falling into place. I had won Santee Cooper, my entry fees for the following season were paid, and I had a spot in the Bassmaster Classic. It was just a phenomenal season for me. There were so many goals that I had achieved within those couple years. It was a dream come true.” At the Bassmaster Classic, James faced the daunting task of competing against the most talented anglers in the world. There, he would finish a respectable 17th. His Classic performance combined with the years logged in the Bassmaster Open and Stren Series trails would later help to alleviate any anxiety experienced as an Elite Series rookie. “My first event as a Pro was on Lake Amistad, and I had just a terrible tourna- ment there. I can remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, what did I get into? These guys are incredible!’ But, I was able to put those wor- ries aside and follow that up with a Top-12 at the California Delta. I saw the bottom and saw the top in my first two tournaments.” Since his rookie season on the Elite Se- ries, James has achieved even greater suc- cess. He has amassed earnings approach- ing $500,000 in his career. Most recently, he was victorious on Toledo Bend Reservoir in a Bassmaster Central Open fish-off. To start the current 2009 Elite Series season, he has already tallied several high finishes: 15th, 13th, and 7th.
James’ success in fish- ing was built upon long- standing relationships with his fishing mentors and peers. Similarly, he has
sponsor- ships And re- LATionships
formed loyal and committed relationships with businesses and sponsors within the industry. The oldest of his sponsorship team is BassCat Boats and Mercury Marine, dat- ing back to 1997. James’ initial placement on the BassCat Pro Staff was first recom- mended by another Elite Series Pro, Byron Velvick. “Bass Cat has supported and en- couraged me since the beginning, even in those times when they didn’t have to. It truly is a family atmosphere at Bass Cat. They were such an integral part of making my jump to the tour level.” He said he wouldn’t be able to stay on tour without all of his sponsors, however. “Being a part of the Strike King Lures fam- ily means so much to me,” he said. “I’ve got a great relationship with X- Point / Daiichi hooks and in the past couple of years, I’ve partnered with St. Croix, Ar- dent and Sunline, they are products I really believe in and am proud to represent and work with. The newest member of James’ spon- sorship team, Bass Tackle Depot, along with APS Payroll teamed up to provide his boat wrap for the 2009 tour season. The new relationship, as he explains, allows him to reconnect with his western roots. “I am really excited to partner with a company like Bass Tackle Depot. Their affiliation with Bass West USA magazine and the Anglers Choice Tournament Trail has really brought them to the forefront of the industry. It is very exciting to be a part of their team while fishing on tour. Along with my sponsors’ products, the people I get to work with make it that much more enjoyable for me, and they really are the best part.”
James believes that his rise to the tour level was the direct result of several factors in combination, the most notable being: spiritual awakening, mentorship by other successful anglers, and experience gained as a fishing guide. Close friendships with Kelly Jordon and Jay Yelas allowed him rediscover his faith, while kinship with other tour anglers reaffirmed his belief that he could one day achieve his dream of being a tour profes- sional. Lastly, the time spent while guiding allowed him to learn to become a more ver- satile angler. “There was not any one single person or thing. When you surround yourself with the right people, they will start to pour into your life. I was able to spend time around cham- pions – guys that are not just incredible fishermen, but great people as individuals. Really it was a setting that I was privileged to be a part of. And guiding on Lake Fork helped me mechanically. The routine and repetition of finding fish for clients helped me to perfect my angling skills.” The last factor of James’ success is one that cannot be taught – perseverance. A positive attitude and optimistic outlook on life allowed James to persevere even in the most challenging times. That trait is clear to anyone that he talks to. “There is a point in bass fishing where you simply go out and fish, believe, and hope. And when you do that, you can turn just about any dream into reality.” BW
recipe For success
Photo courtesy Mark Jeffreys - BASSZONE.com