Hixson resident Stephen Anderson pulled his boat ashore at Chester Frost Park on Thursday afternoon.
He dragged the 11-foot fishing kayak, including cup-holder-sized spots for two fishing rods — all the way onto the rocky shore and adjusted his hat, which sported signatures from some of the best bass anglers in the country, including Larry Nixon and Stacey King.
His boat looked out of place — like an off-the-floor common 1998 Camry sitting on pit row at Talladega.
Anderson parked his kayak a few feet away from dozens of professional bass fishing boats that range in value from $40,000 to $100,000, including motor, on-board electronic equipment, rods, reels and lures.
“There’s a few differences between their boats and mine,” Anderson joked. “I don’t have to get mine registered, and I only need six to eight inches of water to float.”
Anderson caught a few fish Thursday, just like the 300-plus professionals who descended on Chickamauga Lake for the fourth of 10 events on the 2011 Walmart FLW Tour event.
“I got a 6-pounder not far from here,” Anderson said while keeping his head on a swivel for more signatures from the sport’s superstars. “A good fish.”
Shinichi Fukae of Texas leads the tournament after the first day with a five-fish total of 23 pounds, 11 ounces. He leads by 8 ounces over Clifford Pirch of Arizona. Another Arizona, Keeton Blylock, leads the co-angler division at 18 pounds, 8 ounces. Dalton’s Van Foster Jr. leads the area contingent in ninth place in the co-angler division.
Dayton’s Andy Morgan leads the area boaters in 21st place at 16-15. He was in 12th place in the standings coming in. Fifth-place Wesley Strader from Spring City was 49th Thursday with 14-6.
Anderson, the kayaker, has no illusions that he’ll become a fishing star like the men speeding up and down Chickamauga wrapped in colorful plastic displaying the brands of sponsor companies.
Fishing on the FLW Tour is much like professional golf or auto racing, although the payouts are smaller, according to University of Tennessee graduate Brandon Coulter.
“You have to prove yourself at every level,” Coulter said. “There are two ways you can prove yourself. You can’t step up by just pitching a jig. You have to step up and pitch product.”
The premise is the same for fishing as it is for golf.
Any guy, any kid, any lady can hit the store, buy a few clubs, hit a few balls and score a couple of birdies at the local municipal course.
Anybody can buy a rod and reel, fish from the shore, toss a line from a kayak or bombard a lake from a big boat and catch fish.
In both cases, the cream of the crop rises to the top. The best golfers find their way to the PGA Tour. The best bass anglers fish their way to the top level.
“I was 16 when I won my first tournament,” said J.T. Kenney of . “You start by fishing local tournaments, then work your way up to regional events.
“It really is a lot like golf and other sports.”
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...