How cows led me to my dream job

It’s not easy running a major boat company while competing on the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament trail, but I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Some people may make the assumption that I fish tournaments to help sell boats, which is true. But we have a first-class bass touring pro staff to do that for us at Phoenix.

I do this for several reasons. Primarily, I feel it gives Phoenix Boats an advantage due to the fact that I eat sleep and breathe bass boats and bass fishing 24/7.  I think about things that can make our product better while out there. And, I love it.

I grew up on a farm in Missouri and fished ponds every chance I got. I picked up a Bassmaster Magazine one day and read about bass fishing at Toledo Bend.

I knew it was where I needed to go. I eventually got to fish there during a period when you could go anywhere on the lake and catch bass.

I was hooked even more so.

I wanted a boat badly, so my dad gave me a calf to raise and ultimately sell. That’s how I bought my first boat.

I started fishing around Missouri and the fever grew. I went to school to be an automobile mechanic, and while I did that for a while, I wanted to be closer to fishing. I got a job at a marina working on boats and later as a boat salesman while my passion for tournament fishing continued to grow.

I never had any intentions of being in the boat business. My goal was always to be a bass tournament pro.

I fished Bassmaster events back in the 80s and traveled with the likes of Charlie Campbell, Stacey King, Chet Douthit and Howard McAllister.

I nearly went broke doing it.

In 1988, I went to work at Stratos Boats in their rigging department and moved up to consumer services and later into sales.

I took a position with Triton Boats as sales manager before moving back to Stratos Boats where I became president of the company. A key hire at this point, Teresa Johnson would turn out to be one of the best moves I ever made. We are business partners, and she is like a sister to me.

Also, with each move, good friend Greg Strahm, who I met when I was in my early 20s specializing in research and development, moved as I did. When we were at Triton, I jokingly told him to learn everything he could about his side of the business and I would learn the business side, and someday we would have our chance.

Well, we opened Phoenix in 2007 and sold about 20 boats that first year. This year, we will sell 1,000 or more Phoenix Boats and have expanded our factory to 120,000 square feet to meet demand. We have a nationwide dealer network second to none.

I love the bass boat business and I love tournament fishing.  I don’t get to go “fun fishing” much anymore, but I cherish my 10 weeks on the tournament trail and am grateful for having great people with me who keep Phoenix Boats running smoothly.

There’s no question - I’ve been blessed. It’s not often that a good ol’ farm boy can raise a calf to buy his first boat only to own a bass boat company years later and still compete on the most prestigious pro bass tournament trail in America.