New Elite: Blaylock seasoned beyond his years

Stetson Blaylock had a fantastic season on the 2016 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Opens. His finished sixth, seventh and 14th in the three Southern Open events. This comes as no surprise to anyone who has followed Blaylock’s bass fishing career.

At 28 years old, Blaylock is as seasoned a bass pro as veterans who are much older. At an early age, he was fishing farm ponds from the bank and from an aluminum boat for whatever would bite.

It was Blaylock’s uncle, Anthony Wright, who got him hooked on tournament fishing. Wright is an avid bass tournament angler who often competes at local lakes, including Hamilton, DeGray and Ouachita.

“I fished my first bass tournament with my uncle when I was 10,” Blaylock says. “I enjoyed the competition, the fellowship and feeling like I was part of something.”

After participating in several tournaments over the next year, Blaylock set his sights on becoming a professional bass angler. His desire to fulfill this dream has never faltered. By the time Blaylock was 12 years old, he and his uncle were fishing two to three local tournaments a week.

Much of Blaylock’s success is due to the support he has received from his family and friends, which is something he readily acknowledges. He was homeschooled by his mother, which allowed Blaylock to work his education around his bass fishing schedule.

“A friend gave me my first boat before I could get a driver’s license,” Stetson says.

That 16-foot fiberglass boat had seen better days and needed a lot of TLC. Blaylock’s grandfather welded a steel reinforcement for the rotted wood transom. It also took some ingenuity to get the 90 hp outboard fired up and humming. Blaylock and his family worked together to make that happen.

“By the time I was 16 I had a boat that would run 50 mph that I could tournament fish out of,” Blaylock says.

With his refurbished bass boat, Blaylock continued to fish local tournaments. His first major step toward becoming a bass pro came at age 17 when he signed on to fish the FLW Tour as a co-angler. He competed as a co-angler for the next four years, which is where he earned what amounts to a bachelor’s degree in bass fishing.

When Blaylock wasn’t fishing a tournament, he worked for a family friend laying underground phone lines.

“He was very supportive,” Blaylock says. “He let me work at home between tournaments and never hesitated to let me off to go to a tournament.”

The job was essential, but Blaylock made more money with his co-angler tournament winnings than he did laying phone lines. In 2008 Blaylock won the Co-angler of the Year title, which helped him pick up a few sponsors.

Blaylock’s chance to step up to the professional side of bass fishing came when a sponsor offered to front his entry fees for the FLW Tour for one season. It was an offer Blaylock couldn’t refuse, even though he and his future wife, Lindsey, were considering marriage. They had been together since Blaylock was 16 years old.

“Lindsey’s dad was a tournament angler so she grew up around it and knew what she was getting into,” Blaylock says. “I knew she was the right one for me.”

The couple got engaged before Blaylock ventured forth on his professional bass journey. They relied on their faith to carry them through what was likely to be a tumultuous long shot. Their faith rewarded them with a victory at the third tournament of the season at Lake Norman. The cash and the status was a blessing. The win also gave Blaylock confidence that he could hold his own against established professional anglers.

Blaylock and Lindsey married in the fall of 2009. He was 22 and she was 21. Much has happened since then. The couple now has a 3-year-old son, Kei, and a 4-month-old daughter, Linnie.

“The best part of the story is that they travel with me to every tournament,” Blaylock says. “I pull a camper with one truck and Lindsey pulls the bass boat with another truck. We spend more time on the road during the tournament season than at home. It’s a challenging way of life with two kids, but it’s very rewarding to be able to do a job and have your family with you.”

Since Lindsey has a Master’s degree in education, she is likely to home school the Blaylock children.

Besides the 2016 Bassmaster Southern Opens, Blaylock also competed in the Bassmaster Central Opens.

“I would love to win one of the Opens and qualify for the Bassmaster Classic,” Blaylock said. “Everybody wants to make the Classic. I want the experience of being there.”

Blaylock's sponsors for 2016 were: Livingston Lures (Blaylock’s title sponsor); 13 Fishing, Gary Yamamoto; Seaguar; Garmin; Legend Boats, Mercury Marine, TH Marine, Boss Jigs, Power Pole, Bass Mafia and Crossed Industries (auto accessories).