By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Adam Wagner has proven that he has the fishing skills to hold his own on any competitive circuit on the planet. It's the off-water aspects of becoming a tour pro that prevent him from diving headlong into that pursuit.
"I don't consider myself sponsor material," said the 2009 BFL All-American winner, 2013 Bassmaster Weekend Series champion and 2014 Bassmaster Classic 10th-place finisher. "I'm not a salesman. I don't like boat shows and all that stuff.
"The fishing part comes pretty easy for me, but the rest of it just is not me. I'm super-quiet – I don't say a whole lot – and being around crowds is really hard for me."
The 43-year-old would relish the opportunity to compete against the best in the business across a full schedule, and he'll spend the next several months considering whether to make a run at qualifying for the Elite Series via next year's Southern Opens. He doesn't possess the type of wealth needed to fund a tour-level campaign from his own pocket, though, so success in that quest would force him to do something he seriously wants to avoid – become a salesman.
"I've thought about it every day (since the Classic) and I just don't know," said the eight-time BFL winner. "I do real well not fishing professionally. I make a lot of money around here."
Liked what He Saw
Wagner's usual disdain for masses of humanity didn't prevent him from fully enjoying his initial Classic experience. He'd like to get another taste of that as soon as possible.
He was the 24th-place finisher in the '09 Forrest Wood Cup at Pittsburgh, but said that event didn't compare to his recent visit to Birmingham, Ala., which is less than a 4-hour drive from his home in Cookeville, Tenn.
"I was blown away by the difference," he said. "I think the world of FLW, but the (B.A.S.S.) fan base is something entirely different. I was really impressed and I absolutely had a ball.
"I was just shocked by how much attention (the Classic) got from the fans and the media. Birmingham being right in the heart of bass-fishing country probably had a lot to do with it. It was a pretty neat deal."
He was back on the water again this past weekend, finishing 2nd in a 60-boat Weekend Series derby at Center Hill Lake near his home. Naturally, it was somewhat of a come-down in terms of adrenalin.
"It wasn't near as much fun as the Classic. Something like that just makes you want more of it."
Got Better as He Went
Wagner, like quite a few Classic competitors, really wishes he could have a do-over on day 1. His 14-14 bag that day eliminated any real shot he had at the title. He averaged more than 22 pounds over the final 2 days, but still couldn't quite crack the single-digit portion of the leaderboard.
With 40 to 50 tournaments at Guntersville under his belt over the past 15 years, including some in the pre-spawn, he felt he should've done a better job of adapting to the altered conditions.
"I was real disappointed with that first day," he said. "I had some problems with water getting muddied up (by the storm that blew through the previous night) and I didn't adjust. I also missed some opportunities, too.
"I had one main area that I started on every day and I usually caught three to five fish there, whether they were big ones or just 15- or 16-inchers. I was catching them on a (lipless crankbait) and I got one or two on a jig. After that I'd basically just go junk-fishing, running docks and stuff, and I caught some on a jerkbait from some rocky places."
He paid particular attention to locales where creek channels made an outside turn toward the bank.
"I had one of those spots in Mink Creek and another one in Town Creek. The water would be 2 feet deep and then all of a sudden drop off into 15 feet. In February, those fish really key on that stuff. I've run that kind of thing (at Guntersville) for a long time."
> If Wagner were to qualify for the Elite Series, he'd likely keep his job with a natural gas pipeline company. "I don't think it'd be necessary for me to quit," he said. "I probably couldn't be a project manager like I am now, but I could probably be an (equipment) operator when I was around."
> In addition to the Weekend Series, he plans to fish 10 BFLs this year (full schedules in both the Music City and Mountain divisions).