After two wins, Wesley Strader and wife, Stephanie, aren’t sweating their move to B.A.S.S. any more. His victories in the third Elite event and in last weekend's Open washed away any doubts.
The Straders had concerns the move to B.A.S.S. might not be the right one. It’s hard to pull up roots grown over two decades on the FLW Tour and move away from the friends who’ve become family.
“I struggled with the decision to move to B.A.S.S.,” Stephanie said. “We had been there 20 years. I felt like I had built a family there.”
While there were questions still hanging in the air, the Straders discovered their family became even larger when he won the Berkley Bassmaster Elite at Kentucky Lake presented by Abu Garcia on May 7. He went back-to-back Saturday, holding the trophy for the Bass Pro Shops Eastern Open on Lake Norman only five days after his blue one.
“I think the good Lord answered our questions,” said Wesley, who reported he's received tons of messages from friends and competitors of both circuits. “I didn’t realize we had so many people following along, and I want to personally thank everyone.”
While Stephanie has been busy trying to answer every well-wisher on all the varied social media, the two took to Facebook Live after the Ellite win for a coverall thank you. On their drive to Lake Norman, the Straders mentioned many names and addressed a lot of things.
Things like winners with shiny new trophies sometimes have to put on muck boots and get dirty. After a meal with a friend who came up to surprise them, the Straders drove four hours home to Spring City, Tenn., for a good night’s sleep. Good thing because the morning brought a water leak, and Wesley was out at 8 a.m. with post-hole diggers working to fix it.
A day earlier he had been boots deep in a shootout with Skeet Reese, one of big names in B.A.S.S. Wesley received a lot of exposure on Bassmaster LIVE with bonus coverage on Sunday as he was making a run and with the main camera on Monday as he went out with the lead.
Through it all, his sense of humor showed out. His first punchline when contacted was a tad off color for a family website (ask him or me when you see us), but he threw in several other zingers during their live broadcast and over the phone.
One of his best came when Stephanie was talking about how difficult it was to watch him fish on a tension-filled final day. She was doing well to hold it together until his cousin, Angel, called, started crying and almost got her going.
“I said you’ve got to stop that stuff right now. I wanted to be able to express myself. When you’re bawling and crying, you can’t talk. Nobody can understand you,” she said, knowing a trip on stage might be forthcoming. “I kept these sunglasses on all day. I didn’t want anybody seeing my mascara running down my face.”
“That’s why I kept mine on, too,” Wesley chimed in.