Greg Vinson has spent two years in the Elite Series circuit and will fish his first Bassmaster Classic in 2011. This young gun feels he has something to prove at bass fishing's highest level, yet his shoulder lacks a chip. Vinson's humility and down-to-earth attitude have endeared him to fans and competitors alike. Here's how bassin's everyman answered our 20 Questions:
1. Where are you from, originally?
I grew up in a small town called Jackson's Gap, Ala., which is right on Lake Martin. I grew up on the water.
2. How did you get started in bass fishing?
I started fishing with my dad as far back as I can remember, maybe since I was four. We fished for bass, bream, crappie, anything that you could stick on a hook.
3. Who were some of your earliest fishing heroes?
I have to say Roland Martin and Bill Dance are two that I can remember from way back when. One who is a little more unique is Paul Elias. He had just won the Classic and me and my dad went to the Birmingham Boat Show to see him talk.
4. When did you realize you had made it in the bass fishing industry?
I still don't know if I've made it yet! I think after my second year of fishing full-time, and the year that I qualified for the Elite Series, is when I knew I had a shot at making this a real career.
5. What's the biggest bass you've ever caught?
The two biggest bass I've ever caught were in tournaments. The biggest one was 10-5 at a Southern Open at the Harris Chain in Florida. I won't ever forget that fish because it was probably the easiest fish I've ever caught sight fishing. There were four other people in that little canal looking for bedders, and I just happened to be the one who saw her when she rolled up there. Somebody was looking after me.
6. What do you love most about bass fishing?
The challenge. I've never had a day of fishing that was the same as the last. Trying to figure out what you have to do to catch fish each day is what keeps us coming back.
7. What is your greatest strength as a bass angler?
I would have to say versatility and being able to adjust to conditions. I think that's what allowed me to make it to the Elites and be successful at this level. You need to be able to fish any body of water in any condition.
8. What is your greatest weakness as a bass angler?
I was thinking about that the other day. I'm trying to improve on everything, but right now I think what seems to be the toughest for me is that period of the year when the fish are in transition between the spawn and being in that offshore structure in the summer. Finding those in-betweeners can be tough.
9. Where is your favorite place to fish for bass and why?
Without a doubt, Lake Guntersville. Any time of the year you fish it, you have a chance of catching a 10-pounder, but also the chance of catching a lot of 3- to 5-pound fish. I can't think of anywhere else in the country where you have both. It continues to hold up to the pressure.
10. What question do you get asked most by fans and how do you answer it?
I guess it's, "How do you get to become a professional fisherman?" The one that tags along with it is: "How do you get sponsors?" For me, it's been a matter of working my way up like any other athlete would in any other professional sport. You start at lower levels, like little league, then graduate into more organized levels like semi-professional. I would compare the Opens to minor league ball and the Elites to the Major Leagues. I started in a club, which is a great way for someone to start because you have an opportunity to learn from local anglers and the learning curve is short. You then step up to the Weekend Series, then on to the Opens, then on to the Elites. You have to take your time and prove that you can be successful at each level; if you get ahead of yourself, you'll set yourself up for failure. The sponsors come with the success and hard work. A lot of people expect someone to pay them to go fish a trail and then they'll become a good fisherman. It's actually the opposite. You start small with sponsors then work your way up in that area, too.
11. Do you have any fishing superstitions?
I've gotten a lot better, but I still have one that my wife thinks is funny. I've got a phobia of Zaxby's. I have to say that I absolutely love the food there, but that's why the superstition developed. Every time I went to a new town that had a Zaxby's, I'd eat there. I happened to notice I was doing bad in the tournaments after I ate there, so I guess that at some point along the way I thought Zaxby's wasn't good for my fishing. Most of the rest have gone, though. I do go through phases where I'll only wear a particular hat, shorts or T-shirt. It's usually a month-by-month basis. I wear one until I have a bad tournament with it, then I switch. The current one (as of July 28, 2010) is a Yamaha Pro Fishing visor and my black Nike shorts. They've been good to me the latter part of the year.
12. How big a part does luck play in fishing?
I don't know, but I've always said that the skill in fishing is being able to put yourself in a position to be lucky. I guess that's along the same lines as being able to create your own luck. It's only as much luck as you want to give it credit for, but generally you do something right or wrong and may not have realized it, so you chalk it up to luck.
13. What goals have you yet to accomplish in your bass fishing career?
I need a big win. I need to win an Elite Series event; of course, winning the Bassmaster Classic and Angler of the Year are always there but I'd like to get that first big win.
14. What keeps you motivated to reach those goals?
The fact that I've been close to these goals and that I see improvement in my career keeps me motivated. I feel like I've improved each year as I look back at the decisions I made then look at the results. As long as you improve each year, there's really no limit to what you can accomplish.
15. What has been the greatest regret of your fishing career?
At times I thought I would have liked to have started my career earlier, but as I look back I think a later start has helped me survive. It did take me awhile to be able to make the move to professional fishing, but I think I would've failed if I had begun any earlier. So I don't think I have any regrets at this point. I feel lucky to be where I'm at right now because I never did have a lot of money to be able to get out there a lot and do it that way. It's been a tough process.
16. When you're not bass fishing, how do you like to spend your time?
I enjoy hanging out with my wife a lot because she doesn't get to see me when I'm on the road. Most of the time we're either spending time with friends or family, or hanging around the house. If I'm doing something for fun, I'm usually still fishing. I'll fish for different species and mix it up that way. I also like to go night fishing. I'm usually trying to catch a fish somewhere, somehow. I got a bad case of something.
17. What profession (other than your own) would you like to have tried?
I would have liked to have been a professional baseball player. I came really close, but it wasn't in the cards. I'm glad I ended up fishing, because that's what I really enjoy. But being a pro ball player would've been cool, too.
18. When it's all over, how do you want people to remember you?
I want people to remember me as someone who did it the right way and someone who was grateful for having the opportunities he had. I realize there are a lot of people who would like to have the opportunity I have, and I don't want to take that lightly. I want to make the best of it. I also want to make an imprint on someone's life. It doesn't do any good if I just fish tournaments and not leave something behind. I want to create a desire in someone else to love fishing because the sport has been so good to me. It would be selfish to not do that.
19. What's the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?
There have been points in my career that have been challenging. The biggest one was probably when I decided to make the leap into professional fishing. I had to give up a steady job that paid good, had good benefits and a real promising future. But it just wasn't where my heart was. When I did that, I didn't know if I'd make it as a pro in a year, a month, or any time at all. I knew that if I was going to try, that was the time. Now, being able to survive is a challenge. There have been a few times where I was one tournament away from having to hang it up.
20. What's the biggest lesson you've learned in your career?
The biggest lesson I've learned is to be persistent and thankful. I know it's a cliché, but don't let the highs be too high or the lows be too low, because the next day can turn around one way or the other.