Opens profile: Hribar a self-starter

Most bass fanatics started fishing early in life thanks to a parent or another family member. Minnesota’s Andy Hribar, who currently holds fourth place in the Bassmaster Central Opens Angler of the Year standings, is the rare self-starter. He introduced himself to fishing at age 14 when his family moved from Texas to Minnesota.

Prior Lake, a small body of water a block down the street in Minnesota, became Hribar’s playground. Largemouth bass prowl this natural lake, and Hribar set out to catch them. What little he knew about bass he learned from reading Bassmaster and other fishing magazines.

“I would ride my bike to the lake and fish by myself,” Hribar said. “I’d throw Rapalas and crankbaits. I just loved it.”

His bass world expanded exponentially at age 15 when he got a job at Paradise Bait & Tackle, owned by Roy Jacobson. Jacobson fished for bass and took Hribar fishing in a boat several times over the next year. On Hribar’s 16th birthday, Jacobson gave him the day off, and they teamed up to fish Hribar’s first bass tournament. It was an annual event at Prior Lake.

They failed to make the money, but the experience was a life changer for Hribar. He convinced his parents to buy a fish and ski boat, which was used far more for fishing than skiing. Hribar launched it in local lakes at every opportunity so he could cast for bass.

He joined a B.A.S.S. Nation club that year called the Hawg Hookers. The following year he initiated his own club with some friends dubbed the Prior Lake Hooksetters. Now, at age 44, this lifetime B.A.S.S. member still competes in the club’s tournaments. He has qualified for three B.A.S.S. Nation Regionals.

Besides club events, Hribar also fishes local derbies in Minnesota with his regular team partner Jeff Wiita. Prior to fishing his first Bassmaster Open in 2019, this was the extent of Hribar’s bass tournament world.

The interim years were spent making a living, starting a family and fishing whenever he could. Hribar bought his first bass boat at age 18 with money he had saved from working at the tackle shop, a sporting goods store and by helping a neighbor frame houses.

“I spent $10 grand on a boat and $1,500 on a car to tow it with,” Hribar said.

He began working for a heating and cooling company the following year and started his own business in this industry at age 25. He married his wife, Stacey, in 1998, and they were blessed with their daughter, Alexis, in December of 2001.

Two years ago, Hribar sold his business and began fishing every division of the Bassmaster Opens in pursuit of his dream to become a Bassmaster Elite Series pro.

“I’ve slaved for a lot of years to get to do what I’m doing now," Hribar said. “I will either make the Elites or go back to work. I figure I’ve got five years to make it, depending on how much money I win.”

The Bassmaster Opens have forced Hribar to compete on waters across the country he has never seen before. He has learned on the fly how to find bass that live in habitats much different from those in Minnesota’s natural lakes. And, he had to learn new techniques.

Hribar is overcoming these challenges by relying on what he has done all his life — hard work.

“Fishing is pretty much all I do now,” he said. “If I’m not practicing on a tournament lake, I’m fishing somewhere else trying to learn new things. I haven’t been home in a long time.”

Hribar bought a bass boat two years ago for fishing the Bassmaster Opens that had 50 hours on the engine. The engine has now logged more than 1,000 hours.

At his first Bassmaster Open on the Harris Chain in 2019, Hribar met fellow competitor Dennis Fiedler, who is currentlyninnth in the Central Opens AOY standings. They hit it off and have become true bass bros.

“We’ve learned a lot together,” Hribar said. “We have a lot of trust and tell each other everything.”

Of the many things Hribar has learned since embarking on the Opens, tuning in to his electronics has been especially beneficial. He claimed that the forward-facing LiveScope sonar on his Garmin has been a real eye-opener.

“I’ve learned quite a bit just seeing how my baits are working and how the bass react to them,” Hribar said. “I use LiveScope a ton now. I caught every one of my bass with it at the Pickwick Open.”

Hribar has limited his professional bass quest to the Bassmaster Opens. His goal is to fish with the Elites, which he calls “the best of the best.”

His lone sponsor is All Terrain Tackle.