Wesley Strader – How I got here
You may not know it, but Wesley Strader’s fishing career goes way back. He’s been fishing for decades and has been a contender in most of the events he’s fished.
Earlier this year Rahfish.com caught up with Strader and we got a firsthand look at how he got started in professional fishing and some of the more exciting moments.
“I got a job when I got out of high school,” explains Strader, “and of course I had to buy a boat. Unfortunately a month after I bought the boat I got laid off and all I was thinking was how will I pay for this boat. I was lucky though because at the time I was fishing a lot of local tournaments and I was fortunate enough to cash good cheques, enough so I could pay for my boat payments and the house bills.”
“I realized fairly quickly though that I needed to fish some higher profile tournaments, so I started fishing BFLs and I just continued to cash cheques. I wasn’t winning all the tournaments but I was making money, which at the time is what I needed to do.”
“There was a circuit called the Hungry Fisherman Bass Circuit. At the time, we didn’t have co-anglers, it was boater on boater draws. I would say that I learn more fishing in that one circuit than probably any other time in my life. All the Elite guys fished it and I was fortunate to fish with guys like Tommy Swindle, Gerald’s Daddy and we went to all different kinds of lakes. I saw guys do things that I would have never seen if I stayed fishing the local tournaments or even the BFLs. Looking back, fishing with all those different pros broadened my arsenal in techniques and knowledge.”
“In 1997, that was the first year FLW came out with $100,000 first place prize, I remember I had all my deposits in but the tournaments were full. I think it was the 4th event and FLW called me and there was an opening on Kentucky Lake and I told them I’ll fish it. I had never been there before but my Dad and I went and fished for 3 days a couple weeks prior to the tournament. We weren’t catching much, but on the third day of fishing we were running from one area to another and we drove over top of a ledge and I saw my flasher light up and I said to my Dad that I think we just ran over a school of bass. So we turned the boat around and we both made one cast and we both had 4 lbers on. We looked at each and said yep, this is the spot.”
“We packed up, I went and fished another Hungry Fisherman tournament then the next day came right back to Kentucky Lake for the FLW event. The Hungry man event wasn’t the greatest, I think I finished 9th or so. That poor finish left me with $100 in my pocket, so I need to do well in the next event.”
“On day one of the FLW tournament I knew the fish were there and I’ll never forget it. We set up on that ledge where Dad and I caught those 4lbers and I turned to my co-angler as soon as my crankbait hit the bottom and I said, get the net I’ve got one. I bring the fish up and it was about a 2lb White bass with about 40 4 – 5 lb largemouth with it. I bring the White bass in the boat, cast back out and catch a 4lb largemouth. Four casts in a row I caught a fish and on the fourth cast I was bringing in about a 4lber, and what happened next I’ll probably never see it again in my life, it jumped and about ten other 4lbers jumped with it, it was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”
“In five casts I had 18lbs and it was my only spot on the lake so I didn’t want to trash it. Day two when I got back to the ledge, I set up on it, and there was no GPS or anything, this is all just going on memory. I make my first cast and hook into a biggun, but then it just stops. I could feel it shaking down there but I was certain there wasn’t anything I could get hung up on. When I finally brought the fish to the surface, a commercial fisherman had set up a net on that ledge. Having family in the commercial fishing business, I wasn’t about the mess with the guys net but I also knew he would be back that morning. Sure enough, he showed up around 9am and took his net. I gave the spot about 45 mins then I went back and caught about 16lbs. My two day total was 34.2 and David Fritts beat me out of the cut by 3oz. He ended up with 34.5, went on to fish day 3 and 4 and ended up winning Kentucky Lake that year.”
“After that event, I made enough to pay my deposits for the rest of the events. I continued cashing cheques for two years until I found a sponsor to help me and I haven’t looked back since.”
“I’ve learned a lot from that tournament up until now. Like everyone else, I’ve had some lost fish, a few tournament wins but I keep learning every time I’m on the water.”