David “Davey” May of Odessa, Fla., probably logs more hours on the water than any other bass angler in the country, pro or otherwise. Unfortunately for May, the vast majority of those hours have nothing to do with bass fishing. He makes his living as a merchant marine aboard cargo ships and is at sea four to five months a year.
The upside with May’s occupation is that he is free to cast for bass the rest of the year. After fishing the first two Eastern Opens of 2019, he is currently fourth place in the AOY standings. What makes this even more impressive is that he has competed in only six major bass tournaments, all of which have been Eastern Opens.
May’s occupation has taken him to ports in Japan, China, the Persian Gulf, England and elsewhere. He is a been-everywhere kind of guy, but it’s not as romantic as it sounds.
“The ships I work on are in and out of port in 12 to 24 hours,” May said. “There’s little time to go ashore and explore.”
The 33-year-old angler is usually one of four merchant marine engineers working aboard a ship. They are responsible for maintaining and fixing anything and everything mechanical, from the engine to the toilets.
While May was growing up in Florida, a 19-acre lake in the backyard got him hooked on fishing early in life. As with many youngsters, he started out catching bluegills off the dock. A neighbor, Ed Long, later introduced May and his father David to bass fishing. He and his younger brother Jeff often fished with their father from a 14-foot johnboat that had a plywood fishing platform. Powered by an electric motor, the small craft was sufficient for fishing the May’s backyard lake and the many other 10- to 50-acre lakes in the area that yielded quality largemouth bass.
“I was really young when we started fishing from the Johnboat,” May said. “I fished only with plastic worms because dad wouldn’t let me cast anything with a treble hook. He let me take the boat out by myself when I was 8 or 9.”
The next step in his bass fishing progression came via another neighbor, Todd Perrone, just prior to May’s high school years. Perrone, an avid tournament angler, introduced May to more advanced bass tactics.
“Before I fished with Todd, I didn’t know what a crankbait or a spinnerbait was,” May said. “He would take me fishing to bigger lakes, like Tarpon. He passed a couple of years ago before I got into serious bass tournaments.”
During his high school years, May would cast for bass at every opportunity. From 2004 to 2009 he fished less often because he was earning his Bachelor of Science Marine Engineering degree from the United States Merchant Marine Academy. May found more time for fishing after graduating, but big-time tournaments would have to wait.
May and his brother Jeff teamed up to fish tournaments with the Dade City Bass Clubin 2014 and 2015. They won the second event they entered, but didn’t fare well overall. They competed with the Bay Area Bassmasters the next two years. He and his wife Ashley fished tournaments with the South Pasco Bay Area Bassmasters in 2016.
“Ashley is more of a fun fisherman,” May said. “We had a good time the first year, but it got a little too serious after that. We had our first child 11 months ago. We named her Kasi.”
In 2018 May bought his first bass boat and took a major step up in competition by fishing the Bassmaster Eastern Opens. It proved to be a brutal learning experience. His best finish was 43rd. In the other three events he finished 100th or lower. May is apparently a fast learner because he nabbed 12th place in each of the first two Eastern Open events of 2019.
The dream of becoming a professional Bassmaster Elite Series angler has long been on the back burner of May’s mind. He currently has no sponsors, but fully intends to compete in the 2020 Elite Series should he earn the privilege.
“I told myself going into this season that I wanted to fish on Day 3 of an Open tournament,” May said. “I’ve done that. Now I want to make a top 10. I’m taking it one step at a time.”