Southern Open: Lawyer Loughran courts bass

America’s melting pot is plainly evident at Bassmaster Open tournaments. The competitors are a cross section of gender, age, race and occupation.

No one is safe from being smitten by the bass tournament bug, including Virginian Ed Loughran, a civil litigations lawyer.

Loughran is currently ninth in the Southern Opens standings with one event left. The brass ring of the Bassmaster Elite Series glistens just beyond his fingertips.

Although Loughran’s parents did not fish, he took to it up on his own while growing up in Washington, D.C.

“I grew up inside the beltway and went to a private school there,” Loughran said. “Fishing was the furthest thing from what most of my classmates did.”

Casting from the bank for bluegill, smallmouth bass and “whatever would bite,” Loughran fished the C&O Canal near Georgetown and Rock Creek near the National Zoo.

When Loughran wasn’t fishing you could find him at O’Donnell & Sons, a family owned and operated tackle shop in Bethesda, Md. Helping customers came naturally to Loughran. So much so that the owners eventually started to pay him with lures and fishing tackle.

Mike O’Donnell, one of the sons at O’Donnell & Sons, belonged to a B.A.S.S. affiliated club. He invited Loughran to fish with him.

“I initially went with Mike to practice for tournaments,” Loughran said. “I was doing so well that he talked the tournament director into letting me fish in the tournaments.”

After Loughran’s mother signed a release form, he fished his first bass tournament in 1983 at age 12. He continued to do so until age 16 when he bought a johnboat powered by a 6 hp outboard.

“I couldn’t even drive then,” Loughran said. “A friend would tow the boat for me.”

Loughran later bought and refurbished a 1978 bass boat and competed in money tournaments during the late 80s and early 90s, including the Piedmont Division of the former Red Man circuit. He qualified for Red Man regional championships every year and fished the Red Man All American when he was 21.

“I was the youngest guy to qualify for the All American until Randy Howell beat me two or three years later,” Loughran said.

Loughran also got his Coast Guard Master license when he was 21 and worked fulltime as a fishing guide on the Potomac River until age 27.

In the mid-1990s Loughran fished the Bassmaster Invitationals. He cashed checks in his first three tournaments and was positioned to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic. He bombed the next tournament and fell short.

That experience taught Loughran that he needed a substantial amount of cash to compete in professional bass events.

In 1999 Loughran quit fishing tournaments and took a job as a trader for a Wall Street firm. He earned a good income until the dot-com bubble burst in 2001. Not long after that he found himself out of a job.

“I was living in Florida with my wife, Alison, at that time,” Loughran said.

Undaunted, Loughran enrolled in law school at Virginia’s University of Richmond. No doubt the university’s close proximity to the James and Chickahominy rivers figured into his choice of schools.

After graduating and several years of lawyering, Loughran was financially ready to get back into bass tournament action. In 2011 he fished a Northern Open at the James River and finished in 21st place. He has been competing in the Bassmaster Opens ever since and cashing checks regularly.

If Loughran qualifies for the Elite Series will he fish them?

“I’ve spent the last 15 years of my life to get everything in order,” Loughran said. “If I make the Elites, there is not a doubt or a question that I and going to fish them.”