- Lynn Burkhead
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A laugh, a chuckle, a smile.
That's how a certain high school guidance counselor responded years ago to a then 17-year-old Peter E. Thliveros when he laid out his career ambition: to become a professional bass fisherman, earning a living while doing what most people do for fun and weekend recreation.
The funny thing is, however, that all of his dreams have come true.
"I laid it out on paper," said the now 45-year old Thliveros. "And everything I told him at 17 years of age, it has come true."
So much so that Thliveros, a 10-time CITGO Bassmaster Classic qualifier with four BASS tournament wins and more than $850,000 in career earnings, is more than willing to tell other anglers how to make their dreams come true.
Thliveros and 2003 Classic champ Mike Iaconelli will do just that next month in upstate New York's bass-rich Thousand Islands region during a unique, new adventure-travel program called ESPN Outdoors' Ultimate Expeditions.
(The Jacksonville, Fla.-based Thliveros, dubbed on Tour simply as Peter T., spoke Aug. 20 about the upcoming ESPN Outdoors' Ultimate Expeditions angling excursion on ESPN Radio's "The Outdoor Show". Click his to listen to the interview.)
A first of its kind event for ESPN Outdoors, the Sept. 8-11 Ultimate Expeditions carries a $4,795 price tag, giving amateurs a luxury vacation, hours of personal interaction and fishing time with two of the sport's top pros, as well as an accumulation of fishing knowledge that might take countless hours of on-the-water hard knocks to acquire.
Based out of the Edgewood Resort in New York's Alexandria Bay, attendees will receive four-day, three-night accommodations; morning through evening access to Ike and Peter T; five on-the-water fishing sessions; tips and techniques seminars; deluxe meals with the two pros; and ground transportation to and from Syracuse Hancock International Airport.
"Ultimate Expeditions is a dream come true for many outdoorsmen," stated Christine Godleski, vice president and general manager of ESPN Outdoors. "Fans will be able to fish side by side with top BASS pros like Mike Iaconelli.
"This is a once in a lifetime experience for anglers."
Peter T. agrees.
"I think it's an excellent opportunity for somebody that wants to basically get a hands-on fishing experience and gain some insight into how a tournament fisherman like me and Mike might approach a body of water," Thliveros said.
"You'll see how to read the water, how to find fish, how to catch fish, and exactly how we do that."
While acknowledging that top-notch fishing instruction can certainly be gained through the yearly Bassmaster University seminar circuit, by watching "BASS Saturday" programming on ESPN2, through the pages of "Bassmaster Magazine" or on the ESPNOutdoors.com or Bassmaster.com Web sites, Peter T. still says there is no replacement for time actually spent on the water.
That's the best overall fishing tip he says he can give.
"There's nothing that replaces time on the water," Thliveros said.
"The more time you are out there practicing, fishing, catching fish and learning how fish react daily and hourly to things like changes in the weather and conditions, that can't be replaced by anything (else)," he added.
"That's what makes you a better fisherman and teaches you to fish better in all situations. Time on the water is invaluable" even for a seasoned pro like Thliveros.
Take his angling activity this week in Illinois, where Thliveros is prepping for the Children's Therapy Center of the Quad Cities fund-raising tournament on the Mississippi River's Albany Pool.
While not a BASS event, it is certainly for a worthy cause, as evidenced by the participation of Peter T and his "Team Supreme" brethren Kenyon Hill, O.T. Fears, Mark Tucker, Kurt Johnson and others.
But it's also a chance for Thliveros to keep learning, to keep pushing forward and to keep expanding his angling repertoire in preparation for the 2006 BASS campaign.
"I try to learn something from everybody I step in the boat with, amateurs or pros," Thliveros said. "Whether it is in the seminar sessions or through a group of anglers I'm talking with, I'm learning constantly.
"That's the wonderful thing about this sport you never get too old to learn."
In fact, with perhaps the most anticipated BASS tournament season in history coming up next year, Peter T. hopes that he'll leave the Ultimate Expeditions in upstate New York next month with a new bass-catching trick or two stashed away in his tackle box.
"I think (next year) is going to be a real pivotal year for the entire sport," Thliveros said. "I think there is a lot of room for things to happen, for a growth year."
"I think this Pittsburgh Classic (last month) was one of the best ones we have had in several years in terms of showing off the sport to potential fans and sponsors," he added.
"We get it more in the mainstream each year as we go along. We get it out there and make it more exciting and continue to push the outside edge of the envelope."
And pushing the outside edge of the bass fishing envelope is something that Peter T. has always dreamed of doing.
Even as a 17-year old high school student sitting in his high school guidance counselor's office in Florida.
Officials with ESPN Outdoors indicate that more such Ultimate Expeditions events are in the works for hunters and anglers across the nation. Stay tuned for future updates.
1dMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne