After nearly 35 years of pro fishing, Guy Eaker, 69, has one more goal he’d like to reach before he hangs up his Bassmaster Elite Series hat.
“I would definitely like to make the Classic one more time,” said the pro from Cherryville, N.C., who qualified for the Bassmaster Classic 10 times from 1980-1992. “Then I’ll give it up — that’s the plan, anyway.”
Eaker said two factors prompted his recent announcement to retire after the end of the 2010 Elite season. One was the desire to spend more time at home with his wife. The other was the wear and tear of travel.
“I can fish all day — all week, really, as long as you let me sleep some — but driving thousands of miles, crisscrossing the country, is a big reason I decided to hang it up after age 70,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been lucky to compete as long as I have against these Elite guys. It’s not getting any easier, but I still feel I’m in good shape.”
Eaker, the oldest active Elite Series pro, will celebrate his 70th birthday on Nov. 23. If he reaches his goal of qualifying for the Classic following the 2010 Elite season, he would be competing in February 2011 at age 71. He could become the oldest angler in Classic history.
But Eaker is not after age records. He’s looking for the big win. He said the 2011 Classic is on a fishery that could help him bag it.
“It’s the Louisiana Delta, the kind of water and grass that’s my style. I’m a shallow water, backwater angler,” he said. “I feel if I could get there (qualify), I could really do well.”
Eaker’s retirement plans include continuing with his many appearances at seminars and promotional events for his sponsors. He will travel, but will try to stick closer to home.
“I can still go fishing anytime I want to,” he said. “I will miss the competition, but what I will miss more than anything else is the fellowship. I’ve watched anglers’ families grow. Each tournament’s like a family reunion. I’ve known some of these people for 35 years.”
Eaker used the word “blessed” to describe his career. He’s got one Bassmaster win on his record, but that’s not how he measures his career success.
“I’ve said this before in my seminars and elsewhere: I’m not Kevin VanDam with a bunch of titles. I’m not Rick Clunn with 30-some Classic appearances. But I’ll bet you neither Kevin nor Rick have enjoyed fishing for 35 years as much as I have,” he said.
AND MY HERO IS…: Bassmaster Elite Series pro Mark Tucker of St. Louis was recently asked to name his current sports hero.
Replied Tucker, “James Niggemeyer, Elite pro.”
The main reason for his answer was that Niggemeyer opened the door for Tucker to qualify for the 2010 Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 19-21 on Lay Lake out of Birmingham, Ala.
In August, Niggemeyer of Van, Texas, qualified for the 2010 Bassmaster Classic by ranking 26th in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points standings. Later, on Nov. 7, he double-qualified for the Classic by winning the Bassmaster Central Open points race. The BASS rulebook says he takes his Classic seat through the Open circuit. BASS then works down the Elite’ AOY points list to award the vacated Elite qualification.
Tucker earned the spot because he was next on the list. Actually, Tucker and fellow Elite pro Matt Reed of Texas were tied for the spot, but a tie-breaker was applied, and the berth went to Tucker.
“It was a tough fishery, and he was already in the Classic, so it would have been easy for him to skip Atchafalaya, although I’m sure he completed all three tournaments in the Central division for his own reasons,” said Tucker, who will be making his seventh Classic appearance in February. “But still, for right now, James is my hero.”
TRIPPING TO THE CLASSIC: Fishing fans can still get in on Toyota Trucks’ “You Dream It, You Win It” Sweepstakes online at http://promo.espn.go.com/espn/contest/index?code=BASSPromo_Toyota_091809 in which the grand prize is a three-day, two-night trip for two to the biggest fishing event of all, the 2010 Bassmaster Classic in Birmingham, Ala.
The grand prize also includes a personal introduction to Kevin VanDam, the Kalamazoo, Mich., Bassmaster Elite Series pro who is a five-time Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, two-time Classic champion and 20-time Classic qualifier.
Other perks of the package are VIP transportation to the launch site on Lay Lake in nearby Shelby County, dockside access to the pros, a backstage tour of the weigh-in venue and a KVD Gear Package courtesy of Bass Pro Shops.
Players can enter once daily through Nov. 30. A link to the complete rules is available on the sweepstakes entry page.
ALTON ON FALCON: Mixing business with pleasure, or sometimes just inserting a few hours of fun into his busy schedule, Bassmaster Elite Series Alton Jones of Waco, Texas, has been pursuing the giants of Falcon Lake.
In his Nov. 6 blog at www.Bassmaster.com, the pro and 2008 Bassmaster Classic champ reported catching five bass from Falcon that weighed 50 pounds, 8 ounces. He said it was his best single-day weight (in a non-competition setting).
That haul would easily break the BASS record for one-day heaviest catch, set by Dean Rojas on Florida’s Lake Tohopekaliga in January 2001.
In his Oct. 16 blog, Jones recounted an earlier trip in which he boated and weighed five Falcon fish that totaled about 46 pounds. One of the five was an 11-pounder, and another went 10 pounds; he caught them on back-to-back casts.
Falcon Lake has an allure for Elite pros. The impoundment on the southern Texas border was the site of the April 2008 Elite event in which the four-day BASS heaviest weight record was smashed. Elite pro Paul Elias of Laurel, Miss., won with 132 pounds, 8 ounces, tumbling the 122-14 record set in March 2007 at California’s Clear Lake by Elite pro Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala.
Besides Elias, Terry Scroggins of San Mateo, Fla., (132-4); Byron Velvick of Del Rio, Texas, (131-15); Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., (129-7); and Mark Davis of Mount Ida, Ark., (128-15) all bested Kennedy’s mark.
MANSUE MOVE: “I made the cut in all three Centrals, and there are some pretty tough sticks out here. I’m really pleased with my effort this season. I made a check in nine of 11 major tournaments.” — Dave Mansue of Hemphill, Texas, in 2009 making a go of a full-time pro fishing career, including the Bassmaster Northern Open, where he won the opener, and the Central Open, through which he qualified to join the 2010 Bassmaster Elite Series
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