BassWestUSA - November/December, 2009, Page 21

was just letting my natural abilities take With an unyielding desire to remain Clark also believes that the next over.” generation of bass anglers can be char- competitive and youthful exuberance That year, Clark won Angler of the to share his faith with others, it acterized according to their desire to Year. He followed that season with three succeed. is without hesitation that one can tour wins and a second Angler of the Year “Experience doesn’t account for as title in the next three years. His early claim that this Joe to Pro is truly much in our sport today as it used to. achievement garnered the respect of tour one of the "extraordinary ones". And the reason it doesn’t is that desire sponsors. Working with companies inter- trumps experience every time. It does ested in assembling “fishing teams”, FLW not necessarily matter how much you Outdoors recommended Clark to the Kellogg’s company and one of know, it matters how much you want it. That is why the young guys the longest-standing, non-endemic sponsorships was established. in our sport tend to dominate. They are hungrier. Don’t get me “A lot of the decision at that point to choose FLW over B.A.S.S. wrong, there are guys that keep it going, year after year, but they came from the people that were at FLW. They were, to me, a more are the extraordinary ones.” passionate group. They wanted to grow the sport and make it bet- Four-PEaT? ter. The second reason was sponsorship. At the time, I was the With three Angler of the Year titles to his credit, Clark has Angler of the Year which led to a Kellogg’s sponsorship. Kellogg’s already earned a professional lifetime of achievement. Some an- was focused on family and youth, and I was excited about that. My glers would be satisfied with those accomplishments, but Clark family was the reason that I am even fishing today, so my values desires more. were a natural fit to their team. FLW just was the way for me to go.” “From the angling perspective, I would really like to win more In 2003, Clark decided to end his B.A.S.S. career and focus Angler of the Year titles. I think it is the most difficult and presti- solely on the FLW Tour. gious award to win. I would like to win it every season. I know that MEET ThE Pro is not necessarily an attainable goal, but it is always going to be a Clark’s success on the water has translated to opportunities goal of mine each year. And, off-the-water, I would love to see the to share his faith with other fishermen on the tournament trail. He ‘Meet the Pro’ and other opportunities like that continue to grow.” regularly participates with other tour anglers in a series of semi- With an unyielding desire to remain competitive and youthful nars called “Meet the Pro”. The group shares fishing tips, fellow- exuberance to share his faith with others, it is without hesitation ship, and life lessons. For Clark, the chance to speak about the that one can claim that this Joe to Pro is truly one of the “extraor- influence of his Christian faith on his professional career is more dinary ones”. BW valuable than any tournament prize he may earn. “One thing that I have learned is that there is a ton of anxi- ety that goes along with tournament fishing. You basically have to catch fish to make a living. There’s no secret about it; you have to do well. You travel cross-country, from lake to lake, and you have to perform at every stop. If you catch them one time, it’s not like you don’t have to catch them the next. There is no break. For me, there is a passage in Scripture that talks about that. At times, I have asked God to take away the pressure and anxiety for me. He has reassured me by telling me, ‘When you are weakest, that is when I am strongest, if you will just let me do it.’ You have to be able to say, ‘God, this is Yours, not mine. I am just going to go out there and do the best that I can, but I can’t do it by myself.’ And, I’ve learned with 100-percent cer- tainty that I cannot.” The “Meet the Pro” series has become so popular among fishing fans and competitors that one recent meeting in Rogers, Arkansas drew an audience in excess of two-thousand people. Other regular speakers include Scott Martin, Jay Yelas, Mark Rose, Darrell Robertson and Jim Johnson.

With fishing having evolved beyond a sport and into a diver- sified recreational activity, Clark identifies its popularity among youth and the potential associated effect. “My belief on where our sport is headed is that youth are going to take over. And, I see that as being a good thing. It is what our sport needs. There are a couple different college circuits now that provide great opportunities for youth to get involved. It will force people that are a little older and have been with the sport a while to become even better. I don’t believe that you will be able to sit back on what you’ve done and continue to make a good living. You are going to have to continue to improve to do well.”

November/December 2009

ChanGES in ThE SPorT