Scanlon's Classic dream a reality

BRANSON, Mo. — For many, it’s a dream since childhood. For Casey Scanlon, fishing in the Bassmaster Classic will now be a reality.

Scanlon, an Elite Series rookie this year, qualified for the flagship event in professional fishing after his victory in the Bass Pro Shops Central Open on Table Rock Lake. The first-place check also carried with it a berth in the 2013 Classic, his primary goal entering this season.

“I made it a goal of mine for my rookie season to qualify for the Classic,” said Scanlon, who hails from Lenexa, Kan. “It’s at Grand Lake, probably the closest I can get to home in February, so that is good. That time of year is going to be jerkbait season and that’s one of my favorite ways to fish.”

Just a week ago, it looked like the closest Scanlon would be to Grand Lake next February was working the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo. After making a check in his first Elite event, Scanlon tanked in the next two, which put him in 66th in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. He was also learning a lesson about just how good the Elite Series anglers are.

“Every once in a while, everyone goes through spells where they slip up,” Scanlon said. “But you can’t do that against these guys. I really thought I was going to catch them at Bull Shoals. I found some fish on a Wiggle Wart, and it wasn’t great conditions for doing that during practice.  I thought I was the only one that had figured it out, but by the second day, everyone was cranking – those guys are amazing.”

Despite the poor finish at Bull Shoals, it was a lesson learned there that actually set Scanlon on the path to victory at Table Rock. Brandon Palaniuk dominated the event by deep cranking around brushpiles. Scanlon vowed to give it a serious try in the practice period for the Open and it was that pattern that turned into the winning one.

The victory helps Scanlon in a variety of ways.

“I definitely needed the money, and it’s going to let me fish looser,” Scanlon said. “I’m going to fish to win from here on out. We all saw how well it’s been working for Brent Chapman; the guy is on fire. I hope it works out where I can go make some top 12s.”

Even more importantly, it gives credibility to his desire to fish at the professional level, something he has dreamed about since childhood.

“I’ve wanted to be a pro fisherman since I was 9 or 10 years old,” Scanlon said. “I taught myself how to fish by reading Bassmaster Magazine and watching the Bassmaster TV show on TNN. Both my grandparents took me out when I was younger. I remember one trip where we caught a bunch of bass on a plastic worm and I was hooked after that. A Venture store was going out of business; I got a bunch of baits for pretty cheap and used those to learn.”

From Venture store raider to Elite Series professional, it’s a transition that has taken a lot of time and sacrifice from Scanlon. When he first arrived on the scene in March, it took a little adjustment.

“It was kind of surreal at first,” Scanlon said. “I had a chance to hang out with Brandon Palaniuk and Ish Monroe the last week, so it’s been nice getting to know some of these guys. It was a little intimidating at first, sitting by myself not knowing anybody. Brent Chapman lives not too far from me, so he gave me a bit of a head's up about what to expect before the season started.”

So why does Casey Scanlon do it?

“Sometimes, I ask myself that same question,” Scanlon said. “It’s something I’m passionate about. It’s hard to describe to people or myself. Why am I doing this? All this hardship, time and effort — there are a lot of difficulties that most people don’t understand.”

But it’s more than just a passion. Like many of the very best, Scanlon has that extra itch. That desire to be out in his element, despite the hardship, despite the money, despite the time on the road.

“It’s kind of how I unwind,” Scanlon said. “If I haven’t been out on the water for a few days, I start to get restless.

“It’s what I do.”