hook and flip it to heavy cover or swim it. It's a very versatile lure.