Southern Open #1: Auten targets Elites

Todd Auten believes the best thing for his bass fishing career would be to qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series and garner enough sponsor support to foot the bill for it.

The South Carolinian pulled off the first part of this hat trick last season by finishing third in the point standings of the Southern Opens. Although he qualified to compete in the Elite Series, Auten was unable to pull together the sponsorship he needed to sign on.

Auten fished the Elites during the 2009 season and yearns to get back. Should he qualify for the Elites through the Southern Opens in 2015, he hopes to be in a better position to draw the support he needs to fish against the top bass pros in the country.

Besides the Southern Opens, Auten will compete on the FLW Tour and in some of the Rayovac FLW events.

For the past 10 years, the 48-year-old angler has made his living fishing bass tournaments. Prior to that he was an auto mechanic for GM.

“I’m making a living fishing, but not a killing,” he said.

His current sponsors include Ranger, Mercury, Zoom, Power-Pole Lowrance, Motor Guide, Daiwa and Denver Marine. He also has a few other potential sponsors that may come on line, should he qualify for the Elites.

Auten grew up in a fishing family. It was Don Auten, an older cousin, who got him hooked on bass.

“When I was 12, he started taking me fishing on weekends to Lake Wylie,” Auten said. “He taught me the fundamentals of worm fishing, Carolina rigging, spinnerbaits, topwater, stuff like that.”

When the Rat-L-Trap caught on, Auten bought a chrome/blue back model. He could only afford to buy one.

“I wore my cousin out at Lake Wylie with that bait,” Auten said.

When Auten was 15 years old, his parents signed a release so he could fish his first bass tournament at Lake Wylie. He entered as a non-boater and didn’t fare well. Auten never again fished another event as a non-boater.

Another milestone happened when Auten was 15. He got his first boat, a 12-foot johnboat powered by a 9.8 hp Mercury. Since he was too young to get a driver’s license, he was constantly bugging family members and friends to take him to the lake. Whenever he was able to hitch a ride, Auten gleefully fished all day.

At age 20, Auten bought a 15-foot Speed Craftbass boat sporting a 70 hp Johnson from his father-in-law.

“I took that boat apart, installed new wood and fiberglass and painted it,” Auten said.

He used the boat to fish local tournaments and club tournaments after he joined the Southern Bassmasters in Balemont, N.C.The club allowed Auten to fish new waters and to expand his bass fishing knowledge and skills.

In 1998, Auten went for the big time and added the Bassmaster Opens to his tournament agenda. He was soon cashing checks on a regular basis. As his success improved, he spent more time fishing tournaments and less time at work.

In 2004, Auten’s boss gave him an ultimatum: work or fish. Auten chose fishing and never looked back.

“It’s had its ups and downs,” Auten said of his bass fishing career. “I’ll be happy when it all comes together for me and I’m back fishing in the Elites.”