Andrew Upshaw, Legend Boats Pro, started his bass fishing career chasing shore minnows while his brother was casting for bass around local ponds. Whether that gave him some insight into baitfish behavior and ultimately bass behavior is unknown, but what is known is that Andrew is a bass catching machine. Andrew’s first real bass fishing experience was with a gentleman we all know as an icon of the bass fishing world; Tommy Martin. From then on Andrew was hooked and soon realized his future career path.
Tommy Martin’s mentorship not only included mastering the art of bass fishing, but encouraged Andrew to follow through with his education that culminated with a Marketing Degree from Stephen F Austin University. I asked Andrew about his marketing degree; was this something he enjoyed or part of a predetermined career path? He quickly replied, “I didn’t like it at all, but Tommy said that it would really help a career in bass fishing, and I should pursue it as a major.” So that’s where Andrew ended up, studying at Stephen F Austin and fishing on the college team. Teamed up with Ryan Watkins, the two of them won just about every accomplishment available to college anglers on both sides, FLW and Bassmaster, with the exception of the FLW College Championship.
Andrew talked about how difficult it was juggling a college curriculum with two jobs and finding time to fish. “Sometimes I didn’t make classes or missed tests, but I had a lot of support behind me to keep me going.” He continued, saying that qualifying events are never as convenient or as close as you would like them. “My biggest challenge was time and coordinating everything expected of a college student and a tournament angler. It was very hard at times.” For a college student, time is already in short supply; mix in days of travel to a tournament, prefishing time, the tournament itself and it’s a wonder the collegiate programs were able to get off the ground. However, just like with so many success stories in the bass fishing world, nothing comes easy; sacrifices and a true desire are what it takes to make it. Andrew mentioned that, at one time, he was living tournament to tournament; if he didn’t win at least some money he was going hungry until the next.
Andrew’s efforts paid off when he qualified to fish the February 2012 Bassmaster Classic. Qualifying through the Bassmaster College Bass Fishing program, Andrew was now among the Elite anglers of our great sport. However, these were not just Elite anglers, but the best of the Elites for the previous season. When I asked Andrew if the pressure of fishing against these anglers caused any difficulty in staying focused, he said “No not really; it never bothered me. There were several of us fishing the same area and we just kept circling each other. The pressure came when you hooked a bass. It was like I zoned out and there were no sounds, no one around; it was all about making sure I got that bass in the boat. And when you lose a big bass, and you’re in that kind of zone, it’s very slow motion and devastating.”
The media can also put a lot of pressure on an angler; especially in the Bassmaster Classic. Anglers are paraded around to several media events, and there is a lot of hype about expectations and what it will take to win the tournament. Then, there are the crowds of spectators, trying to get an autograph or photo. Andrew said this kind of pressure really wasn’t an issue for him. “I think the College level fishing really helped prepare me for all the exposure. Prior to this, as college anglers, we were continually being interviewed, wiring microphones and being put on the spot.” Under a microscope were the words Andrew used to describe his previous experience. “The media attention was really easy for me. For the most part, it was very casual. When an established angler was around, the media would gravitate to them and I felt no pressure.”
With a background in bass fishing mentored by Tommy Martin, and gaining experience in larger level tournaments through college fishing and local events, it was only natural the next step for Andrew was the Bassmaster Opens and FLW Tour events. Andrew had already fished the Classic, so fishing something that doesn’t offer a road to the Classic would not be wise. Wanting to fish larger venues, Andrew took a valiant swing at qualifying for the Bassmaster Elites, missing by only a few points. “I made a few mistakes this year, but I learned so much and networked with some great people.”
Being a southern angler that graduated from Stephen F Austin I didn’t understand why he fished the Northern Opens versus the Central or even Southern Opens. “It was really a matter of timing. I was already fishing the FLW Tour events and the Bassmaster Opens fell in line with them. I didn’t have to drive home after each event; I could just drive to the next tournament.” My thinking was, in an effort to get into the big leagues on the Bassmaster side, why not compete in more comfortable water where you can fish techniques you were raised on. Andrew said that he is very comfortable fishing any technique and doesn’t have a favorite, “I like it all really; but if you pin me down to one thing I’d have to say deep water with a football jig or crankbait. Over all I just like to cover water, no matter where that water is.”
Since Andrew has jumped into Professional Bass Fishing with both feet, he has traveled to many new bodies of water and river systems in pursuit of his dream. I’ve heard many young pro’s talk about the challenges of starting a professional career, and all the new water is always at the top of the list. I asked Andrew if he had a system that puts him on bass when he gets to the lakes or rivers he’s never fished before. “My strategy for new water is to find a creek, through research, that holds bass. I’ll start at the mouth of it and work my way to the back casting at the bank. I’m constantly watching my graph as well looking for anything that will help me pattern the bass. Somewhere I’ll find them (bass), either on points, drops, brush, rocks or clay; there is always something the bass will key on. Then I take that pattern and run the lake looking for more.” Apparently a good strategy, as Andrew cashed several checks in his first year on tour.
As I mentioned, Andrew just missed the cut to receive an invite to the Bassmaster Elites; however, if B.A.S.S. has to travel down the list, to fill slots, Andrew is ready to jump at the opportunity. Andrew also said, “More than likely that won’t happen though, and I’m going to fish the FLW Tour. I want to keep myself in the higher level tournaments. I’ll probably fish the Northern Opens again; I like that water, have learned a lot about it, and I have a priority entry because I fished them this year. My sponsors are great and support any direction I may take; the doors are wide open for me right now as far as which tournaments to fish.”
Media exposure and experience, bigger tournaments, and an education, all prepare an angler for the professional bass fishing circuits, and what an angler can expect from College Level Bass Fishing. Andrew talked very highly of his experiences in College level fishing and how it opened many doors that simply were not available without it. “When I was coming up through the college ranks, companies were excited to get involved and gave great packages for the student anglers. Without their help, it would have been a lot different.”
With words of encouragement and proof that it can be done, Andrew Highly recommends younger anglers take advantage of what College Fishing has to offer. Keep your eyes on this previous college angler; he’s a great fisherman, has a great outlook on the challenges ahead, and a true desire to make it happen. Andrew Upshaw is headed to many winner’s circles.
For more questions and answers with Andrew visit the Ultimate Bass Forum where Andrew answered a couple questions from the members. Questions answered by Andrew
Get the Net it’s a Hawg