No experience, no sponsors, no problem

In one way, the big story from the Lake Norman Southern Open was Ron Farrow of Rock City, S.C. The 41-year-old sheetrock specialist was fishing his first-ever B.A.S.S. event. He didn't enter the tournament until the last minute.

Farrow admitted he was "overwhelmed" on Day 1, competing among his bass fishing heroes — everyone from Roland Martin to 2013 Classic champ Cliff Pace. Farrow caught only 3 keepers Thursday and was in 101st place with 5-6.

But, wow, what a comeback. Farrow not only caught the biggest bag of the tournament on Day 2, when he had 16-5 to jump into 10th place, he followed it with the biggest bag on Day 3 when he had 13-1, to finish third overall and earn $10,000.

In a time when every man who has ever caught a bass seemingly wears a tournament jersey, whether on the water or off, Farrow doesn't own one. He doesn't have any sponsors.

It's also a time when high school and college bass tournament circuits are producing a wave of young hot shots on the pro tours. That's a good thing, of course. But it's also why Farrow's accomplishments on Lake Norman were so refreshing.

"Who was that guy who didn't even have a jersey today?" one accomplished pro asked me before Saturday's weigh-in.

When I explained Farrow's background, the pro changed his attitude and said, "That's my kind of guy."

Exactly. It's the working-class guys that built the sport into what it is today. The new class of high school and college anglers may well take it to another level. But no one should forget the sport's roots.

Equally impressive was Farrow's method of catching bass on Lake Norman. Farrow practiced by scouting for shallow banks featuring shade at different times of day. On tournament days, he went to wind-blown, shaded banks and attacked them with a square-billed crankbait.

As popular as square-bills are on the pro circuits, it seemed as if Farrow was the only angler relying on a square-bill at Lake Norman last week.

That might be another lesson Farrow's success could teach. There are practically set-in-stone formulas for what baits work at different times of year on different lakes. A square-bill is hardly an "out-of-the-box" lure choice for fall tournaments. But the way Farrow used a square-bill at Lake Norman was unique.

That was a star-studded 12-man field in Saturday's finale: 5 Elite Series anglers, including a former Classic champ (Cliff Pace), a future Elite Series angler (Jordan Lee) and some accomplished Lake Norman "sticks."

If he hadn't been so awestruck on Day 1, Ron Farrow might have beaten them all.