I finally had the chance to catch up with BASS Open rookie co-angler, Chris Fleming. I got to know Chris few years back while fishing small local tournaments. Chris and I fished against each other on a small lake located in far Southwest Virginia, known as John W Flanagan Reservoir in Dickenson County. Flanagan is Chris’ home lake, he grew up in the town where the marina is located, Haysi, Virginia.
I caught up with Chris after his first event in Florida on Harris Chain of Lakes. He got off on the right foot with a day one weight of 7 pounds 10 ounces. He fell on day two with a small limit, finishing up 72nd. He was pretty optimistic after the tournament, saying “ you never know as a co-angler, you could zero or be around a big bag both days”.
My main questions for Chris were not, “what bait did you throw?” or “what depths did you fish?” My questions to Chris were, “How does a man from small town Haysi, Virginia end up making the jump to fishing in Leesburg, Florida?” “How do you know when its time to go from local club tournaments, to fishing on a national stage?”
The first words out of Chris’ mouth were “timing is everything, especially while being a father and a husband.” He followed up by saying “I had fished locally for a while, and got to where I felt I could handle my own with some of the best around the house.” This is when he made the decision to step up his game from local, to regional. The next step involved fishing FLW BFL events as a co-angler and eventually even as a boater. Chris said the hardest part about tuning over the reigns to someone else as co-angler was, “ you cant really predict what may happen.” “You’re hoping your boater puts you on fish, you just have to catch the fish that are put in front of you.”He set goals for himself, he wanted a top five in a BFL competition. He also wanted a top ten in co-angler of the year. After two years worth of BFL’s events, Chris was able meet those goals.
After meeting those goals, it was time to set new ones. He sat down, did research, and realized in order to fulfill them, it was time for a change. He decided to get there, he needed to switch from FLW BFL’s to BASS OPEN events. “ I knew this would let me travel to Florida, up North, and tidal fisheries. It would let me cover most of what I was anxious to learn about.” He fished one Open Event last year to test the waters. “I really just wanted to be around some of the pros. I wanted to see how they carry themselves throughout the tournament and just in general.”
It was time for him to make an even larger step in order to chase his dreams. “Up until now, everything I have done has been completely out of my own pocket. I have a wife and a son, so I have to be smart about what I do and how deep to go into this.” He had to ask himself some questions. “ Is this what I really want? Can I really make a living in the fishing industry?.” His answers: “Absolutely! This is what I want to do with my life!” In order to make ends meet and be able to fish the way he needed to, and be able to make it in this industry, he knew he was going to need some help. Chris’ past success helped him to team up with Belchers Insuance Agency, WOO Tungsten, Solar Bat sunglasses, and Enigma Fishing Rods.
Chris has been lucky enough to practice with some veterans in the tournament industry for OPEN events. He said “It’s really helped me step up my game. To me fishing is about soaking up everything you can, from everyone you can.” He added by saying “Don’t step up too fast. Set goals for yourself and once you reach them, then move up. It can be intimidating at times, I found myself overwhelmed last year at Lake Cumberland. I found myself paying more attention to the pros around me, than worrying about catching my own fish.” He went on to say “You have to trust in your own abilities, you meet your goals in the last step you made. You can hang with these guys, keep your head down and keep fishing”.