The amazing opportunities that B.A.S.S. Nation provides for weekend warriors culminate in a dream come true. The dream is winning the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship and reaping the enormous booty that comes with it.
Oregon’s Cody Hollen landed that dream in November of 2019 when he won the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship at South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell with a three-day total of 32 pounds, 12 ounces.
Besides qualifying to compete in the 2020 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk and the Bassmaster Elite Series, the 35-year-old angler received $20,000, paid entries to the Bassmaster Open division of his choice and the use of a B.A.S.S. Nation wrapped Triton/Mercury rig, complete with Lowrance electronics and Power-Poles.
Hollen’s father, Richard, introduced him and his younger brother, Cory, to fishing when they were tads.
“My dad gave both of us a spinning outfit, some Charlie Brewer Slider Heads and 5-inch Yamamoto single tail grubs,” Hollen said. “That’s all my brother and I fished with then, and we caught bass after bass that way. To this day, I still have those baits with me wherever I go fishing.”
Throughout his preteen years, there were regular trips to Oregon’s John Day River where they would sometimes catch 100 smallmouth in day. Family fishing vacations took them to places like Lake Shasta in California, and to Banks and Roosevelt lakes in eastern Washington.
“When my dad wanted us to learn how to use a baitcaster, he partially filled empty Squeezit juice bottles with water,” Hollen said. “We would cast them for practice.”
Fishing took a back seat in middle school when Hollen and his brother received motorcycles as Christmas presents. They started out riding in the woods with friends and neighbors and soon began competing on motocross courses.
“I would occasionally go fishing from the bank, but I didn’t pay much attention to tournament fishing,” Hollen said. “My dad got divorced about that time and sold his boat.”
Motocross racing fulfilled Hollen’s need to compete until he was in his late 20s. A series of motorcycle injuries prompted him to give up the sport. The nail in his motocross coffin was an accident that broke his right leg and left foot. He was laid up for nearly three months.
“I only rode for a few months after that,” Hollen said. “I wasn’t there mentally. If your head isn’t into it, you’re going to crash and get hurt again.”
After selling his motorcycles, Hollen laser focused on bass fishing. He studied everything he could find about bass lures, techniques and tournaments in magazines, on the internet and on television. He convinced his father to split the cost of a bass boat, and they soon joined the Cascade Bassmasters of Newberg, Ore.”
“I picked the Cascade Bassmasters because they let you choose your own partner for club tournaments,” Hollen said. “I wanted to fish with my dad as much as I could.”
They fished club tournaments regularly for less than two years. Then the health of Hollen’s father, a diabetic of 30 years, declined to the point where his mobility was severely impaired.
“My dad just turned 72,” Hollen said. “We fished together only a day and a half last year. Through this whole thing he’s been one of my biggest fans.”
Six years ago Hollen began competing in Oregon’s qualifying tournaments, which are the first step toward the B.A.S.S Nation Championship. He won the co-angler Angler of the Year title in his first season. Thereafter he fished the qualifying events as a boater, which paved the way to his current status as the B.A.S.S. Nation National Champion.
The decision to take advantage of the Elite Series opportunity was easy, thanks, in no small part, to the support of his girlfriend, Katie Soden. However, the logistics have been a mad scramble.
The first step was to end a secure job that Hollen has held for 15 years at Beaverton Honda where he has served as a Honda Master Technician. Another hurdle is overcoming the vast distances between Oregon and the Elite Series tournaments.
Phase one will be driving to Birmingham, Ala., where Hollen will pick up the B.A.S.S. Nation Triton/Mercury rig. From there he will drive to Lake Eufaula where he plans to pre-fish it prior to the off limits for the Elite tournament there.
He will be traveling to Eufaula and to all of the 2020 Elite tournaments with California’s Randy Pierson, who qualified for the Elite Series by winning the 2018 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship at Pickwick Lake.
Over the course of the Elite season, Hollen intends to park his truck and boat at a friend’s house in Georgia and fly home three times. While home he plans to pick up work doing tasks such as oil changes and brake jobs at a shop in his backyard. A local boat dealership, Stevens Marine, has also offered to put him to work.
“I want to fish for a living for the rest of my life now,” Hollen said. “I’m hoping to make a name for myself and earn enough to support myself and Katie. When we get married, that would involve us moving to the Midwest at some point. She’s a pharmacy technician and can transfer without losing her tenure.”
Hollen’s current sponsors include: Missile Baits, Buckeye Lures, TKO Tungsten, Lowrance Electronics, Affordable Ponds, Premier Portable Buildings, Pacific Foundations, Sack Lunch Fishing, Fishoholics, Mitch Lum Machine Accessories, Steven’s Marine in Tigard, Ore., and IRod fishing.
Even with these sponsorships and his winnings, Hollen is well short of the cash needed to cover his Elite Series expenses. In an effort to bolster his funds Hollen has wrapped his Toyota Tundra with a checkerboard of 150 4-inch squares. For $100 any club, company or entity can have their logo displayed in one of the squares.