All it takes to confirm why Frank Talley and Brad Whatley are a fit for the Bro Series is to recount two recent events in their lives.
In August, Whatley was en route to the Bassmaster Elite Series event at Lake St. Clair, when a driver fell asleep at the wheel and collided with his truck and trailer. The impact caused the trailer to disconnect from the vehicle, which flipped as it rolled down the hill of a freeway on ramp. Fortunately, Whatley wasn’t injured. Without hesitation, he called Talley, who was only a few miles away at their hotel. They managed to salvage the boat and trailer, hooking it up to Talley’s vehicle.
“He’s just a blue collar, down-to-earth guy and that's why I think we hit it off,” Whatley said.
The next month, Talley was in contention to win the Elite Series event on Lake Guntersville, when he experienced mechanical issues on the crucial semifinal Saturday. He phoned Whatley, who was not competing, and he brought his boat to Talley, allowing him to continue fishing without much downtime. Whatley took Talley’s boat to the service yard, and it was repaired by weigh-in.
“I never thought twice about calling him, knowing he’s the kind of guy who’d drop anything to help me out,” Talley said.
Talley and Whatley, both from Texas, are in their sophomore seasons on the Bassmaster Elite Series. Talley, 45, dreamed his entire life of winning a top-level tournament. But with three small children at home, he sidelined that dream for two decades in favor of coaching youth sports teams, fishing local tournaments and just being a good husband and dad. His dream came true when he won the event at Lake Guntersville. Talley and Whatley also qualified for the 2021 Bassmaster Classic.
Whatley, 40, followed the same career ethic. He prioritized raising his family and providing them with financial security before taking the leap into the pro ranks. He’s finished in the money in 28 of 38 events fished. Both Texans qualified for the Elite Series through the Basspro.com Bassmaster Central Opens in 2018.
Talley, affectionately called “Frank The Tank,” is recognized by his peers as one of the nicest guys on the tour, while Whatley’s low-key and unassuming personality makes their friendship an ideal match. Here is more about Talley and Whatley, and what makes them tick as bros.
How did you meet and what made you decide to be running mates?
Frank: “We met through the Central Opens, being both from Texas. We talked to each other a lot during the off time, and it first started as a friendship. This season, we started rooming together, and it’s been great ever since.”
Brad: “In 2018, we finished first and second in points for the Central Opens. We met there, kind of hit it off. The relationship didn’t really blossom until this year when we started rooming together.”
How do you work together?
Frank: “We talk about what’s going on, but we don’t share any GPS waypoints just out of respect for each other. We share techniques and patterns that are clicking or not.”
Brad: “At this level there are two ways to run. You either stick completely to yourself and not work with anybody, because bad information can kill your tournament. Or you can work together with someone, but only if you can trust them with your life, literally. Frank and I have that bond and trust. We share tactics and keep each other up to date throughout practice.”
Describe him as a competitor?
Frank: “Fierce. He really gets frustrated when a plan doesn’t work.”
Brad: “He’s laid back. Above all else, he’s a shallow water guy, but last year he forced himself to do whatever the prevailing patterns were in play at a given tournament. It’s didn’t work. He didn’t fish his strengths. This season he committed to fish his strengths, stay in shallow. I respect him for that.”
What’s he like without the game face?
Frank: “He’s goofy. He comes up with silly jokes like you’d hear from a kid. He likes to have fun.”
Brad: “You won’t see Frank without a smile. He is always smiling. I’ve never seen Frank angry. Never seen anything upset him at all.”
What do admire about him?
Frank: “His loyalty. He’s a true patriot of the country. He loves America, God and he’s a great family man. He’s got a heart of gold.”
Brad: “Our career paths are similar. I worked for 16 years in a factory and always wanted to do this, but I upheld my obligation to raise my family and have us financially secure. He did the same thing. There is a mutual respect and admiration for going that route. Family first.”
What is something about him that most people might not know?
Frank: “He worked for a long time on an assembly line job at a factory. That’s a lot dedication and hard work. I admire him.”
Brad: “He’s a salad eater. He’s a big guy and might not look like he eats rabbit food, but he loves his salads.”