Think you know fishing?When you’re in your RV rolling across the country you occasionally stop by lakes and rivers and cast a line now and again.You probably fancy yourself a pretty adroit angler with your converted Kit-n-Kaboodle turned tackle box.Every time you open it up an array of shiny glittery worms and multi-hooked plastic fish stare blankly back at you.You pride yourself on your fishing gear and how well you catch whenever you’re relaxing lakeside.Well, that’s not fishing.Not real fishing at least.Don’t be offended.I didn’t know it either until Collegiate Angler, Bo Thomas, recently stopped by the offices of RecPro. I sat down with the champion fisherman to get the real story on America’s true pastime.
SD:Thanks for stopping by and taking time to speak with me.I can imagine with school, work, fishing and everything you’re quite busy.
Bo:I’m glad to.RecPro is one of my best sponsors.They do a lot for me, and now my team, at Western Michigan University.
SD:…college fishing is a thing?
Bo: (chuckling) Yes.I have a lot of people ask me that.It is.We’ve (my teammates) all been fishing a long time.I’m only in a bit of a different category because I have a lot of sponsors.It’s because I’ve been doing this a very long time.RecPro has sponsored me for two years now, and they recently began helping my whole team.
SD:You look like the side of a NASCAR race car.How many sponsors, aside from RecPro, do you have?
SD:You said you started a long time ago.When did you begin fishing?
Bo:Ever since I could walk and talk I’ve had a rod in my hand.My dad was a professional fisherman and I just picked it up from him.He was really good and he owned his own business so it gave him the ability to travel a lot and compete.He dialed it back though because he missed being away from his family.
SD:So he passed all his fishing knowledge on to you.Seems like it paid off.How old are you now?
SD:You’ve accomplished a lot in a bit over a decade of fishing.What’s the biggest title you’ve won?
Bo:I’ve accomplished a lot, but the biggest so far is probably the State Fishing Championship in Michigan.
SD:…high school fishing is a thing?
Bo:Yes, it is.Actually, I started the club at Edwardsburg (high school) and when it came time for state, I won.I won it by myself, too.You can have a teammate with you when competing and I decided to go alone.At the end of the tournament I caught 37 lbs. of fish while the next closest team to me only caught, I think, 26 lbs.
SD:So you just catch as many fish as you can…?
Bo:Oh no.You have a five-fish limit and they all have to be over 14” long.Even if it’s 13-15/16” you have to throw it back.There are a lot of restrictions.
SD:It’s not just cast and catch?
Bo:There’s a lot more to fishing and fishing tournaments than people understand.
SD:Really?Explain what separates you from the average fisherman.Do you have satellite-linked equipment?Special bait?Ancient fishing techniques handed down to you from past generations?
Bo:Well, I do things a bit differently than the average fisherman and my competitors.My competitors, as an example, they rig up fast to the can get out and get fishing right away.I take my time with my baits.I feel like if I don’t think it looks real, they (the fish) won’t think it looks real.I take my time.I also power fish.
SD:Power fish?Is that where you’re constantly…
Bo:Yeah, cast out and reel in.Always move the bait.I’ve just always done that.There are circumstances where I’ll rely on conventional fishing, but that’s rare.There are some instances where I’ll hit an alcove and cast anywhere from fifty to a hundred times, dropping my bait just a few more inches to the left or right, before moving on.
SD:Well that sounds…not relaxing at all.But, it’s obviously working for you.How do you find the fish?Do you know how to spot specials fish clusters after doing this for so long?
Bo:Well, kind of.I rely a lot on my equipment like my Humminbird.It’s my fish finder.Helps me to navigate the lay down, rip rap, and tree clutter.Fish tend to ‘hug on’ to these kinds of areas.That kind of site imaging gives me an edge.
SD:Woah, hold on.Rip rap…lay down…hug, all terms I’m not familiar with.
Bo:Really, they’re just terms to describe debris underwater.You must deal with a number of physical hazards underwater when you’re fishing.Trees, underwater vegetation, rocks are all things that you can get hung up on, but at the same time that’s where fish like to hide a lot of times.
SD:How do you avoid getting hung up on that clutter?I’ve lost too many lures and hooks to that mess over the years.
Bo:You learn what to look for.Plus, it’s my equipment.These Costas I wear help spot dead, or dark, clusters underwater where those danger areas present.My finder helps a lot too.There’s a real ‘science’ to it, for sure.But, sometimes the art of trying something new is what works best.Fishing is trial and error, even at this level.You must be flexible out on the water.
SD:So you rely a lot on your equipment, just as much as your skill and instinct.You also rely on your vendors to provide that equipment and help you stay out on the water.
Bo:Definitely.I’m glad they have confidence with me and help me to do what I do.RecPro is huge for me right now.My team as well.They were one of our greatest benefactors at the last golf charity outing that we had.They donated so many items for the raffle there, it raised a great deal of money for my team.Plus, their tumblers are awesome out on the water.My whole team loves them.They lock tight and don’t spill.Just awesome stuff.
SD:Well, it sounds like through sponsors like RecPro, your own hard work, and skill, you could make this a full-time gig.
Bo:Yes.I would like to go pro someday.If not, if that doesn’t happen, I’m studying business and sales at school.I would like to transition to the RV industry in the sales and marketing portion of things if I’m not fishing professionally.
SD:Sounds like you have a solid plan either way.Ok, so I’ve got to wrap this up.Is there anything you want to add before we close this up?
Bo:Yes, follow your dreams.It is the thing that drives me.I remember I got a text from my dad one day that said, ‘I’m glad you have the ability to follow your dreams and have fun while you’re doing it’.That meant a lot.
Bo Thomas and his RecPro boat will be out on the waters this summer working towards his goal of becoming a professional angler.At nineteen he’s already well on his way to becoming the next Bill Dance or Kevin VanDam.