Waldrop adjusting to pressure

DECATUR, Ala. — A glance at this year's BASS Media Guide contains the following anecdote about 20-year old Elite Series rookie Corey Waldrop.

It reads: "Did you know? Waldrop has a habit of running out of gas and once had to siphon gas from his boat into his truck to make it home after fishing."

 With gas prices what they are today, it's easy to sympathize with the Fort Worth, Texas pro.

 Besides, he's certainly got his priorities right — the boat had gas even if the truck did not.

 Waldrop's journey this year on the Elite Series has been one most rookies face — moments of hope, moments of despair, moments of doubt, and moments of utter determination.

 "I was talking with my Dad about all of that last night," Waldrop said dockside before Friday's blast-off for Day Two of the Elite Series Southern Challenge.

 "I guess the biggest shock value for me so far this year in the first few tournaments is the weights," he said. "Weights that normally do well in most regular tournaments, these guys come out here and blow them out of the water."

 Waldrop, though, appears to be catching on.

 "Yeah, I kind of feel like I'm coming out of my shell and I'm now able to compete," grinned the red-haired pro from the Lone Star State's Cowtown.

 Proof of that can be found in his Day One showing on Wheeler, which left him in 27th place with 14 pounds, 1 ounce. That sack puts him squarely in the hunt for making today's cut into the money and perhaps even a shot at Sunday's first place check of $100,000.

 "This is my first time on Wheeler and I'm amazed at the amount of fish in one area," Waldrop said. "It's kind of funny. It's like striper fishing (back home on Lake Texoma). It's kind of nerve wracking that they're so concentrated in places and you get to see what everybody else is doing."

 Of course, they're also keeping an eye on what Waldrop is doing — on and off the water.

 "Yeah, it's pretty amazing (the attention you receive)," Waldrop said. "Everyone is asking for an autograph and you're dealing with the media and stuff like that.

 "You've got to learn to keep a smile on your face even if you've had a rough day on the water because someone is looking up to you and you don't even know it."

 Learning to live and compete in such a pressure-packed fish bowl is where the contenders are separated from the pretenders on the Elite Series circuit.

 "I'm (becoming) a big believer in the mental game," Waldrop said. "To compete with these guys on this level, that's what it takes."

 Mental toughness also comes in handy on the business side of the fishing industry.

 Just as NFL star Vince Young admitted a few days ago about his intense rookie season that caused him to ponder retirement, Elite Series rookie Waldrop admitted that there are times when he wonders if he's cut out to be a pro angler.

 "Yeah, sometimes, when the checks are few and far between, you wonder if you should go back to school or something like that," Waldrop said. "But then again, being out here is a pretty natural feeling for me. All I've ever known my whole life is fishing."

 In a year filled with highs and lows — Waldrop ranks his 25th place finish on South Carolina's Lake Murray as his high for the

season and his effort on Texas' Lake Amistad as his low — two fellow Elite Series pros have helped him keep things on an even keel.

 "I'm pretty good buddies with Brian Clark," Waldrop said. "He's also a rookie this year, so we're pretty much going through the same thing."

 "And as far as a veteran, Kelly Jordon, he's always had some great words of wisdom for me," he added.

 When asked what the future holds, Waldrop smiled before jumping into his boat to make some of that future happen Friday on Wheeler.

 "I want to finish strong this year," he said. "This is quite expensive to do, so I may have to mow a few lawns to keep doing this next year.

 "I don't really know yet what will happen next year, but what I do know is I've had a heck of a good time learning this year.

 "And it's been an experience I wouldn't give up for anything in the world."

 Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Southern Challenge, June 5–8, 2008. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 4:00 p.m. ET. On Saturday, catch "Bassmaster University" at 3:00 p.m. ET before the weigh-in. Then on Sunday, get "Hooked Up" on at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. ET, with the final day weigh-in and real-time leaderboard content starting at 4:15 p.m. ET.