Four men ages 18 or 19 entered as first-time pros in this week's 2010 Bassmaster Central Open tournament are aiming for high finishes.
They are looking to follow in Bradley Roy's footsteps, who at 19 is the youngest ever to compete in the Bassmaster Elite Series. All four dream of becoming fast achievers at that top level, like 26-year-old Casey Ashley, who in three seasons has racked up a win and three consecutive Bassmaster Classic qualifications.
To make it, they will have to perform better than hundreds of other anglers; at the end of the Open season, only the top seven pros in each of three Open divisions will be invited to move up into the Elites.
While younger competitors have shown up on the Open trail now and again, four in one tournament could signal a next-generation trend.
One of the new Open pros is Joey Nania of Liberty Lake, Wash., who will turn 19 on April 15, just after he competes on Texas' Lake Amistad, April 8-10 in the Central Open's first stop of the season.
Nania was the 2005 and 2008 Bassmaster Junior World champion. He's also a BASS Federation Nation competitor.
"I've always known exactly what I wanted to do," Nania said. "I feel like it's the right time to go for it, to try it. I'm young and I don't have anything holding me back."
Nania is very serious about fishing as a career. Fishing is already his full-time job, and he has a strong sponsor base. He even has a manager: his father, Joel Nania, who isn't paid for his work yet.
"I guess you'd call it an investment for him, and hopefully he'll see a return," said the younger Nania.
Just as focused, but with a different background, is Ryan Piersdorf of Forest Lake, Minn. He turned 19 in January. To compete in the Central Opens this season, he will take vacation time from his factory job as an operator of a computerized lathe.
"I want to make it to the Elite Series, and the Open is a step closer," Piersdorf said. "That's my goal in life, to be a professional fisherman, and this is one way I can try for that."
He said he has competed in local tournaments and in other "lower-end" circuits. He also was a co-angler when he was 17 in an Elite event.
The third young pro scheduled for the Amistad Open is Austin Terry, 18, of San Angelo, Texas. The Amistad event will be his first as a pro, although he served as an Elite co-angler there in 2008.
The fourth is Zack Gagnard, 19, of Pineville, La. The city is near the Red River, where the Central Open will stop in early June.
Last Friday, Gagnard showed just how caught up he is in the sport. He picked up when his cell phone rang, but he didn't want to talk for long.
"I'm on the water, we're fishing a tournament, we just lost two 7's, can I call you back?" His words came in a rush, barely audible over water and wind sounds.
GEAR UP, GET AWAY, GUESS
Ask Denny Frederick of Clay Township, Mich., just how great is great. He won the grand prize a Skeeter 20I boat with a Yamaha VF225 SHO engine in a recently concluded Bassmaster.com contest, the 2010 Bassmaster Gear Up Giveaway.
Also starting April 1 at ESPNOutdoors.com was The Ultimate Getaway presented by Cabela's. One winner will score a Florida fishing trip with an ESPN Outdoors staff member. The package includes a four-day, three-night hotel stay, round-trip airfare, and two days of fishing one a saltwater trip and one a freshwater outing. Click here for contest rules and full prize description.
Last but never least (as judged by its popularity), the Ramada Worldwide Winning Weight Game continues. Each player can enter once, either at Bassmaster.com, ESPNOutdoors.com, or by texting "Ramada" to 4ESPN. This game challenges fans to correctly guess the four-day weight of the winner of the next-up Bassmaster Elite Series event. The closest guesser to the actual winning weight will receive a prize pack and an entry in the grand prize sweepstakes. The grand prize is a $1,000 Bass Pro Shops gift card. Click here for details.
AMISTAD LUNKER WATCH
Bassmaster Central Open anglers have at least two good reasons to hope for lunker catches when they compete April 8-10 on Lake Amistad out of Del Rio, Texas.
In February, the Toyota ShareLunker Program accepted two 13-plus-pound largemouths that were caught by Amistad anglers.
Although not the largest ShareLunker contributions ever to come from the big lake, the two most recent catches were the first since a 13.39-pounder in March 2008. Only 10 bass from Amistad have qualified since the ShareLunker program began in 1986.
The latest lunkers weighed in at 13.50 and 13.02 pounds. The first was caught by Del Rio, Texas, angler Robert Robles and the second by Teddy Silcox, also of Del Rio.
Silcox said his bass fell for a "Boudreaux bait." Robles said he used a 1-ounce Amistad Tackle Hawg-N Flutter Spoon in the pearl-ayu color. Both fish were taken on a weekend in 28 to 30 feet of water.
The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center breeds the large Florida-strain largemouths. The purpose is to build trophy catch rates in Texas fisheries. Only live bass of at least 13 pounds are accepted into the program, and the lunkers are eventually released.
A BUCK FOR BILL LOWEN
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Bill Lowen of North Bend, Ohio, put his name on a limited-edition Buck Canoe pocketknife.
Only 500 of the knives were made. They are being offered by Smoky Mountain Knife Works, which features Lowen and the knife on the cover of its April catalog.
One of the pocketknife's blades carries Lowen's signature, the other the motto, "A bad day fishing is better than a good day at work."
Five of the knives were packaged with a certificate for a free Abu Garcia Revo STC reel and a Bill Lowen swimjig rod made by All Pro. The five knives also have a gold-plated depiction of a swimming bass on the handle.