By Todd Ceisner
As Bradford Beavers made his way through the notorious Atlanta traffic last week on his way to east Texas, one thing ran through his mind: Uncertainty.
It wasn’t a blanket statement related to his overall feeling about his upcoming rookie year on the FLW Tour; it was more the vibe he had about the season opener at Sam Rayburn Reservoir, where high water – it’s 8 feet above full pool and rising – will certainly throw the 170-angler field a curveball. No doubt he’s not alone.
“It easy to prepare for a lake that’s in its normal state,” said Beavers, a 32-year-old native of Summerville, S.C. “It’s hard to find info on what to do with the water 7 feet high.”
And in a nutshell, that kind of sums up life as a pro on any of the three pro circuits. It’s a whole different ballgame than the local and regional trails Bradford and many like him compete on before making the move up the competitive ladder.
For close followers of the sport, Beavers’ name should be familiar. He won the FLW Series championship in 2017, a year after finishing 8th in the event. Both showings earned him entry into the following year’s Forrest Wood Cup, where he finished 11th in 2017 and 10th last year. His showing at Lake Ouachita last August was highlighted by a 7-05 kicker on day 1 that stood up as big fish of the event.
With the all changes in the pro bass scene in recent months, he’s excited to embark on a new adventure.
“I know I can compete with people and when it’s your time, it’s your time, if you do the right things,” he said. “For everybody, it’s a good opportunity because we’ve never had a real shakeup like this since probably FLW came along. People we’ve never heard of will make names for themselves. Whether that’s me or not, we’ll see. I don’t think it’ll be any easier with certain names gone off the roster because every time someone good steps down, someone else steps in.”
Let’s Give It a Shot
After being a regular competitor in the FLW Series Southeastern Division between 2015-18, Beavers says it’s time to see how he stacks up on the Tour. He said the driving force behind his decision to move up is rooted mostly in curiosity.
“I’ve been to the Cup twice, but I have no experience with all the other Tour guys,” he said. “It’ll be interesting to see how the format works and how it’s run.”
Another reason is his desire to have no regrets down the road.
“I started fishing Costas and did that for 4 years,” he said. “I felt like l was living in the middle. I wasn’t fishing local stuff and not fishing the pros, so I had to make a decision to go one way or another. I always hear people say, ‘Do it while you’re young. I was this close when I was your age.’ I didn’t want to look back in 10 years and say I didn’t give it a shot. That’s what pushed me over the edge. I’m not getting any younger and I think it’d be tougher if I were 45 and then try to do this. It’s a now-or-never sort of thing.”
He’s entering his inaugural season in a good frame of mind. He’s not putting any undue pressure on himself, at least not yet.
“Typically, I would put a lot of pressure on myself, but I’m trying not to do that,” he said. “I’m looking at this not like I have to make this work to make a living. If it works out, great, but if not it’s not the end of the world. That said, I’m giving it everything I have got. It’s hard not to put more pressure on yourself. I’d put a lot of pressure on myself in the Costas for less money.
“Financially, if I can make enough to do it again, I’ll do it again,” he added. “If not, I’ll probably be done. I’m in a situation where if I don’t do well, I can come home and still make house payments.”
Cup Return A Goal
As impressive as his Cup finishes seem, Beavers says those events were two of the most stressful tournaments he’s ever competed in. In 2017, at Lake Murray, he felt like he had somewhat of an advantage as the lake’s proximity to his home allowed him to put in a lot of time on the water prior to the event. Despite finishing 11th, he never felt like he was a factor.
After catching the big fish on day 1 at Ouachita last year, his mindset shifted to catching enough to qualify for day 3.
“I was stressed to the max at the Cup, I can promise you that,” he said. “On day 3, I wasn’t really worried because I wasn’t on anything. I was just going fishing. On day 2, I was pretty stressed out because I knew I had chance to make the final day.”
He summarized his two Cup appearances like this: “I’ve fished 5 days in the Cup and never had anything to go to.”
So imagine how it would feel to make it back, but do it through the points standings of the Tour?
“That’d be a really good year to make it through the Tour,” he said. “There are 170 guys out there and a lot of good fishermen. Finishing in the top 40, I would call that a very good to phenomenal year of fishing. I always thought the Costas are the harder way to make the Cup, but now fishing the Tour and looking at it that way, it doesn’t look that easy. There’s no true easy route to get there.”