After all nine 2023 Bassmaster Opens Elite Qualifiers, Tennessee’s John Garrett has qualified for the Bassmaster Elite Series by finishing second in the overall standings. He has certainly paid his dues to achieve Elite status.
Garrett’s most notable accomplishment is winning the 2016 Bassmaster College Series Championship. His awards included a berth to the 2017 Bassmaster Classic and paid entries into all nine Bassmaster Opens.
His first Elite Series heartbreak came at the final Central Open of 2017 on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake. After the first competition day, he held the lead in the Angler of the Year standings. Mechanical issues with his boat forced him to withdraw the second day, which dropped him out of Elite Series contention.
Since graduating from Bethel University in 2020 with a degree in business management, Garrett has been on a mission to qualify for the Elite Series. That year he fell two places shy in the Opens overall AOY standings.
The following year he tied for 14th place in the final Central Division Open at Grand Lake. He lost the tiebreaker and dropped to 15th place. The loss of that single AOY spot prevented him from becoming an Elite Series pro.
In 2022 he missed his Elite Series dream by finishing four places shy in the Open’s Eastern Division.
Of the 42 Opens Garrett has competed in, he has made money more than 50% of the time. He earned checks in eight of the nine EQ events in 2023, including four Top 10 finishes.
Garrett’s grandfather, Johnnie, instilled his zeal for fishing and hunting.
“I grew up in an outdoorsy family,” Garrett said. “My granddad was a big-time duck hunter and bass fisherman. He started taking me fishing when I was 4 or 5 years old.”
They fished mainly Reelfoot Lake with occasional jaunts to Kentucky Lake. His grandfather taught him where to cast for bass in different seasons and a wide variety of fishing techniques.
“My granddad was kind of an OG ledge fisherman,” Garrett said. “He could find bass on structure before digital maps and side imaging came out. It was unbelievable how many bass we caught from ledges. It was like, ’Let’s go fishing until we run out of plastic worms.’”
Garrett’s tournament fishing began at age 11 when he joined his grandfather as a member of the Reelfoot Lake Bass Club. The club had a junior division that competed against other youth teams at various Tennessee River reservoirs.
The young anglers would draw for partners and for adult boat drivers. Garrett won three of the eight tournaments he competed in.
He started a high school bass fishing team in his sophomore year at Obion County Central. The school’s first event was at Wheeler Lake.
“I believe that was Bassmaster’s first high school tournament,” Garrett said. “That’s where I qualified for the high school Classic at Lay Lake.”
Gary Mason, the bass fishing coach at Bethel University, offered Garrett a scholarship to fish on the collegiate level. This opportunity is what prompted Garrett to further his education.
“My bass fishing really took off in college,” Garrett said. “I hit it off with Brian Pahl. He was a great tournament partner.”
For the past two years, granddad Johnnie, who is in his upper 70s, has been traveling with Garrett to the Opens and fishing them as a co-angler. They fish together on practice days, which makes these outings more fun and less stressful.
“We razz each other,” Garrett said. “It’s almost a normal fishing day. What he hates about practicing is that we don’t set the hook very often.”
To support his quest for the Elites, Garrett runs a duck hunting guide service, Garrett Outdoors, on Reelfoot Lake. He works nearly every day during Tennessee’s two-month waterfowl season, which traditionally ends on Jan. 31. You can contact his service on Facebook and Instagram.
Running a duck camp is labor-intensive. Garrett maintains four 30-foot x 10-foot floating blinds and up to 1,000 decoys. When the water freezes, he and his fellow guides have to break the ice so ducks can be lured to open water. Long days, short nights and bone-chilling weather are the norm.
Garrett and his wife, Morgan, live in Union City and are expecting their first child.
Garrett’s sponsors include Strike King, Lew’s, Skeeter, Yamaha, Ford, Seaguar, Owner, X2Power batteries, Hypertech Total Truck Centers and Bait-Pop, a scent and sonar intensifier.