By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
One of these years, David Kilgore just might take B.A.S.S. up on its offer to allow him to compete on the Bassmaster Elite Series. It won't be 2014, however.
For the third time in the past 5 years, Kilgore has bypassed that privilege after qualifying for it via the Southern Opens. He was 9th on the circuit's points list this year – 4 places above the automatic qualifying mark – but the anglers who finished above him included established Elite pros Chris Lane, Greg Vinson, David Walker and Aaron Martens.
So Kilgore got the call again, but his final answer was the same as it's been twice before.
"The first two times I had the chance were among the worst economic times in the history of mankind," he said. "This time it's a little bit different and all of my existing sponsors have stepped up a ton, but I'm still looking at spending $50,000 to $60,000 of my own money for a fishing season, and I can't see doing that.
"I'm in the real estate business and I know a good deal when I see it. Spending 50 to 60 grand (on entry fees and expenses) and then trying to go out and win it back isn't a good deal. I guess maybe I do belong there since I've made it three times, but even though there's people who'd kill to be in my position, I'm not going to take the risk of going broke and putting my family in jeopardy."
A Couple Bites at the Apple
In addition to the economic factors, the desire of Kilgore and his wife Jill to start a family was one of the reasons he cited in 2010 for turning down his Elite Series opportunity. That's come to fruition, and further expansion of the clan is on the way.
Daughter Hadleigh celebrated her 2nd birthday just this week, and a son (to be named Davis) is scheduled to arrive shortly before Thanksgiving.
Kilgore's win in the Open at Logan Martin last May has given him a slot in the upcoming Bassmaster Classic at Lake Guntersville. That's a venue that the Jasper, Ala. resident knows well and can easily access prior to the pre-practice off-limits period that starts Jan. 1, but the amount of time he gets to spend there over the next 2 months will depend upon how well Davis adjusts to life outside the womb.
"As long as he's healthy and everything's going well with him and my wife, I'll probably get over there eight or 10 times," he said. "They'll be just 1-day trips – I can leave before daylight and be there in an hour and 15 minutes. Then maybe right before New Year's I'll try to go over and stay for a couple of days."
As a Top-20 points finisher from this year's Opens, he'll get another chance to duel the with the Elite competitors in June when they all show up at Tennessee's Lake Chickamauga for BASSfest.
"I'm looking forward to that one," he said. "It'll be like a mini-Classic and it should be really interesting."
Kilgore began this year's Southern Opens campaign with a 102nd-place showing at Florida's Lake Toho in February. That bomb was more than offset by a 3rd at Lake Douglas in April, and then his triumph at Logan Martin a month later.
He's had a few stinkers in Florida recently, and they coincide with B.A.S.S.' change to the win-and-you're-in format regarding Classic berths from the Opens.
"When you're trying to win, it changes the way you fish," he said. "Younger guys who haven't done this all that long might not understand this, but fishing to win is different than fishing to finish in the 20s or 30s.
"At Toho, I knew I could go to Lake Kissimmee and catch 12 or 13 pounds with my eyes closed, but I was in Toho on the last day of practice and I caught an (8-pounder) and two 4s on a Rat-L-Trap in about five casts. The weather changed and the water got muddy, so that didn't work in the tournament, but the only reason that (low finish) happened was because I was all in to win that deal."
He'll carry that same mindset to Guntersville in February when he makes his initial appearance in the sport's premier event.
"I've got a couple of tricks for catching them there at that time of year and if either of them are working, I could do really well. If I could pick one lake to have a Classic on at that time of year, that would be the one, and I don't give a rip who else is fishing it. Confidence is something I've never had a problem with.
"The deal with that one is the weights are going to be so big. You won't be able to win it on the first day, but you sure could lose it. It's not going to be a 'comeback kid' event – if you have a day where you only catch 16 or 17 pounds, you're probably going to be out of it."
> Vicious Vision, the new optics division of Vicious Fishing, will wrap Kilgore's boat for next season, and he'll also get some additional help from sponsors such as Bass Cat, Mercury, Duckett Fishing, Strike King and Power-Pole. "It's amazing what gets thrown at you when you make the Classic," he said.
> His Logan Martin victory was his second career Southern Open triumph following a win at Lake Eufaula in 2004.