During this past Bassmaster Classic week I heard several different fishermen from Federation anglers to Elite Series pro's express the notion that fishing in the Bassmaster Classic was a lifetime "dream come true." A couple of times I heard it said that fishing in the Bassmaster Classic is the dream of all tournament bass fisherman. I must be an odd case then, because I can't say that fishing in the Bassmaster Classic has ever been one of my aspirations.
Growing up my family had a cabin on Lake Sylvia/Twin (now East & West Sylvia) near Annandale in Wright County Minnesota, which is about an hour and a half NW of Minneapolis; The two lakes are prolific largemouth bass fisheries. I was taught to fish at a very early age by my Dad, Grandmother Maas, and my Mom. Dad was my main fishing tutor and while he liked to fish, he was not overly serious about the sport, more of a casual weekend warrior type. Dad was much more serious about cars and Ham radio. Our fishing boat was late 1960's 14 ft Alumacraft with bench seats and a 5.5 horse Johnson motor. We also had a pontoon boat we would use for fishing. However, most of my early fishing was done off of our or our neighbors docks.
Of my 3 brothers and me, I was basically the only one to be badly afflicted with the fishing bug. I have just always loved to fish and we were up at the cabin frequently in the summer, so I got to go fishing often and as I grew older my love for fishing just grew and grew. My first exposure to fishing outside my family came from TV shows by Virgil Ward, Roland Martin, and Bill Dance. My first exposure to the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society probably came from commercials while watching fishing shows, but I also distinctly remember looking at Bassmaster Magazine at the Barber Shop in Annandale when I was probably around 8 years old. I remember thinking B.A.S.S. was the coolest thing and I wanted to join, but my parents didn't pursue it for me. I don't know when I was first made aware of tournament bass fishing, but I don't think it was until I was a teenager that I ever heard about the Bassmaster Classic and the information I heard about it was pretty scant. When it came to fishing I was much more interested in learning how to catch fish than I was interested in hearing about tournaments.
It wasn't until I was out of college and in my early twenties that I gave much thought to tournament bass fishing. In the 90's Lake Minnetonka used to be the site of a prestigious bass tournament called the Don Shelby US Invitational that drew in some of the big names of B.A.S.S.. The "Shelby" had a $50,000 top prize, which was big for those days. I was just astonished by how big a sack of bass it took to do well in that tournament. Sylvia/Twin is a peanut factory where 3lb and up fish are rare, and these guys were bringing in sacks with close to or over a 4lb average per fish. Also for the first time in my life I had cable TV and so I could watch the Bassmasters TV Show and I think I joined B.A.S.S. in 1993. In 1995 I went to see my first weigh-in ever at the Bassmaster Top 100 that was held on Lake Minnetonka.
I did not fish in my first bass tournament until 2 years later in 1997 when I was 27 years old; That summer I fished as a non-boater in 2 Military Bass Angler (now ABA) tournaments at Clearwater Lake in Wright County. I got skunked in my first tournament but did manage to catch a couple of fish on my second try. Looking back at it now, I had very little clue as to what I was getting myself into when I fished those tournaments. But despite the poor results I did enjoy myself and wasn't all that discouraged. In 1998 I joined The Fishers of Men Fishing Club (Twin Cities) which is just a fishing club, not a bass fishing club. It was not until I was 31 when I started fishing bass tournaments with any seriousness.
I think because I wasn't brought up with it and didn't start tournament fishing until well into adulthood is probably why the Bassmasters Classic for me is the dream that never was.