Making the Bassmaster Classic is the biggest dream in bass fishing. Each year the field consists of bass fishing superstars, legends and pros from one of the most recognized circuits in America, the Bassmaster Elite Series. Yet one of the greatest things about the Classic – that really doesn’t happen in other sports – is that several ordinary anglers, possibly just like you, qualify for the big event each year. This year’s rank of ordinary anglers fishing the Classic includes Albert Collins. A plumber by trade, he truly embodies the spirit of the working man’s angler. Collins has spent the last 20 years working a regular job, supporting a family and fishing whenever he could. Now, later this month he will be launching his boat on Grand Lake in Tulsa, Oklahoma, competing with the best anglers in the world for the biggest prize in our sport.
A Tough Road to Travel
After a full season of competition on the Bassmaster Weekend Series, Collins followed through with a successful finish at the regional semi-finals and then capped it off with a win at the national championship on Lake Sam Rayburn, Texas. To get to the Classic, he had to do exceptionally well at each of these events all year long. One subpar event and it would have been someone else who gained an invitation to the “Super Bowl of bass fishing.” Collins summed it up perfectly, “To qualify through the Weekend Series or the Federation is really the hardest way to get into the Classic and in a way most people do not appreciate or respect what it took to get there.” The season lined up perfectly for Albert who until he signed up for the 2011 Bassmaster Weekend Series season did not know that a Classic berth was even possible. When he saw the schedule and the fact that the national championship was on his home lake of Sam Rayburn, he was all in. Having fished the lake since he was a child, he knows this lake just as well as anyone – and it showed when he won the event by a 15 lb margin.
Looking at Albert Collins’ resume shows that his qualification was not a fluke or only a result of his home lake advantage. He holds numerous titles and regional wins throughout his fishing career. A highly successful decade in the 90’s had him headed towards life as a professional bass angler, but he took a long absence to raise his children. Now back full force, he is finally pursuing fishing more seriously. In addition to his win at Sam Rayburn, he has qualified for the B.A.S.S. Nation Texas state team the last two years and has the Bassmaster Central Opens on his schedule for 2013. Collins has also had the honor of fishing team tournaments throughout Texas with bass fishing legend Harold Allen, which alone says something about the caliber of fisherman that Collins is. The duo has had multiple wins and top finishes and his partnership with Allen who has 15 Classic qualifications, has given Collins a good feel for what to expect in the biggest fishing tournament of his life.
A Different Kind of Tournament
“The first morning of the Classic I will be a little nervous, I’m not going to lie,” says Collins. That reaction is what most weekend anglers across the country would say. Launching your boat next to Kevin VanDam, Skeet Reese, Mike Iaconelli and other bass fishing idols would be enough to make most bass anglers starstruck. Another difference between the Classic and your average weekend or regional event is the added media coverage, required appearances and the hoopla that comes with it. Collins shared his schedule for the week of the event and it was full of media appearances, tournament meetings and more. “Everything is planned out for us the whole time we are there, everything is scheduled. The fishing is just one small part of the whole event,” shared the Texas native. Having qualified and competed in the B.A.S.S. Nation national championship, Collins feels he is better prepared for this event. “It was like this event, we had a schedule for the whole week, drive-through weigh-ins and all,” said Collins.
In it to Win It
According to Collins, he is not satisfied with merely qualifying for the event. He spent two weeks at Grand Lake prior to the cutoff and was very pleased with what he found. ‘I spent most of my time driving around and looking at my graphs, but when I did fish I was able to catch them fairly easily. I have high expectations for this event,” says he.
No Bassmaster Weekend Series angler has ever won this event, but that does not discourage Collins. He predicts that the fishing will suit his style very well and although he has little experience on Grand Lake, the fishing should be somewhat similar to the lakes he grew up fishing in Texas.
Not being a well-known pro, Collins believes he will have an advantage in the Classic as it is unlikely he will have a large group of on-the-water spectator boats following him everywhere during the event.
Collins also feels that he has a good a chance as anyone in the tournament and recalls fishing against several of the Classic competitors in his region of Texas. Alton Jones is one that I used to fish against quite a bit when he was still fishing the regional events in Texas,” recalls Collins. One of his personal goals for this event is to beat Kevin VanDam. “I figure if I can beat him then I will be doing pretty good,” he chuckles.
In addition to trying to win the event for his own self, Collins senses that he will be representing many thousands of weekend warriors across the country that dream to fish the Classic one day. A win would do wonders for his career, but it would also bring more respect to the Weekend Series circuit that anglers spend their weekends fishing in states throughout the southern and eastern United States.
Regardless of how Albert Collins finishes, he has fulfilled a lifelong dream of making the big show and he will fish with pride as he carries the added weight of representing his fellow weekend warriors across the country.