At age 44, Tennessee’s Brandon Coulter calls himself a “gray-bearded rookie.”
Coulter’s wealth of bass fishing and life experiences bode well for his 2015 Bassmaster Elite Series rookie season. He finished fifth in the Northern Open point standings last year and has made the money in 10 of the 15 Bassmaster Opens he has competed in.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Coulter’s love of bass fishing was instilled in him when he was growing up, just outside of Philadelphia. It began when his father, Rich Coulter, returned from the U.S. Marine Corps after a stint in Vietnam.
“My dad started a local bass club,” Coulter said. “I’ve still got one of their team jackets with a 1975 B.A.S.S. patch on it and an old Jelly Worm patch.”
Most of the snapshots from Coulter’s youth show him holding a fishing rod.
“My goal was to be a Bassmaster fisherman,” Coulter said.
Coulter’s father fished the Red Man circuit for several years. Although Coulter was too young to participate, he traveled with his father wherever these events happened.
As soon as Coulter turned 16, the minimum age required to fish Red Man tournaments, he signed on. In those days, there was no pro/co-angler format. Boaters drew other boaters and negotiated for which boat to take and whose fish to start on. A flip of the coin was often the deciding factor.
Because Coulter didn’t have a boat, he always went with whomever he drew. However, the rules allowed him to run the front of the boat for half the day and to fish wherever he wanted.
“You talk about a challenge,” Coulter said. “At 16, I’m telling somebody to slide over so I can take their boat for my half of the day. What a way to get introduced to tournament fishing!”
Coulter finished among the Top 30 in the points standings his first two years on the Red Man tour. When he matriculated to the University of Tennessee, Coulter started out fishing the Volunteer Division of the Red Man trail.
His fishing addiction forced him to make a life-changing decision.
“I was spending way too much time fishing and not enough on my studies,” Coulter said. “I had to stop fishing or I’d fail out of college.”
After graduating in 1992 with a degree in advertising and marketing, Coulter decided to secure his future rather than embark on a risky bid to be a professional bass angler.
He sold his bass boat, went to work for an advertising agency in Knoxville and put fishing on the backburner for more than a decade. After a successful stint with the ad agency, Coulter started a construction company, which was also prosperous.
He had the good fortune of selling his construction company in 2005 before the housing market crashed.
“The timing was a blessing,” Coulter said. “I had no idea the crash was coming.”
About this time, State Farm Insurance invited Coulter and his wife, DeAnna, to go through a recruiting process. Coulter calls DeAnna the “rock of the family.”
Both of them passed muster, but only one member of a family was allowed to have a State Farm agency. Coulter assumed that he would be the agent. DeAnna had other ideas. She stepped up and took charge of the agency.
“It’s her baby,” Coulter said. “She loves it and she looks a lot better on a billboard than I do.”
With DeAnna in charge of the insurance agency, Coulter suddenly had time to pursue tournament fishing again. He fished the FLW Series in 2006 and has competed in the FLW Tour ever since.
Now that Coulter has qualified for the Elite Series through the Bassmaster Opens, the Elites are his top priority. He has the full support of his family.
He and DeAnna have four children. There’s Trevor, 23, who is in the Air National Guard; Nolan, 19, who plays football for Center College; Callie 13, who starts high school next year, and Andie Belle, 10.
Coulter’s father and his mother, Bev, also pull for him. They moved from Pennsylvania to Knoxville in 2000 to be close to their grandchildren. Coulter fishes an occasional local tournament with his father.
“My dad always wanted to win a boat,” Coulter said. “We fished a little trail down here and won a boat at the championship. It was a milestone for him.”
As for Coulter’s approach to bass fishing, he claims to be versatile, open-minded and aggressive, just as he has been with his business pursuits.
“I don’t have a certain fishing style I like to do,” he said. “I might catch one bass on a spoon and the next one on a popper. I’m not good at grinding them out. I like to keep moving.”