Elite young guns

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Matt and Jordan Lee are paving the way for other young, aspiring pros.

When I began my career as a professional angler, I was in my 20s. That was a long time ago, and I’ve witnessed many changes in the sport since then. Some good … some not so good.

Among them were the many faces that have come and gone. But that’s to be expected in a sport where attrition is high.

When you consider the nature of competition, it’s that constant turnover of talent that makes this sport so incredibly competitive. With each generation comes new approaches to finding and catching bass — a constant evolution that makes it a challenge to keep up.

Talkin’ ‘bout my generation

Among the anglers who hit the trail when I did were Randy Blaukat, David Fritts,    Joe Thomas, Tommy Biffle and Peter Thliveros. All had game and were full of piss and vinegar, and each left his mark on the sport.

We were aggressive, too. Well, most of us were.

Peter T was more laidback in his approach — willing to take a whipping rather than mix it up in a crowd. And it served him well, as he learned to find fish others missed.

The rest of us learned to bump rails — fighting for fish that most of the field had patterned. And on some occasions, those battles were heated.

I could write a book about the ones I witnessed or was personally involved in. Some felt justifiable; others I’m ashamed of today. But that was part of the learning curve back then. We learned by trial and error, and by example. Turf wars were a common example.

Guys like Hank Parker, George Cochran, Denny Brauer — all nice guys off the water, but total intimidators during battle. And that made me a tougher competitor, as it did for many of my contemporaries.