Walleye First Tournament Series Part 17, Joe Carter
Feb 27th, 2014 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Feb 27th, 2014 at 12:00 AM
Author’s Note: The status of the walleye tournament world will be explored throughout this series. Industry leaders, observers, participants (past and present), sponsors, professional and amateur anglers, host communities, marine and tackle manufacturers, and tournament organizers will share their wisdom and insights.
Part 17 is about a pro walleye angler who did not know what a walleye was in 1990. It’s about his amazing journey, his faith in the Lord, and some lessons learned along the way. He also said, “The walleye can’t tell what color I am.” Joe Carter is the only black man on tour.
“I didn’t know I’d fall in love with fishing, but when the ball stopped bouncing, the good Lord placed a new friend in my path, and here I am,” he said. Growing up in Chicago with a basketball, he played college ball and for the CBA in Rockford. He coached for seven years and is currently a sixth grade science teacher in Sherrill, Iowa, not far from Dubuque.
He stressed that he wouldn’t be fishing if he wasn’t a Christian. “I am who I am, and to me, color is not that big of a deal. I have more in common with other fishermen, and carry no chip on my shoulder.” To explain where he is now in a Ranger boat powered by an Evinrude E-Tec, with local sponsors (he refers to them as clients), a brief look back sheds light on his story.
Living in the Dubuque area, Joe’s dad came to visit, and dad suggested they go fishing. Joe had a problem, “Every time I hooked a big catfish, carp or sheepshead, I lost them, and reeled in a line that was crinkled at the end. I didn’t know how to tie a knot.” A visit to the local bait shop proved to be God’s timing. The local fishing club had a tournament and boats were parked all around. The shop owner called a club member over and made introductions. “I helped him wipe down his boat, and we talked. Soon all the other guys came over and I realized they were all shorter and whiter than me (Joe is 6-5). I didn’t think that would work out,” Joe said.
That Christmas, his wife gave him an Eagle fish finder for his first boat, a 1956 Crestliner with a Chrysler outboard. Joe stopped by the hardware store for some stainless steel screws. Again, with God’s timing, the guy next to him in the store was one of the club tournament anglers, Art Hurlbert. “That was the start of this journey. Art became my second dad. He taught me on and off the water. We fished with snow on the ground and in the hot summers. He transformed my life. He broke down all sorts of barriers. We fished more and more,” Joe said.
Fishing the Mississippi River proved to be a seminar every day. “I had the Mt. Everest of learning curves to conquer,” Joe said. The first lesson was vertical jigging in late winter. After those first bites and fish in the net, Joe was hooked. As a way to payback Art’s dedication and friendship, Joe attempted to win a Walleye Angler Trail tournament for him. “I apologized to him for finishing second, because I told him I wanted to win it for him. He told me I was a winner, and I will take that conversation to my grave,” Joe said. Art died in 2008, and would have been proud of what his mentoring produced. “Art pushed me over the edge. He forced me to learn and overcome my fear of current, color of my skin, and structure. He did all that,” Joe said.
Progressing along the road to becoming a pro, Joe feels that fishing is about making friends. He joined the NPAA to become more professional, fished the FLW and last year completed the Cabela’s National Walleye Tour. “I know I can compete, but the first year on tour I was in awe. The second year I was by myself competing against these big teams. My one line compared to their six or eight only increased my desire to do the best I could with what God gave me,” he said.
His attitude is one of winners: “If you have the ability to learn, you can do it.”
In the fishing world, Joe said homework is the key. Start with internet research; know what others have done on that body of water under similar conditions. “My first big-water lesson was planer boards in 2011. There is a tremendous difference between reading about it and doing it in four and five foot swells,” he said.
The next lesson came at the hands of a local fisherman. On Leech Lake, Joe was setting the hook as soon as he felt a fish bite his crawler. He missed fish after fish, and lost the tails of his crawlers. A local next to him came over and said, “Feed ’em.” Joe did, and it worked, “It reminded me of a little dog grabbing a bone and running away with it.”
He learned about jigging Raps on Lake Oahe from Jason Przekurat. He discovered what to do and where fish were at different times of the year and under different conditions. He became better at “breaking-down” water. The best thing that occurred was building relationships and making friends. In the 2014 season, he will compete on the Cabela’s NWT and share pre-fishing information with Danny Steffens, Scott Bogen and Jeff Graves. “I do rivers well, and these guys are experts in open water. We all get the best of both worlds,” he said.
Joe said, “I’m looking forward to the camaraderie on tour, but more than anything, I can’t wait to get on the water and solve the mystery of where they are and how to catch them. Like Al and Ron Lindner are fond of saying, ‘It’s a living, breathing puzzle.’ I want to put the pieces together.”
Being a teacher, Joe appreciates the support he receives from his clients (sponsors), which include Runde’s Auto Group and Auto Accessory Install in Dubuque, Sign Craft screen printing in Galena, Al’s Specialty Marine in Rochester, Humminbird, Ranger boats and Evinrude. He does local fund-raisers including a steak dinner at a friend’s restaurant. He does fishing and inspirational seminars. He attends sport shows. “I make sure I work hard for the people who help me. I want to bless them like God has blessed me,” Joe said.
Joe is the guy with this inspirational verse on the back of his tournament shirt, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” the famous Bible verse from the book of Matthew.
This season, he will continue to take his 11, 13 and 17-year old children fishing (oldest son is a junior starter on the conference basketball champs), and fish the NWT, a few Walleye Angler Trail events, the MN Fishing Challenge and perhaps one or two AIM tournaments. He can be reached at [email protected] While this journey may appear an unusual route to the pro angler ranks, Joe said, “It’s not work to me.”