Pierson took the long road

GROVE, Okla. — Randy Pierson hadn’t spent one day in the state of Oklahoma for any reason until he came to Grand Lake this week to practice for the Basspro.com Bassmaster Central Open. His whole week, including the tournament days, was basically about practice — practice for next week’s final regular season Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on nearby Lake Tenkiller.

That’s the sole reason Pierson entered this event and none of the others on the Central Opens schedule. So what happens on Day 1 of the tournament? Pierson catches the second-place bag of 18 pounds, 12 ounces.

“I practiced Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday,” Pierson said. “Wherever I caught a keeper, I left it.”

His game plan Thursday was to hit those “keeper spots” and build on them.

“I bounced around each spot,” he said. “The third time through on one spot I caught three on three casts. One, on a Texas-rigged Trick Worm was almost 5 pounds. A few casts later, I caught a 4-pounder on a Pencil Popper. The big one was deep – 20 feet or more – then I caught one on top.

“I think it’s just a timing deal. I think they’re suspending, then moving up on a flat to feed.”

It was a pleasant surprise for the 48-year-old Elite Series rookie from Oakdale, Calif., in a season of surprises.

“The biggest surprise for me – the reality check – has been just how good the Elite Series anglers are,” Pierson said.

Entering next week’s finale on Lake Tenkiller, Pierson is ranked 57th in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. He’s got a shot at finishing in the top 50 and qualifying for the AOY Championship at Michigan’s Lake St. Clair. Even if he doesn’t make it, Pierson has learned enough this season to stoke his fire for the highest level of competitive bass fishing.

It’s taken a year. But Pierson’s Day 1 success at Grand Lake is both a sign of his ability and an indication that he’s worked himself into a comfort zone. In fact, Pierson’s whole family is comfortable with this career choice. Pierson at one time thought about dropping out of the Grand Lake Open, but his wife, Jan, insisted otherwise.

“She’s been my biggest supporter,” Pierson said. 

Their 19-year-old daughter, Megann, and 21-year-old son, Jacob, are fine with it too. The main reason Pierson is relatively late to this game is because he helped coach his kids in soccer and baseball through their high school years.

Pierson’s bass fishing career is one of delayed gratification. It began at age 14. He teamed with his father in a 100-boat tournament on California’s Lake Don Pedro and won it. 

“I was hooked right from the start,” said Pierson, who was the 2003 WON Bass Western Classic champion and the 2018 B.A.S.S. Nation champion.

Now, 34 years after that first tournament success with his father, Pierson is living his dream.