By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Kelly Jaye has wanted to compete on the Bassmaster Elite Series since 2009, when he attended the Toyota Trucks All-Star Week festivities at Lake Jordan and witnessed weigh-ins that were a far bigger spectacle than the ones he was accustomed to. He'll get his chance this year.
The 40-year-old from Alabama received an Elite Series invitation after finishing 8th in the Southern Open points. Only the Top 5 are guaranteed slots, but four of the anglers who ended up ahead of him are already Elite pros and B.A.S.S. has worked its way down to his position in its quest to fill the field.
He spent a considerable amount of time over the previous couple of months wondering whether he'd get in, and he was notified that he'd made it last week during a call from B.A.S.S. tournament manager Chris Bowes.
"I thought that call was probably going to be bad news, but I was pretty excited when he told me I was in," he said. "I started calling all my buddies who'd been asking whether I was going to get to fish or not, and I kept having to tell them I didn't know.
"Good or bad, I was ready for some news. Fortunately it was good."
After Top-20 finishes at the Harris Chain and Norman, he thought he might've blown his shot with a 48th in the final Southern stop at Smith Lake a body of water he knows far better than the other two.
"I was definitely disappointed, but at least making the Top 50 gave me a chance."
Eager to Try Both
Jaye, the father of twin 12-year-old daughters and the owner of a company that sells and services industrial electric motors, will be one of a handful of anglers who'll fish both major circuits in 2013, joining the likes of Steve Kennedy, Ish Monroe and Fred Roumbanis. He competed on the FLW Tour this year and landed at 85th in the final points.
He's exhibited a boom-or-bust tendency in his short tour-level career to this point: He's logged a 9th and a 13th in seven events, but was also 100th or lower three times and in the 90s on another occasion.
He knows the 14-event schedule will be extremely demanding.
"I fished nine tournaments last year, and even that was pretty hectic," he said. "It'll be a lot of fishing and a lot of running up and down the road, but I'm planning to fish all of them. I'm anxious to see what I can do."
He said he has five solid employees who can keep his business going while he's away, and wife Cheryl, who works in outside sales for the firm, can take care of the administrative decisions. He recently hired another secretary so that Cheryl can travel with him occasionally.
He'd have been reluctant to take on such a grind in previous years because he was heavily involved with coaching daughters Katlyn and Kelsey in softball.
"That really kept me busy, but them moving up to another level has freed me up," he said.
G'Ville Classic the Objective
Jaye will need to display some consistency in order to achieve his ultimate goal for next year qualifying for the 2014 Classic at Guntersville. He's primarily a shallow-water power-fisherman, but said he's expanded his repertoire considerably over the past several years.
"I did a little bit of everything this year and covered a lot of water, and I learned quite a bit about fishing smallmouth lakes on the FLW Tour," he said. "I'm pretty comfortable with everything except deep-cranking that's one area where I need to get more confidence. I can read my electronics pretty good, but having the confidence to deep-crank all day is my weak spot."
He has a great deal of experience on two of the venues on next year's Elite schedule the Alabama River, which is only about a 30-minute drive from his home in Dadeville, and Georgia's West Point Lake, which is about an hour away. He gained some experience catching smallmouth on the FLW Tour this year that should help at Lake Erie and the St. Lawrence River.
"I'm looking forward to all of them," he said. "I won't be intimidated by anything. Of course I'd love to make the cut every time and win the Rookie of the Year, but one of my main goals will be to cash some checks.
"It'd be wonderful to make the Classic on Guntersville, but there'll be a hundred anglers with the same idea. I'm real familiar with that lake, though, and I think I could catch them especially in February.
"I'm wanting to make it pretty bad."