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Young Breed of Pros Invade National Scene

Inside BASS - week 3-10-03
by BASS Communications/ BASS

(Mar. 11, 2003 - Montgomery, AL)... You see them at every CITGO Bassmaster tournament, the young, flat-bellied troops of eager, aggressive pros invading a sport that was once dominated by the most seasoned of anglers.

They arrive talented and well schooled by the pros that came before them. Kids like 20-year-old Casey Iwai confidently push their way into CITGO Bassmaster Tour presented by Busch Beer finals with amazing regularity these days.

Gary Klein is not surprised.

One of the sport's most accomplished at age 45, the 20-time CITGO Bassmaster Classic qualifier has had a unique position from which to watch the ascension of this class of young pros.

"It doesn't surprise me that these young guys are doing so well at this level," Klein said. "The reason I can say something about that is because I have been raised in the fishing industry. Having never had another occupation, I too, was a young student of bass fishing, and know what it took for me to gain knowledge.

"The information highway was very limited when I started fishing BASS in 1979. There was no Internet, no BASS Times, no bass-fishing seminars. Whereas today the information highway is so well connected that literally someone has just one good day in a tournament and the whole world knows about it. Back when I started fishing, you could win the event and it would take six months for everybody to know about it.

"My learning curve was a very long, uphill struggle. The learning curve for these young guys now, it's real quick."

A major part of that educational process has been the CITGO Bassmaster University national seminar circuit that has schooled several generations of bass enthusiasts.

"I've done a lot of the Bassmaster Universities, which is another avenue where if an angler really wants to apply himself, he can literally learn from the greatest anglers out there - the Larry Nixons, the Rick Clunns, the Denny Brauers - because they are instructors in those seminars," Klein explained. "If someone is committed to learning this sport for all of the right reasons, if they truly are fishing from the heart and for the love of the sport, they can definitely learn a lot real quick."

Still, Klein emphasizes that there is no substitute for time spent on the water.

"However, the only thing that we can't give the young guys is experience," he said. "That's something that they are going to have to acquire themselves.

"What I mean by experience is what you hear a lot about when you hear Rick Clunn talk about being in a zone or gut feelings. Being not able to explain why I went over to that log and pitched a jig, and caught that fish when it was totally off-pattern. Those are all things that just become very instinctive occurrences in your fishing. And that's because we're just well conditioned in the environment of the fish.

"We're also drawing from many, many years of past experiences. So we have a lot to relate to, and that's one thing that the young guys do not have."

WILKS' BIRTHDAY PRESENT. Dustin Wilks turns 26 on March 29th, and he is giving himself an early present. The North Carolina pro, who qualified for his first Classic appearance as a college senior, is getting married to Mary Thurman on March 15th.

The couple plans to honeymoon in California during the Tour's West Coast swing. Wilks quipped he is the only guy I know that has to qualify to go on his honeymoon."

DID YOU KNOW? Not only is Gary Yamamoto a top Bassmaster pro and owner of one of the country's most successful lure companies. He is also a Texas cattle rancher and one of the world's top producers of a delectable Wagyu Japanese beef. It is said to be the ultimate in marbling, flavor, tenderness, and juiciness.

PRO BIRTHDAYS. Legendary pro Roland Martin might be 63 on March 13th, but he certainly hasn't slowed down any. Todd Auten of South Carolina turns 37 the next day. Florida's Chuck Economou will celebrate his 47th birthday on March 28th, while Curt Lytle (34) of Virginia and Texan Darren Wolf share the same birthday (March 28th.)

IF I HADN'T BECOME A BASS PRO... Florida pro and past Classic qualifier Charlie Youngers would be able to devote his full attention to his residential construction company Younger-Built, Inc., He is also a licensed realtor.

THEY SAID IT. "There's a lot of pressure because everybody wants to succeed at what they love to do. Probably the hardest part of tournament fishing is just realizing that it's just fishing and coming out from under that pressure, and just going fishing." Arkansas' Larry Nixon, a two-time Busch BASS Angler of the Year and 1983 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion, on the pressure involved in his sport.

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