Despite a less-than-stellar final 2010 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open, Ryan Said finished at the top of the heap in the three-tournament circuit. He's a Chrysler engineer by trade, but is looking for a career change as the 2011 Elite Series season approaches. Here's how he answered our 20 Questions:
1. Where were you born and raised?
Michigan, specifically southeast Michigan. I was born in Dearborn, then I moved to a city called Southgate for about six years, and now I've lived in Wixom for the past 23 years.
2. How did you get started in bass fishing?
My dad always took us fishing. When I was 15, my brother brought home a little flyer subscription to Bassmaster, and I thought I'd like to catch more bass. We didn't fish for bass that much — we maybe caught one or two.
I got it, opened it, and read it from front to back,; but the most important thing was when I got to the back, there was an article about how Ray Sedgwick won a tournament on Lake Seminole in Florida. Right then, I thought, "Holy cow, people fish tournaments? What is this?" From then on, there was never anything else I wanted to do with my free time. I couldn't even believe that people fished for a living.
3. Who were some of your earliest fishing heroes?
I've been reading about Kevin VanDam as far back as I can remember. He was in some articles, then he won Angler of the Year in 1996, I think; he's always been a hero of mine. I've always looked up to Gary Klein, too.
There's just something about the way he goes about his fishing that impresses me. One of my all-time favorite books is Joe Thomas' Diary of a Bass Pro. I must've read that thing 12 times, just soaking it all in.
4. When did you realize you had made it in the bass fishing industry?
Well, in all honesty, I don't quite feel like I have yet. It's a big industry, and I do well in tournaments around here, but I don't think you can say you've made it until you're full-time on the Elite Series. Other than that, you're not there yet. When you travel and fish all those different lakes, that's when you've made it.
5. What's the biggest bass you've ever caught?
Not all that big. Probably a 6-2 smallmouth. I'm hoping that poking around in Florida (on the Elite circuit) I might find a bigger one.
6. What do you love most about bass fishing?
Two things, really. The first is being outdoors. I really love nature and being out there. At the Chesapeake (Northern Open), I loved seeing the eagles flying and the crabs down in the water and all of the different fish. The second part is the strategy of tournament fishing. I love fishing, but I really love tournament fishing.
The strategy of going to a place and figuring it out always fascinates me. I've always been competitive, too. I've played every sport there is, and I've been playing sports since I was old enough to walk. There's nothing like the strategy of tournament bass fishing.
7. Where is your favorite place to fish for bass and why?
I'd say right now it's Lake Erie. The smallmouth population there is incredible, and they're fun to figure out. Sometimes they're hard to find but they bite good once you find 'em.
8. What goals have you yet to accomplish in your bass fishing career?
Well, I think the next big goal for me is to make it on the Elite Series. Last year my goal was to finish in the top three in the Michigan BFLs, and I finished second. I have a hard time setting goals as far as winning tournaments because I think the best you can do is to put yourself in a position to win and then have a few things go right.
The next big goal would be to get established on the Elite Series and be consistent. If I can do that, I think that a win could come along with that.
9. What keeps you motivated to reach those goals?
The competitiveness in me. I think fishing is a great sport, and I love sharing it with other people. When I first started fishing I would try to share it with everybody, and I got made fun of in high school for that. I enjoy sharing tournament fishing with people and helping other people catch more fish. I love the boater/co-angler format.
10. Where do you see the sport of bass fishing in five years?
I think it can grow. I definitely see it as growing, but I think a few things are going to have to happen first. We're getting to a point financially where something is going to have to happen to keep it going. I think smart heads will prevail.
Tournament fishing is a moneymaker all-around, but I do see some financial obstacles as far as what it costs to compete at a high level versus what people can afford given what sponsors may be willing to give out. Obviously, BASS can't foot the bill for everyone; they need to have sponsors.
The media is changing, too, as far as the Internet goes and what people watch on TV. There's a big flux, so the opportunity to grow is definitely there. It's going to take some smart folks to make it happen, though.
11. What are we doing right as a sport?
Promoting the sport — more and more people are fishing. The tournaments are getting spread around and visiting different places. I think the Elite Series is visiting almost all new places. So, spreading it around like that is doing great work.
Getting an online presence out there is also good. There are also more affordable levels of tournaments for anglers. Getting the word out like that seems to be working because there are more people buying more fishing licenses than ever.
12. What are we doing wrong as a sport?
As a collective sport, something is going to have to give somewhere as far as money goes. The price of a new bass boat that they're pushing is hard to justify when people are having a hard time paying their mortgages. Something is going to have to give. There are some things on the money side that need to get worked out to keep it going ahead.
13. What is your greatest strength as a professional angler?
I would say mostly offshore stuff. That doesn't necessarily mean deep; it could be shallow and either largemouth or smallmouth. It means getting a little away from the bank and fishing structure that I find with my electronics.
I feel that when I'm out there I'm fishing for populations of fish rather than going down the bank picking off one or two here or there.
14. What is your greatest weakness as a professional angler?
I would say probably cold water fishing. Up here, when the water gets below 50, you start seeing ice. I know down south they do a lot of winter tournaments when the water is in the 40s, and I haven't done a whole lot of that. Also, I get cold out there, so I don't want to stay long when I do it!
15. Do you have any fishing superstitions?
Well, not really. I don't. I might wear the same shorts for a couple days in a row if I'm in a groove, but that's about it. I try to stay away from them on purpose. My buddy Chad who fishes with me is the most superstitious guy you'll ever meet. He's always looking for signs, and it's amazing what he finds, and sometimes they work. But I'm not really superstitious.
16. How big a part does luck play in tournament bass fishing?
It's funny because when I started fishing, everyone perceived fishing as just luck. When I first started tournament fishing, I read Bassmaster and there are some great articles, but when you read them and take them for gospel, there is less luck. As I've grown as a fisherman, I've learned how much luck is involved. I would say there is a fair amount; you have to put yourself in a position to have good luck.
It takes luck to win a tournament, but it doesn't take as much to consistently do well. You've got to have some things go right for you to win a tournament. I've been really close. At a BFL Super Tournament last year, I had 45 pounds for two days. The last day, though, a guy brings in a 26-pound bag. That's luck, and there's nothing you can do about it.
As far as being consistent week to week or day to day, there isn't as much luck, but as you get closer to a higher finish, luck becomes a bigger factor.
17. When you're not bass fishing, how do you like to spend your time?
I'm a big music fan. I download a lot of music; it's kind of a vice. I spend too much money on it. I also go to a lot of live shows. I like everything from country to rock to gospel ... everything. If you gave me three free hours to be by myself, I'd be on the Internet researching artists and the music industry.
18. If you could only fish one lure for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Oh, wow. It would probably be a crankbait, like a Deep Little N or Strike King Series 5. If I wanted to go catch smallmouth, I know I can catch 'em on that; and if I want to go catch largemouth, I know they'll eat it. I can catch 'em in the rocks and in the grass, too. Basically, an 8- to 12-foot diving crankbait.
19. When it's all over, how do you want the bass fishing world to remember you?
As a guy who thoroughly enjoyed his tournament fishing. It's so challenging out there, and there is a lot of stress both financially and because you're fishing against the some great pros. I want to make sure that if I have this opportunity, I go out there and enjoy it. Also, as someone who wanted to share it with other people.
20. You'll be fishing in the 2011 Bassmaster Classic. What are you looking forward to most, and what are you most anxious about?
I'm looking forward to soaking it all in. It's going to be incredible. The first Classic I ever read about was the 1996 Classic when George Cochran won, and it talked about how amazing the event was. It's so far out there that to be there from start to finish, practicing, learning a new body of water, being there with the media and all the pros is going to be great.
On a smaller note, I've heard that you get to pick your Classic entrance song. I've really put some thought into that, though I'm not sure what it's going to be yet. The thing I'm most anxious about is walking across that stage the first day without any fish. I want to catch a few.