It takes a lot of caffeine to get Seth Feider anywhere close to fired up. He starts his morning with a couple of cups of coffee, then guzzles Mountain Dew the rest of the day, and he still can’t be rattled.
“That’s probably my best attribute for tournament fishing,” he said of his nature. “I may not have the skills or the experience of some of the other pros, but it takes a lot for me to spin out. I’m able to stay in there mentally.”
Indeed, in his case the old cliché of “Minnesota Nice” might be changed to “Minnesota Mellow” or “Minnesota Mentally-Focused.” Any of them would be all right, just be sure to leave “Minnesota” in there, because his roots define him. He was raised in Bloomington, just 20 minutes from downtown Minneapolis, and while a typical suburban upbringing might not often lend itself to a bass fishing addiction, young Seth had three or four quality lakes within a short bike ride. He’d spend his days fishing for sunfish, crappies, walleye and pike, in addition to bass.
Early on, he liked carp as much as he liked bass, nothing that, “If you don’t care what you catch, for a kid a 10-pound carp is a lot of fun.” Indeed, but for his eventual influences, some of the best bass anglers in the upper Midwest, he might be heading to the 2019 Carpmaster championship instead of his second straight Bassmaster Classic.
His goal since childhood was to find a way to be outdoors as much as possible. As a sophomore in high school he was kicked off the baseball team as the result of a misunderstanding with his coach over a week-long turkey hunting trip. Once he graduated he “never had any Grade-A jobs to steer me off the path” of a life in the outdoors. Nevertheless, there were stumbling blocks on the way to becoming a B.A.S.S. star.
After obtaining his first boat in his early 20s, Feider and a partner tore up the local team circuits, winning the Angler of the Year title on the two largest, plus a championship. That gave him adequate funds to take a chance, and he signed up for the 2008 FLW Eastern Series. He headed south and finished 188th out of 200 on Okeechobee and 83rd out of 184 on Wheeler, ran out of money, and headed home “with my tail between my legs.” He thought that perhaps he’d taken his career as far as it could go, but Brad Leifermann, a legendary Minnesota bass angler and one of Feider’s mentors, convinced him to give it another shot.
Feider fished the Bassmaster Opens in 2012 and 2013, cashing checks in four of six events, before breaking through in the 2014 Northern Opens with a three-check effort. That launched him to the Elite series.
While there have been Elites associated with Minnesota in the past – Chad Grigsby lives there but was originally from Michigan, and Derek Remitz was raised there but developed many of his skills in the South – Feider is the first born and bred in the state’s highly competitive tournament scene, but the lack of wider experience had him questioning his decision. Indeed, while he scored three checks on that first Elite campaign, two of them had him barely on the right side of the money line before breaking through with a 12th-place finish at the St. Lawrence. Midway through the following season, with the carrot of an Angler of the Year Championship on Mille Lacs in his home state, he thought the bottom had dropped out with an 85th-place finish on the Potomac River.
“I totally bombed,” he recalled. “I dropped to 69th place in the points. I had nothing to lose, my back was against the wall.”
He followed that up with a second-place finish on the upper Mississippi, a result that not only snuck him into Mille Lacs, but put him on the public’s radar. Then he won at Mille Lacs, further cementing his reputation as a smallmouth hammer.
Indeed, he has continued to excel on bronzeback waters, but that reputation is a bit misleading. “I do way more largemouth fishing than smallmouth fishing at home,” he said. “There are no reservoirs to speak of in Minnesota. I think that’s why I’ve done well in New York.” It’s also why the event that he’s circled most brightly on his 2019 calendar is the tournament on Cayuga. While he was looking forward to heading out west, it didn’t hurt his feelings one bit to move it to a northern grass lake. “If there was ever one for me to win, it’s that one. It sets up just like Minnetonka. Flipping a big jig in grass is my favorite thing to do on earth.”
Well, not quite his favorite.
“My perfect day on earth would have a hard snowfall in a dry cut cornfield with mallards circling down into my decoys,” he said. “I would duck hunt every day over fishing if I could.” Yes, if there’s one experience that does get Mr. Mellow amped, it’s waterfowl hunting. Before he was out on tour, it wasn’t unusual for him to hunt 45 days out of a 60-day season, even if it was just for an hour before work.
Despite that fact that green-headed birds and green fish get him most excited, other than his flowing locks the thing most closely associated with Feider remains smallmouth, and his location in the upper Midwest has given them not only prime access to the brown fish, but also to the people who know them best.
“I’ve fished with some world class smallmouth fishermen,” he said. “Anybody can catch them, but these guys are the best at relocating them. That’s what separates a really good smallmouth fisherman because they move a lot. I’ve fished with three of the five best – Caleb Colwell, Jeff Gustafson and Mark Zona. The other two are the Johnston brothers.”
While plenty of Elites have moved to the mid-south to save on driving time, Feider has no intentions of picking up his roots. Family keeps him at home, but so does access to bronze royalty and great grass flipping for huge numbers of 3- to 5-pound largemouths. Furthermore, a great deal of the industry runs through the area, including his title sponsor, Rapala. “I wouldn’t have them as a sponsor if I didn’t live here,” he said. “Their U.S. headquarters is 15 minutes from where I grew up.”
He’ll continue to travel the U.S. in search of Elite Series wins, blue trophies and titles, but like most Elite Series pros he knows that the first thing on his mind after winning the Classic would be winning another one. His true dream is to bring Minnesota along for him on the ride.
“I have dreams of winning it all, and my buddies rushing the stage and acting the fool,” he said. “Everybody who wins it ends up standing there all by themselves. I want to be surrounded by my friends and family.”