When the Bassmaster Elite Series launched in 2006, one of its anglers was a rookie from southern Indiana. At season’s end the rookie was 25th in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings and had qualified for his first Bassmaster Classic. Since then he has competed in nine Bassmaster Classics and pocketed well over $1 million in winnings.
That angler is Bill Lowen. He is well-known for his love of fishing water so shallow that his trolling motor often stirs up a plume of mud. In his successful rookie year Lowen fished skinny water at every tournament. In his second year on the tour he tried to implement other techniques, such as fishing offshore ledges. The result was what Lowen regards as his “worst year ever.”
“I finished 50th and missed the Classic,” Lowen said. “I told my wife I would never not fish my style again. It’s worked out pretty well.”
Although Lowen’s emphasis on fishing shallow has yet to produce an Elite Series victory, he has finished in the money in 93 of 136 tournaments, which includes three second place finishes.
As a tad, Lowen’s first fishing experiences consisted of dabbling live bait for panfish in a gravel pit off the Ohio River. His family would camp there during the summer. The Lowen bunch included his parents, Bill and Kathy, and his younger brother and sister, Clinton and Brandy.
When Lowen was around 11 years old, his parents moved their summer digs to an Indiana campground called Indian Lake. There were a handful of small lakes in the campground, and it was here that Lowen competed in his first bass tournament at age 13. Whoever caught the biggest bass would win.
After plunking down the $5 entry fee. Lowen went to work casting a plastic worm from the bank. He landed several largemouth bass, including a 3 1/2-pounder that earned him the victory.
“My prize was a tacklebox full of marabou crappie jigs and red and white bobbers,” Lowen said.
At age 15, Lowen would spend nearly every day of his entire summer break fishing at Indian Lake Campground. His parents would leave their boat for him, and they let him stay at the camper by himself.
“They put parents in jail for stuff like that nowadays,” Lowen said.
When Lowen was in his early teens, his father often took him bass fishing when he was scouting prior to a tournament. Many of these events took place on the Ohio River out of Tanner’s Creek. Work and family obligations curtailed his father’s tournament fishing, but Lowen, “kind of picked it up full throttle when I was 15.”
Because Lowen was too young to drive, his father would launch him in the family’s bass boat at Tanner’s Creek and leave him there for the day. The 16-foot Lowe johnboat sported a 35 horsepower outboard and a 12-volt bow trolling motor.
“I wasn’t allowed to use the big motor,” Lowen said. “I’d take two batteries with me. I’d fish up the creek until the first battery was getting low. Then I’d hook up the other battery and work my way back to the ramp.”
At 16, Lowen acquired his driver’s license and began fervently fishing local tournaments. Many of these were river rat events on the Ohio River.
“I got my butt whipped,” Lowen said. “Eventually I caught on and started doing better.”
It was on the Ohio and in its tributaries that Lowen learned how to catch bass from shallow, muddy water with small spinnerbaits, buzzbaits and balsa crankbaits. He relies heavily on these basic lures to this day.
In his late teens, Lowen began fishing BFL tournaments. Some of these events were on the Ohio River, while others went to lakes such as Indiana’s Monroe and Patoka. He won his first BFL tournament on Monroe. While most of the other anglers were fishing offshore, Lowen’s trolling motor was kicking up mud as he cast to laydowns on a shallow flat.
He was in his early 20s when he joined the B.A.S.S affiliated Outcast Bass Club. He nearly qualified for the Classic through the club in 2005 when he finished second at the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship at Florida’s Harris Chain.
Prior to that tournament, one of his best friends in the bass club died tragically at age 20.
“Billy Backman was my buddy,” Lowen said. “We fished and hunted together a lot until he started running with the wrong crowd. He got hooked on drugs and died from an overdose in a very short time.”
A year after Backman’s death, his parents, Bill and Lori, offered to pay Lowen’s entry fees to help him qualify for either the FLW Tour or the Elite Series. He qualified for both two years later and elected to fish the Elites. It was always Lowen’s and Backman’s dream to fish professionally and qualify for the Bassmaster Classic.
Lowen is just as fanatical about duck hunting and bowhunting whitetails as he is about bass fishing. To pay for all three addictions and still allow time to participate in them, he installed flooring for his father’s business. He continued working at the business during his first two years on the Elite Series, “to make sure I wasn’t going to starve.”
These days Lowen travels to the Elite tournaments with his wife, Jennifer, 10-year-old daughter Nevaeh (heaven spelled backward) and 6-year-old son Fischer. The Lowen’s camp in an RV and homeschool their children.
Lowen met his wife when she was 16. There were sparks, but Lowen was 22 at the time. He told her they couldn’t date until she was 18. Apparently, true love waits. They married before Lowen turned pro after dating for several years.
Lowen’s sponsors include, Xpress Boats, Yamaha Outboards, LurePartsOnline, Buck Knives, Lew’s, Optimum Baits, Optima Batteries, Ima, Ph Custom Lures, Wieda Marine, T-H Marine, Hi-Seas, Minn Kota, Hummingbird, Talon, Drake Performance Fishing, Rapid Fishing, Reins Fishing, Gruv Fishing and Strike King.