College fishing builds foundation for success, part 1

Out of all the college fishing success stories circulating the outdoors industry nowadays, the story of Drew Sanford and Dalton Wilson should rank as high on your list as any. The southwest Missouri natives still bass fish competitively on the regional circuit, and Dalton’s Tundra qualifies him as a proud Toyota Bonus Bucks member, but that’s not what makes their story special.

Dalton and Drew are young men, but they are salt of the earth type dudes who embody the American dream. The kind of guys who helped grow one local propane business into a rapidly expanding enterprise, who have their company logo embroidered onto Carhartt shirts for their employees to proudly wear; reciprocating the support Carhartt gave to college fishing in their formative years.

These bygone Carhartt Bassmaster College Series anglers may have impressive fishing careers, but the true success story lies in the incredible progress their businesses have realized since 2014. And it all began with bass fishing.

Connecting and college fishing

Drew and Dalton have roots in central Missouri, but the two didn’t get to know each other until joining the University of Alabama fishing team. Growing up in Missouri wasn’t the only thing these fellas had in common; they also loved to bass fish. Drew, a few years Dalton’s elder, actually transferred to Alabama from Drury University in Springfield, Mo., where he helped start Drury’s college fishing team. 

The Missouri transplants decided they could stand one another and lived together in Tuscaloosa while attending school and competing in college fishing derbies. Things were going fine up until Mother Nature decided to drop a bomb in the form of the horrific F5 tornado that devastated parts Alabama and Mississippi in the spring of 2011 before leaving several other states in its wake of destruction. 

The 2011 Super Outbreak was one of the largest, deadliest and costliest tornado events ever recorded. Drew and Dalton’s Alabama living quarters, their college home, was destroyed. This series of events changed their futures immediately and sent both young men on different paths.

After returning to Missouri and dusting themselves off, Dalton ultimately received a scholarship to college fishing powerhouse Bethel University, while Drew graduated before heading to chase his bass fishing dreams at the next level, competing in the Bassmaster Opens.

Dalton went on to have an incredible college fishing career, winning major events and remaining a threat at any tournament he entered. Drew excelled at his pursuits, too. While near misses and mishaps plagued his Elite Series goal, Drew continued to be competitive in the Opens and FLW Costa Series competition. That progressed until 2014 when Sanford decided it was time to go to work. He headed back to Rogersville, Mo., to run MS Propane.

Green-LP is born and quickly grows 

MS Propane is a retail propane store that handles residential propane delivery. By the end of 2014, Drew owned and operated MS Propane. His honest, hardworking nature helped the local store experience continued growth when he hired Dalton at the beginning of 2015. Dalton had a similar unrelenting work ethic as Drew. 

Dalton was hired to paint residential propane tanks, but he would keep a change of clothes in his car and go door-to-door handing out flyers in search of new business when he finished painting. Drew took notice of Dalton’s above-and-beyond efforts, along with new clients he was bringing to the store. After only two weeks, Dalton was promoted to manage sales for the company.

“In all honesty fishing is what helped instill that work ethic in both of us,” Sanford said. “Look at any successful professional fisherman and beneath their logo-filled jerseys you’ll find a serious work ethic. Whether it’s propane business or bass fishing, you have to put in the time and effort to set yourself apart.”    

Dalton’s list of responsibilities wasn’t the only thing growing. When they struggled to find quality propane hauling trucks to best service their customers, Drew began having them manufactured in-house out of necessity, and thus Green-LP was born. Green-LP produced bobtail trucks that were among the best on the road. With an already rock-solid reputation from their work at MS Propane, word quickly spread about Green-LP’s services and quality.

Green-LP began building bobtail and service trucks for neighboring outfits as well as performing regular maintenance and repairs. Their dedication to producing quality equipment now finds them selling Green-LP trucks nationwide. 

The reality is, I could stop this article right here and it would be a sure-enough Americana success story. A couple of young men finding success in their employment through diligence they credit bass fishing and the outdoors with disseminating into them, but the tale doesn’t stop there. At 32-years-old Drew Sanford has gone on to open Green-LP Transport, building tanker semis to haul propane, ethanol and biodiesel to a four-state area surrounding Missouri. 

Drew has also launched James River Manufacturing, a two-division business that started producing fishing lure components like jig, swimbait and shaky heads. This small passion project Drew began to keep himself connected to bass fishing has now grown to refurbishing residential and commercial propane equipment using the same processes he learned producing and painting jig heads. But we’ll save the rest of that story for part 2.

Writer's note: We were introduced to Drew Sanford and Dalton Wilson after they served as photography talent on a Nitro Boats shoot for Michael Engelmeyer. Engelmeyer owns and operates Great Outdoor Studios, which produces breathtaking imagery for a myriad of outdoor industry leading companies like Toyota trucks, Bass Pro Shops, Carhartt and Nitro boats among many others.