Opens profile: Pollard ahead of expectations

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James Overstreet

Alabama’s John Pollard claimed second place at the first Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open of 2017 on Florida’s Harris Chain and is far ahead of where he thought he would be. It was only his third tournament in Florida. He had fared poorly in the previous two there. The Harris Chain proved to be the charmer.

“I went to Florida just trying to survive,” Pollard says.

The next two events on the Southern Opens’ schedule are more to Pollard’s liking. Although he has never been to Lake Chickamauga, the site of the next Southern Open, he has friends who know the lake well. They can help him get on track before the official practice days begin. Chickamauga also lends itself to offshore fishing, which is Pollard’s strong suit.

The final Southern Open is on Smith Lake, Alabama, which Pollard has fished often and knows well. His goal is to win one of the final two events and qualify for the 2018 Bassmaster Classic at Lake Hartwell. If he fails to win a tournament yet qualifies for the Elite Series, he will likely turn down the invitation due to a lack of finances.

It wouldn’t be the first time Pollard has done so. He also qualified for the Elite Series in 2005 via the Bassmaster Southern Opens and had to say no. However, if Pollard wins a Southern Open this year and also qualifies for the Elites, he may invest his tournament booty into entry fees for the Elite Series.

That isn’t a farfetched notion. Although Pollard has only competed in 13 Bassmaster Open tournaments, he has made the money eight times with five top 10 finishes. He is a seriously capable angler thanks, in large part, to his father, Danny.

“I was fishing with my dad from the time I could walk,” Pollard says. “I started fishing tournaments with him when I was nine or 10 years old.”

One of Pollard’s fondest tournament memories is fishing a Shriners benefit tournament on Lake Martin with his father when he was 12. This annual April event drew a large field that competed for hefty cash prizes. Pollard and his father nabbed second place by fishing tubes and spinnerbaits. The winner was none other than Bassmaster Elite Series tournament director, Trip Weldon.

Pollard’s father continues to compete in tournaments. Pollard began making his own tournament path when he was around 20 years old. His current partner for team events is Dallas Weldon.

“On average, I fish about 25 tournaments a year, mostly on lakes Jordan and Martin and the Alabama River,” Pollard says.

Pollard also guides part time on these waters, running about 25 trips a year. The guide trips supplement the income from his heating and air conditioning business, Pollard Heating and Air LLC.

You may wonder why Pollard waited so long to compete in the Bassmaster Southern Opens after he did so well in this series in 2005. The reason is that his wife, Molly, and daughters, Katie, 14, and Jordan, 9, came first.

“I had two young kids so I just kept putting it off,” Pollard says. “The next thing I know 11 years have gone by and I’m 38 years old.”

Although Molly isn’t a fishing fanatic, Pollard’s daughters may be future bass pros. He claims that Katie has caught bass doing everything but flipping.

“I just took Jordan to her first tournament,” Pollard says. “It was on Lake Martin. I got her a closed-faced reel and put 20-pound braid on it. She didn’t catch a bass, but we did finish third.”

Passing the bass-fishing torch doesn’t end with Pollard’s daughters. Last January he became the head bass fishing coach at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Ala. Pollard’s tutelage isn’t limited to bass fishing. He is also youth pastor at the East Tallahassee Church of Christ.

Pollard’s current sponsors include Bass Pro Shops in Prattville, Ala., Nitro Boats, Mercury, Powell Rods and Solar Bat Sunglasses.