Clay Dyer gets back into pro fishing

After two years away from competitive fishing, one of the world’s most remarkable anglers has chosen the 2012 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open circuit to restart his angling career.

After two years away from competitive fishing, one of the world’s most remarkable anglers has chosen the 2012 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open circuit for a restart of his angling career.

Clay Dyer, 33, is admired far and wide as the bass fisherman who competes on the water even though he has no legs, no left arm and a partial right arm.

From Hamilton, Ala., Dyer discovered fishing at age 5 on his grandfather’s catfish farm. By 1996, he was entering tournaments, many of them B.A.S.S. Federation Nation events. By 2004, he was into lower-level FLW events. He advanced to compete in the FLW Tour for four seasons, from 2006 to 2009.

Dyer would be in tournaments just because he loves the sport, but he loves the idea of finishing first in the standings more. Thus his goal for his comeback season: win an Open tournament, and secure the Bassmaster Classic seat awarded to an Open’s pro-division winner.

“I fish to win. I’m going out there; I’m going to lay it on the line. I’m going to practice hard and put in my best effort to get to the Bassmaster Classic,” he said. “My ultimate goal is to be a world champion. Not to sound outlandish by saying that, but my goal is the same as any other guy competing — but I want to win more than anyone else wants to.”

Dyer isn’t driven by desire for fame. He is quite famous already. He’s been interviewed by ESPN, CBS, Newsweek, CNN, and by countless other mainstream media outlets. He’s been on the cover of Bassmaster Magazine, and been featured in other big-name outdoor publications. Scot Laney of BassFan wrote a book about him. Bassmaster superstar Gerald Swindle calls Dyer his hero.

Dyer’s positive spirit leaves people in awe. What’s more, he has a desire to help others overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

“If I can, you can” is his motto.

And he can. To compete, Dyer has devised many ways to overcome his limitations — tying knots with his tongue, casting a lure with the rod handle tucked under his chin, for example. He drives a boat. He can land a big fish. (His personal best stands at 9 pounds, 13 ounces, taken on the famed Mexican lake El Salto on a trip with buddies.)

Dyer’s can-do attitude and strong voice put him in high demand as a motivational speaker. He gets bookings from major corporations, military groups, churches, schools and civic organizations. Making the appearances has been his full-time job over the past few years. That, plus the economic downturn, put competitive fishing on the back burner.

“I’d been feeling the fire to get back out there,” he said.

The 2012 Southern Opens worked for him on many levels. “I want to compete against the best there is. I’ve always respected B.A.S.S. and appreciated its tournament model.”

He liked the Open fisheries. He’s competed on two of the three, Alabama’s Smith Lake and Lake Norman in North Carolina. The season opener on the Harris Chain might be his most challenging because it’s one Florida fishery he’s never been on.

The timing of the tournaments for January, April and October gave him the flexibility to plan competitions and appearances around each other. Some of those appearances will be for his 2012 slate of sponsors: Strike King, Mercury/MotorGuide, Ranger, Power-Pole, Navionics and Abu Garcia. If not traveling for them or for tournaments, he’ll be on the road in 2012 to fulfill speaking engagements.

“I’ve been blessed,” the devout Dyer said. “Angling gives me a platform to share my life story. I’m looking forward to an awesome year, trying to work hard for sponsors and to being a positive example to others.”