When it comes to fishing, most started out with a mentor. The memories of fishing trips with a friend or family member, their first or biggest fish will last a lifetime. For those that compete in the form of tournaments many have heroes, or at least other anglers that have inspired them to forge on and push themselves to the edge of competitive limits. Our Texas waters have spawned several world class anglers, proven year after year at events such as the Bass Master Classic. A chance to compete in the Bass Masters Classic is a dream for many competitive anglers, but only a few get the opportunity. Then, only one each year will achieve the title of World Champion. The same is true for Jasper's own Todd Faircloth.
Quiet. Focused. For Todd Faircloth it's tournament day, and this time it is not just first place being fished for, it's the title of Bass Master World Champion at the 2003 New Orleans Bass Classic. Checking to see that each rod, lure and tool is in it's place and going over the game plan in his head. Got to be clear and decisive. Every minute counts. The long run to his fishing hole took almost two hours at a dead run to get to. The thunder cloud ahead looked ominous and will be a factor in the days fishing. Through the Gulf of Mexico, up into the waterways that is fed from the Mississippi river, into narrow paths through cane fields that opened up into an area the size of a pond. Taking out his pole, flipping into the vegetation, gaging the water levels as compared to where they were at practice. The tide affects these areas so much and knowing the how the tide schedule affects your fishing holes is inherently important. Todd had done his homework, and flipping his black neon Lake Fork Tackle tube bait it didn't take him long to have a limit. It was a small limit, but he knew there were bigger fish in this area. Another competitor had chosen the same small area to fish, but Todd stayed focused on each cast, and with lightening speed setting the hook on each unsuspecting bass. You could hear the buzz of his rod as it slashed through the air. The speed from flipping the bait to the hookset was so fast, Todd has earned the nickname Todd "Lightening" Faircloth. He caught enough fish in the first two days to have a qualifying weight to fish the final day which was cut to only 25 anglers from 61. In this event he finished in 15th place with a total three day weight of 25-03 lbs. "I feel like I did ok in the Classic, but I would've liked to have done better" Todd stated after the event.
So what is it like chasing this dream? It is a lot of time on the road traveling. Faith in God and family support are very important factors to success. Todd married Angie just over a year ago and she has dedicated herself to helping him achieve his angling goals and career. "Her (Angie) traveling with me helps a lot. It gives me stability, with her being their supporting me all the way. The best part about this is that this is what I love to do. I love the competition, the friendship with the other anglers. I learn a lot from them. The only bad part is the time away from home. That takes a lot out of you both mentally and physically. You can't just take a few days off, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. Doing this, you can't dwell on what you could have or should have done in the last tournament. You have to constantly focus on what's ahead."
"I started tournament fishing when I was 12 years old with my dad" Todd explained. "It was great. I knew right away that this is what I wanted to do for my career." Fishing the local circuits of Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend, Todd constantly improved his skills as an angler. "My goal is to be the best I can be". Working for his dad as a carpenter, Todd kept his dreams in focus as he hit top ranks in Bass n Bucks, Sealy Team and others. "I won the Angler's Choice Angler of the Year (Texas) award in 1998, at the age of 23. That gave me enough confidence to start fishing B.A.S.S. Invitationals, now known as the Citgo Bassmaster Central Opens. I fished one or two invitationals before that, but winning the Angler's Choice award really gave me a lot of self-assurance that I could catch fish in different lakes and compete with some really good anglers.
At first, having no sponsors and traveling more and farther to follow other circuits, it was a very expensive gamble. There are no guaranteed paychecks. "I had worked so hard to get some money saved up - it's a big risk to go out there. You can spend $40,000 or $50,000 that first year fishing the tour. I didn't know if I wanted to throw all that away just to see if I could make my dreams turn into a reality, and so I was a little scared to sacrifice all that I had saved. But I made the decision, and I'm glad I did. My dreams have become a reality." It didn't take long before people started noticing that he had the talent and the drive to succeed. Since then he has become sponsored by Skeeter Boats, Yamaha motors, Abu Garcia, Lake Fork Fishing Tackle, Fishing World.com, Berkley Trilene, Stanford Lures, Castaway rods, Yamalube, Stanley Jigs and Fiz. Being sponsored helps defray the costs of tournament fishing, but with it comes the responsibility to promote the companies and their products. "I have many anglers I look up to in this business. Rick Clunn, Larry Nixon, Gary Klein and of course my dad. I love the competition. Learning motivates me and drives me on to continue doing better."
Todd was only 24 years old when he qualified to fish his first Bass Master Classic. This year has marked his fourth classic in a row, and at 28 years old he has only begun his professional angling career. Having eight top 10 Bass Masters finishes, including two 2nd place and having finished in 5th place at the Classic in 2001, Todd is consistently staying among the top ranked anglers. "I would like to achieve angler of the year and of course win the Classic" he stated as to his goals.
Jay Yelas of Tyler, Texas is another one of our local heroes. He not only won the 2002 Bass Masters Classic, but has also been named Busch Angler of the Year for Bass Masters as well as Angler of the Year in the FLW Tour. If that weren't enough, he also received the ESPY Sportsman of the Year award, of which he was chosen from a field of all types of outdoor athletes. At the final day of weigh in of the 2001 Classic Jay made the comment "An ounce of humility before a pound of victory". An almost prophetic statement given all of the accomplishments that followed. What further goals could Jay have in this industry? "I'd like to win two Bass Master Classics back to back. Rick Clunn is the only one who has accomplished that task so far, and I'd like to be the next one to do it."
Our Texas waters are not only spawning grounds for great fishing, but also world class anglers. Many of our hometown heroes have websites that keep you on the road with them letting you know what they're doing, how they did and what is going on in the world of the professional angler. "I feel very blessed that I have made it this far, and hope that the Good Lord has many more Classics awaiting my return." To check in on Todd or ask him any questions, or just to wish him luck, go to his website at www.toddfaircloth.com.