Opens profile: Drew Sloan is making hay

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James Overstreet

Although Texan Drew Sloan has competed in only four Bassmaster tournaments, he has finished in the Top 30 three times. His best showing is third place at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open on Table Rock in March of 2017. He fished all three Central Opens in 2016.

If Sloan can maintain this incredible level of consistency in 2017, he will surely earn a berth for the Elite Series in 2018. To accept such a lofty invitation, the 34-year-old will need serious sponsor backing.

Sloan lives in the small town of Scurry, Tex., about 35 miles south of Dallas with his wife, Paula, daughter Reese, 5, and year-old son Cal. Cal is short for Calvin, Sloan’s grandfather.

“I don’t know if I could fish the Elite Series while owning a business and having a wife and kids,” Sloan said. “One thing I can promise you is that my family is behind me. They would really love it.”

Sloan and his father Andy own Sloan & Son Cattle Co., which is mainly a hay business. They started the operation when Sloan’s grandfather passed away 15 years ago.

“I’ve been in the farming and ranching business my whole life,” Sloan says.

Since Sloan’s parents are not anglers, it is something of a mystery as to what instilled his love of fishing. Perhaps some of us are just born with these instincts.

There was the Snoopy pole Sloan would cast around the house as a toddler. When he was eight or nine years old, Sloan’s father and grandfather would “turn him loose” to fish the ponds on the ranch while they worked in the pastures and hayfields.

“We had one 400-acre ranch that had nine different ponds,” Sloan says.

When Sloan was 10, one of his father’s best friends, Rayford Richman, became a major fishing inspiration.

Richman, an avid bass tournament angler, began taking Sloan fishing. They fished their first tournament together a few years later at Cedar Creek Lake near Scurry.

“I caught a 5-pounder on a Carolina rig and we won money,” Sloan says.

While Sloan was in junior high school, he bought a 12-foot johnboat with money he had saved from mowing lawns. He pulled the little craft behind a 4-wheeler on a trailer and launched it at ponds. The johnboat sported an electric motor and a 5 hp outboard.

“I’d always pretend I was fishing a bass tournament,” Sloan says.

Sloan’s fishing horizons broadened exponentially in high school when he befriended fellow sophomore Andrew Smith who had access to a 17-foot bass boat. They fished often for fun and teamed up to compete in club tournaments and Friday evening jackpot events.

“We didn’t knock their lights out,” Sloan says. “It was more of a learning experience than anything.”

After graduating from Surry-Rosser High School in 2000 Sloan taught himself taxidermy and ran his own shop for five years. When his grandfather passed away, he closed his shop and went into the hay business with his father.

In 2003 Sloan bought a brand new Ranger 521 VX, which is the boat he still owns today. He began competing in larger open tournaments and challenged himself to master a variety of bass fishing techniques. He fished one lure predominantly throughout the season for each of seven years. One season he fished crankbaits, the next season it was spinnerbaits, then jigs, and so on.

“I really tried to catch fish all season with that one bait,” Sloan says. “I’m a very versatile fisherman because of that.”

Sloan’s versatility began paying off with tournament success. His ability and confidence continued to grow when he teamed up with fellow Texan Terry Hawkins. Together they have won tournaments and angler of the year titles.

“Terry is a very serious fisherman,” Sloan says. “We’ve learned a lot from each other. He brings out the best in me.”

After having success fishing locally, Sloan wanted to know if he had what it takes to compete at the highest level. To find out, he signed on to fish the 2016 Bassmaster Central Opens.

The first tournament was in June on the Arkansas River. Sloan finished 99th out of 199 anglers. The inauspicious start did not dampen Sloan’s determination. He followed up with a 28th place finish at the Red River in September and a 20th place finish at the Atchafalaya Basin in October.

When Sloan finished third at the Table Rock Central Open in 2017, he demonstrated that he has something the top Elite pros possess--the ability to adjust under pressure. In practice, he found his bass up one of the major river arms. They were tight to the bank in “inches to 2 feet of water.” The fish readily pounced on a lipless rattling crankbait.

On the first day of the tournament, a cold front had pushed the bass out to 4- to 6-feet of water and had made them less aggressive. Sloan relocated the bass and picked off 15 to 20 keepers by fishing his lipless bait slowly so it would get down to the them and give them time to respond.

The bass moved out to 8 feet of water the second day and became even less responsive. Sloan slowed his retrieve even more to get his lipless bait deeper. However, he was missing many of the bites. The lethargic bass he did catch were barely hooked on the rear treble. He countered by fishing the lipless bait on a 7-foot, 6-inch, medium action Denali rod

“That softer rod allowed me to wait for those fish to load up and get the whole bait in their mouth,” Sloan says.

Thanks to this subtle adjustment, Sloan boated another 15 to 20 keepers. On the third day, a warm front overnight had pulled the bass tight to the bank where Sloan had found them in practice. He culled through 25 to 30 bass for his 14-pound, 15-ounce, final day limit.

“I’ve proved to myself that I can compete at the Opens level,” Sloan says. “Now I can’t get enough of it.”

Sloan’s sponsors include Nutech Lures, Denali Rods, Terus Fishing Apparel, Optimum Baits, Ima Lures, Reins and Deps.

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