Jeff Kriet Interview
Watch an exclusive interview with bass fishing pro Jeff Kriet taped at the 2008 Bassmaster Classic. Glenn May, founder of BassResource.com, asked him some intriguing questions about tournament fishing you'll only see here!
Glenn: I'm with Jeff Kriet at the Bassmaster Classic. Jeff, pleased to have you here today.
Jeff Kriet: It's good to be here at the Classic, I promise you.
Glenn: Hey, Jeff, you can tell us a little bit about how you get started in the tournament angling and how that progressed from there to where you are today?
Jeff: Sure. I loved it from the start. I loved to fish. My Mom and my Dad and my brother, now they didn't fish that much but we fished every other weekend or something. I got to liking it and, actually, I started fishing tournaments when I was, like, 11 years old. I couldn't drive. I bought a bass tracker and my Mom would take me to the tournaments and dump me off and come back and get me, or my Dad would, or whatever.
I just always loved it and I figured out real early that I wanted to be a professional fisherman. That's what I told them when I was, like, 14 years old, 12 years old, "That's what I'm going to do." They hoped I'd grow out of it. It's hard for somebody who doesn't do it to really realize you can make a good living at it. They said, "We'll pay for you to go to college but we're not going to pay for you to go fishing."
So I went to college. I fished the whole time growing up. I fished team tournaments, of course, and then I started fishing, ProAms and stuff like that, and then Red Man, which is now BFL and I did all that and then when I graduated from college, I got a job as a loan officer at a bank. I had three weeks vacation every year and I'd use that to fish the Bassmasters Invitationals. Then, once I'd qualified for the Bassmaster top 150's, I was finished with the banking and I've never looked back.
Glenn: For somebody starting out, wanting to go on the pro circuit, what kind of advice would you offer to them?
Jeff: I'll tell you, no doubt, what I would do differently than what I did is, I loved the fish tournaments and everybody goes through it, I'm telling you. Everybody gets to the point when you start catching them in the local tournaments, it's like you always feel like you're better than you are. Right now, I'm as good as I've ever been, but I know I don't know near as much as I think I should. I'm not near as good as I would like to be, but you get at a point in your career where you think you're really good.
What I would do, I would fish the non-boater side. I don't care if you win everything you can win at home locally. Fish the non-boater side of the Bassmaster leagues. Just fish a couple of them. You don't have to fish them all. Fish a couple of them and I'm telling you, you'll learn more in those three or four days than you ever will doing anything else. And I didn't do that.
See, I got to be pretty good on a regional level and then jumped straight into it and, buddy, I took a beating for about three or four years. I mean, I'm telling you, you can go through and look at the most successful guys out here, like the rookies that do well, just about all of them fished the amateur side. I drew Derek Remitz in his very first tournament Bassmaster ever as an amateur. His first day fishing the Bassmasters tournament was in the back of my boat. Look at him now.
Jeff: Iaconelli fished the amateur side some. Timmy Horton fished the amateur side some. Very few guys come out their rookie year and do well. I think most of the ones that did, fished the non-boater side. So if you ever get a chance to do that, do that. I just think if I had done that, instead of putting all this money in the ProAms and things early, I really feel like I would be farther along than I am now. I would love to go out there and fish in every one of these guys' boats. You know what I mean?
Glenn: Oh, yeah.
Jeff: Some of them, I might learn what not to do, mistakes. Some of them I would learn. All these guys are pretty good out here. I want to see what they all got, you know?
Glenn: Oh, yeah. Tournaments, the sponsors have an awful lot to do with your tournaments and helping you propel your career. What do the sponsors do for you and what do for them in return?
Jeff: Well, on the Bassmasters elite side, the entry fees are so high. They're $55,000 for the season, so you really have to have some good sponsors. What you don't want to be in a situation where you have to make a check to get to the next tournament. I did that for years. When you have money pressure on you, you don't catch them as good. So, I'm fortunate to have some really good sponsors.
Right now, the last three or four years have been great. But I slept in my truck for years and did all that. But it finally gets to a point that it's good. What they do for me is not just monetary but they help promote me. They use me in some of their advertising. With boats and things, they keep you in boats and motors and tackle, of course. They provide you with tackle.
The key thing comes down to dollars. You want to be able to make a living off of your sponsors and still fish. What do I do for them, hopefully, is I work a lot of shows. I do a lot of boat shows, do a lot of appearances for them. Of course, you always promote and do things like that, but the biggest thing I'd say is the appearances. That's extra-curricular, of course, that you do for them. And the thing is, the better your sponsors are and the more you get paid by them, the more they're going to demand. So you just factor that in. Like this year, during my so-called off-season, I wasn't home anymore than the regular season.
Jeff: No. I was gone every . . . in the last month and a half, I worked probably five boat shows, did four or five other appearances and things like that.
Glenn: So, obviously, being a pro angler is a heck of a lot more than just fishing.
Jeff: It is. I'd say just fishing now is about half of it, really.
Glenn: Well, let's talk a little bit about fishing. When you are on the water, when you're pre-fishing for a tournament, what exactly are you trying to accomplish and how do you go about doing that?
Jeff: I know, for me, different strategies work for different people. But I think the most important thing about these guys out here is learning how to practice. And I think that's probably what's the biggest challenge for me. I had to find a way that I like to practice. I'm looking at Timmy Horton over there. I've watched Timmy Horton practice. He will run all over the lake. I mean, he is boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, but for me, that doesn't work.
Here's what I do. I look at my map and I find an area that, to me, looks right. Okay? Let's say it's a big creek arm. Like this time of year, I'd want it to have secondary points, channel swings and things like that. And that's not complicated, if you're not a big fisherman, then maybe, but all you've got to do is look at the map and you'll see what I'm talking about.
And I'm going to pick an area of the lake that has that and probably start in the middle of the lake this time of year. I'm going to spend dang near all day in that one creek. And the reason I'm going to do that is because, if I can't dial them in there, I don't know why the next creek or the next, you know. Don't get me wrong, if I don't catch them there, the next day, I may go down towards the dam and pick another creek or arm.
And if that doesn't work, I may go to the north end, but I figure that if I can figure out how to catch them in that creek and it has everything that I need it to have, I can duplicate that all over the lake. I mean, I'll do a lot more fishing.
Glenn: Once the tournament's on and you're on a spot, how do you decide whether to stay there or to go and aren't you worried that if you leave, maybe a competitor will come in your place and take it? I mean, how do you make those decisions?
Jeff: Yeah, I think experience, probably, is just the thing that helps the most. But, yeah, if I'm going to go into an area, the thing that I'm going to do is, like, if I have an area that I feel is really good, the night before, I'm going to look. In the earlier years, I wrote it down. I'd be like, okay, let's say in practice I went in there and got like 10 or 12 bites. I'm like, "Man, this is a good area and I want to start there."
Well, I want to think in my mind, "Okay. How long would it take for me to really fish through that stretch?" Let's say you're going to flip a 100-yard stretch of trees. I think, "OK. For me to fish it the way that I fish, flipping every stump in there, it's going to take me about an hour and half, to fish that. So when I go in there, I'm going to already know, "All right. I'm going to fish it about an hour and a half or so and then I may stay or I may go."
I'm going to give myself a time frame to push something because, earlier in my career, I'd run in there and say, "Man, this is the deal!" And I run in there and I'd make four or five flips and I'd get bit and I'd start speeding up and pretty soon I'm gone to the next spot and I'd power through that and then you get through. You look at the clock, it's 3:00 and you're like, "Man, what did I do today? I didn't accomplish anything."
So, pick your areas that you think are good and push them long enough to know. When I do that, I'm telling you, my days don't seem like they're two hours long. I feel like I get my full eight hours in and it's a good deal.
Glenn: What do you think is the difference between an elite pro like yourself versus the weekend angler or somebody who's fishing some of the amateur circuits?
Jeff: I think it's 100% mental.
Jeff: Oh, yeah. I think these days, with the equipment that we have and all that, I think any good fisherman can put their jig wherever they want to put it. They can flip their jig underneath a dock. They can flip it in the bushes. I think it's 100% a mental deal. Who do I think is the strongest mental fisherman out there? No question it's Kevin VanDam. It has to be. That's why he's the best right now. So I think mentally, you cannot second guess your decisions and you just have to be confident in your choices.
Glenn: You know every year they change the tournament rules just a little bit. If you had a chance to change one tournament rule, what would that be?
Jeff: Let's see. Right now, I'm pretty happy with the way they have it. I like 30 days off limits, no information and I like just the three days of practice. Maybe I'd say I'd like to go sometime and fish a tournament like a four-day tournament, no practice. I think that would be cool. But their rules are pretty good right now.
Glenn: That would be quite a challenge, wouldn't it?
Jeff: It would, man. I mean, no practice, no information, just show up and go fishing.
Glenn: I've got to give you a moment. I have what I call your "shameless plug". You got a moment? You got the platform to promote anything you want, say "Hi" to your fans, your family or to your fans or to promote your sponsors, whatever you want to do, platform is yours.
Jeff: Everybody, cross your fingers for me. I need to win way more than VanDam does. He's won two or three of them. He doesn't need it. I need it. I need to thank Longhorn, a great sponsor, Triton, Mercury, gosh, all my sponsors, CastAway Rods, Costa Del Mar Sunglasses, Sabile Hard Baits, Big Bite Baits and Gamma Line. I just got a deal with them. That's strong stuff. That's good. Other than that, it's too easy to say, "Who do you want to win? VanDam or Skeet?" And if you say that, you've got to go somewhere else. Go with me.
Glenn: One more question: Jan or Marsha Brady?
Jeff: Marsha. No question.
Jeff: Oh, yeah.
Glenn: Just got that '70's look going on?
Glenn: All right. Thank you very much for taking time with us. I appreciate it.