As a grade-schooler during the 1970’s in Joplin Missouri, I can still remember vividly bringing my Bassmaster Magazine to school and dreaming about being a pro angler on the Tournament Trail.
Those were the days when names like Bill Dance, Jack Hains and Tom Mann were the superstars of the sport. “Newbies”, like Rick Clunn and Larry Nixon were just then trying to make a name in the sport.
This early passion and hard work in the following years finally manifested into reality with my debut in 1986 on the Bassmaster Tournament trail, in which I was fortunate enough to qualify for the Bassmasters Classic that year as a 24 year old rookie.
For the next 18 years, I competed on in the B.A.S.S. Top 100’s, Top 150’s, Invitationals and the B.A.S.S. Elite 50 events, qualifying for 9 Bassmasters Classics and winning two B.A.S.S. Top 150 events.
Along the way, like many other Bassmaster pros, beginning in the late 1990’s, I was competing on the FLW Tour, and in 2005, due to some rule changes with B.A.S.S. and FLW, the anglers like myself who had sponsorship deals with FLW were forced to make a decision to either fish the new Bassmaster Elite Series or stay with FLW.
For anglers like myself and several others, that decision was based solely upon sponsor alignments.
As a result, I stayed with FLW, and 2005 was my last year fishing with B.A.S.S., as I turned down my Elite Series invitation that year.
After a lot of thought, I’ve decided to return to fish the B.A.S.S. Eastern Opens in 2018, in an effort to return to the Elites.
This is in no way passing judgement on either FLW or B.A.S.S. I’ve fished against the anglers on both tours for many years, and can tell you for sure, the competition skill level is the same on both Tours, and getting more competitive each year.
Each tour has their own perspective business models, and opportunities for the anglers within these models.
For me, this return to B.A.S.S. lies in my desire to return to the Bassmaster Classic a 10th time, and compete on the Elite Series. It lies in feeling and being part of the unique energy of B.A.S.S. and the Bassmaster events.
I’m also looking forward to spending time with my old Tour buddies Aaron Martens, Brent Chapman, Matt Herren, Rick Clunn and Jerry McKinnis.
B.A.S.S. has provided me with a ton of great memories and experiences, like winning my first B.A.S.S. event that allowed me to purchase my first home. Providing me the opportunity to build a long-term sponsor base within the industry by qualifying for Classics. Losing a 6 pound bass in the 1998 Bassmaster Classic that cost me the win to Denny Brauer. Meeting my continued longtime sponsor MEGABASS at the 1992 Bassmaster Classic, and taking 5 trips to Japan as a result of it. Traveling the country and developing a lot of lifetime friendships. And many more.
Thanks for taking the time to read, and I’ll keep everyone updated on this blog with commentary and observations as the season progresses and my return to B.A.S.S. progresses!