Brad Whatley: I burn for this

You may not know him yet, but rest assured after the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, you’ll get to know Brad Whatley much better. He’s a first year pro on the Bassmaster Elite Series, and he’s living a dream he didn’t think was possible a few short years ago.

“I’ve always longed for this, and after the hard work and commitment, I’m at the Classic. It almost seems surreal — but that’s not enough,” Whatley said. “I’m here, and that’s pretty cool, but it will all mean nothing if I don’t win. Yes, I have a realistic outlook on the gravity of this tournament, and that I’m going toe-to-toe with the best anglers in the world. I’m here to win.”

Whatley, of Bivins, Texas, knows that making the Classic is a huge accomplishment in itself, but he’s not here for the appearance alone. He’s here to win. Period.

“Nothing counts but first place here,” he said. “I’ve always been a level-headed guy, and I don’t let the pressure get to me. I make my decisions and I live with them. But I do get excited. I’m very excited for the chance at a title, and I’m taking it very seriously.

“While I shouldn’t admit this, I’m going to: After I catch a game-changing fish, or fill up the livewell with a winning stringer, I sit in the boat and I dry heave for several minutes,” he laughed.

He said that kind of info isn’t good for print, but I promised nothing. (We both laughed.)

“There’s something about the level of competition during a bass tournament that when matched with Mother Nature, there isn’t much more satisfying than to be the best on that given day,” he said. “Now multiply that exponentially for the Classic and you have a feeling like no other on the face of the earth. That’s what I’m here for.”

Whatley grew up in northeast Texas, and he said that many of the guys he grew up fishing against are good enough to compete on this level, but they chose a different path in life. One that he respects.

“I’ve worked hard for this, and I want to win for the anglers I grew up fishing against. They helped make me who I am today,” he said. “I know what it means to work hard, and I’ll not quit until I reach my goals. This year, next year, and so on — I burn for this.”

Whatley also commented on how his family support is absolutely critical for this dream and lifestyle. A comment that cant’ be overstated in this sport, and one we hear often.

“My wife and kids mean the world to me, and I want to win for them more than anything,” he said.  “I keep a reminder nearby that helps me keep the perspective I need to continue chasing this dream. There is a guy I’ve fished against who got into custom painting lures, and he made me a set of crankbaits, custom colored to his specs with my wife’s name, and each of my children’s’ name etched on the side.

“It’s artwork. And I hold a high standard of this kind of thing, so I appreciate the time and talent it took to produce this. He gave these custom-painted baits to me for Christmas this year, and I keep them in my truck as a daily reminder of why I do this, and who I do it for.”