Top BASS Contenders Under 30Top BASS Contenders Under 30
The following article was published in 2000
By Norman & Virginia Pierce
Younger tournament anglers are coming on strong and competing with the veteran pros. Nowhere was it more evident than at the 2000 BASSMASTERS Classic. These guys are to be commended just for earning the right to be at the Classic. They qualified by being top notch anglers along the various B.A.S.S. Invitational and Top 150 trails and through the Federation divisions. At this year's Classic, there were eight Classic qualifiers under the age of 30: Timmy Horton, Brent Chapman, Edwin Evers, Todd Faircloth, Brett Hite, Michael Iaconelli, Kotaro Kiriyama and Aaron Martens.
Timmy Horton, from Spruce Pine, Alabama, especially deserves a ton or credit. In his rookie year (1999-2000 season), he won the B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year title and won over $178,000. His dedication is evident as he put in his time prefishing for weeks, sometimes months before events and was on the road the entire year. When he won the B.A.S.S. Marilyn Top 150 on the Potomac River, he gave a lot of credit to Gary Klein for coming to his room and motivating him the night before the last day of competition. Tim is a college graduate and gave up his athletic scholarship in baseball to pursue fishing. He is an active member of the Christian anglers and donates time towards kids fishing events for underprivileged and disabled kids. Tim helped organize last year's event that had Bill Dance as weighmaster. He took proceeds from his fishing career and bought his first home for his wife Melanie and their new baby. At 27 years of age, he not only knows where he's going, but takes time to help others along the way and gives a great deal of credit to the pros who have helped him along the rugged path as a professional angler.
Brent Chapman is a 28-year-old professional angler from Shawnee, Kansas. He is achieving his lifelong dream of making it as a professional B.A.S.S. angler. He still belongs to his local bass club, the Shawnee Mission BASSMASTERS, which he joined when he was 15. He has seven top finishes on the BASSMASTER tournament trail and has won over $186,000. In May, he was very creative in achieving victory on the Louisiana Central Invitational on the Red River. Wanting to fish where the big rigs couldn't go, he called on his sponsor at the Skeeter plant in Kilgore, Texas, to get him an aluminum boat with a small Yamaha engine so he could push-pole a flat bottom boat over stumps and obstructions until. This enabled him to reach waters that put a $42,000 paycheck in his pocket and helped secure his birth at the Chicago Classic.
Edwin Evers hails from Mannsville, Oklahoma is a young sprout of 25. He started fishing tournaments for bass at age 13 out of a pond boat and used swim fins as the method of propulsion to win the tournament! This was his second year on the pro BASS tour and he ranked third in the Central Division. Edwin was a local favorite in Chicago as he went to school in Seneca, Illinois, just outside of the windy City. When he went to college, he picked Southeastern Oklahoma State because it was a warmer climate. He graduated with a degree in communications and a minor in business marketing. Because of this background and his natural abilities as an angler, he is sure to be a success in the fishing world.
Another young angler on his way up the ladder in the pro circles is Todd Faircloth, from Jasper, Texas. He finished 8th in the BASSMASTER Top 150's in 1999-2000 and has fished 19 events and had 8 finishes in the money. He has been fishing bass tournaments since the age of 9 and credits his dad for "...always taking me along on his fishing trips." He and his uncle won a parent/child club tournament when he was twelve. Todd grew up along the banks of Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas and has been hooked on bass fishing for most all his life. He is quite a successful angler in Texas as has fished most every pro circuit in the State. His main sponsors are Skeeter Boats, Yamaha Outboards and Lake Fork Tackle. Todd won six boats in three years and is a sincerely dedicated angler. He was one of the few single guys at the Classic and at age 24, is going to be quite some catch!
It seems like the ages keep getting younger, but Brett Hite at age 21 is no newcomer to bass fishing circles. While other kids were watching cartoons, he grew up watching the fishing shows on TV. With father, Davy Hite who was the 1999 Classic winner and long time B.A.S.S. contender, Brett had an excellent teacher and head start over most anglers. He started bass fishing at age 3 and finished third in his first tournament at age 13. This was his second year on the BASSMASTER Western Invitational trail and Brett overall finish in 5th place. He finished in 4th place at Lake Oroville and Clear Lake in California and had a 13th place finish at Elephant Butte, NM. He won his first draw tournament at age 19. His personal hero is Jay Yelas who now resides in Tyler, Texas, but grew up out West and has been a big superstar on the BASSMASTER Circuit. Young Brett, hopes to follow in Jay's and his dad's footsteps right on up the ladder to success along the BASS pro tournament trail.
Another youngster on the circuit is Michael "Spike" Iaconelli, who won over $180,000 in the 1999-2000 year. He has fished the tour just two years with B.A.S.S. Spike was quoted in BASS TIMES as saying he would never fail to qualify for a Classic, and according to the various people who have fished with him, it's his intuition, sixth sense about fishing and natural abilities that separates him from most anglers. He uses this talent to make it all work for him and not against him. He is extremely focused and is a "fishing machine" on the water. Mike won the B.A.S.S. Federation Championship in 1999, won the Vermont Top 150 on Lake Champlain and earned a paycheck in eight of twelve competitions during the 1999-2000 season. This young man was cast as a favorite to win the B.A.S.S. Classic by both Hank Parker and Fish Fishburne. However, the cards just weren't right for Mike for this year, but he is definitely someone to keep your eye on in the future.
Kotaro Kiriyama is another new face to watch. This 29 year-old angler qualified for the Classic his second year out on the Western Invitational Tournament Trail. He is a native of Japan and only the second angler from Japan to fish B.A.S.S., the first being Norio Tanabe. Kotaro divides his time between his home in Japan and his home in California. This past season, he finished 5th in Arizona on Lake Powell, 14th at Elephant Butte in New Mexico and 13th at Lake Oroville in California. Kotaro has worked very hard and earned a paycheck in six of the nine BASSMASTERS tournaments that he entered. Just before this year's Classic, he hooked up with Skeeter/Yamaha and made an impressive run for the Classic title, tieing 4th place with seasoned veteran Rick Clunn. Kotaro is a very commendable and humble young man who is going to go very far in this industry.
Rounding out the under 30 group is Aaron Martens, another newcomer that was picked to win the Classic. Aaron is a Westerner hailing from Castaic, California. At 27 and wearing the colors of Crown Royal, you couldn't miss him. He fished his first B.A.S.S. Classic in 1999 on the Louisiana Delta where he was practice fishing when he hooked a 15-foot alligator on a Carolina rig. That big ole' gator gave him a run for his money and an elevated heart rate to say the least, especially since it was almost as long as his boat! Aaron has been on the circuit for three years and has qualified twice for the Classic. Both times were through the Western Invitationals. He finished in 1st place on the Western trails followed by Kotaro Kiriyama in 2nd place. Aaron said "Dedication and determination have brought me to where I am today." He has finished in the money fifteen out of 20 tournaments. He won the California Lake Oroville tournament. Aaron also finished third in Megabucks and finished in the Top 10 in seven of the ten events he fished.
All of these young men are to be commended and are truly an inspiration to aspiring anglers coming down the tubes. They have been blowing the doors off the competition and are going to be in this sport for the long run. One of the major differences between the pros of today and yesterday is their education. Most are college graduates, very well groomed and mannered, and highly skilled anglers, which makes them very marketable and prized by potential sponsors. If they continue to play their cards right, they all have a long future in the fishing and marine industry.
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