Opens angler profile: Hardy lovin’ life in 2016

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James Overstreet

Wil Hardy II of Augusta, Ga., is 26 years old, single and he recently won his first Bassmaster Open at Oneida Lake in New York. After he fishes the final two Northern Opens in 2016, Hardy will be invited to compete in the 2017 Bassmaster Classic at Lake Conroe, Texas.

Hardy II is lovin’ life.

His love for life intensified at age five when his grandfather, George Brown, began taking him fishing at ponds near Appling, Ga. They would cast from the bank for anything that would bite.

Wil Hardy I, also known as dad, doesn’t fish tournaments, but he is an avid bass fisherman. When Hardy II was 10 years old, his father and stepfather, Mike Cunningham (a bass nut who has since passed away), began taking him bass fishing at Clarks Hill Reservoir.

“About all they threw was a Texas rigged worm,” Hardy II says. “Worms and lead was all they needed.”

A chartreuse 20-pound sledgehammer couldn’t have had a greater impact on Hardy II than those early bass outings. By age 11 he was dead set on becoming a professional bass angler.

At 16 Hardy II began fishing BFL tournaments as a co-angler. He continued to do so throughout his high school years at Thomas Jefferson Academy in Louisville, Ga. He didn’t set the BFL world on fire, but those events provided invaluable fishing lessons.

When Hardy II graduated from high school in 2009, his father asked him if he wanted to go to college or pursue a bass fishing career. After pondering this decision for a millisecond, Hardy II opted for bass fishing.

However, there was a caveat. Hardy II had only four years to become a self-sufficient bass pro. If that didn’t happen, he would resort to Plan B, which was going to college. Hardy I had the ability to hold his son to this agreement because his company, Hardy Utility in Harlem, Ga., is Hardy II’s primary sponsor.

Hardy II embarked on his pro bass career by fishing the FLW Series. He managed to claim a few checks, but it proved to be mainly a learning experience and a hard indoctrination. Since 2013 he has competed in all of the Northern and Southern Bassmaster Open tournaments.

“My goal is to qualify for the Elites,” Hardy II says. “Winning at Oneida and qualifying for the Classic would be the icing on the cake.”

At some point on his journey to become a bass pro, Hardy II hit the four-year deadline. Although he was a long way from becoming successful, his father continues to support his dream.

“He liked [tournament fishing] more than he thought he would,” Hardy II says of his father. “He’s the one pressing me to stay with it.”

Hardy I travels to every tournament that his son fishes. Hardy II’s mother, Sandy Cunningham, also loves the sport and comes to the weigh-ins when she can.

Four years ago, Hardy II started the Greenfish Tackle company (greenfishtackle.com) with Jon Hair. The company makes a line of jigs, spinnerbaits and topwater baits. The Greenfish Creeper Head jig in the 3/4-ounce size was one of the lures Hardy II used to win the Bassmaster Northern Open at Oneida Lake. He dressed the Creeper Head with a green pumpkin Zoom Speed Craw.

“Our business is growing like crazy,” Hardy II says. “We’re in Tackle Warehouse, Dick’s and Cabela’s.”

As for his strongest bass fishing techniques, Hardy II claims he doesn’t have anything he does exceptionally well. He claims that he can “do any of it” and that he enjoys all types of bass fishing.

“Fishing the Open tournaments is a blast,” Hardy II says. “I love the competition and fishing up north. It’s really tough to qualify for the Elites because you have to put nine great days of fishing together. You can’t afford to have a single bad day.”

Hardy II’s sponsors include Hardy Utility, Greenfish Tackle, Doom Baits, Powell Rods and HI-SEAS line.

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