Dustin Wilks fished his first professional BASS event in 1998, placing 3rd. Since then, he's improved nearly every year until 2006 when chronic elbow pain turned out to be a devastating injury that would sideline him for two years. He was back in 2008, and had a good showing, placing 13th overall in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of he Year standings. Wilks admits an affinity for pond fishing, and like most fishermen, has a questionable big fish story. Here's how he answered his 20 questions.
1. Where are you from, originally?
I was born a baby bass man in Atlanta, Ga., then my family moved to Raleigh, N.C., where I grew up.
2. How did you get started in bass fishing?
My granddad and dad. When we took vacations to Canada, I'd see them fishing for smallmouth and having so much fun. That's when I got hooked.
3. Who were some of your earliest fishing heroes?
Bill Dance, Roland Martin and Rick Clunn.
4. When did you realize you had made it in the bass fishing industry?
Have I? Well, I guess I thought I did something special when I qualified for my first Classic.
5. What's the biggest bass you've ever caught?
I have two. The biggest one I weighed was 10-8. The biggest one I ever caught was out of Sharon Harris here in North Carolina. There's 12s and 13s pulled out of there every year. This one I got was absolutely mammoth. I put it on a crummy scale I had, and it read 9-15. I knew it was bigger than that. I showed it to another guy, and when I told him it read 9-15, he said 'No way! That thing's 13 or 14 pounds!' I tossed the fish back and went home and weighed a 15-pound sack of potatoes on the same scale and it read 9-15 too. So I'm not really sure how big it was, but it beat the 10-8 by a lot.
6. What do you love most about bass fishing?
The next bite.
7. What is your greatest strength as a bass angler?
Versatility. I like to think I have a wide range of skills.
8. What is your greatest weakness as a bass angler?
Using my electronics. I can't stand to idle around for hours looking at a screen. I know I have to get better at it, but it's hard.
9. Where is your favorite place to fish for bass and why?
Farm ponds in North Carolina. It's a lot of fun and you can learn a lot of things. There's big fish, too.
10. What question do you get asked most by fans and how do you answer it?
"How do you get all those sponsors?" is what I get asked the most. I tell them that you have to perform well at the highest level consistently before you can even attract any attention. Then you can start asking around.
11. What's the biggest mistake you see from casual anglers?
Not adjusting bait sizes and weights for different depths. You may be at the store and read a crankbait runs to 20 feet, when it really only goes 12. They get in 20 feet and think they're working the bottom when they're not. Also, you can't use a 1/4-ounce jig or weight on a worm in 15 feet — it's ineffective.
12. Do you have any fishing superstitions?
I used to. A long time ago I had this old set of pliers that was rusted shut, and the whole time I had them, I won every tournament. This was at the local level, mind you. Then one day I finished second and threw them out. That was that.
13. How big a part does luck play in fishing?
A very big part. Sure, you've got to be good and be able to find them and know what they want, but you also need to have your breaks. At the end of the day it's usually the lucky guy who does well.
14. What goals have you yet to accomplish in your bass fishing career?
Winning an Elite Series event. That's one I'm aching for. Also, winning a Classic and Angler of the Year would be great.
15. What keeps you motivated to reach those goals?
The next bite!
16. What has been the greatest regret of your fishing career?
Well, a number of years ago I was in an event where you could measure a fish to count it toward your total, but I had one fish that barely touched the line, and threw it back because I could make it legal, but wasn't sure the official could, so I tossed it back. I ended up losing by a few ounces. I lost $25,000 that day, and that's when I was 21 and broke..
17. When you're not bass fishing, how do you like to spend your time?
At home with my wife.
18. When it's all over, how do you want people to remember you?
I haven't really though about that yet, but I think I want it to be for the things I haven't done yet like win a Classic and Angler of the Year. Also as a straight shooter who did things the right way.
19. What's the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?
My elbow injury. I tore lateral and collateral ligaments in my elbow a few years ago and missed the whole 2006 season. When I had surgery, it went badly and I missed 2007 as well.
20. What's the biggest lesson you've learned in your career?
Don't spaz out. I've learned to stay calm, especially when I'm not doing too well. If you start to panic and run all over the lake, that's a sure way to lose.