Mark Menendez notched his third BASS win during the 2009 season and earned entry into BASS' first-ever postseason. In 2010 he will fish his fifth Bassmaster Classic and be knocking on the door of the $1 Million Club with a good year and strong 2009 postseason. Here's how Mark answered our 20 questions:
1. Where are you from, originally?
I was born in Murray, Ky.
2. How did you get started in bass fishing?
My parents have pictures of me at 18 months old in diapers fishing for minnows in a bucket with a stick and some string. But really, I was 10 when we moved to Paducah, Ky., and that was the time bass clubs were taking off. I had a neighbor, Clyde Watts, who was a big bass fishing guy. I'd visit him and he'd tell me about his lures and eventually he took me fishing. I still fish with him to this day.
3. Who were some of your earliest fishing heroes?
Larry Nixon has always been one; Rick Clunn obviously, and I guess Fish Fishburne. Bet you hadn't heard that one yet! We've been friends for eons.
4. When did you realize you had made it in the bass fishing industry?
That's kind of a hard question. When you think about it, I've been doing this for 19 years, and I got my first foothold in 1992 when I made the top 100. That was the first thing that made me a fixture. Also, I caught the biggest bass in 31 years of BASS competition when I landed a 13-9. Making the Bassmaster Classic in 1997 was a shot in the arm, too.
5. What's the biggest bass you've ever caught?
That 13-9 I got in a MegaBucks at Richland Chambers Reservoir in Texas.
6. What do you love most about bass fishing?
I have the greatest office in the world. I'm standing out here looking at seagulls, blue skies; the things I get to see daily are great. Also, putting the puzzle together is a great challenge and part of the enjoyment.
7. What is your greatest strength as a bass angler?
There are two things I think I excel at. First, understanding what happens to bass in cold water, and secondary to that is versatility. Just this year, I've caught them on 65-pound-test Spiderwire braid down to 6-pound-test Trilene 100% fluorocarbon.
8. What is your greatest weakness as a bass angler?
Probably getting locked into the current conditions and not having an open mind. I shut other things out if I find fish and don't account for other ways of fishing, even though they may bite differently in different weather.
9. Where is your favorite place to fish for bass and why?
That's a hard question. It's going to sound cheesy, but I'm going to say Lake Jordan and the Alabama River are my two favorites. Reason is, those Coosa River spots are the meanest bass that swim.
10. What question do you get asked most by fans and how do you answer it?
Probably how to get a career in professional fishing started, which naturally turns into talk of sponsors. I tell them it's about relationships. Build that first, then tell them what you can do for them and don't ask what they can do for you. It's always better that way.
11. What's the biggest mistake you see from casual anglers?
Standing too close to a 3-year-old when he's casting a frog! That can hurt. But, really, once a guy catches a fish, he doesn't make that exact same cast again. Sometimes you'll be rewarded with another fish if you'd just do that.
12. Do you have any fishing superstitions?
No, not really.
13. How big a part does luck play in fishing?
It is a factor. Part of luck is when you find fish (which is usually not lucky) and they turn out to be 4-pounders and not 2-pounders.
14. What has been your greatest accomplishment in the fishing industry?
That's a hard one to answer. I don't really know. I've been here for 19 years. It started during the 1991 and 1992 Opens — back then they were called the Invitationals — and I made the top 100 to fish the 1992-1993 season. I've been at that level ever since. Also, I think that winning my first event after having meningitis is pretty significant. The planets really lined up for that one.
15. What goals have you yet to accomplish in your bass fishing career?
I want a Classic win. To me, the Classic is everything. The fans relate to it better even though we, as anglers, see the Angler of the Year title as a year-long accomplishment. The Classic has always meant everything to me.
16. What keeps you motivated to reach those goals?
What is going on today. I'm out with my 3-year-old in a boat, and I see how much he loves to fish and how he emulates his daddy. My family is my support, and I want to do it for them.
17. What has been the greatest regret of your fishing career?
I don't have any. There is always the tournament where you made the wrong decision and it cost you, but I don't have any real regrets.
18. When you're not bass fishing, how do you like to spend your time.
With my family, my son and my daughter. We fish for bluegill, chase turtles in the creek, whatever it takes to be with them.
19. What profession (other than your own) would you like to have tried?
I was a pretty darn good tennis player. At the collegiate level I made it to the nationals. That would've been a pretty natural thing to have done.
20. When it's all over, how do you want people to remember you?
I want to be known as someone who was a credible angler who gave back through education. Credibility is of the utmost importance in my opinion.