Competing with the top pros in bass fishing

While you’re reading this, Ken Wick of Star is bass fishing for $125,000.

That’s the first prize for the kick off tournament of the Wal-Mart /FLW Tour at Kissimmee, Florida that runs today (Feb. 28) through Sunday, March 2.

If Wick lands in the top 50 out of 200 anglers, he will pocket $10,000, and win more money if he lands in the top 25.

If it all sounds like fun, it didn’t earlier in the week when he was casting for bass in Lake Toho and getting skunked.

“At times like this, it’s a grind,” Wick said. “But 95 percent of the time, it’s a good time, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Lake Toho is the start of a 10-tournament season that will have Wick competing in six eastern tournaments from Florida to Detroit before heading west for four more tournaments, two in California and one each in Nevada and Washington.

It’s a high-stakes game that so far he’s winning.

Last year, Wick won over $100,000, and he has earned over $187,000 since turning pro in 2004.

But there’s no guarantees he will even meet his expenses this year. He has no major sponsors, so he’s paying his own way, and between travel, entry fees and other expenses, it costs about $5,000 per tournament to compete.

Wick said it takes about four to six years to “mature” on the tournament, and last year he met his goal of finishing in the top 10 in at least two tournaments.

Last year’s fourth-place finish at an FLW tournament on the Potomac River earned him $30,000 and was a turning point in his career, he said. He was no longer intimidated to fish against the top pros and people who grew up fishing those waters.

“It was like I made it,” Wick said. “After that, I knew I could compete with those guys.”

This year, Wick said he wants to win two tournaments and win angler of the year, which would put him in the upper echelon of the pro bass fishing world.

He wouldn’t be the first Western angler to pull it off. Luke Clausen of Spokane, Wash., is one of only a handful of anglers who have won both the Bassmaster Classic and the Forrest Wood Cup, which are the two top professional bass fishing tournaments.

Wick credits his fishing skills honed in the West for helping him compete on a national level. He said Western lakes and rivers require a variety of fishing tactics in both deep water and shallow water.

“I think the style we have to fish in the West makes you a much more versatile angler,” Wick said.

But not all of those skills translate to fishing the southern and eastern waters.

“Everything fishes different here,” he said. “When you first come back here (to the East), it’s a huge learning curve.”

But even after fishing some of the most famous bass waters in the U.S., he said he still loves fishing Idaho because you can catch dozens, or even hundreds of bass in a day of fishing. “We have the numbers, but they (the East) has the size,” he said.

Roger Phillips: 373-6615