Life's pathway is lined with inexplicable twists and turns that often lead to lifetime friendships. That was certainly the case for three 2009 Bassmaster Classic contenders: Kenyon Hill, Peter Thliveros and Terry Scroggins.
The foundation for their brotherhood was laid in the summer of 1985 when they connected by happenstance through Bobby and Judy Ditto of Ditto Lures, famed Florida soft plastic manufacturers at the time.
It began when, Hill, fresh out of college, towed his 17-foot bass boat behind a sports car from his Norman, Okla., home to spend the summer at the Georgia Boy Fish Camp on Dunn's Creek near Palatka.
Hill's father, the late Dr. Loren Hill, had just created the Color-C-Lector and the Dittos, who were pouring corresponding colors in their worms, agreed to give Kenyon a summer job while he honed his bass fishing skills on the St. John's River.
I was 21 years old, had a place to stay and a boat stall on one of Florida's great fisheries," Hill recalls. "I worked all day for the Dittos and fished every night until about 10 o'clock."
Not long thereafter, the Dittos introduced Hill to a hot, young fishin' stick from Jacksonville.
His name was Pete Thliveros.
"Pete shows up driving a 1977 Monte Carlo with air shocks, pulling a 17-foot Bass Hawk," Hill laughed. "We went out and won big bass in a tournament and finished high enough to get a check. More importantly, we've been best friends ever since."
The two have been inseparable roommates for 16 years on the Bassmaster Tournament Trail.
"We're like brothers," insisted Thliveros. "I'd do anything for him, and I know he'd do the same for me."
Later that summer, a big tournament was scheduled to go out of the Palatka docks. More than 200 boats were entered and the lineup read like a "who's who" in Florida tournament circles.
"Judy decides to pair me up with some 15-year-old kid she thinks has potential," Hill joked.
His name was Terry Scroggins.
"Terry and I went out and all but won the tournament, finishing like second or third," Hill remembered. "It was great! Here's two snot-nosed kids nobody has heard of dragging a big sack to the weigh-in with all of Florida's big names there. That was the beginning of Terry Scroggins owning St. John's River tournaments. And 24 years later, Terry, Pete and me are best of friends."
And while all three have enjoyed tremendous success on the BASS tournament scene, the 2009 Bassmaster Classic was the first in which all three qualified simultaneously.
Scroggins (26th) just missed the Classic's 25-man cut and Thliveros finished 39th. Hill, on the other hand, caught the heaviest five-fish limit of the Classic (24 pounds, 2 ounces) on the last day, rallying him from 22nd place to a 7th place finish.
"I'm sure we made Bobby and Judy proud," said Hill. "They had a tremendous influence on us being where we are today. We owe them a lot, not just for the fishing opportunities, but for the bond we have as friends."