During his childhood years, Bassmaster Elite Series rookie Kenneth "Boo" Woods always dreamed of becoming a pro — a pro basketball player, that is.
"Once I realized I wasn't going to be 6-foot-7 and be able to play NBA basketball, I had to come up with something else that I could be competitive in," said the 30-year-old Woods.
Growing up in Kentucky, where basketball is a way of life, Woods also enjoyed fishing, so he eventually turned to bass tournaments to satisfy his competitive streak.
The Oneida, Ky., angler fished his first tournament when he was 17 years old at Watts Bar Lake in Tennessee. All he remembers is that it was a "disaster."
Throughout his high school years, Woods won some team tournaments, but stopped fishing competitively while going to college. That's when he accepted a high school basketball coaching job at his local high school, which kept him busy for the next two years.
"The whole time I was never really satisfied," Woods said. "Fishing was my passion, and I couldn't stand to be caged up in a classroom."
After graduating from Eastern Kentucky University, Woods decided to get back into tournament fishing and entered the Mountain Division of the Bass Fishing League (BFL) in 2004 as a co-angler. The next year Woods bought a boat and started fishing on the pro side in four divisions of the BFL (13 total tournaments). He competed in BFL events until 2008 and qualified for two regional championships.
Woods stepped up to the Rayovac FLW Series and competed in four divisions of that circuit from 2005 until 2013. "Man, I was out of my league at first, but I gained a lot of experience."
In 2008 Woods entered the FLW Tour as a co-angler but switched over to the pro side of the circuit the next five years. He had a good rookie year as a boater, finishing in the money a couple of times. Then, in 2010, he hit a rough patch.
"I laid a goose egg all year," said Woods who failed to finish in the money in five events. "It seemed like everything I would do was the right thing but nothing worked out well."
Doubts about his career started creeping in, but Woods bounced back in 2011 with a fifth-place finish at Pickwick Lake "It seemed like during that bad year I found myself as a fisherman," he said. "Instead of worrying about what everybody else was doing, I did what I could do and didn't worry about the rest."
During his FLW stint, Woods became friends with former FLW President Charlie Evans, who was also from Woods' hometown. When Evans left FLW and started fishing Bassmaster Opens, he noted Woods was improving as an angler and told him he would be better suited to fish B.A.S.S.
So Woods took Evans' advice and signed up for the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Opens in 2012. He had enjoyed a lot of success with smallmouth bass on Northern waters and was optimistic about his chances.
Woods' favorite tournament tactic is fishing deep with a 1/2-ounce football shaky head and Zoom Mag Speed Worm, a technique he learned while fishing clear Northern waters.
He struggled in his first year in the Northern Opens, capped off by a 117th-place finish at Cayuga Lake, where he blanked all three competition days. In 2013 Woods fished all three Northern Opens and one Central Open at the Red River in Louisiana. Three solid performances in the Northern Opens (22nd at the James River, 24th at Oneida and 36th at Erie) vaulted Woods into sixth place in the points standings and earned him a coveted Elite Series invitation.
And if you're wondering where Woods got his nickname, it's one that his grandfather pinned on him. When he was a child, his grandfather called him "Booger Bear." That was eventually shortened to "Boo," and now a lot more people call him that than "Kenneth."