Louisiana’s Gerald Spohrer learned at age 5 that it was possible to make a living fishing for bass. From then on, whenever anyone asked him what he wanted to be his answer was invariably “a professional bass fisherman.”
Spohrer was as dead serious about being a bass pro then as he is now at age 34. His dream became reality when he qualified for the 2017 Bassmaster Elite Series by winning the 2016 Bassmaster Central Opens’ Angler of the Year title.
Although Spohrer’s road to the Elites has been long and circuitous, he never lost sight of his lifelong dream. His passion for fishing was instilled by his Cajun grandfather Jimmy Daigrepont, who spoke French and broken English. Spohrer was still in diapers when Daigrepont began taking him saltwater fishing for redfish and speckled trout.
“My grandfather died of a brain tumor when I was very young,” Spohrer said. “My dad wasn’t a fisherman, but he would take me to local ponds so I could cast from the bank. It was all I wanted to do.”
When Spohrer was old enough to bicycle to fishing ponds with his dog, Sammy, tagging along, his father was relieved of his chauffeuring duties. Spohrer graduated from fishing for panfish to slinging a Texas-rigged worm for bass. With no one to teach him about bass tactics, Spohrer gleaned his early knowledge from magazines and later the Internet.
When Spohrer got his driver’s license, a 14-foot bateau (johnboat) allowed him to go afloat while pond fishing. He later used the $3,000 he saved from a summer job at Ascension Marine as a down payment on his first bass boat, a 17-foot Bullet sporting a 115 hp Mercury.
In the summers of his high school years, Spohrer fished Wednesday evening pot tournaments with dismal results. His pond fishing ventures didn’t prepare him for tournaments. However, he did learn a great deal from his competitors at these events.
After high school, Spohrer attended Louisiana Technical College where he took classes that prepared him for a job in the chemical industry. Then he joined the Navy. He was in boot camp on 9/11/01. Spohrer served the next four years in the Persian Gulf on an aircraft carrier supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. He would often practice with a baitcasting outfit that he had brought on board.
Spohrer was discharged from the navy in 2004 and immediately took a job with Shell Chemicals as a mechanical technician. The job paid extremely well and had terrific benefits, including four weeks of vacation. Spohrer focused on his career, buying a house and truck and making a life for himself.
He also bought a bass boat. Although he began fishing in earnest, Spohrer didn’t become involved in tournaments until he joined the Ascension Area Anglers, a B.A.S.S. Federation Nation affiliated club, in 2010. According to Spohrer, many of Louisiana’s most skilled bass anglers are members of the Ascension club.
“Those guys developed me into being a competitor,” Spohrer said. “It didn’t take long. When you start hanging around with the best you learn real fast if you’ve got it or not.”
By 2012 Spohrer was fishing more than 50 tournaments a year, including club events and team pot tournaments. He did well and claimed some first place finishes.
The following year Spohrer fared even better. During a 15-week stretch of Wednesday evening pot tournaments, he never finished below second place.
However, his confidence was shaken that year when he fished the Bassmaster Central Opens. Spohrer’s first Central Open was on the Red River, where he had done well in previous tournaments. He failed to cut a check, finishing in 48th place.
“That was an eye-opener,” Spohrer said. “It was a different dynamic than a team tournament. I learned real quick that I had to fish against these Open guys differently.”
The next Central Open was at the Arkansas River, which was new to Spohrer. He finished in 99th place. Spohrer rebounded with a sixth place finish at the final Central Open on Ross Barnett, which was also new water for him.
Spohrer had failed to qualify for the Elite Series, but he did well enough to receive an invitation to fish BASSfest 2014 at Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee. Although he had no offshore experience, Spohrer wound up fishing a drop shot on a ledge with 15 other competitors. He was in the top 20 after the first weigh-in. The bass failed to cooperate with him the second day and he dropped to 75th place.
“I signed up for BASSfest because I wanted to know if fishing against the pros would get into my head,” Spohrer said. “It didn’t. I needed to know that.”
A brick wall between Spohrer and his dream of becoming a bass pro was his job. With only four weeks of vacation, he would be unable to fish the Elite Series even after qualifying for it. How could he give up a job with such financial security?
That became a possibility in 2015 when he was offered a position at Catalyst Handling, a company that services industrial chemical plants. The deal Spohrer negotiated for the job’s terms would have impressed Donald Trump.
First, Spohrer would need time off to fish two Bassmaster Open circuits and one FLW circuit. Second, the company would have to sponsor him for tournaments in addition to his regular salary.
He convinced the company’s Dutch CEO, who knew nothing about bass tournaments, that a Catalyst Handling sponsorship was a good marketing tool. Spohrer explained that 30 percent of the people in the industrial industry follow fishing, and that he was well connected in the industry.
Spohrer got the contract he wanted and did the unthinkable, leaving Shell. He also stopped fishing local tournaments to concentrate on the Bassmaster Opens and FLW events. Although he failed to qualify for the Elite Series in 2015 the Opens gave him much needed experience on a wide variety of lakes and rivers. This will greatly benefit him on the Elite Series tour.
In 2016 Spohrer put all his Bassmaster eggs in the Central Opens basket, which resulted in his AOY win and an invite to the Elite Series. Make no mistake about it, Gerald Spohrer is pumped and ready to rumble.
Spohrer’s sponsors are Catalyst Handling, Missile Baits, Bass Cat Boats, Mercury Marine, Raymarine, Power Poles, 6th Sense, Bass Mafia, Sunline, K2 Energy (batteries), Russell Marine and Bullet Industrial.