James Niggemeyer is coming off one of his best seasons ever (2009) and is looking ahead to 2010. He has earned three BASS victories and nearly $500,000 in winnings but is still searching for his first Elite win. Here's how the California-turned-Texas pro answered our 20 Questions:
1. Where are you from, originally?
2. How did you get started in bass fishing?
My dad actually started me out with bluegill and bobbers at an early age around the Los Angeles city lakes area, whether it was Castaic, Pyramid, Piru or Silverwood. We went on the weekends. We didn't go very often because he worked six days a week, but every year he'd make up for all that time away from home. We'd go up to the Eastern Sierras and go trout fishing for summer vacation almost every year
3. Who were some of your earliest fishing heroes?
Guys that I still look up to today are the guys that I followed back in the day. They were mostly Western-based guys. Being from the West, you feel like you're not part of the mainstream bass fishing scene. Three names come to my mind: Don Iovino, John Murray and Jay Yelas.
4. When did you realize you had made it in the bass fishing industry?
I don't think I have yet! I'm still working and fighting to make it. It's the kind of sport where unless you attain one of the great accomplishments, be it a Bassmaster Classic or an Angler of the Year title, I don't think you have. You're also measured by your longevity in the sport. I'm still fishing and vying for a career that stands the test of time.
5. What's the biggest bass you've ever caught?
Eleven pounds, 15 ounces. I got it out of Choke Canyon Lake in Texas during a tournament.
6. What do you love most about bass fishing?
I know this may come off cliché, but figuring out the puzzle each day. You could go out on the same body of water two days in a row and the conditions can be the same, but something has changed. Figuring it out, getting clued in and making the adjustments is always challenging. Even on an hourly basis you're making those adjustments. You can't really rest on what you have at one minute because it may change the next.
7. What is your greatest strength as a bass angler?
Power fishing, especially flipping and pitching.
8. What is your greatest weakness as a bass angler?
The area I'm still working at is deep water fishing. I wouldn't say it's a weakness, I just need to learn to break it down faster. Also, recognizing that deep water stuff and locating the prime deep water areas. However, I've done well in the past fishing offshore.
9. Where is your favorite place to fish for bass and why?
Probably Lake Fork in east Texas. It's a lake that was designed by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department as a trophy bass fishery. There are also different programs going on around the lake that keep it the quality fishery it is today. It's great but challenging because it sees a ton of pressure. I think it's one of the top 10 bass lakes in the country.
10. What question do you get asked most by fans and how do you answer it?
Out of three that come up frequently, one is asked the most. It's "How do you find the fish on a lake you've never been to?" I hear that more than anything, I think. The way I answer it is there's three things you have to consider: the type of water you're going to (lake, reservoir, river, tidal fishery), the type of species you're fishing for (largemouth, smallmouth, spot) and lastly the seasonal pattern. Those three things need to be taken into consideration and put as rules of thumb into any body of water from the West coast to the East coast. They'll give you general areas of a body of water to focus your attention on and break down the water a little faster. Finally, choose a small area of the lake that offers you lots of options that you can cover in a day's time. That way you're not spending time in the seat, you're spending time casting.
11. What's the biggest mistake you see from casual anglers?
I would say that they don't match their rod, reel, line, hooks, etc., to their technique. By not matching things, you're not optimizing your hook/land ratio. By that I mean, you're fishing around heavy cover with a flipping stick and braid, but you're using a light-wire hook. The opposite would be a shaky head on 15-pound-test line. You need to make sure you've got your ducks in a row to land as many fish as possible.
12. Do you have any fishing superstitions?
I sure don't.
13. How big a part does luck play in fishing?
I think percentage-wise, it's single-digit, as in less than 10 percent. I don't know that I'd call it luck, though. I think there's a degree of chance. At any given time you can take advantage of opportunities.
14. What has been your greatest accomplishment in the fishing industry?
I have two things I'm especially proud of. The first year they split the Opens into the Northern Tour and Southern Tour. I was blessed enough to qualified for the Classic and the Elite Series. That really spring-boarded a lot of things together for me. Even today I still think about that as my best accomplishment. The other is qualifying for the Classic through the Elite Series as well as the Southern Opens. That's huge.
15. What goals have you yet to accomplish in your bass fishing career?
I would like to win an Elite Series event. And just like everyone else who fishes with BASS, I'd love to win a Classic. But first I want an Elite win.
16. What keeps you motivated to reach those goals?
Fishing is one of the few things in life that I've gotten involved in to the point that people ask me what I like to do when I'm not fishing tournaments or guiding. I tell them I like to go fishing. The way God wired me was to love to fish. Add in that competitive juice, and it stays fresh and makes me want to get better and better. There are a lot of goals left out there I'd like to attain, but I just really like to fish. It's kind of an interesting thing. I'm just as excited to do it now as I was 10 years ago, maybe more. What's more, a lot of the goals we set for ourselves as anglers keep us motivated. On top of that fact is that, as professional anglers, we need to keep it fun. Just the other day I went trout fishing with my son and we had them for dinner that night. Whether I take my kids crappie fishing or we go to the trout lakes and catch a few for the table, keeping it fun is a big way to stay motivated and fresh. If you get overwhelmed and stagnant, that's a bad thing.
17. What has been the greatest regret of your fishing career?
Oh, I don't know. You think about things where you wish you could go back and change a decision; but as far as regrets, I don't have any. I don't like to dwell on the past too much.
18. When you're not bass fishing, how do you like to spend your time?
Without a doubt, with my family.
19. What profession (other than your own) would you like to have tried?
I went down that road one time and I couldn't find anything that I was as excited about or had the drive or desire to do. In short, I don't know, and that's kind of scary. I am doing what I want to do. If I wasn't fishing though, I'd like to go into business for myself. However, fishing is that. I'm self-employed.
20. When it's all over, how do you want people to remember you?That's a heavy one! I want to be remembered as somebody who brought something positive to the sport and as a person who was a blessing to people through my career. I also want to be able to grow the sport, whether it's on the national level or just in my town here of Van, Texas. I want to share the thing that makes fishing so special with other folks. I'd like to be remembered as a competitive guy on the water. For me, fishing has done a lot for me all through my life, even up to this point; I want to be able to share that. Lastly, you can't be a professional angler and not want to be remembered for some of your accomplishments.