LINCOLNTON, N.C. — While fishing the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens the last few years, Shane Lineberger, 43, dreaded having to call his work to explain why he would be absent.
“You just don’t know how many times I called in scared,” recalled Lineberger.
The North Carolina angler no longer has to fret over those calls, now that he has quit his job at Timken Co. to devote all of his time to competing in the Bassmaster Elite Series.
“You can’t hold down a job and fish the Bassmaster Elites,” he said. “It has always been a goal to fish full-time for a living.
“I want this to be my career and I’d like to be successful at it.”
The Elite Series rookie recalls getting hooked on fishing at an early age.
“I was 5 years old at a farm pond with my Dad catching bream on my first fishing trip,” he said. “We didn’t have a boat back then, but we would go to a local lake and my dad would rent a little wooden boat with a 20-hp Johnson on it. We would fish for crappie and whatever we could get to bite at the time.”
Teaming up with his cousin, Lineberger fished his first tournament, a night derby on Lake Norman, when he was 19 years old.
“We actually won the tournament with three fish that weighed 11 pounds,” he said. “Back then, that was unheard of on Lake Norman because half the time it didn’t take but 9 pounds with five fish to win. That win gave me the bug.”
Lineberger bought his first boat when he was 23 and joined the South Fork Bassmasters in 1993. He fished in the club for 10 years and made the North Carolina state team twice to qualify for the B.A.S.S. Nation Southern Divisionals. Winning some BFLs, including a regional in 2010, gave Lineberger the funds he needed to start fishing the Bassmaster Southern Opens in 2011.
“I did a little better than I expected, finishing in the Top 25 of the points standings,” he said. “I had always had that dream of fishing professionally, but you never really know where you stand until you get out there and compete against those guys.”
The North Carolina pro hopes he can prevent getting “his hind end kicked” during his Elite Series rookie year.
“I am like everybody else,” he said of his first-year expectations. “I would like to go out there and have a good year. My ultimate goal is to make the Bassmaster Classic.”
The 2016 Elite Series schedule looks appealing to Lineberger.
“This year is going to match my fishing style pretty well,” he said. “I think a lot of the tournaments will be a shallow-water deal where we won’t have to do a lot of offshore fishing. I love to fish shallow and power fish with a jig and topwater and things like that. I think that is really going to come into play this year with the schedule.”
Support from his wife, Hope, will also help Lineberger make the transition from the Opens to the Elites.
“I know without her I would not be able to do this,” he said. “That is the God’s honest truth. She allowed me to quit my job and pursue this.”
Quitting his job was a gamble, but it has given Lineberger the chance to make a living by competing in high-profile tournaments.
“This is what I like to do,” he said. “There is nothing else like it.”