Opens angler has a need for speed

Given Ray Brazier’s competitive history, it’s a wonder this 61-year-old Tennessean can walk without a cane.

In 2012 Brazier fished the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern and Northern Opens, but not the Central Opens, breaking a 20-year string in which Brazier fished every single Open and Invitational tournament on the Bassmaster schedule. 

However, it isn’t tournament fishing that has pummeled Brazier’s body. That was due, in part, to the many motocross races he competed in. Brazier endured the jolting jumps and inevitable crashes for nearly 20 years. He ran his last motocross race in 1992.

“That’s when I realized I was mortal,” Brazier quipped.

During that phase of Brazier’s life, he was sponsored by various motorcycle manufacturers including KTM, Yamaha and Honda.

“I was the number one rider in the southeastern U.S. for a long time,” Brazier said.

Over the next six years, Brazier competed in maritime endurance races from 200 to 550 miles in length. His division was open to 20-foot, V bottom hulls powered by souped-up 150-hp outboards.

The rules required that the boats weigh 1,800 pounds dry and carry 50 gallons of fuel. Brazier claims that his Allison would hit 95 mph with two drivers and a full fuel tank and 98 mph when running “light.”

“I could have topped 100 mph, but I couldn’t keep the gear case from blowing out,” Brazier said.

That might not sound too impressive, given that some of today’s bass boats exceed 80 mph. But to be competitive in maritime races, the boats must maintain high speeds in rough water, which bludgeons the drivers mercilessly.

The most brutal races that Brazier competed in were on the Mississippi River where he would have to negotiate eight to 10 sets of barge wakes. When a barge makes time pushing a heavy load it creates tall wakes.

As Brazier raced over those rollers, he would “slow down” to 70 mph. Each wake would launch his boat into the air like a water skier over a jump.

“I have, literally, passed other racers while my boat was flying 20 feet above the water,” Brazier said.

Brazier’s father carried him sauger fishing to the Tennessee River when he was a toddler. He has been an avid angler ever since, fishing ponds and creeks as a youngster. It wasn’t until 1986 that he took up tournament fishing.

At that time he was a manager at a subsidiary of Coors. He was either working at Coors or fishing or tweaking a prop or a jack plate or anything else that would improve a bass boat’s performance.

Thanks to Brazier’s motocross and maritime racing experience, he is uniquely qualified to get the most out of a bass boat. He could probably build one from scratch if he had to, including the outboard.

Brazier’s intimate knowledge of boats and his working relationship with sponsors as a motocross and maritime racer encouraged him to change professions. He quit his job at Coors and embarked on a professional bass fishing career.

For more than 20 years, he has made his living exclusively through the fishing industry. Besides fishing tournaments, Brazier helps design boat performance products, works promotional shows and occasionally helps out a shorthanded support crew at a tournament.

“You’ve got to make money for your sponsors,” Brazier stressed, “The economy is too tight for a company to give you money to just go fishing.”

Brazier’s current sponsors include Honda Marine, Legend Boats, T-H Marine, SPRO, Tuf-Line, CastAway Rods, Reaction Strike, Lithium Pros batteries, Power-Pole and Raymarine.

“I may not be the best fisherman,” Brazier said. “My goal has been to be the best promoter.”

A new venture for Brazier is a starring role in Charlie Ingram’s Fishing University television show, which airs on the Outdoor Channel. The format will have a friendly competition between Brazier and Ingram. Brazier will also provide a boat 'tech tip” each week.

“The tips will cover things like getting more speed and improving gas mileage and boat handling,” Brazier added.

A few years ago, Brazier made a serious run at qualifying for the Bassmaster Elite Series through the Opens. He would love to be an Elite angler.

Brazier lives in Lawrenceburg, Tenn., with Roberta, his wife of 26 years. They have two children and three grandchildren. The oldest grandchild, Chase, is 15. He calls Brazier “Partner” because the two are regular fishing partners.

Of his "bumpy" life, Brazier says, "I am blessed and content."