Meet the Elites: Brian Snowden

In the history of B.A.S.S., Brian Snowden has one of the most fantastic anomalies in the big book of results – he finished a tournament with more overall weight than the event winner.

All in all, that might be considered a good problem to have, but Snowden has experienced similar misfortunes, including four runner-up finishes and a close call in the Classic. Yet the 46-year-old from Reeds Spring, Mo., has kept his head up and realizes that having a career in tournament fishing is one of the major blessings in his life.

“There have been events where you’re like, ‘What the heck is the deal?'” said Snowden, who’s fished 195 Bassmaster tournaments. “The way I look at it, if I was retired, I’d still be fishing. I’ve been able to do something I love to do, or would have done in my free time, for 20 years.”

“I’ve had a great relationship with all of my sponsors for about that same time. I’ve been able to travel the United States, and I’ve been able to work with Bass Pro (Shops) on a TV show and do store appearances. For me at my age, to be able to have said all that, that’s pretty good.”

One of the top journeymen on the major circuit, Snowden eclipsed $1 million in B.A.S.S. earnings last year on the St. Lawrence. “The Snowman,” as emcee Dave Mercer calls him, has cashed checks 109 times and competed in six Classics.

Snowden has scored major victories in the Toyota Texas Bass Classic in 2010 after winning a PAA event the year before, but his misfortunes in several Bassmaster events is notable. He kept a smile on his face telling of the ones that got away, starting with his first bass.

Growing up in Bakersfield, Calif., Snowden enjoyed bobber fishing for bluegill and catfish in a decent-sized pond on his grandparents’ ranch. His first bass turned disappointing.

“I was catching bluegill and putting them on the stringer,” he said. “Then I caught a 4-, 5-pound bass. I was so proud, and I put him on the stringer. He went over the bluegill somehow and got off, and nobody believed I caught him. I still remember that to this day. I was so excited to show everyone.”

Bass fishing, however, turned into a passion. The chance to move to the bass mecca of southwest Missouri came with an offer to continue studies in fisheries biology without exorbitant out-of-state tuition. So he transferred from Fresno State and earned his bachelor of science degree at Missouri State.

About that time, Bass Pro Shops began its expansion, and Snowden took a job at the company’s fabrication shop in Nixa., Mo. Working in the finish and paint department, he’d help build the floor murals and chandeliers adorning the stores.

“The great thing about that was I could travel,” he said. “That’s how I became involved with Bass Pro and got to know the right  people – the sponsor coordinator at the time.”

Getting his foot in that door was a great help as shortly after he competed in his first B.A.S.S. event in 1999. Ten years later, Snowden went into the final day of the 2009 Bassmaster Classic on the Red River with a shot to win. Some misfortune cut his fishing day in half and left him 2 pounds short of etching his name on the trophy. His third-place earnings of $40,000 remains his highest check in B.A.S.S.

“I really felt good about the Classic where I finished third,” he said. “If it wasn’t for a lower unit failure … I would have loved to have had an eight-hour day to fish.”

Snowden has experienced other ones that got away, like holding a three-day lead in the 2008 Elite on the Harris Chain. He was 10 pounds ahead of the eventual winner going into Day 4 but lost by 5 pounds when a major cold front killed his bite and he came in empty-handed.

“It seems like there’s always some unforeseen thing – wind and cold. Those are the variables you can’t plan for,” he said. “Either it’s your day or it’s not.”

The crazy anomaly might have cost him a Major title in the 2007 American on High Rock Lake and its $250,000 purse. With 40 pounds, 3 ounces after two days, Snowden was 7 pounds ahead of next best, but weights were then zeroed for the next two days of competition. He ended up second despite totaling 57-6, 7 pounds more than the winner.

“If you would have added the weights together, I would have won. We just need to go to three-day events. I can get a good lead on three days,” joked Snowden, who keeps it all in perspective. “As long as you do your best, you can’t worry about circumstances like that. If they wouldn’t have happened, you could have been a Classic champion, or won this. You can’t worry about that.

“The great thing about it, even though you don’t have that win besides your stats, you’ve made a career in something you love and have a lot of people who support you. I go to Bass Pro functions and there’s still kids and guys who will ask you questions about how you do everything. You’re there to educate and sell product to people who love to do what you love to do.”