Clent Davis always believed he could make it in fishing, and he did, but then he nearly gave it all up. He lost his Bassmaster Elite Series spot after two tough years from 2016 to 2017. He was burned out. He was frustrated. So he sold his boat and gear, and he decided to call it quits.
But FLW Outdoors called and invited him back to fish. After weighing the decision, Davis fished the FLW Tour in 2018, and what a year he had. He's now on the short list of anglers who've won a major championship — in his case the 2018 Forrest Wood Cup, which padded his pockets with $300,000 and provided a springboard to launch his return to the Bassmaster Elite Series.
He's revived, refreshed and ready to go.
"I guess you always believe you can do it," Davis said. "I'd lost that belief. But I got it back and won the Cup. Honestly, I couldn't believe I won it, because it was one of the worst tournaments I'd fished in years in terms of losing fish and stuff, but there's no doubt when it's your time, it's your time."
Davis spent most of his youthful idle hours fishing around his hometown of Montevallo, Ala. He got his first boat — an aluminum rig — at the age of 12 and primarily fished the Coosa River chain at Lay, Mitchell and Logan Martin. A nearby friend, Brad Killingworth, served as his mentor during those years.
"Brad wasn't a tournament fisherman, but he was really good at catching fish for the table," Davis notes. "He taught me all kinds of things, like how to fish behind people, which is a big deal on the Coosa River, and grass fishing, current fishing, all the basics. But I think I really kicked it into another gear when I went to college."
Davis graduated from the University of Montevallo with a dual major in kinesiology and history. He also fished for the university's bass team, and the team won the prestigious Southern Collegiate Championship, which at the time was the most prestigious college championship. But it wasn't until he re-enrolled for an MBA that a pro career began to stare him down.
"I met Justin Lucas through college fishing, and he was trying to find a place to move into down here," Davis recalled. "He lived at my house for about a year and talked me into fishing a regional event as a co-angler. I entered my first regional event in 2010 and was very successful out of the back of the boat. The next year (2011), I fished the FLW Tour as a co-angler and won Pickwick, which made me enough money ($25,000) to pay my way into the front of the boat for the next year, and that's how I fished my first year of the FLW Tour."
Buoyed by his big paychecks, which included three other co-angler Top 10s in 2011, Davis turned tour pro in 2012 and never looked back.
Davis describes himself as an offshore fisherman first. He covets brush, ledges and "anything involving electronics." That's interesting, he notes, because he grew up fishing the Coosa River, which is more bank and grass fishing. But overall, chalk up his offshore preference to his vast experience across the South in general, which in truth offers about an equal mix of onshore (target) and offshore (electronics) fishing.
Eufaula is one of his better lakes — he's finished third there twice — and he won at Pickwick in 2011 and finished third at Cumberland in 2018.
About his two-year Elite Series campaign, he said: "Those were the two worst years of my career. Honestly I was burned out. Going into the Elite Series in 2016, I told my travel partner that I didn't even enjoy fishing anymore. I was guiding, competing, everything. I lost my spot in the Elite Series based on performance, and I was really thinking about just walking away. I wasn't into it anymore, so I took a long break. Then FLW talked me into coming back to the FLW Tour, and that was the greatest thing I'd ever done, because I won the Forrest Wood Cup. Now I take a big break every fall, and I'm always fired up to get fishing again.
"Fishing is something I love," he said. "And competition is something I've always loved too. I actually could have played football at Mississippi College on scholarship, but I stayed and went to Montevallo, where I had free tuition, and competed in fishing there. What drives me as an angler is that I want to be successful, but mainly I want to be able to put food on the table for my wife and daughter."
Alongside providing for his family, the ultimate personal goal for Davis, in his words, is to fish the Bassmaster Classic.