Opens profile: Thompkins homeschooled on bass

“Everything I know about bass fishing I learned from my dad,” said South Carolinian JT Thompkins.

Given that Thompkins won the 2022 Bassmaster Northern Open on the Upper Chesapeake Bay at only 20 years of age, his father, Timmy Thompkins, has homeschooled him well on the subject of bass fishing.

The elder Thompkins knows of what he teaches. He fished the Forest Wood Cup in 2015 and missed qualifying for the Elite Series by one point when he competed in the Eastern Opens in 2020. He did not fish the 2022 Opens due to having hip replacement surgery, but he plans to fish all nine Opens in 2023. When not fishing he manages his business, Comeback Rentals in Myrtle Beach, S.C., which rents landscaping equipment and sells propane.

The younger Thompkins’ homeschooling for bass began early in life. His parents told him he caught his first bass from a pond.

“I don’t remember that,” he said. “I do remember catching my first bass from a boat when I was 4. It bit a pink floating worm.”

That 1 1/2-pound largemouth came from a tributary off Winyah Bay, which the Thompkins fished often from a 14-foot johnboat. When Thompkins was 5 he began fishing tournaments every weekend with this father in the Carolinas.

“My dad and I won our first tournament when I was 6,” Thompkins said. “I’m pretty sure that was at Lake Wateree.”

For three consecutive years he and his father won the points race in one of the tournament trails they fished. The winning string began when he was 10 years old. They competed in tournaments as partners until Thompkins’ junior year at Calvary Christian High School.

That was the year he initiated a bass team there and began fishing high school team competitions. He did well and qualified to fish the Bassmaster National High School Championship at Kentucky Lake 2018. He also played high school soccer, basketball and baseball.

In his sophomore year, Thompkins got his first taste of big-league bass fishing by competing in an FLW Tour event at Lake Okeechobee as a co-angler. His 16th birthday was on the first day of the event. Had he been born one day later, he would have been too young to participate in the tournament. He finished ninth out of 200 anglers.

In 2020, the year he graduated from high school, Thompkins fished the Bassmaster Eastern Opens. The following year he competed in the Southern and Northern Opens. He fell short of the Elite Series in the Northern Opens by one spot. He is fishing all nine Opens in 2022 and made a strong run at qualifying for the Elite Series via the Northern Opens, falling short by only 12 points.

“I chose to fish the Opens because it’s been my dream to make the Classic and fish the Elite Series since I was very young,” Thompkins said.

Because he and his father will be fishing all the Bassmaster Opens in 2023, don’t be surprised if they become the first father and son due to compete simultaneously in the Elite Series.

Thompkins sponsors include Strike King, Outkast Tackle and Power-Pole.