Jay Yelas can drive 55, as he’s tooling along the Bassmaster Elite Series expressway just fine, thank you.
Contacted on his 55th birthday Sept. 2, Yelas had a day fishing planned with his daughter then grilling dinner at his Lincoln City, Ore., home. The longtime pro had plenty to celebrate. He’s coming off a Top-10 finish in the Elites that moved him up the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, and this spring he was announced as part of the 2020 induction class to the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame.
“That’s just a huge honor, both for me and my family,” Yelas said. “What’s unique is that it recognizes a body of work over 30-plus years. There’s nothing else like it. To me it’s a major deal. I’m just thrilled to get that.
“Win a tournament or Angler of the Year title, those things are great. It’s just a great week or great year, but to have the Hall of Fame recognize a great career, and your impact on the sport was positive, made it better. Probably the biggest thing is it means you had a good influence on the overall sport of bass fishing.”
Yelas’ resume is worthy. He won the 2002 Bassmaster Classic on Lay Lake, has Angler of the Year titles in B.A.S.S. (2003) and FLW (2002, 2007), and he’s topped $2.5 million in career earnings. Yelas has qualified for 16 Bassmaster Classics and 11 Forrest Wood Cups. He also enjoyed 10 years as a board member of the C.A.S.T. for Kids Foundation, which organizes fishing trips for special needs children, and he accepted the organization’s offer to be its executive director in 2015.
“Everybody likes to know their work makes a difference, and it makes other people’s lives better, enhances everybody,” Yelas said. “I’ve been doing this so long, I like to share the joy of fishing with others.”
Yelas relished the suggestion that he’s the Mr. Rogers of bass fishing. He has a similar soft demeanor and always speaks kindly, a seemingly perfect fit to work with youth.