CONWAY, S.C. — John Proctor, 35, is having a hard time concentrating at his job as a bank accountant. That’s because the Conway Bassmasters angler just qualified for the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro via the 2015 Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Championship.
“It is a dream come true,” he said. “It is something I have strived for. I am very excited and cannot wait.
“But it has really screwed up my productivity at work because it is hard to think about anything but the Classic,” he said.
One of the main reasons Proctor joined the Conway Bassmasters 14 years ago was to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic. He has made the South Carolina team twice and competed in the Southern Divisionals in 2013 at Douglas Lake in Tennessee and in 2015 on the Pee Dee River in his home state. In both of those divisionals, Proctor finished as the top angler on his state team and advanced to the BNC.
Proctor had a tough time at the 2013 BNC at Lake Dardanelle, catching only two keepers and finishing seventh out of the eight Southern Division anglers. He rebounded with a solid performance in the 2015 BNC on the Ouachita River in Louisiana by finishing sixth overall and claiming the Classic berth as the Southern Division representative.
Now Proctor is preparing to fish the Classic waters of Grand Lake in Oklahoma, a state he has never visited. He asked Brent Long, a fellow South Carolinian who has competed in two Classics, to compare Grand to any lake they are familiar with, but Long had trouble making a close comparison.
“We just don’t have as much rock as Grand Lake has,” Proctor said. To prep, Proctor has watched online reruns of the 2013 Classic at Grand Lake and read multiple articles online about the lake.
“I don’t like fishing lakes with a lot of grass, so I was really excited when I looked it up and saw it wasn’t a grass lake,” said Proctor, who plans to pre-fish Grand the week of Dec. 12.
“That would have overwhelmed me more than anything. So I am totally content.”
“I like to fish rock, but for me it will depend more on how cold of a winter they have had and the weather during the tournament,” he said. “I am going to feel a lot better about it if the fish are into a prespawn pattern and not the winter pattern they were in two years ago.”
While he is excited about the Classic now, Proctor admits he might get nervous once he starts seeing the pro contenders.
“I think it is really going to set in whenever I go to a pre-tournament meeting and look around the room,” he said. “That is when it is really going to blow my mind.”
Proctor’s wife, Ashley, and their 2-year-old daughter, Kinley, will be attending the Classic to watch Proctor fish for fame and glory.
“I don’t want to be satisfied just being there,” said Proctor, who hopes to at least make the final-day cut. “I am going to approach it with an attitude that it is my one chance so I am going to try to win the tournament. I am not going to be just content to be there.
“That is what I am going to tell myself over and over again.”