By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor

A look at the ages of the anglers who comprise the current Top 10 on the Bassmaster Opens Elite Qualifiers Division points list shows that exactly half of them are 25 or younger. There's a couple in their 30s and two in their early 40s.

And then there's 64-year-old Mike Surman.

Surman, the Florida veteran who spent 27 years competing on the FLW Tour/MLF Pro Circuit, is in 4th place in the EQ standings after three of the nine events. He opened the campaign with a 20th-place finish on his home water (Lake Okeechobee), followed by a 68th at Lake Ouachita (an event he led after Day 1) and an 11th at the Santee Cooper Lakes.

Professional fishing was never a full-time gig for Surman during his long tour-level stint. He spent 40 years in the sales department at Siemens, a Germany-based multinational conglomerate that has tentacles in many industries around the world.

He retired two years ago and now spends most days either on the water or on a golf course.

"My whole goal when I retired was to act like a real fisherman and give it my all," he said. "I kind of got fed up with all the changes at MLF, so I decided to jump in and see what I could do in the Opens."

He fished the EQ Division last year, but almost immediately fell out of contention for one of the nine available Elite Series berths that go to the top finishers on the final points list. He turned in triple-digit bombs in the first two derbies, then had to sit out a tournament to care for his elderly mother, who'd been stricken with an illness.

This year has been an entirely different story. He overcame a lackluster Day 1 at Okeechobee with a 20-pound stringer on Day 2, then rode his big opening day at Ouachita to an acceptable placement. He followed that up with his best showing thus far at Santee.

"I'm fishing the old-school way that I like; all the fish haven't left the bank and swam out to the middle of every lake," he said. "Hopefully I can have a few more good tournaments.

"The young kids are so good these days and forward-facing sonar has tilted things to their advantage. I definitely use it – I run Lowrance ActiveTarget – but I don't go out to the middle of the lake and look for individual fish. I use it for things like finding three stumps on a flat when there's nothing else out there (the scenario that produced his big first day at Ouachita).

"I've caught a few on (FFS), but it's not my style," he continued. "I'm not out there holding the rod until I see one (on the graph). The way I've always fished, when the big motor shuts off, the trolling motor goes down quickly and you're casting until the gun goes off at the end of the day. Some of these guys spend 50 percent or more of their time not even casting."

Surman, who has a 6-year-old grandson and another grandchild due next month, captured his lone tour-level victory at Okeechobee in 1996 – before half of the other anglers in the Top 10 of the EQ points were even born. He finished 16th in the FLW Tour Angler of the Year (AOY) race that year and had final placements of seventh and third in 2003 and '04, respectively.

He likely could've experienced more success if he would've fully devoted himself to fishing as a career, but that thought doesn't trouble him.

"I might've struggled at times because I couldn't give 100-percent effort," he said, "but I was never worried about food on the table and I paid for three college educations and three weddings."

He'd be thrilled to qualify for the Elite Series and spend another year hanging out with his old pal Clark Wendlandt, the three-time FLW Tour AOY who's fished the Elites since 2019 (and won the 2020 points title).

"We roomed together for 20 years and he was the one who was saying, 'Come on, Surman, get yourself over here and we'll do it again.' He rooms with Frank Talley now, who's another great friend.

"I'd love to have that opportunity for one year – it'd be a lot of fun. But (the Opens) is a long season and there's a lot of tournaments left. I'll just have to go out there and wing it and see what happens."