Mark Ely of Downington, Pa., has achieved some measure of success on the water, winning the Angler of the Year title of the Chester County Bassmasters, a B.A.S.S. Nation club, in 2013, 2015 and 2017. What happened in 2014 and 2016? He and his wife had children those years, so he might’ve been a little bit preoccupied at home.
He’d won a few bucks here and there over the years as a result of his skill with a rod and reel, but this year’s winnings were far and away the best yet, because in addition to his club AOY bragging rights, B.A.S.S. also awarded him a Triton 189 TrX paired with a Yamaha VF150LA outboard, a MotorGuide X3 24 volt trolling motor and a Lowrance Mach 5 depthfinder, as well as a $500 gift card from Bass Pro Shops – and he didn’t have to make a cast to do it. Instead, he claimed the massive prize package from behind a keyboard, by beating nearly 35,000 other competitors in the season-long Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing Contest.
Ely, 33, works on financial system architecture in the pharmaceutical industry, and described himself as numerically oriented, noting that “I definitely liked the math portion of the SAT better than the reading portion.” Nevertheless, he claimed not to have some secret algorithm or team of quants helping with him his pre-tournament analysis. Instead, he relied on a fairly simple system involving “floor placement.”
“That means that I wasn’t just looking for who was most likely to win, but also who was likely not to fall out of the top 40 or 50,” he said. “On Wednesday nights, after the registration meetings, I’d watch a lot of social media videos. Sometimes those are helpful, especially the videos by the anglers’ roommates.”
He’s also a superfan, a self-described “bass junkie” who spends plenty of time working, with his family, fishing, and cheering on the Eagles, Sixers and Phillies – but also a borderline unhealthy number of hours on Bassmaster.com, various fishing forums and watching YouTube videos. He was a Marshal at the Elite Series event on the Chesapeake Bay in 2015, and rode one day with a tour rookie named Seth Feider who he ended up picking three times this year. Feider repaid the favor by producing fourth-, 13th- and 34th-place finishes in those derbies.