The First Year On Tour: A Rookie's Revelations

Tournament Tips

In recent years, college fishing has taken off quicker than most expected.  Both B.A.S.S.  and FLW have college programs at colleges and universities around the country.  Bass anglers of all skill levels have joined college fishing.  Some are just better than others.  These college anglers compete, practice, and learn about bass fishing.  They represent their university in competitions,

BassResource has covered all kinds of anglers in their Lifestyles pieces; they’ve covered professional anglers, Army anglers, Racers, and other people in the sport.  They all enjoy the fishing industry, love to fish, and most make a living at it.

Twenty-six-year-old Andrew Upshaw earned the National Guard FLW College Fishing Champion title, which he won in 2011 on Somerville Lake in Texas.  Andrew fished both the FLW tour and the Bassmaster opens.  He placed 15th in the Bassmaster opens points standings, had a tough year on the FLW tour, and finished 108th. 

Upshaw has two FLW wins under his belt, both of which took place at the college level, with his first win being in 2009 and his second in 2011.  He started college fishing in 2009 but fished in the BFL tournaments in 2007 and 2008.  In addition, he competed in the 2012 Bassmaster Classic on the Red River in Louisiana and placed 31st out of 49 of the world’s best anglers. 

BassResource caught up with Upshaw more than a year after his victory at the FLW 2011 College Fishing – Southern Texas Regional on Somerville Lake.  We wanted to find out what he experienced on the FLW tour the year after his victory.

BassResource:  What was it like your first year on tour?  Did anything or any event strike you on the tour that you didn’t expect?

UPSHAW:  My first year on Tour was exceptional.  It was my first step to reaching one of my ultimate goals of being a professional angler.  The event that hit me the hardest was the Potomac River.  The first day I lost too many fish, and it devastated me.  I ended up coming back, but it was a little too late.

BassResource:  How long did you get used to being on tour and everything that goes with it?

UPSHAW:  It took me around two or three tournaments to adjust to the competition, but it wasn't until after the season was over that I gained the confidence I needed to be successful.  I feel 2013 will be phenomenal.

BassResource:  How well did you do in your first season in terms of your performance, as well as cashing checks, executing, and working with sponsors?

UPSHAW:  On Tour, I didn't feel I did as well as I wanted to, but at the end of the year, I fished the Bassmaster Northern Opens, and those tournaments rekindled my spirits and gave me pretty much amped for next year. 

BassResource:  Looking at your profile online, it says your primary strength is being able to “chunk and wind.”  How much did that play into how you fished tournaments your first season?

UPSHAW:  Honestly, I couldn't do it as much as I wanted.  On Table Rock, I could fish my strengths and be fortunate enough to get a check.  At Kentucky Lake, Potomac River, and Lake Champlain, I was able to fish my strengths as well, but I made bad decisions on the water.  This caused me to miss more checks and not be as successful as I needed.  I've learned from my mistakes and think my decision-making will improve.  I've learned from my mistakes.

BassResource:  Compare your fishing skills/strategies from before you went pro and were just an average fisherman fishing in different tournaments.

UPSHAW:  My fishing ability is ten-fold better than before I went pro.  I learned so much this year and truly learned how much I didn't know before.  This all makes me want to push harder and be better.

BassResource:  What’s your best or most enjoyable moment on tour in your first year?

UPSHAW:  My most enjoyable moment on Tour this year was catching a six-pound bass on Table Rock Lake.  I was fishing a steep bank with a Wiggle Wart crankbait on 8-pound line.  It was one of the hardest fighting fish I've ever caught, and not to mention it was on really light line!  But, it was the reason I cashed a check in the event.

BassResource:  What one thing or technique did you not know before you came on tour but had to learn or adjust quickly?

UPSHAW:  One thing I learned on Tour was my problem with lack of practice.  I didn't practice enough in the first few tournaments, and I saw a massive difference in performance once I started practicing more.  I'm a completely different fisherman now than I would generally be.  I work to the extreme now, and I want to win.

BassResource:  How much time did you spend on tour signing autographs, developing/testing products, and working for your sponsors?

UPSHAW:  Since I'm not as well known as some anglers, autographs don't happen as much, but I will always stop to sign anything for my fans.  I'm constantly developing and testing new lures for sponsors.  You can never do it enough.  I love lure design and testing new lures. I feel it adds a connection to my sponsors and allows us to work together better.  I have some of the best sponsors ever and will do anything I need to do when they need me to do it.  They work hard for me, so I do the same in return. 

BassResource:  What did you learn about yourself on tour your first year, and what did you learn about your strengths and weaknesses?

UPSHAW:  I got a huge reality check on Tour.  All of those guys are phenomenal fishermen, and they are tough to beat.  I learned I have to prepare better and make better decisions.  I also learned not to trust your practice always, seeing that most of my practices were terrific, but my tournaments were far off the pace of my expectations.  The strengths I gained were more mental than anything, but I did learn a technique or two that will help me in the future.

BassResource:  What advice would you give an angler entering his first year on tour?

UPSHAW:  My advice would be to work hard, early and late, and always listen.  These guys out here are willing to help you and teach you things; sometimes, you must listen and learn.  If you can sit and talk to one of the big guys, take it any time you can.

BassResource:  How has competing and traveling on tour changed your life?

UPSHAW:  My life will never be the same.  My year, although in some cases not up to my expectations, was one of the best years of my life.  It's been a tremendous honor to represent the companies I have and work with all the fantastic people of FLW.  They make my life easier and more fun, even on bad days.  I'll never settle for less and never stop working as hard as I can.

BassResource:  How versatile were you required to be this past year on tour?  Did the schedule on tour require you to do anything you weren’t familiar with doing or didn’t expect to do?

UPSHAW:  I was not as familiar with a shaky head as I needed to be.  I had a good mentor with it, however, and he showed me how to fish it effectively.  It was one of those lifesaver baits for me this year.  I had to be highly versatile all year.  I don't think you can be successful these days unless you are to some extent.

BassResource:  When you did well this past season, did you set yourself up to do well, or did it just happen?  What was the key for those tournaments you did well in?

UPSHAW:  Every tournament I fish in, I try to win.  I set myself up to get on the winning pattern, which sometimes hurts me.  I'll think outside the box sometimes when I need to be doing basic things.  Too many times this year, I was just too dialed in.  The keys to success for me this year were times when my super dialed-in patterns held up.

BassResource:  Looking at your stats from B.A.S.S., it looks like you did well in the Detroit river tournament with a third-place finish.  What was key to placing high, and what do you attribute your success to that tournament?

UPSHAW:  Well, I had been there once before, and based on my finish, I did terribly.  However, I learned to catch smallies the first time I was there.  I learned so much, and I knew I would smash them if I ever went back.  I did precisely that.  I knew exactly what to look for and how to catch them.  As far as lures go, I was fishing the conditions.  I didn't get too excited over one lure.  I let the conditions tell me what to throw. 

BassResource:  How did fishing on tour compare to fishing tournaments at the college level?  What I mean by that is, was there more pressure on the tour that forced you to fish differently than at the college level?

UPSHAW:  I guess most of the extra pressure was self-inflicted.  Honestly, I didn't ever feel much pressure in college. I just went out and had a good time; if I won, I won, and if I didn't, I didn't.  But, of course, when you put up the kind of money you do on Tour, your mind works on you a little more, which I wasn't prepared for.

BassResource:  In the six tournaments you fished with B.A.S.S. and FLW this past season, what percentage of those events did you feel comfortable with how you were fishing and the techniques you had to use during each event?

UPSHAW:  I felt comfortable in probably 95% of the tournaments I fished this season.  I'm an extremely versatile angler, yes, I have weak points, but if I don't know a technique, I learn it and try to be the best at it.  My main problem this year was terrible decisions and poor execution.

BassResource:  In the ten tournaments you fished, how many of the lakes that both tours fished were you familiar with or had experience on?  Were you able to relate the conditions you were faced with, with conditions you faced while fishing at home?

UPSHAW:  I was only familiar with Lake Champlain, Beaver Lake, and Detroit River.  I made an actual bonehead move at Champlain this year, which in my mind, cost me a check.  That lake is phenomenal and one of my favorite lakes in the country.  Beaver Lake was an extremely disappointing tournament for me.  During the first two days of practice, I felt I was on the winning stringer of fish, but by the time the tournament got there, the couple of giant schools I found were gone.  I spent the rest of the tournament trying to find them again but was unsuccessful.  A few tournaments reminded me of home, like Potomac or Champlain because they are grass-related or maybe Kentucky Lake because of the deep structure.

BassResource:  What tournament finish this past season are you most proud of and why?  You said you gained a lot of experience, but was there one tournament that gave you more experience than the rest?

UPSHAW:  James River, by far, gave me the most experience, and I learned the most from that tournament.  I didn't win, but I learned a ton from it.  That tournament changed me a little, and for the better.  I made some bad decisions there but put together an excellent pattern.  I look forward to going there again.

BassResource:  How much experience did you gain fishing your first Classic?  Were you able to put what you learned on the college trail toward your performance in the Classic?

UPSHAW:  I learned a great deal from the Classic.  The Classic was a life-changing experience, and I felt it was subpar for my first one. I'm not going to lie.  It started my year off with a bang but also in other ways.  At the Classic, I lost a lot of good fish, and I could not shake that trend throughout the year.  In the Classic, I didn't necessarily use what I learned in college, more so from just time on the water on the Red River the years before it in the BFLs.