Each season of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens, there are the familiar faces of the Bassmaster Elite Series pros that compete in the events and also new faces among the competitors. These individuals range from all ages, come from all walks of life and share the same goal – we all want to fish in the Bassmaster Classic and earn a berth in to the Elite Series. I am one of those unfamiliar faces, but I’m overjoyed about my path to fishing.
As a child we all have dreams of what we want to be when we grow up. A doctor, lawyer, fireman, police officer, astronaut or a professional athlete are common answers that many kids reply. I wanted to do all of these things throughout my childhood until I enlisted into the U.S. Army. My grandfather was a soldier in World War II, and he was my biggest inspiration in life. Coincidently, he was also the person that taught me how to fish.
My grandpa was a man that loved the outdoors. His routine every Sunday was to mow the lawn, put out the sprinklers to water the fresh cut grass and empty out the bug zapper. Yes, that purple looking light hanging from the house that would make a loud snap when a bug flew into it. There was a tray in the bottom that collected the remnants of the bugs, and I learned quick that when my grandpa would dump it out in the channel, the fish would go crazy. I would prepare for this event by digging up some worms from my grandma’s garden, getting my rod and reel and standing by for the feeding frenzy. I caught many panfish during this ritual, but one evening I caught the first largemouth that I can remember catching. It was probably barely a 12-inch bass, but it was a giant to me. It was the beginning of my passion for chasing green and brown fish.
Fast-forward to 2001, I was still in the Army and serving as a Special Forces Green Beret. I knew about the Bassmaster Classic, but then a guy from my home state of Michigan won the Bassmaster Classic. Of course, it was Kevin VanDam. This inspired me, but you can guess what happened next, and our country changed forever. Soon after the events of 9/11, my career as a soldier changed drastically. For the next 15 years I deployed numerous times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and other hostile environments. When I was in-between missions I watched numerous fishing videos, and my addiction to bass fishing grew more and more. During a trip to Afghanistan, I had a rod, reel, and some jigs shipped to me and practiced flipping and pitching into a cup. It was during this time that I knew for sure what I wanted to be when I grew up, a professional bass fisherman.
I feel somewhat behind the power curve in the fishing industry at the ripe age of 44, but fishing is always an option no matter the age. I had to try. There was only one option for me, and that was to fish the Bassmaster Opens on the boater side, or as they phrase it “pro side.” I am not going to sugarcoat how it has been over the past two years, it has been a bumpy road. However, after feeling like I had been getting my teeth kicked in I finally experienced a bit of success. During the Northern Open #2 on the James River in Virginia, I weighed in a 9-pound 3-ounce bass that earned the Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors for the tournament. It is a small victory, but one that I feel will keep my drive and determination to make it to where I want to get.
I know without a doubt what I want to do when I grow up; I am a stubborn strong-minded Special Forces Green Beret that is too dumb to quit. I want to be a professional angler, like ones I watched growing up. So when you see me around the Opens or on the water feel free to say, "Hey." But if you think about creeping up on me while I am on my fishing hole, you may want to think twice. I am, after all, a Green Beret.