As the sun began to crack the overnight darkness at Lake Hartwell’s Green Pond Landing and Event Center on Nov. 6, 2019, 60 anglers competing at the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship all had the same dream: hold that trophy and punch their ticket to the 2020 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk.
As the evening dusk began to consume the afternoon of Nov. 8, one angler held the ticket to the Bassmaster Classic stage in Birmingham, Ala., fishing Lake Guntersville – Beaverton, Oregon’s Cody Hollen. Along with crossing the most legendary stage in the professional bass fishing, Hollen, the 35-year-old member of the Cascade Bassmasters out of Newberg, Ore., was about to be offered to join a new club: the Bassmaster Elite Series.
“It was a crazy situation,” said Hollen. “My girlfriend was there, and two of my buddies turned around and looked at her and asked if she was going to let me do it. She looked at both of them and said, ‘Why wouldn’t I?’ That was an unreal day.”
What few people realize is that being given that invitation comes with a very short window of opportunity. Hollen said that he had approximately three weeks to make a decision. “It took me two and a half days to get home, then I had to get to work,” he said. “By the time I was able to really think about it, it was Nov. 15, and I had to let B.A.S.S. know by Dec. 3 if I was accepting the invitation.”
He and his girlfriend, Katie Soden, decided that there was only one answer. “This is really a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he reported. “Short of traveling to the Opens and taking that chance, we didn’t see that this chance would happen again, so we called B.A.S.S. and accepted the invitation.”
Then the work began. Outside of the B.A.S.S. Nation wrapped Triton/Mercury rigged with Lowrance and Power-Poles, Hollen had little support. The Pacific Northwest is famous for cold-water fisheries — salmon, steelhead and sturgeon outshine bass fishing. That meant Team Hollen would have little endemic fishing industry opportunity to seek partnership. Armed with the boat for the season, and approximately $15,000 remaining of the B.A.S.S. Nation winnings, they set out to build a team that he could partner with for the year.
He knew he would need roughly $50,000 more to fund the year. “We’ve had some local people join us, and of course there have been amazing companies help with product and a little monetary partnership,” he said. “I couldn’t be more appreciative for the companies that have partnered with me.”
Those companies include: Missile Baits, Buckeye Lures, TKO Tungsten, Lowrance Electronics, Affordable Ponds, Premier Portable Buildings, Pacific Foundations, Sack Lunch Fishing, Fishaholics, Mitch Lum Machine Accessories, Steven’s Marine in Tigard, Ore., and IRod fishing.
There was still work to do. “We still needed to think of a way to make it come together at this short notice,” he said. “We thought about it for a while, and we came up with an idea.”
What he and Katie came up with is unique. Team Hollen is wrapping the 2015 Toyota Tundra tow vehicle that Cody will use for the season. But it will feature a unique way for family, friends, individuals, bass clubs and small companies to partner with him for 2020. The back half of the wrap will feature a checkerboard scheme that will allow for between 150 to 200 “parties” to purchase a 4-inch by 4-inch square to put their names, club or company logos on the truck for $100 – it’s a true “community sponsorship program.
“I’ve run it by a few people, and the response has been amazing,” he said. “We’ve had about 20 squares already spoken for, and we’ve only been at it for a few days. I’m really looking forward to it as a way to connect to the great people of this sport and show how supportive the bass fishing family is.”
Hollen will be sending social media shoutouts to everyone that partners with him and the Community Wrap throughout the 2020 Bassmaster Classic and Elite Series campaign. He will also be working out a raffle for people who sponsor a square that will include their choice of a sponsor tackle pack, or if the winner is near his way home at the conclusion of the 2020 season, a day on the water with him.