Toho and Classic excitement

Most may not know me yet, but hopefully that changes this year. I’ve been fishing tournaments in the southeast for a long time, and I’ve been competing in the Opens hoping to make this dream a full-time career. My name is Shane Lineberger, I'm from Lincolnton, N.C., and I am a member of the 2016 Bassmaster Elite Series Rookie class.

This year will be my most demanding tournament season to date, and I’m very excited! I’m fishing the Elite Series as well as the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Opens.

It’s early in the year, but I’ve already got one tournament under my belt. One of the great things about this sport is the opportunity to learn something new around every corner, or with every cast you make. Education is a part of the game. It doesn’t matter if you are a legend like Denny Brauer or Kevin VanDam, learning and desiring to get better never stops.

For me, I learned a lot during my annual trip to Florida for the first Southern Open of 2016. The Kissimmee Chain of Lakes isn’t foreign to me, but for so many anglers it can be a tough nut to crack, even with plenty of experience. Whether it is pressure from hundreds of anglers or a massive cold front that slows the spawning progress, Florida always teaches me something new.

Here’s what I learned: Not every grass mat or lily pad field is the same, just like not every dock at Lake Norman is the same. On Day 1 of the tournament I weighed in a whopping three fish for 4 pounds, 9 ounces. Trust me, it was tough wrangling those beasts into my weigh bag at the end of the day!

I also learned that I needed to snap my weight against the roof of the grass mat to generate a reaction strike. On Day 2 that technique provided me with a five-fish limit weighing 12 pounds, 8 ounces and it moved me up from 155th to 95th—if that’s any consolation to the tough week.

The next tournament on the schedule for me is the Bassmaster Classic. No I’m not fishing it this year, but I couldn’t be more excited about being there. So many anglers that attend the Classic expo are disappointed because they didn’t qualify to fish in the big derby, but for me it is an opportunity to meet new people and talk about fishing!

This isn’t my first rodeo, but it could certainly be the most important one as I begin my career in bass fishing. I’ve been to five Classics as a spectator, but there is no doubt that this year will certainly motivate me to get to my first one as a competitor.

My journey to the Elites is similar to many other anglers, but I’ve been close so many times that I wasn’t going to stop until I made it happen. I’ve fished the Opens for the past five years and my first three years consisted of southern fisheries because that is where I’m regionally located, but over the past two years I’ve prepared for the next level by challenging myself with the northern fisheries. I eventually managed to qualify for the Elites through the Northern Opens.

I’ve always lived by the mantra that when you leave the boat launch in the morning you have to believe that you have a shot at winning, or you’ve already been defeated.

Don’t give up when you fail, rather trust in God, keep plugging away and the results may surprise you. Heck, I’m an Elite Series rookie, who would’ve thought that?