Exclusive interview with Gary Klein where he talks about life as a pro, tournament tactics, and practical jokes!
Glenn: Hi. I'm Glenn May, and I'm with elite pro Gary Klein, as I'm sure you all recognize him. Gary, thank you so much for being with us today.
Gary Klein: Thank you for having me.
Glenn: Gary, can you tell us how you got started in professional bass fishing and how it got to where you are today?
Gary: Probably being young and dumb, I guess. I actually started competitive angling when I was 15 years old. I was no different than any other young kid. I had a dream. I wanted to grow up doing something I loved to do and make a living at it. I had no idea that it was going to turn out being competitive angling. I was very lucky to have really gotten started at such a young age.
Glenn: What would you say would be the defining moment that changed your life forever, so to speak?
Gary: When I was finally smart enough to leave California and come out on the Bass Angling Sportsman Society circuit in 1979, and what made me make that decision was the fact that I was already broke. Car payment, truck payment, two boat payments and I figured that the worst thing that I could do was actually go broke. I started with $1,000 loan from Bank of America and that's how I started my career, no credit cards. I prepaid two entry fees at the BASS circuit. One on the St Johns River and one on Lake Powell. I finished tenth at the St Johns River, won $1100. I won Lake Powell my second event. Having won that event, I automatically qualified for the Bass Masters Classic, so I knew I had a year under my belt, but it's been a process. I learned at a very young age it's a very humbling sport. It always changes.
Glenn: The fish don't read the same books we do, do they?
Gary: No they don't. They write their own chapters.
Glenn: The level you're at, strategy plays a very important to your success. What is your strategy coming into these tournaments? Is it different for each tournament, or is it roughly the same?
Gary: Regardless, the event or the venue that we actually are competing in, it's still fishing. Time year, type lake, the main species of fish that we compete for, or that's in that particular environment. We're the anglers that are supposed to have all the confidence of ourselves and a good understanding of all the tools that we use. If we go out there and do our job, we should be successful. I am looking forward to this particular venue. There's a lot of good quality fish out here. Not everybody in this field is going to catch them. We're going to see some pretty nice stringers though.
Glenn: Is your strategies changed from year to year? Is this year going to be different from previous years?
Gary: We are all in this event to win. The only way you can win the event is you can't win the Classic in one day, but you can lose it in one day. You got to catch them everyday just like any other event. This is a three day tournament; you've got to be number one at the end of three days. The only way you can do that is maximize each day you are on the water. If your day might be a 12 lb day, it's a 12 lb day. But you might back it up with a couple of 18 lb bags and that's enough to win the Classic. So, you can't take yourself out. You have to fish. Maximize the day, and if you do that three days in a row let it fall wherever it does.
Glenn: Is that the same approach you take to other tournaments as well?
Gary: Yes, I fish a day at a time, one fish at a time. I don't get ahead of myself.
Glenn: What if you have a bad day on the water? How do you regain your focus and get back in there?
Gary: It depends on how you look at a bad day. There are two things you do when you're on the water. You establish or you eliminate. It's like some of the best days I ever spent on the water; I actually never catch a fish or get only one or two bites. The most important thing I did was eliminate a thought, an idea, or a technique or an area of the lake. I'm basically putting the pieces of the puzzle together and now I'm just one piece closer so there is never really a bad day. You come to the Bassmasters Classic, three days of competition is really not the time to have a slow day on the water.
Glenn: Being that you have been at this level for so many years, I'm sure you have had all kinds of questions thrown at you and you have heard a lot of different misconceptions about being a pro and being a professional bass fisherman, what would you say is the biggest misconception of being a pro angler.
Gary: That's all we do is fish. It's easy, anybody can do it. We do fish. We spend a lot of time fishing sun up to sun down. Sometimes when you do something you really enjoy a lot you end up not really liking it so much. I truly love this sport. I truly love to fish. I fish sun up, sun down. I'm a very tough competitor, but I fish for the right reasons. I fish for the love of the sport. I think what a lot of anglers don't understand about us at this level it's just not fishing. Fishing at this level might be 10% of the whole picture. There's a lot of work involved. I'm as busy off the water, or as committed off the water, as I am on the water with this sport. It pretty much keeps me involved 24/7.
Glenn: You're working a lot with your sponsors and new product developments. I've seen a lot of lines come out with your signature on it. How much input do you have on the creation of those new product lines? How much influence do you have?
Gary: Anything that has my signature on it or I endorse I have just about everything to do with it from beginning to end. There's probably not a product on the market in fishing, and even in the boating that this group of anglers have not been the reason for it being designed the way it is. A lot of the anglers that are non-tournament fisherman that don't understand competitive angling are using our equipment. They like it because it's really good. It's because of all the thousand of hours that have been spent in development and actually using it, that's made it good. We are the testing grounds. We're at the top of the pyramid.
Glenn: Most definitely. You spent so much time on the water and off the water and traveling; it's with the same bunch of guys. So there's some bonding going on. Some camaraderie. After a while, some of the practical jokes start to flow and you guys start to kid each other. Is there anything you would like to share with us that you have been involved with or one you saw recently you thought was pretty good?
Gary: I ended up with a bunch of little yellow duckies in my live well. Somebody was trying to set me up with the Classic here. We fish up and down the river and I don't take decoys out of decoy spread, because I'm a hunter too. You find them washed up on the bank and buried back up in the trees, so I dig them out and pitch them in my live-well. I clean them up and save them and I box them up and send them out to my nephew in California, because they hunt big duck club. He's only 16 and loves to duck hunt. So he collects decoys and he uses them. The second day of practice I found a decoy and I had to dig it up out of the grass and put it in the live well. I opened up the live well and I must have had 100 little yellow duckies in my live well. I know who did that so pay back is heck. Yes, they are a good group of guys.
Glenn: Every one of them that I have talked to has been very friendly and outgoing, great to get a long with. What I want to do know is give you what I call the "Shameless Plug Moment." You can say anything you want to your fans, or you can plug an upcoming book or DVD that is coming out, or talk about your sponsors or anything you would like to talk about. I give you the floor.
Gary: The most important thing in this profession is the backing that we do have from the companies that I do represent. Not only is my hat off to the companies I represent, Mercury, Zebco, and Triton and all the other companies that have supported me over the years, Berkley is one of them, also Not only do they support me they support other anglers, but most important they support this fishing industry. They promote the future of this sport, and all their products they design, it's their business. My hat's off to them for that. I do want to thank all the fans for supporting me as an angler. I know I've been at it quite a few years. I won't tell anybody my age. I've got a lot more Classics ahead of me. One of these days I will win it, if not maybe this one. I truly enjoy this sport and I like fishing.
Glenn: Gary, it's great to see you on the Classic again. Thank you for spending the time with us. Thank you for being with us.
Gary: Thank you.