The affable South Carolina pro has won two Elite Series events and qualified for his first Bassmaster Classic, all before the age of 30. What he hasn't done is answer our 20 Questions... until now.
1. Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Aiken, S.C., and still live here.
2. How did you get started in bass fishing?
My dad got me started. He always found the time to take me to the lake (Clarks Hill) and rivers near home. One of his best friends had a house on Clarks Hill, so we spent a lot of weekends on the water. It was a great experience. I've always loved taking an artificial lure, bringing it to life and fooling a fish with it.
3. Who were some of your earliest fishing heroes?
Kevin VanDam and Hank Parker always stood out to me. I admire their intensity and class.
4. When did you realize you had made it in the bass fishing industry?
I'm not there yet, but I'm working on it. When you come out here (to the Elite Series) and you're fishing against experience when you don't have any of your own, it's a challenge and you have a lot to learn. Right now I'm trying to solidify my place in the sport, and I feel I'm making some progress with my second Elite win and my first Bassmaster Classic qualification. I'm progressing every year and putting myself in a position where I can stay a while.
5. What's the biggest bass you've ever caught?
It weighed 11-3 and I caught it on the final day of the tournament I won on Lake Amistad in 2009.
6. What do you love most about bass fishing?
The challenge. The lakes are challenging, the techniques are challenging, and the fish are challenging. It's not like golf. We don't have caddies telling us how far we are from the pin or which way the green breaks. We have to make all the decisions ourselves, and that can be tough. Bass fishing is a very challenging sport, and I love that about it.
7. What is your greatest strength as a bass angler?
Being dialed in on one thing — a jig. That lure has put me where I am today. Whether I'm casting a jig to deep structure or flipping and pitching one to bushes along the bank, I rely very heavily on jigs. They've been my go-to baits since I was a kid.
8. What is your greatest weakness as a bass angler?
It would have to be shallow cranking. The waters I grew up on weren't very good for shallow cranking, and I have a lot of room to improve on that technique. Actually, whenever guys are catching lots of fish by just running the banks, I tend to struggle, but I'm working on it.
9. Where is your favorite place to fish for bass and why?
It would have to be Lake Amistad or Falcon Lake — lakes with lots and lots of big bass. If you go out and have a bad morning or a bad day, you can bounce back. There are enough big fish there that you can come back. At a lot of lakes, if you have a bad day in a tournament, it's over.
10. What question do you get asked most by fans and how do you answer it?
How do you catch fish on a jig? I tell them they need to tie jigs on a couple of rods and only carry their jig box out fishing. They need to take nothing else, go out and gain confidence in the jig. It's one of those baits that you can go hours without a strike and then suddenly load the boat. If they're new to the jig, they should probably start by fishing it around any rocks. That's where the crawfish live and where they'll probably find some bass.
11. What's the biggest mistake you see from casual anglers?
They don't cover enough water. They're too dialed in on what they did to catch 'em before. If the fish have changed, they fail to change with them. They need to keep an open mind with their fishing. If you're not getting bit, move.
12. Do you have any fishing superstitions?
Not really. I've never been the type of person to believe in that stuff. I haven't found anything that works for me, so I don't pay any attention that sort of thing.
13. What has been your greatest accomplishment in the fishing industry?
Winning the Elite tournament on Clarks Hill was my biggest accomplishment and biggest thrill. My family and friends were all there to celebrate it with me, and that win means a great deal. When you're fishing your home waters, you put a lot of pressure on yourself and it was great to win there. I can't imagine anything better other than winning the Classic or Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year.
14. What goals have you yet to accomplish in your bass fishing career?
Obviously I'd like to win the Classic and AOY. They're both really important to an angler's career. I'd take either one (laughs)! With AOY, you beat 'em all for a year, and with the Classic, you won the Super Bowl of bass fishing.
15. When you're not bass fishing, how do you like to spend your time?
I have two little boys who are eight and five years old. I love to take them fishing and golfing. My family's been into racing forever, and I enjoy that, too. It's great family fun.
16. What profession (other than your own) would you like to have tried?
I almost started a career as a race car driver, but got sidetracked and got more heavily involved in fishing. If I weren't in fishing, I'd probably be doing something in the racing industry.
17. Where do you see the sport of bass fishing in five years?
With the continued support of ESPN, I think our sport is going to grow and reach larger audiences. I don't know that it can be as big without ESPN. That ESPN logo and coverage are critical to bringing big non-endemics into the sport. With it, I know we can go places as anglers and as a sport.
18. What's the biggest challenge we face as a sport?
It's tough to give every angler the exposure he needs and deserves. In the Elite Series, we have 93 anglers, but only a dozen or half a dozen are shown on the television show (The Bassmasters). In NASCAR, there are 42 cars and all of them are shown. If we could find a way to broaden the coverage, it would benefit the anglers and the fans.
19. What's the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?
Finding the financial wherewithal to get started is probably the biggest challenge that anyone new to the Elite Series faces. It's expensive to compete at this level. That's not anyone's fault, and it's certainly not a complaint, but it is a challenge. Like the other guys out here, I've had to find that financial support so I can stay out here, compete and get established.
20. What's the biggest lesson you've learned in your career?
These guys (the Elite pros) are good! They're even better than I imagined. You absolutely cannot go off half-cocked at one of these tournaments and expect to compete. You have to make the most of every tournament and every opportunity because that's what the other guys are doing. And you have to do your homework and fish hard on every practice day if you want to compete. It's tough.