CELEBRATION, Fla. — A long-time BASS angler who battled back injuries for decades has found renewed health and will fish the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series in 2006.
Charlie Youngers, 53, of Geneva, Fla., said he is feeling better than ever before, after years of fighting a childhood back injury that hindered his ability to fish without pain. Youngers recently had surgery to repair nerve damage in his back and now is focused on fishing the world's top circuit. He and other Elite Series anglers are vying for more than $11 million in the tournament series, the CITGO Bassmaster Classic, the Bassmaster Majors, the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year program and other contingencies.
"I'm very excited about everything," said Youngers. "I'm looking at it as a new beginning with BASS and a new beginning with me personally."
Youngers began fishing BASS events in 1987 as an amateur, but devoted most of his time to Youngers-Built Inc., a home-construction company he started with his brother. It wasn't until the mid-'90s when the company was well-established that Youngers got serious about the sport.
The tall, soft-spoken angler offered a solid performance in the 1999 CITGO Bassmaster Invitationals, qualifying him for the 2000 CITGO Bassmaster Classic on Lake Michigan in Chicago, Ill., and the CITGO Bassmaster Tour.
From the first moment he stepped onto the Classic stage, Youngers was determined to become a Bassmaster pro. "After that first taste of the Classic, I made the decision," said Youngers. "It was a chance I had to take."
In five years, Youngers has claimed six top-20 finishes with a best finish of second place on the Tombigbee Waterway in Columbus, Miss., in 2004. He's amassed nearly $100,000 in tournament winnings.
In 2005, Youngers' back pain cut short his fishing season. Permeated discs forced the angler out of the Tour's Clarks Hill Reservoir event and the remainder of the 2005 season. But after undergoing surgery, his pain subsided and his angling skills are at their sharpest.
"I feel good, my back's great and I'm just excited to get out there and fish healthy," said Youngers, who also is a licensed real estate agent in Florida and a residential contractor.
Of the 11 Elite Series events, Youngers will visit for the first time Lake Amistad and Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas, Table Rock Lake in Missouri and Oneida Lake in New York. "I do better on lakes I haven't been to before and react well on my gut and instinct," Youngers said, confidently. "I'd much rather go somewhere I haven't been."
Now, Youngers is negotiating with several potential sponsors for his 2006 boat and truck wrap. He's currently supported by Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Motorguide, Lowrance Electronics, KeelShield Keel Protector, Bob's Machine Shop, a division of BMS International, Inc., Flying Fisherman sunglasses and Pure Fishing. But he's using his contacts in the residential construction industry to lure more non-endemic sponsors to the sport.
"Bottom line — I want to go back to the Classic and I feel like I can do that. That's what we all shoot for. I'm ready to bring my whole career together with the Elite Series."