Woods leaves Elites, says career not over

Kentucky angler Kenneth “Boo” Woods notified B.A.S.S. officials earlier this week that he is leaving the 2015 Bassmaster Elite Series due to circumstances beyond his control.

But he made it clear Wednesday that his career as a professional fisherman is far from over.

“Because of circumstances that have arisen, it just wasn’t an option for me to fish the next four events on the schedule,” Woods said. “I didn’t feel comfortable paying entry fees for events that I wouldn’t get to fish and just throwing money away. So this is what’s best for me.

“It’s for personal reasons, and I want to keep those personal. But I want people to know I didn’t just quit.”

The Elite Series will continue with 112 competitors, meaning only the top 52 anglers will make the Saturday cut and receive checks at each event. The top 53 anglers advanced and received checks during the first two Elite Series tournaments on the Sabine River and Lake Guntersville.

Woods, who is only 31 years old, won’t receive a hardship waiver to make him eligible for the 2016 Elite Series. But he hopes to qualify through the Bass Pro Shops Northern Opens.

“I’m still young, and I know my fishing career is not over,” Woods said. “But right now, I need to be at home. I don’t want anybody to use any hardship or anything for me. If it’s meant for me to get back to the Elite Series, I’ll requalify.”

Woods qualified through the Northern Opens once before, finishing 22nd, 24th and 36th in three events in 2013. He fished every Elite Series regular-season event in 2014, recording his best finish at Lake Dardanelle where he placed 18th and earned $10,000.

He just missed the Saturday cut in this year’s season-opening Elite Series event on the Sabine River, finishing 59th. But then he struggled in the second event on Lake Guntersville, finishing at the bottom of the standings in the 113th spot.

He said the decision to leave was particularly tough because he believed the latter half of the Elite Series schedule lined up favorably for him. He was especially looking forward to events on Kentucky Lake (June 3-7), the St. Lawrence River (July 30-Aug. 2), Lake St. Clair (Aug. 27-30) and Chesapeake Bay (Aug. 13-16).

“I consider Kentucky Lake to be my home lake,” Woods said. “My last five events on Lake St. Clair, I’ve finished in the Top 30. St. Lawrence is a smallmouth fishery, and one of my best friends live on the Chesapeake. I thought I could do really well, but I still had to come to this conclusion.”

Woods had accumulated a long list of sponsors, including Buckeye Lures, Stormr, Halo, Days Boat Sale, Fish Bait Radio, Coast and Zoom. He knows he’ll have to rebuild that list if and when he resumes his Elite Series career.

“I will probably have to start fresh with sponsors, and I understand that,” Woods said. “The biggest problem for me with having to step away was the idea of letting my sponsors down. They have believed in me and supported me the past few years, and I’m going to do everything I can to still support them while I’m fishing the opens. I don’t expect them to do stuff for me, because our agreement was for the season. They understand what’s going on, but I know I’ve shorted them.”

Woods still believes his best days on the water are ahead of him.

“A lot of people don’t know this, but I never bass fished before the age of 22,” Woods said. “I was a crappie fisherman, and I was happy if I caught a bass on a minnow. But I never went out and really learned anything about bass fishing until I was 22. I’m still very young for this sport, and I’m still very determined to go on and have a great career.”

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