BassWestUSA - January/February, 2010, Page 20

froM joe to pro

“That job was probably one of the best things that ever hap- pened to me outside of competition because it taught me about the industry. I learned about merchandising, margins, product dis- plays, and everything else in between. Ken taught me a lot and is one of the reasons that I am as successful as I am today.” As his business skills developed off the water, he also ma- tured as a competitor in Pro-Am and team tournament compe- tition. With his brother, Jimmy, Skeet captured the WON Bass North Team Championship at the age of 24. The following year, he won an individual title on the California Delta. Skeet’s confidence soared, and he established himself as one of the hottest sticks in the state. Skeet gained additional tournament accolades and invaluable industry experience with each passing season. But it would not occur until later that Skeet would finally gain the companionship that he desired in life. At the 1996 International Sportsmen’s Ex- pedition in San Mateo, Skeet noticed a young woman named Kim working in a tackle booth for some friends. He approached her, struck up a conversation, and a few weeks later, convinced her to go out. Their first date was a fishing trip on Lake Sonoma. After just three months of dating, they got engaged and traveled to tour- naments together from that point forward.

When B.A.S.S. established the West Coast Invitational circuit in 1997, Skeet immediately seized the opportunity to test his an- gling abilities against his peers. The circuit provided an additional path to the national tour and Bassmaster Classic that had long evaded West Coast anglers. “That was my first real chance to start fishing fulltime. I was thinking it was ‘now or never’ and didn’t want to live with any regrets. I didn’t have a family, so if I went bankrupt and lost ev- erything, so be it. With that, I took a leap of faith. I quit my job with three-thousand dollars in the bank and started fishing tourna- ments and guiding full time. The guide service didn’t do much ini- tially, but I was fortunate enough to win my first five tournaments

and bank 40-grand right away. That took a lot of pressure off of me that first year.” Skeet dominated the B.A.S.S. Western Invitational circuit, win- ning the points title and qualifying for both the B.A.S.S. Top-150 Tour and Bassmaster Classic. His flamboyant personality, com- bined with his top ranking, attracted the attention of the national media and potential sponsors.

Skeet and his fiancé, Kim, dove into the national tournament scene headlong. They leased a storage shed to house their person- al belongings and hit the road. On tour, they saved every last penny, living out of their van at campgrounds and parks. Even with great personal sacrifice, Skeet struggled throughout his rookie year. “The tour absolutely crushed me that year. It was one of the worst seasons of fishing I’ve ever had. I think my average finish was somewhere around 120th or something like that. I was fish- ing entirely new bodies of water that I knew nothing about and I thought that I had to go get local help to get in front of the learn- ing curve. All these different lakes and fisheries across the country had their subtle nuances and little quirks, and I felt that I had to learn those. So, I tried to get a lot of information and help. I eventu- ally realized that I can’t catch other people’s fish, and that I needed to fish the way that I know how to fish.” The season had taken a toll on Skeet’s confidence and pocket book. He was, once again, at rock bottom. “I was really, really close to quitting the tour. I can remember sitting in a Waffle House restaurant with Marty Stone and Gerald Swindle, damn near in tears. I said, ‘Look guys, I don’t think I am cut out to be here.’ I thought about it for a few more days, dis- cussed it with Kim, and came to the decision that I would give it a try for one more season. But, I was going to do it on my own – my way. I figured that if I couldn’t do it my way, then I shouldn’t be out there.” With a new-found purpose, Skeet focused on fishing his fa- vored styles and strengths. He fished his way to the top his sopho- more season, as a contender for the Angler of Year title, all the way through the final tour stop. He was on tour to stay and had done it his own way.

“Skeet’s way” has since evolved from an approach into a brand. Today, it is nearly impossible to miss, or ignore, his attention- seeking, yellow and black, custom-modified Ford F-650 and Champion Boat. If an angler could trademark a color scheme, Skeet would own it. “The yellow and black goes back to when I had to choose colors for my boat. Everyone had white, red, and blue ones. I wanted to do something a little different. I wanted to stand out. I had remembered that back in the mid- to- late 80’s, Jimmy Houston and other members of Team Humminbird drove these yellow and black ‘love shack’-style vans. I al- ways thought that they had looked bad-ass, so I picked a yellow stripe on a black boat and it grew from there. Eventually, I started to work with my sponsors to merchandise those colors, and that is how I got to where I am at today.”

» skeet’s waY

» “now or never”

» Yellow and BlaCk

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January/February 2010