Scott Blaesi stared out at the vastness of Lake Guntersville on the third and final day of the B.A.S.S Nation Central Regional competition.
Unlike the first two days, the assaulting Alabama heat had extinguished into fierce rain and temperatures grazing the low fifties.
For most southern fishermen accustomed to the dogged humidity and heat dragging across the south, the abrupt change of climate could’ve disrupted their mental edge.
But for a Nebraskan from Hershey, he began feeling at peace.
Blaesi turned to his boat partner for the day, Coby Carden of Shelby, Alabama, and grinned.
“Dude, get ready,” he told him. “When it gets like this I win.”
The 50-year-old fisherman caught 15-pounds, 10-ounces on that day, which accounted for half of his final 30-pounds, 10-ounces through the three-day competition.
“I had the fish going that day where I should’ve won the whole thing,” Blaesi smiled. “I only missed second place by three ounces, and I was out of first place by two pounds. But I’m not complaining because I’m moving on to nationals and I’m happy with that.”
Blaesi had caught double the bass from his first two days at Lake Guntersville, skyrocketing from 35th on the 190-man leaderboard to third place when it was all set and done, which earned him the opportunity to represent Nebraska against 48 other states at this year’s 2019 TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship in November.
“I led Nebraska after day one, but I didn’t have a real good day two. Somehow I pulled it out and still led Nebraska going into day three. I knew I needed to catch a limit of fish to take me to nationals, and it just so happened that I ended up having a fantastic third day.”
Blaesi’s accomplishment now brings him closer to the Bassmaster Classic, a highly anticipated SuperBowl for fishermen all across the nation. The opportunity, however, isn’t one that comes along very often for a Nebraskan.
“There are only three Nebraskans ever to make it to the Classic, and two of them are my buddies that I fish with,” Blaesi said. “Nebraska is known as a walleye state, and these lakes that we go and compete at are just huge. Arms off of the main lake are as big or bigger than Lake McConaughy. It’s hard to do because we don’t have the big bass lakes anywhere close. Our closest lake like that is Grand Lake in Oklahoma and that’s an eight-hour drive for us.”
The majority of the fishermen that annually qualify for the Classic reside near the big lakes in which they fish year-round, a luxury that Blaesi and Nebraskans don’t have.
“Most of them live right on these lakes or close by,” Blaesi said. “It’s all about getting used to the lake and knowing the lake. These places are so big that if you don’t have a GPS, you can get lost.”
And if conquering Lake Guntersville for a day wasn’t enough, Blaesi’s next challenge at nationals rings a tougher task.
This year’s competition takes place at Lake Hartwell near Anderson, South Carolina, at the confluence of the Savannah, Tugaloo and Seneca rivers. The lake itself comprises nearly 56,000 acres of water with a shoreline of 962 miles.
“I always say that whatever lake I win at becomes my favorite lake,” Blaesi chucked. “So Lake Guntersville is my favorite right now, but things will get tougher. I truly believe that this tournament is 80 percent luck, 10 percent skill and 10 percent equipment. These tournaments are all about time management, and if you like to fish there’s nothing like it.”
In fact, Blaesi encourages locals to take up fishing and join the Lincoln County Bassmasters fishing club in North Platte. The group, which is comprised of 20 current fishermen that include Blaesi and two-time Classic qualifier Kent Priel, welcome all newcomers with open arms.
“For us that do this, we live for it,” Blaesi said. “We’d like to share it with others. We’re really just a group of guys out there fishing and having a good time.”