BASS Reporter’s Notebook: The Long Road Back for Bassmaster Northern Open Pro Aaron Hastings

Category: press release

 Sep 22nd, 2009 by OutdoorsFIRST 

Modified Sep 22nd, 2009 at 12:00 AM

The season finale of the Bassmaster Northern Open division, set for Sept. 24-26 out of Sandusky, Ohio, could be where Aaron Hastings’ pro career finally takes off.

Almost six years ago misfortune struck, and he hit rock bottom in his quest to be a full-time pro. Since then, he has fought to get back up. Now, at the Northern Open event on Lake Erie, Hastings has a chance to qualify for the 2010 Bassmaster Classic and 2010 Bassmaster Elite Series.

Hastings’ story is one of colossal bad luck. The loss of health or loved ones aside, the budding pro’s luck was sour from the start.

From Boonesboro, Md., Hastings competed in his first BASS event in 1998. He then entered a string of tournaments through 2001. In 2002, he fished the Northern Open circuit and qualified for the 2003 Bassmaster Tour (now the Elite Series). On the second day of the season opener in Florida, “I woke up and discovered someone had stolen my truck and my boat.”

“I had packed for back-to-back tournaments,” he said. “I was living on the road, so I had everything I owned in that boat and truck.”

He said he finished the tournament in a borrowed boat and with a minimum of tackle: a few rods and reels, a pack of hooks, a handful of sinkers and some plastic baits.

“I had to fish about a year-and-a-half that way, with borrowed boats and borrowed equipment,” he said. “It was a nightmare. I could not afford to get another boat. The insurance company paid to have the boat replaced, but it took a very long time to get that accomplished.”

He said his insurance did not cover the $42,000 worth of equipment he had stored in his truck and boat. He had to wait out the 90-day recovery period for the truck before the insurance would act on the claim.

“I actually did get the truck back. It was trashed – the thieves had driven it in ‘sugar sand,’ which got into every crevice.” Hastings said the insurance company rebuilt the vehicle and gave it back to him, but the truck was never the same.

After his frustrating 2004 season, he dropped out of competitive fishing for about two years and concentrated on his commercial cleaning business. Then he tried the other circuits, an experience that prompted him to come back to the Bassmaster Tournament Trail and try again with the Northern Open circuit.

Hastings will have to do well on Lake Erie to better his fifth-place standing in the Northern Open’s points race. After the Erie event, only the top two in points will win Classic spots; the top seven will get Elite invitations.

“The Classic is my goal,” Hastings said. “I’ve had a lot of people ask me if I’d consider an Elite career. I would.”

Going into the Erie competition, Frank Scalish of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, leads with 590 points. Elite pros hold the next three places: Mike Iaconelli of Runnemede, N.J., with 540 points; Kotaro Kiriyama of Moody, Ala., with 515 points; and J. Todd Tucker of Moultrie, Ga., with 499. Hastings has 481 points.

THREE BIG TV HOURS: The drama of the competition isn’t all that ESPN2 viewers will get when they tune in Sunday, Sept. 27, at 4 p.m. ET for a three-hour special of The Bassmasters, featuring Toyota Trucks Championship Week, with ESPN Outdoors personalities Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders.

The Bassmasters will give viewers an insider’s look at how the top 12 pros attacked the two postseason fisheries, the Alabama River and Lake Jordan, from Sept. 11-18.

And, of course, the show will cover the week’s biggest moment: Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., at the Evan Williams Bourbon Trophy Triumph, accepting the 2009 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year trophy – his second straight title and the fifth of his career.

VanDam held off a hard-charging 2009 Bassmaster Classic champion Skeet Reese of California to earn his second straight AOY title with a top prize of $200,000, bringing his career BASS earnings to more than $3.5 million.

NO. 1 ON HER LIST: Judy Wong has visited with a president, won championships across several circuits and traveled the world for countless public appearances.

With 20-plus years as a pro angler, some might consider it tough for the successful pro from Many, La., to select just one memory as the highlight of her career. But when asked, she quickly singles out her experience in Germany, entertaining American troops.

She described it just after she accepted the trophy for her latest win, the Sept. 10-12 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Women’s Tour event on Tennessee’s Old Hickory Lake.

“In 2003, I was invited by Gary Yamamoto, along with Roland Martin and others, to go to Germany,” Wong said. “We went to seven different bases and to hospitals. We visited with troops returning from Iraq and also leaving to serve our country, those who fight to allow us to fish and have the freedoms that we do.

“In my career, I’ve been very fortunate. After winning the championship, I was invited to the White House to visit with President Bush in the Oval Office, so I’ve had so many highlights in my career; but meeting the servicemen and servicewomen of this country is (the best), really what it’s all about.”

Wong, winner of the 2007 WBT championship, qualified Sept. 12 as one of 20 pros to advance to the 2009 Academy Sports + Outdoors WBT Championship, set for Oct. 16-18 on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City in her home state of Louisiana. It’s actually her adoptive home state; she was born in California and lived near Houston for years before moving to the shores of Toledo Bend.

The win in Tennessee also beefed up Wong’s points total. She’s now in contention for the Toyota Tundra WBT Angler of the Year title and the Bassmaster Classic berth awarded to the AOY. The 2009 AOY will be only the second woman in history to compete in a Classic when she appears in the 2010 event set for Feb. 19-21 on Lay Lake out of Birmingham, Ala.

THE CLASSIC 6: With the Sept. 16-18 Mid-Atlantic Divisional in the books, all qualifying events are complete and the full field is set for the Oct. 28-30 BASS Federation Nation Championship.

Only six anglers will grab the championship’s biggest prizes: qualification for the 2010 Bassmaster Classic.

The city of Tavares, Fla., will host the championship on the Harris Chain of Lakes. Those in the 55-angler field represent 47 states, the District of Columbia and several foreign countries.

Bassmaster.com will carry live, streaming video of the competition each day. Fans also will be able to follow along with the site’s real-time leaderboard, photo galleries, daily standings and stories.

AND HE HAS 5 OF THEM: “You can do a lot of things in this sport, but the Angler of the Year title, to the anglers, is the toughest, most prestigious title there is to win.” – Kevin VanDam, after he won his fifth AOY title – his second straight – on Sept. 18

About BASS: For more than 40 years, BASS has served as the authority on bass fishing. The organization advances the sport through advocacy, outreach and its expansive tournament structure while championing efforts to connect directly with the passionate community of bass anglers through its Bassmaster media vehicles.

As the flagship offering of ESPN Outdoors, the Bassmaster brand and its considerable multimedia platforms are guided by a mission to serve all fishing fans. Through its industry-leading publications Bassmaster Magazine, BASS Times and Fishing Tackle Retailer; comprehensive Web properties in Bassmaster.com, BASSInsider.com, ESPNOutdoors.com and ESPN360.com, and ESPN2 television programming, Bassmaster provides rich, leading-edge content true to the lifestyle.

BASS oversees the prestigious Bassmaster Tournament Trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bassmaster Opens, Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Women’s Tour, BASS Federation Nation and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Bassmaster Classic.

BASS offers an array of services to its more than 500,000 members while spearheading progressive, positive change on issues related to conservation and water access. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.


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