In his 12 years as a pro, Jeff Kriet has mostly been flying under the radar. However, he's made seven Classics, won an event and earned more than a half million dollars fishing BASS events — hardly small-time stuff. Here's how the genial Oklahoma pro answered our 20 Questions:
1. Where are you from, originally?
I was born in Chicago, but I've lived in Ardmore, Okla., all my life. I went to college in Norman at the University of Oklahoma, then went back after I graduated. I got a degree in economics and was a loan officer for nine years raising money to be a professional fisherman. It was suit and tie every day, and I traded that for shorts and flip flops.
2. How did you get started in bass fishing?
Every Sunday after church, we'd load up my brother, me, my mom and my dad in a 15-foot johnboat and we'd go fish. Then I'd spend two weeks every summer with my aunt fishing. She's a big bass fisherman.
3. Who were some of your earliest fishing heroes?
Randy Dearman. He lived by my aunt. I'd go over there when I was a kid. I remember one time, I was over at my aunt's and they'd all come back from the Classic. Denny Brauer was there and they got up the next morning and went fishing. And I thought that's something I want to do for a living.
4. When did you realize you had made it in the bass fishing industry?
Probably when I made my first Classic. I'd won a BASS event when I first started, but I didn't feel like that was the real deal. When I made the Classic, I felt like I was doing it.
5. What's the biggest bass you've ever caught?
I actually caught it two days ago (Oct. 13, 2009). I'm practicing for the PAA tournament, and I caught one about 12 pounds. I let it go so no one would see it. I eased him back in and felt bad for setting the hook. I caught my second biggest fish in practice, too.
6. What do you love most about bass fishing?
The competition. Fishing is one of those deals I've worked pretty hard at, and I want to be the best. You can never quit improving. You learn something every time you go, whether it' good or bad.
7. What is your greatest strength as a bass angler?
8. What is your greatest weakness as a bass angler?
Sight fishing. I hate it. It's no fun.
9. Where is your favorite place to fish for bass and why?
I like any of the northern lakes. I like St. Clair because it's got a lot smallmouth. I like to fish for spotted bass a lot, too, like on Smith Lake in Alabama. I wish they'd drain every lake and leave nothing but spots in them.
10. What question do you get asked most by fans and how do you answer it?
The thing I hear from people the most is that they don't have the time or the money to go pro, but I say I didn't have the time or money, either, but I'm doing it. If you want to bad enough, you can do it.
11. What's the biggest mistake you see from casual anglers?
Probably not grinding enough and getting spun out. It can be 9:30 a.m. and if they don't have one in the well they'll freak out. That's what makes these (Elite) guys so good. It takes a long time for a full-time pro to freak out.
12. Do you have any fishing superstitions?
I never wear red underwear; I never catch 'em wearing them. Even Mike McClelland does it, too. He was killing them one day and woke up with red boxer shorts, and I said 'Dude, you can't be wearing those,' and he said I was crazy. The next day he went out and totally bombed. He never wears them anymore, either.
13. How big a part does luck play in fishing?
I think every now and again you can get lucky in practice. You get a lucky bite that dials you in. In four-day tournaments I don't think it matters a whole lot.
14. What has been your greatest accomplishment in the fishing industry?
Being able to support my family. I've done it full time for 12 years now, and I've been able to pay my bills and my family has been able to live a decent life.
15. What goals have you yet to accomplish in your bass fishing career?
Well, I've got three. I want to win an Elite tournament, and I bet it sounds cliché, but I want to win the Classic and a Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year. Those are the reasons we fish. I'd almost feel like my life's a failure if I don't win the Classic. That's something I've wanted since I was nine years old. I told my mom I wanted to do that, and she hoped I'd grow out of it but I never did.
16. What keeps you motivated to reach those goals?
I'm pretty competitive and I don't like to get beat by anybody, and I especially don't like to get beat regular by somebody like VanDam. I don't think he wants it any more than I do, and I don't think he's fished any more than I have. He gives me a lot of motivation.
17. What has been the greatest regret of your fishing career?
Not having enough confidence to do my own thing early in my career. I was around a lot of fish early on, and think now I could've won a few if I had more confidence.
18. When you're not bass fishing, how do you like to spend your time?
I like to go offshore. I have a 30-foot offshore boat. You can catch a lot and there's no pressure. I don't have to catch a specific kind of fish, and you can just go fishing.
19. What profession (other than your own) would you like to have tried?
I would've liked to have gone on a crab boat when I was younger, like The Deadliest Catch. Now I know I couldn't because I'm too old.
20. When it's all over, how do you want people to remember you?
I want to be remembered as a nice guy, but also as someone who could catch 'em. Now I think I'm known as a good fisherman, but I don't win enough. I need to win more. I don't want to be the guy who made a career out of it and that's all. I want to be the guy that people say, "Dang, he won some tournaments."