Caryville pro angler Brandon Card will be competing against many of his boyhood idols this year in the Bassmaster Elite Series.
Card, a 2004 graduate of Campbell County High School, qualified for the Elite Series by finishing second in the points standings of the 2011 Bassmaster Southern Open tournaments.
Now he is one of 100 professional bass fishermen vying for millions in prize money, the prestigious title of Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year and a berth in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic.
Card, 25, fished his way onto the professional circuit after four years of competing for a collegiate bass fishing team while attending the University of Kentucky.
“I’ve been watching guys like Kevin VanDam and Skeet Reese on TV for years,” he said.
“I’m just fortunate to have the opportunity. I’m going to have fun and enjoy it.”
The Elite Series includes eight tournaments, beginning March 15-18 with the St. Johns River Showdown in Florida and ending Aug. 23-26 with the Oneida Lake Championship near Syracuse, N.Y. The 2012 Elite Series includes some of most revered bodies of water in the world of bass fishing, including Lake Okeechobee in Central Florida, Toledo Bend Reservoir on the Louisiana/Texas border, Bull Shoals Lake in Arkansas, and the upper Mississippi River.
Perhaps the highlight of the season for Card will come the first weekend in May, when the Elite Series tour makes a stop in East Tennessee for the Douglas Lake Challenge.
“That should be pretty neat to be able to fish in front of my friends and family,” he said.
“I’m pretty familiar with that lake, so I should do well there.”
Card feels good about his chances in the Elite Series.
“Most of the tournaments will be in fairly shallow water, so that will fit my style really well,” he said.
“I feel good about the schedule. Four or five of the eight tournaments are pretty new lakes (to the Elite Series), so all of us younger guys will have as good a chance as anybody.”
An April stop in Arkansas for the Bull Shoals Quest will be an opportunity for Card to showcase the skills he honed while growing up on Norris Lake.
“I’ve never fished (Bull Shoals), but I know a lot about it,” Card said.
“It’s a deep, clear lake with lots of rocks. It’s real similar to Norris, so that should be right up my alley.”
Jethro Baits, a Florida lure manufacturer, is Card’s new title sponsor. His boat is emblazoned with the company logo.
“They have a creature style bait called the Bugtussle. I’m hoping that will be my little secret weapon,” he said.