By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor

Ben Milliken didn't have a lot of high-level tournament experience coming into 2023, but that certainly hasn't hindered his performance in the Bassmaster Opens. The 33-year-old resident of New Caney, Texas has a win and a 5th-place finish in the two events that have been contested thus far.

He completetly dominated the mid-April event at Toledo Bend Reservoir, weighing bags of 29-08 (easily the biggest haul of the tournament), 26-15 and 21-07 to outdistance runner-up Trey McKinney by 10 1/2 pounds. His 77-14 total for three days was the third-highest ever posted in an Open and netted him a $52,000 payday.

He's currently tied atop the Opens EQ (Elite Qualifier) points standings with Brett Cannon, another Texas resident who's finished 3rd in both derbies.

If you watch a lot of fishing vidoes on YouTube and/or Facebook, you might be familiar with Milliken, as his total number of followers is in the high six figures. He's also a veteran of the industry with ownership stakes in bait manfuctuer 6th Sense and eyewear company Waterland.

He's had a desire to fish professionally since he was a kid, but grew up in Nebraska, which isn't a hotbed of bass culture. He competed for three seasons at the Unversity of Nebraska-Omaha, where he also played a little baseball and earned a degree in environmental studies.

He spent a year working as a production manager for a hazardous materials abatement company before relocating to the Lone Star State and redirecting all of his efforts toward fishing in one form or another. He and wife Becky are the parents of 12- and 3-year-old sons, with another child due in June (gender to be determined at birth).

He fished some local tournaments while in college and in the immediate aftermath, but except for some big-fish contests, he got away from competition for a while after moving to Texas. He attended the 2013 Bassmaster Classic, which was held at Grand Lake in Oklahoma, and that caused him to shift his focus back to casting for cash.

"As soon as I saw the expo and the weigh-in, I knew that was where I wanted to be," said Milliken, who qualified for next year's Classic – ironically at Grand – with his Toledo Bend victory. "However I had to get there, I had to make it happen."

He's now in a position where he can compete in all nine Opens while continuing to produce content for his media platforms. The season still has a long way to go, but he believes he has the game to stay in the race for one of the nine Elite Series slots that are available through the EQ Division.

"I think versatilty is my biggest strength," he said. "I haven't had to change up a lot so far and I work really hard in practice to find things on my graphs. That actually played more at Eufaula (the site of his 5th-place finish).

"For the (Toledo Bend tournament), I've got a lot of experience in Texas. I've thrown a lot of big baits and I have a pretty good understanding of how Florida-strain bass act."

He relied on oversized offerings at Toledo Bend, throwing various altered glidebaits that ranged in length from 7 to 15 inches. His fish were sitting on clay points in the 6-foot depth range.

He supplemented that program with one of his own company's baits – a 6th Sense Hogwalla on a Carolina rig.

He said he's pumped for the event at Buggs Island Lake in Virginia this week because he's never been there and won't go in with any preconceived notions.

"I'm excited for all of them," he said. "I'm just keeping my mind on the next one and hopefully I can win some more."