One of the most daunting questions every young person contemplates is: What do I want to be when I grow up?
For most, the answer doesn’t come until high school or college. This was never an issue for Dave Lefebre, a Pennsylvania native of 45 years who qualified for the 2016 Bassmaster Elite Series via the Bassmaster Northern Opens.
At age 13 Lefebre knew he would be a musician and a professional bass angler. Period.
These were not “I wanna be a cowboy”pipe dreams for Lefebre. Once he set his sights on the two careers, he worked to excel at both.
Lefebre’s love of music was passed down to him from his mother, Beverly, and father, Frank.
“I come from a family of musicians,” Lefebre said. “Dad is a classical guitarist, my mom and sister play piano, my uncle is a bass player and everybody sings.”
At around age eight, Lefebre began playing drums in the church where his mother played piano. He continued to do so until he was in his 20s.
In 1989 Lefebre graduated from Fort LeBoeuf, a small high schoolin Waterford, Pa. He had shown such promise as an artist that he received a grant to study art. His favorite medium is pencil and paper. However, Lefebre decided not to attend college.
“That made my mom and dad mad,” Lefebre said. “College wasn’t the deal in my high school. Only half a dozen kids in my class went to college.”
Besides, Lefebre reasoned, college would delay the pursuit of the careers he had chosen years before. Soon after high school, Lefebre formed a band, 65 South,and played local venues three nights a week.
He also got his first “real” job at a Toy World store. When he saw the hand-drawn promotional signs that had been posted in the storefront windows, he told the manager that he could do better.
The manager offered him the opportunity to prove it, and he did so impressively. From then on, Lefebre’s job consisted of sitting at a desk and making window signs for Toy World and several other businesses.
“I liked it,” Lefebre said. “It was kind of artsy and fun.”
After three years at Toy World, Lefebre took a second shift job at Port Erie Plastics, which allowed him to continue playing gigs with his band.
Over the next several years, Lefebre performed with a number of different bands. When he joined Steele Justice, a professional country rock band, Lefebre quit his job and toured with the band from 1998 through 2001.
They played “everywhere”at large clubs that featured stars such asAlan Jackson and Brad Paisley. The grueling schedule meant performing five nights a week and driving from one engagement to the next.
“I liked the music part of being in a band, but I didn’t drink or smoke, and I wasn’t into the crazy women,”Lefebre said.
The only woman that did interest Lefebre was Anne Costa, who sang lead and backup vocals and played keyboards for 65 South.They married in 2001.
Although Lefebre had always wanted to be a professional musician and a professional bass angler, his time with Steele Justice convinced him to make fishing his priority. The love of fishing was instilled in Lefebre practically from birth.
His father would often go fishing at nearby Lake LeBoeufbefore or after work as a foreman at a machine shop in Erie, Pa. In the summertime, the family vacation was always a fishing trip to Canada. When school was on winter break, the family ventured to Florida to fish for a few weeks.
“We lived 2 miles from Lake LeBoeuf,” Lefebre said. “Dad fished there and on Presque Isle Bay. He was into crappie and muskie fishing.”
As soon as Lefebre was old enough, he became his father’s regular fishing partner. Bass fishing was barely on Lefebre’s radar until he was 12 years old. That’s when he began subscribing to several fishing publications. One of them was Bassmaster Magazine.
“Bassmaster is where I realized there were tournaments,”Lefebre said.
Soon after this, Lefebre’s bass progression took off at warp speed. Within a year, his father bought him a johnboat.
“He would drop me off at Lake LeBoeufon his way to work and pick me up on his way home,”Lefebre said. “I did that every day when school was out for three or four years.”
Lefebre often fished with various school buddies, including Anne’s older brother, Tim. Anne would ride her bike to the lake to bring the boys lunch.
Lefebre was heavily influence by articles about Denny Brauer and other bass pros who excelled with jigs. A Stanley Jig dressed with an Uncle Josh No. 11 Pork Frog was one his favorite lures. He applied the fishing techniques he had read about and was soon catching 20 to 30 bass a day.
When Lefebre was 13 he learned of a local bass club, the Bassmasters of Crawford County. They were one of the more accomplished clubs in the state and fished tournaments on lakes throughout western Pennsylvania. Lefebre went to one of the club’s meetings but was crushed when he found that the minimum age to join was 16.
He continued to fish from his johnboat and expand his skills until his 16th birthday. After joining the club, Lefebre fished the first year as a co-angler.
“I found out at the first tournament that I hated fishing out of the back of the boat,”Lefebre said. “I got stuck with a guy who didn’t do any homework and wouldn’t listen to me because I was a kid.”
At the next tournament, Lefebre convinced his partner to let him run the boat. He won the tournament and his partner came in second. In club tournaments thereafter, Lefebre was able to finagle the front of the boat. By season’s end, he had won the club’s point race.
Success in the club inspired Lefebre to save money to by a boat. With his father’s help, he bought an aluminum V-hull Sea Nymph with a 50 hp outboard and an electric motor on the bow.
Even when touring with Steele Justice, Lefebre continued to fish club and team tournaments.
After he married Anne in 2001, Lefebre cut his playing time with the band in half so he could concentrate more on tournament fishing. He competed in lower tier Bassmaster and FLW events and did well, winning two tournaments and finishing near the top in several other events.
In 2002 he signed on to fish the Bassmaster Open and FLW Everstart tournament circuits with the goal of qualifying for what was then the Bassmaster Tour and the FLW Tour. He earned invitations to both tours. At this time he was fishing out of a Skeeter Bass Boat that Vic’s Sports Center in Kent, Ohio, helped him with.
“All of a sudden I went from having a dream to having a big problem,” Lefebre said. “I needed to come up with $70,000 to fish both tours.”
The Lefebre’s sold nearly everything they owned, including their home and vehicles. After buying a cheap used pickup truck and a truck camper, they had barely enough money left to fish the first two tournaments on each tour. Lefebre would have to win money to continue after that or his dream was finished. Lefebre placed third in his second FLW tournament, which was a lifeline.
After both tours were done for the season, Lefebre had qualified for the Bassmaster Classic and the Forest Wood Cup.
“I was blessed to make it on my first crack,”Lefebre said. “If one little thing didn’t go our way, it would have ended everything. We had a couple of close calls.”
Since Lefebre had fared better on the FLW Tour than the Bassmaster Tour, he decided to continue with FLW. Over the past 14 years, he has been one of the most consistent anglers on the FLW Tour with earnings of $1,852,081, six wins and 51 Top 10 finishes out of 194 tournaments.
In 2011, Lefebre again tested the Bassmaster waters by fishing Bassmaster Northern Opens.He also competed in Northern Opens in 2013, 2014 and 2015. In 2013 he finished one place out of qualifying for the Elites. He did qualify for the Elites in 2015 by finishing second in the Northern Open’s AOY standings.
In 2016 Lefebre will put his main emphasis on the Bassmaster Elite Series. He will not be fishing the FLW Tour because three of their tournaments conflict with Elite Series events.
These days Lefebre’s home overlooks Lake Erie in Pennsylvania 20 miles from where he grew up. Anne previously traveled to tournaments with Lefebre while home schooling their two children, Mitchell, 13, and Macy, 8. However, Anne now stays home during most events as their children have been enrolled in public schools.
Lefebre’s current sponsors are Ranger Boats, Rapala Lures, Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits, 13 Fishing, Quigley 4x4 Vans, TH Marine, Fish Head Lures, Lowrance Electronics, Power-Pole and Solar Bat Sunglasses.