Koby Kreiger would give just about anything for one more day fishing with his father.
Watching his dad succumb to cancer 15 years ago affected Kreiger immensely. The experience also made him rethink life and how he reacts to things.
It was his father, Quinn, who did so much to shape Kreiger’s life in fishing. They were tournament fishing partners for many events, and Kreiger relished those times with Dad, yet said he only began to fully appreciate them after his father passed.
“Maybe back then I didn’t realize the importance of going out fishing with him," he said. “Now that I’m older and more mature, that means a lot more.
“You didn’t know when you’re a young kid, you might be out fishing, but you’re not really fishing. You’re with your dad and on a fishing trip, but there’s a whole lot more going on about life. You don’t realize that until you get a little older. Yeah, now I get it.”
Kreiger’s fondest memories growing up in northern Indiana were with Quinn, and that set him on his way into the fishing industry and tournament angling. Kreiger, who lives in Alva, Fla., runs the Roland Martin Marine Center in Clewiston, selling boats and ordering tackle. His father began a custom boat trailer business, Trailmaster Trailers, one of his major sponsors that is now run by his brother.
Besides bass tournaments, where he’s earned $1.73 million, Kreiger has been a saltwater guide for tarpon and goliath grouper around Boca Grande Pass when he lived in Pine Island. The biggest tarpon he’s landed was 175 pounds, and he assisted a client to a 400-pound grouper.
“Bass are around 2 to 7 pounds, but when I go fun fishing, I want to catch something big,” he said, noting his very first fish was the total opposite and typical of most youth — a bluegill. His first bass came when he was 8, and he caught the tournament bug quickly as Quinn began competing when he was 37.
“My Dad got into bass tournaments late — I was still a little guy,” said Kreiger, whose first taste of competition was a victory with him in a benefit tournament. “We got a trophy, and I took that to show and tell at school. I thought, ‘Buddy, this fishing is the coolest thing.’ That is basically how it all started."
When he was 10, Kreiger landed what he considers his first big bass out of Paw Paw Lake in Michigan. The 5-plus came on a blue Action Plastics Firetail Worm, and Kreiger’s dad put it in the livewell, where Koby couldn’t resist taking look after look at it.
Kreiger was dumbfounded when his Dad finally told him it was time to release it.
“‘Let it go? Dad, this is the biggest I’ve ever caught,’” he said. “I’m thinking I’m taking it home and showing everybody.
“He made me let it go and I cried for the 50-minute drive from the lake to my house. I remember my Dad telling my Mom: ‘I wish I would have let him keep the dang thing — he drove me nuts all the way home.’”