Unum computer engineer Corey Bradley earned All-American status as a fisherman for the third time in a decade last month.
The McDonald, Tenn., resident qualified for the BFL All-American presented by Chevy — the Walmart Bass Fishing League’s big tournament — next June on Nickajack Lake with his fourth-place finish in the Wild Card event Oct. 27-28 on Lake Guntersville.
As in his last BFL All-American in 2009 in Iowa, Bradley will be a boater in this one. He was a co-angler in his first one in 2004.
The June 26-29 tournament will include 49 boaters and 49 co-anglers. The top six in each category in six end-of-season regionals and another six from the Wild Card will be joined by seven from The Bass Federation National Championship in April in Oklahoma.
Each BFL regional includes season-long qualifiers from four divisions. There are 24 of those.
Bradley fished this year in the Choo Choo Division, which held all of its tournaments on Guntersville, but next year he will be in the LBL Division using Kentucky and Barkley lakes. The regional including top LBL participants will be on Guntersville.
“The regional for the Choo Choo is on a lake I’ve never been on,” Bradley said. “Kentucky Lake is a great fishery, and it will have four of the LBL tournaments.”
He likes Nickajack, too.
“Being between Guntersville and Chickamauga, it’s a combination of both,” Bradley said. “Guntersville has been a great lake [for bass], and Chickamauga has been coming on really strong lately. In Tennessee and Alabama both, the fishing is phenomenal and public access to the water is phenomenal.”
The BFL series is set up for “weekend anglers,” according to the FLW Outdoors website. Each division has four one-day events and a two-day “super tournament.” They don’t pay big money, but the All-American winner gets $100,000 with the possibility of a $20,000 Ranger Cup bonus.
Brent Sain of Manchester came out of the Music City Division last year and finished 20th in the All-American on the Potomac River in May, earning $3,000 plus a $2,000 Ranger Cup bonus, and Wesley Taylor of Decherd was seventh among the co-anglers and got $3,500. Dayton’s Michael Neal and Resaca’s Brandon Glass also took part as boaters.
John Cook of Scottsboro earned a co-angler spot for the 2013 All-American with his fifth-place finish in the Lake Seminole Regional in early October, but Bradley is the only area boater who has qualified. Thomas Helton of Charleston just missed with a seventh place on Lake Seminole.
“The rules are written in such a way that we have the option of dropping to the next in line if a boater or co-angler drops out of the All-American,” FLW spokesperson Julie Huber said. “However, in recent history we have not had to do that. Typically if anglers qualify for the All-American they are going to fish it.
“It is highly unlikely that a seventh-place finisher would get the opportunity to fish.”
Bradley, 42, grew up in the Cincinnati and northern Kentucky area and began fishing as a boy. He got away from it while in the Navy in San Diego, but sometime after leaving the military he went fishing again with his father and a friend and got hooked again. That was in 1993.
Formerly a wide-ranging Microsoft consultant, he came to Chattanooga with Unum about 10 years ago.
While he admits to having thought about being a full-time angler, he enjoys his work. Fishing happens to be his one hobby.
“I love being on the water. I fish almost every weekend,” he said, adding a thank-you for help from Choo Choo Lures. “And I love being on my own in competition. If I make the right decision, fantastic. If I make the wrong decision, I hope to learn something from it.
“My girlfriend doesn’t understand practicing for fishing,” he said with a laugh, “but I’ll be on Nickajack a lot the next few months.”