Bassmaster Elite Series rookie Mike Kernan admits he never really had aspirations of becoming a pro angler when he was young.
The Wylie, Texas, angler went to Texas A&M and earned a degree in finance and accounting. Then he pursued a career as a certified public accountant and focused on his family life while fishing team tournaments close to home.
“The Elites weren’t really a goal of mine,” Kernan said. “My goal was to fish the Opens and to win one to fish the (Bassmaster) Classic. I really want to fish the Classic.”
The 46-year-old pro finished sixth in the 2013 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Opens point standings and received an invitation to fish the Elite Series this year.
“When the invitation popped up, I felt I was financially stable enough to go ahead and do it,” he said.
Kernan recalls fishing team tournaments with his dad in an independent bass club when he was about 16 years old. He fished for about four months in the club his rookie year, but the next five years he competed in all of the club’s events and won five straight angler of the year awards.
Team events were paying better than draw tournaments in Texas, so Kernan decided his next level of competition was to fish in regional team tournaments with his partner, David Weber. He continued to succeed at the regional and local level while fishing team tournaments up until two years ago.
“I have won six boats, a truck, three four-wheelers and of course lots of cash at the local level,” Kernan said.
Throughout the years, Kernan has been successful throwing topwater lures — especially buzzbaits — during tournaments. Falcon Lake has been the scene of many of Kernan’s successes, but the Texas pro has also done well on other reservoirs and rivers.
Despite his success in team events, Kernan eventually wanted to try something different. “It got stale for me,” Kernan said of the team trails. “They kept going to the same lakes all the time and the same time of year.”
Spending more time fishing with his son Thomas became a priority for Kernan, so he decided to cut back on the team events and commit to the Bassmaster Central Opens.
“I wanted him to go with me when I was practicing, so it was more about trying to get to spend more time with him than go every weekend chasing some different lakes,” Kernan said. “So the Opens were a better venue for me.”
Kernan elected to fish the Opens as a co-angler his rookie year in 2002, and after finishing in 104th in his first event at the Red River, he won the next Open at Lake Ouachita and took home a $24,000 boat. He finished the year with an 89th-place effort at Sam Rayburn.
When he fished in team tournaments with Weber, Kernan was always the boater, so he decided to fish the Opens on the pro side in 2003.
“I just wanted to see what it was like (on the co-angler side), and it wasn’t for me,” he said. “I needed to be in the front of the boat. When you are a hunter, you can’t be guided, so to speak.”
Since his return to the front of the boat, Kernan finished in the money in eight Open events. He never achieved his goal of winning an Open to earn a Classic berth, but now the Texas pro has more opportunities to qualify for the Classic through the Elite Series.