By Todd Ceisner
Things have been busy lately for Patrick Bone as he tries to tie up the remaining loose ends before he thrusts himself into his first season fishing from the front of the boat and heads off to his first Bassmaster Classic.
Busy is nothing unusual for Bone, who runs his own business as a farrier in Cleveland, Ga.
"It's really a neat gig. It allows me the freedom to go fish," he said. "I make my own schedule. It gets a little tough, though, because it's just me. I don't have anybody working under me so if I'm not home, my business isn't making any money.
"During fishing season, I'm a very busy person. On one day, I'll be shoeing horses until 8 or 9 at night, then I'll be up at 4 the next morning leaving to drive to Florida or wherever, then driving all night to get home so I can get back to work."
Bone made his mark in 2013 when he won the Douglas Lake Bassmaster Southern Open. This year, he hopes to leave a mark as he embarks on his rookie year fishing the pro side on the FLW Tour in addition to making his first appearance at the Classic.
One Goal at Guntersville
With the Classic drawing closer on the calendar, Bone counts himself among the 56 amateur meteorologists who will be competing at Lake Guntersville next month. He's closely monitoring the weather and water levels at G'ville and will continue to do so right up until practice starts the week before the Classic.
"A lot of it will depend on what the weather is if we continue to have a lot of rain or it turns really cold or whatever," he said. "That's going to dictate how I start my practice. I have a practice game plan that's pretty much set as far as where I'm going to start. It might be a little different given the weather situations up to two weeks or even a week before."
The arctic vortex that had much of the country in a deep freeze a week ago reached as far south as Florida Bone said the mercury dropped to 3 degrees in Georgia, the coldest it's been in nearly 30 years and any additional significant cold spells could have a major impact on Guntersville.
"Stuff like that if we have some sort of crazy deal that hits a few days before the Classic or during, it could really shake things up, I think," he added.
Cold or not, he'll be competing at a lake that has been among his fun-fishing destinations for years as it's a 3-hour drive from his home. When he arrives in a few weeks, it'll be all business, though.
"First and foremost, I'm going with one intention," he said. "A lot of people like myself who qualify through an Open or the Federation or Weekend Series, I've always read that they say they're going to enjoy the experience. I'm such a competitor. I'm going with one intention to win. Obviously, there are 55 other anglers going with the same intention. It's not going to be easy, but I can't worry about the other anglers. I'm going with one objective in mind and that's to win the thing. Nobody remembers who finishes second.
"I'm really not nervous about the Classic. There's a fine line there. I do know that it's a very big opportunity for me, an opportunity people don't get every day. You never know what can happen in fishing. Your first could be your last one or it could be the first of many. I just know it's a big opportunity for someone in my position trying to get started and wanting to make a run at fishing full time. It's a very big opportunity."
Since winning at Douglas Lake last April, he could've spent as much time as just about any qualifier at Guntersville. Instead, he chose to wait.
"I had all summer, but I didn't even go over there until September and that was just to find the areas that had good grass," he said.
What he found seemed to fall in line with what others who scouted the lake in late fall discovered the grass was as lush and plentiful as ever.
"My gosh, there was more grass in Guntersville than ever," he noted. "It's unbelievable how much grass is over there."
To the Front
By the time the Classic spotlight shines down on him, he'll have made his pro debut on the FLW Tour at Lake Okeechobee during the first week of February.
He fished as a co-angler on Tour from 2011-13 and posted four Top-10s during that period, including a win at Table Rock Lake in 2012.
"I really don't have time between now and the Classic. I have time between now and Okeechobee," he said. "Then I'm home for 2 days and then I go to Guntersville. Those couple weeks are going to be pretty tough, but it'll be a welcome kind of busy.
"I'm excited. I'd be lying if it I didn't tell you I was a little nervous being my rookie year. I definitely wouldn't be fishing if I didn't think I was ready. I've come up through the ranks. It's not like I won that Open and said, 'I'm good enough to go fish the Tour.'"
After starting at the BFL level and working his way to the Tour, he feels like now is the best time to make the move to the front deck.
"It's just given me the confidence to keep going," he said. "I have the confidence I can compete at the tour level and I'm sure there will be some nerves involved, but I've fished as a co-angler long enough and been fortunate to run with some good guys on the tour and from all of that I've learned it comes down to just fishing.
"As long as I keep a cool head about it, I'll be just fine."
> Bone recently signed on with PRADCO and will promote the YUM brand this year. He also lists Mercury, Power-Pole, Dobyns Rods, Lew's, Tiger Tungsten, Seaguar, Lowrance and TheRockerBox.com as sponsors.
> Bone used to be a rodeo competitor in rough stock and roping.