2017-08-09 / News

Angler's Paradise

A Bassmaster talks fishing for a living
By Ben Orcutt

John Hunter stopped by Texas Roadhouse last week prior to a Bassmaster Elite tournament in Varina. Photo by Ash DanielJohn Hunter stopped by Texas Roadhouse last week prior to a Bassmaster Elite tournament in Varina. Photo by Ash DanielAll it took was catching a 5-pound bass to hook 10-year-old John Hunter.

At 25, Hunter is now a career angler, having qualified in late 2015 for the 2016 Bassmaster Elite Series, the highest level of professional bass fishing tournaments. Last week he met fans at Texas Roadhouse’s Koger Center Boulevard location in Chesterfield. The steakhouse chain has sponsored Hunter for the past two years.

“I had my uncle Jim Murphy introduce me to bass fishing,” Hunter said prior to meeting fans at the Texas Roadhouse at Koger Center Boulevard last week. “I remember as a kid I would set my alarm to wake up and watch the Bassmasters on ESPN and … I would run to the pond in the neighborhood and try to do exactly what those guys were doing.”

A native of Shelbyville, Kentucky, Hunter said he earned an academic scholarship to Georgetown College in Kentucky, where he planned to play baseball.

“I didn’t end up enjoying baseball like I thought I would, so I gave it up to pursue college fishing,” Hunter said. “We had a college fishing team. After quite a bit of success on the college tour, I saw that it was something I was going to try [and] maybe I could make a career out of it.”

After graduating from Georgetown College in 2014 with a degree in finance, Hunter was the co-angler of the year on the Fishing League Worldwide tour for 2015 before qualifying for the Bassmaster Elite Series last year.

Becoming a pro angler had been a dream, Hunter said, but he didn’t always know if it was attainable.

“I didn’t realize how possible it was until I went to the college fishing ranks,” he said. “It’s really competitive and it’s a really good learning experience. You get an education while you’re doing it.”

Heading into this season’s final tournament later this month at Lake St. Clair in Michigan, Hunter finds himself at the bottom of the standings, but remains confident that he will achieve success on the circuit.

“This deal comes with a lot off learning curves and I’m still one of the youngest anglers in the field so I’m not getting too discouraged,” he said.

Louisville-based Texas Roadhouse has been sponsoring him for several years and he’s grateful, Hunter said.

“It’s been a big blessing,” he said. “There is an extremely large audience for bass fishing and I wanted to represent them.”

A Bassmaster Elite tournament begins with a field of 110 and is narrowed to 12 based on cumulative fish weight on the final day. Hunter reached the final round last year in an event at Winyah Bay in Georgetown, South Carolina.

“Oh man it was fun,” he said. “I had a legit chance to win. It was pretty cool walking out on that stage on Saturday and Sunday and seeing 5,000 to 10,000 people going crazy. That’s when you walk out there and you’re like, ‘Oh man. I really am doing this. Wow!’ ”

In a good year, he added, a competitive angler can take home “$60,000 to $80,000 in winnings in addition to money from sponsors.” Winning a tournament can net $100,000 in winnings.

 “These dudes are the best in the world for a reason,” he said. “I’m super lucky to be a part of it.”

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