Chris Franks is no stranger to big water

Table Rock Lake is big, and anglers in this week’s Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open can spread out. It’s the kind of elbow room Chris Franks of Petaluma, Calif., is used to.

When he’s not competing in bass tournaments, Franks, 26, works on a commercial boat out of Sausalito, Calif., that fishes for Pacific Ocean crab and salmon.

TV reality shows may portray commercial fishing as romantic, but Franks wouldn’t mind trading it for a Bassmaster Elite Series career. He’s trying to qualify through the 2012 Central Open circuit and turn full-time pro. The top five Open pros in points at the end of their season earn invites to move up.

Franks first signed up for the Central Open last year. He was at the circuit’s initial stop of 2011, and practiced for the next, the April 2011 event on Table Rock. When it was flooded out, he was done for the year. He wasn’t able to return to Table Rock in October for the rescheduled tournament.

This year he tried again after he landed a new sponsor.

“I signed a deal with Safety Chain, a food-safety software, and the new sponsorship allows me to fish this season,” he said.

He’s on track to make the season a success. Thirty-ninth in the first event of 2012 on Texas’ Lewisville Lake, he’s hoping for good things on Table Rock. He liked what he saw as he practiced for the Thursday-Saturday tournament out of Branson, Mo.

“It’s fishing similarly to West Coast lakes I’m used to,” he said after a few days on the water. “I like Table Rock; you can fish your strengths on this lake.”

He earns a living on the sea, but his love of fishing started as a kid casting in ponds around Petaluma for bass. As his appetite for bass fishing grew, he entered local and regional events. At one of them, he met Elite Series pro Jared Lintner of Arroyo Grande, Calif.

“I’ve always looked up to him,” Franks said. “He’s been really helpful to me, acted as my mentor. And I learned a lot just in the way he carries himself. He’s a big deal in California, but he treats everyone well, he acts just like an ordinary person.”