Winning the 2018 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship served as a springboard for Randy Pierson to join the Bassmaster Elite Series ranks.
Before competing in last year’s championship, Pierson worked in sales and fished California B.A.S.S. Nation events and the California Wild West Bass Trail. His occupation and lifestyle changed dramatically when he won the championship. “It’s definitely changed, I mean there is no question,” Pierson said. “It is a dream come true and now I fish for a living. “
By winning the championship, Pierson earned the “Nation’s Best” package, which included paid entry fees into the 2019 Basspro.com Bassmaster Open Series division of his choice and use of a fully rigged Phoenix boat for the year. He also qualified for the 2019 Bassmaster Classic and received an invitation to fish the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series and $16,000 toward entry fees.
Competing for the first time against the top pros, Pierson finished dead last in the 2019 Bassmaster Classic on the Tennessee River in Knoxville. “The Classic didn’t go well, but I learned a bunch,” Pierson said. “I really never figured anything out in practice or during the tournament. It was a muddy water situation and current. Coming from California, the water back East is so different from what I am used to.”
Even so, winning the Nation Championship gave Pierson a confidence boost to accept the 2019 Elite Series invitation. “Confidence over the years is something I have never lacked though,” he said. The win also secured a sponsorship deal with Lowrance and caught the attention of other sponsors who have supported him during the Elite Series season.
Pierson is especially grateful for the support the B.A.S.S. Nation has given him this year in his rookie season as a pro. “The support from just the Nation and people that fish the Nation has just been incredible,” he said. “The opportunity that the Nation has given me, providing the (Phoenix) boat and (B.A.S.S. Nation Director) Jon Stewart’s support and just everyone’s support at B.A.S.S. has been incredible.”
The California pro thought his rookie year in the Elite Series “went okay.” Pierson noted going into the season finale at Lake Tenkiller he was seven spots out of the Angler of the Year standings to earn a berth in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship and a chance to qualify for the 2020 Bassmaster Classic. However he got sick the night before the tournament started and only fished for about an hour the first day of competition. A bout of food poisoning caused Pierson to withdraw from the tournament and spend a couple of days in a hospital.
This year’s Nation Championship at Lake Hartwell gives the defending champion another chance to make the Classic. “I am going to approach this championship quite a bit different,” Pierson said. “A lot of times I fish to be consistent and try to catch a nice limit. I don’t try to gamble as much. In this championship I will probably gamble a little bit more knowing this will be my last oportunity to make the Classic because I didn’t make it in the points with the Elites this year.”
Pierson craves for the opportunity to experience all the thrills of the Classic again. “Once you get a taste of it, it makes you want it more,” said Pierson, who described his first Classic as overwhelming. “It’s hard to even explain until you get there and experience it all. Then when it happens and you look back and think: ‘Holy Moly, that was crazy.'”
If he wins this year’s Nation Championship, Pierson will have a chance to repeat the feat of the late Bryan Kerchal, the Nation angler who finished last in the 1993 Bassmaster Classic and returned to the 1994 Classic as the winner.