Carl Svebek III of Orange, Tex., was 8 years old when he told his father that someday he would fish in the Bassmaster Classic.
“I didn’t know it would take over 40 years to do it,” Svebek said.
After winning the second Bassmaster Central Open of 2017 at the Sabine River, Texas, Svebek, at age 50, will qualify for the 2018 Bassmaster Classic at South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell, provided he competes in the final Central Open of the season at Grand Lake in October.
Svebek longs to become a Bassmaster Elite Series pro. After the first two Central Opens, he is 49th in the AOY standings. Making the Elites is a long shot, but it might be possible with a strong finish at Grand Lake.
Winning at the Sabine River was emotional for Svebek. His victory came the day before Father’s Day and he thought about his father often during the tournament.
“My dad passed away 11 years ago,” Svebek said. “He made me love fishing the way I do. He put the fuel in the fire for me.”
Growing up, Svebek was a regular passenger in his father’s bass boat from about age four on. His father, a pharmacist and physician’s assistant, was a bass fanatic who competed regularly in local tournaments. Toledo Bend was one of many lakes they visited close to their Pineville, La., home.
At age 8, Svebek began fishing tournaments with his father. A year later he became a member of the Challenger Bass Club in Alexandria, La. His father had started the club the year before.
Svebek’s bass outings with his father became even more frequent when he was 14. That’s when his family moved to Woden, Texas, only a few miles from a boat ramp on Sam Rayburn. Besides weekend adventures, he and his father were casting on Rayburn most weekdays after school let out.
After graduating from Woden High School, Svebek went to Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, La., on a baseball scholarship. He played second base there. Two years later he transferred to Steven F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, where he graduated with a degree in education.
He planned to use his degree to become a high school coach. That never happened because his heart was set on being a professional bass fisherman.
“I’ve never coached a day in my life,” Svebek said.
Instead of coaching, Svebek managed the Needmore tackle store at Piney Point Plaza near the southern end of Sam Rayburn. He also guided for bass on Rayburn and Toledo Bend for the next 10 years.
His father fished four Bassmaster Invitationals from 1983 to 1988 all on Sam Rayburn. Svebek’s first Bassmaster tournament was the 1988 Invitational. He faired better than his father in that event finishing in 13th place. Svebek continued to fish the Invitationals and did well enough in 1996 to qualify for the Bassmaster Top 100 tour.
“Fishing the Top 100 was a rude awakening,” Svebek said. “I had never been outside of Texas or Louisiana. Suddenly, I was traveling to places like Washington D.C., Minnesota and Tennessee. I really struggled. I think I got one check for sixth place in Georgia.”
By 1999 Svebek had been unable to achieve the success needed to stay afloat fishing professional Bassmaster tournaments. He was broke and his credit cards were maxed out. With children to support, he figured it was time to call it quits.
As a last hurrah, Svebek entered an FLW EverStart tournament on Rayburn. He won that event, which lead to an 11-year stint fishing the FLW Tour where he won over $600,000. Ironically, Svebek claims it was at an FLW tournament that he met Jerry McKinnis, one of the three owners of B.A.S.S.
“I consider Jerry my second dad,” Svebek said. “We’ve done a lot of fishing together over the years.”
The bottom fell out of Svebek’s bass career when his title sponsor pulled its advertising dollars out of tournament fishing altogether. Without the company’s financial support, he was unable to continue tournament fishing in 2010.
Svebek sold his boat, all of his tackle and devoted the next seven years to his children while moving from one job to another. A breakthrough happened when a friend asked Svebek to do some consulting work for him at Gopher Industrial in Orange, Texas, which overlooks the Sabine River.
Svebek proved such a perfect fit for Gopher Industries that they offered him a full-time position with one stipulation, he would be required to fish bass tournaments to promote the company. The opportunity was more than Svebek could have hoped for. To his way of thinking, there was only one way to reboot his career, and that was via the Bassmaster Opens.
“It really hurt not being able to fish,” Svebek said. “I’ve always wanted to fish Bassmaster 100 percent. Now, Lord willing, I can start new with Bassmaster and end my career with them. The Elite Series is my ultimate goal.”
After fishing an Orange Chamber of Commerce Tournament on the Sabine, Svebek claims he put the bug in Jerry McKinnis’ ear about holding a Bassmaster tournament on the Sabine River system. McKinnis followed up by contacting the powers that be in Orange, Texas. Together, they brought the Elite Series to the Sabine for the first time in 2013.
Svebek restarted his pro fishing career by competing in the Bassmaster Northern Opens in 2016. He finished in the money only one time but felt good about the experience.
“I was definitely a little rusty,” Svebek said. “The Northern Opens kind of knocked the rust off.”
His 2017 season consists of fishing the Central and Southern Opens.
Svebek’s title sponsor, Gopher Industrial, sells items that support many industries, including hoses, welding supplies, Pipe valves and fittings, lubricants, MRO and safety solutions. His other sponsors are Ranger Boats, Evinrude, Bass Pro Shops, MCR Safety, Miller Electric, Hobart Brothers, Cam 2, Cox Reels, Carborundum (grinding wheels), Kuriyama (industrial hoses), PT Couplings, Urrea Tools, ProFax and Lenco Products.