FLORENCE, Ala. -- Three bass fishing legends have found themselves in familiar water after the opening round of the Bassmaster Elite Series Alabama Charge.
Topping the list is leader Denny Brauer, followed by runner-up Davy Hite with Paul Elias holding down fourth place.
Between the iconic names are three Bassmaster Classic victories, three Angler of the Year titles and 29 wins on the Bassmaster Tournament Trail. Most of all, the names command respect from virtually everyone below them in the standings and rightfully so.
It was a given in years past to see their names written frequently and up high on the B.A.S.S. scoreboard. It's not so common today, as the skill level has spread out more evenly across the field.
Getting to the top quicker and dodging the long initiation period of the past has fallen by the wayside. So it's worth a look at what keeps the likes of Brauer, Hite, and Elias in contention at the top level.
"For me it's a mental thing, realizing that I'm 60 years old and that I've got to keep my mind sharp and stay constantly on myself to be motivated," says Elias, the 1982 Classic winner. "I fish as good now as I did when I was 30 but that's because I keep my confidence up.
"I had my worst year in 2009, which isn't bad considering I've been at this for 32 years."
Hite laid the foundation for his success early on, winning a Classic and two Angler of the Year titles within the span of five years.
"I was hungry back then to win it all, just like these young guys are now," he recalls. "I was one of them and I see it in their eyes today, just like I did then."
The 1999 Classic winner also views his drive to compete now through the glasses of reality. His mindset mirrors that of Elias.
"The biggest challenge for guys like us is to keep the drive to be motivated and have the same hunger to win as we did 20 years ago," he says. "You've got to constantly stay on yourself and keep your mental guard up."
"For me it's not all there like it was 15 years ago. My priorities have changed. I've got two sons in their growing prime and I've shifted some of my focus towards them."
Hite speaks with the voice of wisdom that comes with age. But the differences between age and skill levels become blurred when the likes of himself, Brauer and Elias take over the scoreboard as they have for three decades and counting.